What is Kefir?

Kefir is a fermented from yeast fungus and symbiotic lactic acid bacteria commonly known and kefir fungi consists of many microorganisms milk. The bulbs that make kefir fungus resemble a cauliflower, are white and soft and will grow over the coming days to be between 1 and 5 inches. 

Kefir grains. Photography by tarikgore. Creative Commons Licence.

The fungus of kefir catabolizes milk sugar (lactose) and transforms it into lactic acid. In turn, breaks down milk proteins into single amino acids, which improves the assimilation in our organism and produce high levels of vitamin B, carbonic acid and a small amount of alcohol. 

There are many legends about the origin of kefir, it is said that kumis was his predecessor, also a beverage resulting from the fermentation process very similar but made ​​with mare's milk and end up being relegated to the background by kefir. 

For many centuries, the habitants of the Caucasus kept secret his drink until the mid-nineteenth century, a Russian researcher getting some kefir and in the following years in the West would discover its healing properties. About 1930 the industrial production of kefir and many products made with kefir that had little to do with the original starts. 

Other types of kefir are the water kefir and kombucha or tea kefir. This article will talk only of milk kefir.

 

Properties

Kefir can be made with milk from cows, sheep or goats, have a slightly different taste and nutritional properties common among which are: 

  • High in the following minerals: calcium, iron, iodine. 

  • Vitamins: A, several group B as B1, B2, B6, B9 and B12. 

  • Also contains: carbonic acid, which increases appetite and promotes digestion. 

  • It is rich in proteins, polysaccharides, lactic acid bacteria and alcohol in therapeutic doses (amounts that pose no risk of intoxication or addiction). 

  • Increase the value of vitamin B in milk. 

  • Allows greater calcium absorption

  • Help our body to better assimilate minerals and vitamins that are provided. 

  • Promotes intestinal flora by bacteria and yeast fungi which include kefir. 

  • Its regular consumption reduces blood cholesterol levels

  • Neutralizes the effect of phytic acid found in many whole foods (pumpkin seeds, sunflower, poppy, sesame, linseed) that inhibits the absorption of minerals and trace elements.

Wintered Carrot Soup. Photography by The Hungry Dudes. Creative Commons Licence

Furthermore, we can distinguish specific properties depending on the type of milk with the Kefir is prepared: 

  • Kefir made ​​from cow's milk is very rich in folic acid and cobaltite. 

  • The kefir made ​​from milk of sheep known for its calcium content, iron, niacin and iodine. 

  • Kefir made ​​with goat milk have a high content of vitamin D. 

The therapeutic properties of kefir, whether made ​​with milk from cows, sheep or goats, are manifold but we can highlight the following recommendations: 

  • Respiratory system: cases of Russian doctors who cured serious lung diseases such as tuberculosis are known. Currently it is also recommended for various infections of the respiratory tract. 

  • The digestive system, such as: heartburn, dyspepsia, gastritis, stomach ulcers, chronic breakdown, intestinal infections, constipation, diarrhea. 

  • Gynecological diseases

  • Cardiovascular disease: angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, arteriosclerosis. 

  • Periods of convalescence, weakness or exhaustion. 

  • In cancer treatment, especially in breast cancer and colon cancer, thanks to the lactic acid bacteria containing that activate the immune system so the body can fight off cancer cells. 

  • And in cases of vitamin B deficiency, autoimmune deficiencies, brittle nails, visual disturbances, loss of appetite, anorexia, anemia, rickets, dropsy, kidney stones, breast cancer, osteoporosis and gout. 

  • Reduces the side effects of antibiotics (which wipe out the intestinal flora) and other drugs (see exceptions in the Contraindications section). 

  • Helps to optimize the body's metabolism and keep glucose blood levels stable, for all that, it is a good ally to maintain a healthy weight. 

  • Besides having a valuable therapeutic and nutritious level food, they are also attributed properties in the field of cosmetic for being able to prepare skin masks mixed with other ingredients such as raw potato or cucumber, depending on your skin type and needs. 

Kefir is perfectly tolerated by people allergic to lactose, as it is the same kefir which breaks down indigestible lactose into lactic acid making that helps maintain the balance of intestinal flora.

Fresas con dátiles y Kéfir. Photography by Lablascoveganmenu. Creative Commons Licence.

There is no scientific explanation for all the properties of kefir, is that like all natural food properties are much more than the sum of each of the features found in its composition. Besides its characteristic flavor seems to have a very important role by sending nerve signals to the brain through the gustatory nerves. 

The Russian researcher and Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff has been an ardent supporter of kefir, highlighting this food as highly recommended for health.

 

Contraindications

It is very important to know that due to the high calcium content of kefir may be reduced the absorbability of a series of drugs: bisphosphonates, fluorides, tetracyclines, gyrase inhibitors. To avoid this effect, we simply avoid taking kefir 2 hours before and 2 hours after ingestion of these drugs.

Due to its vitamin K, people taking anticoagulants (acenocoumarol) must reduce their consumption of kefir to a maximum daily glass.

Article written by Shauri.