Before we even go into what kefir is, let us look at fermented foods and their importance regarding the health of our guts. Fermented foods range from kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt, kombucha and of course, kefir.
The Biological Door – the gut functions beyond its primary function of digestion and absorption, it protects us against autoimmune and inflammatory disorders like inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) too!
People complain of having inconsistent bowel movements, increase in the amount of cravings, inflammatory symptoms, mood swings, irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia etc. As the image clearly shows, many symptoms and body conditions can result from a leaky gut.
There’s a change in the way we are eating and our lifestyle choices, and
- diet high in fructose
- diet low in fibre
- more refined grains and foods leading to insulin surges
- diet low in fats
- decline in phytonutrients that are obtained from plants
- excessive use of antibiotics
- decline in breast feeding
- increase in the number of Caesarean deliveries which affects the number of microorganisms in the adult
The gut microbiome thrives on the symbiosis of the different bacteria in the gut. When there is a dysbiosis (imbalance) of microorganisms, autoimmune disorders such as IBD or Type I diabetes can develop.
The organisms in your gut are major determinants of your interactions with the environment (i.e. epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by external factors rather than intrinsic alteration of the genetic code itself.) Thus, it makes sense that changing our diet for example, could possibly help to shift our microbiome in a positive direction.
Did you know: The gut is called the second brain – the enteric nervous system. Studies have been showing a connection between the gut and the brain (i.e. the gut brain axis), and how we treat our gut can affect our behaviour and moods. Up to 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects our emotions, is produced in the gut.
The bottom line is, having a healthy and flourishing gut can make your body function at a more optimal level. Studies have also shown that the gut-brain axis could impact our appetites, satiety, and behaviours linked to weight loss. Hence, there is more attention now being paid to functional foods like probiotics, prebiotics and live fermented foods.
How do I get a happy gut?
Amongst other ways such as using less antibiotics, going back to natural whole foods, taking prebiotics, consumption of fermented foods can be a powerful way to help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria!
Kefir is essentially similar to yoghurt, as a fermented dairy food that originated from the Caucasus Mountains. Fermented foods are already half digested by bacteria during production, and live cultures help repopulate the gut to shift the microbiome in the right direction.
You can make kefir on your own! First, start off with obtaining kefir grains, which are a combination of yeast and bacteria made up of various dairy components. If you are not sure where to get authentic grains, join the ‘SG Fermentation Friends’ group on Facebook, where thousands of members would be willing to give you some grains for free!
Add these grains to a glass jar and fill with milk. The bacteria in the grains will feed on the lactose in the milk and start to reproduce. Yeast assists in this process and results in the release of carbon dioxide. This feeding entire operation takes 12 to 24 hours and you end up with lactose free milk teeming with lots of beneficial bacteria. Strain the grains out and the resulting texture of kefir is somewhat creamy, similar to yogurt with a tangy taste. Place the strained grains in yet a jar of milk and leave in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process until you are ready to make the next batch!
How to Eat it?
You are done with the fermenting process! It is time for the fun part, where the kefir can be added to numerous number of foods such as smoothies, bread, biscuits, cheese, ice cream, frosting, muffins, cookies, soup etc. The possibilities are endless!
A final note: Never let the grains come into contact with metal, stainless steel, chlorinated water, extreme cold & heat, direct sunlight, go without food (lactose) as these factors may harm the grains.
This article was contributed by Melissa Dorai of NourishMel.
Photo credits: Dr Axe, Pexels, Unsplash and NourishMel