What is Kefir?

Milk KefirKefir is a fermented milk drink. The word kefir is said to have originated from the Turkish word “Keif” which means “good feeling”. Kefir dates back many centuries to the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains who carried milk stored in leather pouches where it would ferment into fizzy sour yoghurt.

Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-prize winning biologist at the Pasteur Institute, first suggested that lactobacilli might counteract the putrefactive effects of gastrointestinal metabolism in 1908. He attributed the long and healthy life of the people of the Caucasus Mountains to their consumption of soured milk. In modern times there’s a great deal of interest and research into probiotics and the health giving properties of fermented milks like kefir.

The Kefir Culture
There are two types of kefir: water kefir – small transparent grains that ferment sweetened water; and milk kefir – white or cream coloured grains that look rather like cauliflower florets that ferment milk.

A cauliflower-like kefir grainKefir is a living culture, a complex symbiosis of more than 30 microflora that form grains or cauliflower-like structures (sometimes called plants) in the milk. As the culture ferments the milk these structures grow, creating new grains in the process. Real kefir from live culture is an endlessly self-propagating process.

Microorganisms present in the grains include lactic acid bacteria, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lb delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lb helveticus, Lb casei subsp. pseudoplantarum and Lb brevis, a variety of yeasts, such as Kluyveromyces, Torulopsis, and Saccharomyces, acetic acid bacteria among others. They give kefir excellent keeping qualities by keeping putrifying bacteria that might otherwise colonise the milk at bay. They’ve been shown to inhibit both salmonella and E. Coli in laboratory tests.

Kefir and Health
Kefir has many reputed health benefits. It has antibiotic and antifungal properties. It’s been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergies, tuberculosis, cancer, poor digestion, candidiasis, osteoporosis, hypertension, HIV and heart disease. You might find it odd that that a drink containing yeasts would be good for treating candidiasis but it has been helpful to many people, both by restoring a better balance to the gut flora and because some elements of the microflora will kill off Candida Albicans. Not all yeasts are harmful.

In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. Particularly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, B2 and B12, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin D. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because kefir also has an abundance of calcium and magnesium, also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, kefir in the diet can have a particularly calming effect on the nerves.

The abundance of enzymes brings more health benefits, especially to lactose intolerant people, many of whom can tolerate kefir without difficulty, as long as the kefir is raw and not cooked (cooking destroys the enzymes).

5 thoughts on “What is Kefir?

  1. Mr.Inno Van Mosseveld

    If Kefir improves gut balance and health why does one need to continually take Kefir,E,g. After taking Kefir say for 1 year wouldn,t that be “enough “to multiply the good bacteria in one.s gut??why continue??cheers Inno

  2. Sue Brown

    Does the water kefir need to be soaked in milk at some point or is it ok to keep using water?
    Also, do the kefir grains multiply after each soaking process, therefore requiring more liquid each time?

    1. kefirshop Post author

      Hi Sue,

      The water kefir just requires water + sugar to multiply. They also do multiply so it will be optimal to use more water and sugar if you want to keep increasing the amount.

      Kind regards,
      The Kefir Shop

  3. Maree audesho

    Hi my name is Maree and lm wanting to know is water kefir safe for a celiac person to use l have used it for yeats before moving interstate and have sadly not had any since, but lm wanting to get my mother on to some as lm sure it will be benificial for her as she is suffering from terrible bladder infections and on so many pain killers and antibiotics it certainty helped my son who ihas anaphylaxis to milk thankyou maree

    1. kefirshop Post author

      Hi Maree,

      Thank you for your message. Yes, water kefir contains no gluten so it is safe for people with Celiac.

      Kind regards,
      The Kefir Shop


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