The Health Benefits of Kefir Supported by Research
Kefir is a fermented drink that is packed full of health benefits that go beyond probiotics. Here are some of the beneficial effects that kefir can provide.
Anti-inflammatory effects – In some studies kefir has shown anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is involved in many diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and allergies. There may be several reasons for kefir’s anti-inflammatory effects. One of these reasons is the anti-inflammatory effects shown by extracellular vesicles produced by Lactobacillus bacteria. As well as this, full fat dairy kefir is a good source of short chain fatty acids which also produce anti-inflammatory effects.
Improved gut health – Most people are aware of the digestive benefits that probiotics have. Probiotic rice foods, such as kefir can help to restore a normal balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Studies have shown that probiotic rich foods help to reduce digestive problems and reduce the symptoms of conditions such as IBS and H. pylori infections.
Antimicrobial activity – Lactobacillus kefiri is a type of beneficial bacteria that is unique to kefir. These little guys are believed to help protect against infections. Some studies have demonstrated that Lactobacillus kefiri inhibits the growth of a number of harmful bacteria, including Helicobacter pylori, E. coli and Salmonella. As well as this, kefiran, a carbohydrate present in kefir has shown some positive antibacterial properties.
Enhances brain function – The connection between the gut and brain is known as the gut-brain axis. The gut and brain are linked by biochemical signalling between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system located in the digestive tract. This communication travels along the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body.
The gut is known as the “second brain” because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain; such as dopamine and serotonin, which are key players in regulating mood. When the gut is distressed, it can affect brain function and mood. Probiotic-rich foods like kefir, can play an essential role in maintaining a healthy gut, and as a result, healthy brain function.
Lowers blood pressure – One study has shown that kefir may help to lower blood pressure by promoting communication between the gut and the brain. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut is shown to cause high blood pressure in some people. In one study rats treated with kefir for nine weeks show a reduction in blood pressure. Not only this, kefir reduced endotoxins and improved intestinal permeability in these rats.
Improved metabolism – Many studies have shown that those who are overweight or obese have very differ types of gut bacteria compared to people who are a healthy weight. Improving gut health by consuming probiotic rich food such as kefir, can help to improve metabolism and may help with weight loss.
Lowers the risk of osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a common condition in Western countries, particularly in older women. An adequate intake of calcium is one of the most effective prevention measures. Full fat dairy kefir is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in the metabolism of calcium. Studies have shown that vitamin K2 supplementation reduces bone loss and the risk of fractures which is common in those with osteoporosis.
Protects against cancer – In some studies it was demonstrated that the probiotics in fermented dairy foods stimulated the immune system and reduced tumour growth. In another study, kefir extract reduced the number of breast cancer cells by 56% when compared to 14% in yogurt extract.
Kefir is High in Nutrients and Probiotics
Kefir is an excellent source of beneficial bacteria, which as stated above provide a wide range of health benefits from digestion, antibacterial effects, weight loss to brain function. Kefir is also a good source of many other nutrients which will vary depending on how it’s prepared. For example, the nutrients will vary considerably when using water kefir grains for a dairy free alternative. However, some of the main nutrients contained in dairy milk kefir include:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
As well as these nutrients, kefir is a source of a variety of bioactive compounds, such as peptides and organic acids. Peptides are the building blocks that make up proteins. Peptides show health benefits such as anti-ageing effects, anti-inflammatory effects and muscle building properties. Peptides signal the skin to repair itself by boosting the production of collagen peptides. This may mean that kefir has positive effects on skin health.
As well as peptides, kefir contains organic acids. Organic acids help to stimulate pancreatic enzymes, lower gastric pH, support metabolism and can inhibit pathogens.
Kefir Helps to Restore a Damaged Gut
The human microbiome can be put out of balance by many factors in the modern world, such as antibiotics, stress, poor diet and environmental toxins. If this happens there can be a cascade of negative health consequences that influence almost every area of the body; digestion, immunity, brain health, skin, bones, glucose control and much more.
Many modern conditions related to the digestive tract such as IBS, anxiety, allergies, asthma, eczema, arthritis, diabetes and depression can be traced back to the microbiome. Restoring gut health and healing the intestinal lining can be one of the most effective ways to reduce symptoms of these diseases.
Restoring gut health by taking probiotics is one method, however there is little evidence that bacteria from probiotic supplements survive long enough to have long term effects. These supplements also have a limited variety of strains. On the other hand, probiotic rich foods, such as kefir can provide a much higher variety of species with long lasting effects if given the right environment to survive. This means that a diet high in fibre is necessary to ensure beneficial bacteria survive and thrive to multiple and heal the intestinal lining.
Kefir Is a More Powerful Probiotic Than Yogurt
Kefir and yogurt both have a similar sour, fermented taste, however there are nutritional differences. While yogurt and kefir both contain probiotics, kefir provides a much wider range of microorganisms compared to yogurt. Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts which yogurt does not.
Kefir is cheap and very easy to make at home. For more information about how you can make your own kefir and reap the health benefits of this tasty beverage visit Nourish Me Organic