What Is Kefir?
Kefir is a probiotic drink that is most commonly made from cow’s milk (whole milk gives a better flavor than skim or semi-skim milk). Kefir is prepared by letting kefir grains soak in milk for 24 hours.
The term “kefir” is from the Turkish word “keif” which literally means “good feeling.” Kefir milk is a popular drink in Eastern Europe, Russia, and some central Asian countries where people consume kefir daily.
The Proven Health Benefits of Kefir:
Kefir Has Antimicrobial Properties and Can Improve Your Digestive Health
The main kefir health benefit is due to the abundance of probiotics which help to improve the microbiota in your gut.
Many studies show that consuming kefir milk products increases the number of healthy bacteria and help to lower the number of harmful microbes in the intestines. Drinking kefir can help to reduce the severity of various gastrointestinal problems such as salmonella, E. coli, and Giardia infections.
Other studies highlight the fact that regular consumption of kefir is good for improving your overall digestive health.
One study found that drinking 100 ml of probiotic kefir also helps to relieve constipation. Kefir has a laxative effect and can improve the time food takes to pass through your digestive tract.
Kefir Is Good If You Have Lactose Intolerance
One of the benefits of drinking kefir every day is that it is easily digested by people who are lactose intolerant.
Enzymes in kefir grains break down lactose in kefir, making it easier to digest. Studies repeatedly show that people who have lactose intolerance can consume kefir milk and kefir smoothies.
In fact, daily consumption of kefir may even help improve your symptoms of lactose intolerance. One study found that kefir products even helped to improve lactose tolerance. Drinking kefir reduced excess gas, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping that usually occurs after consuming dairy products.
Kefir Milk Strengthens Your Immune System
Kefir boosts the number of healthy bacteria in your gut and has antimicrobial properties that can all help to boost your immunity.
Many researchers point to the fact that the health of your gut and digestive system is closely linked to your immune system.
A review of how kefir benefits your health found that regularly consuming kefir milk is good for your gut health and your immune system. Kefir contains vital nutrients that help to boost your body’s defenses.
Other studies have shown that probiotic products that contain Lactobacillus strains of bacteria stimulate the immune system and inhibit the growth of bacterial infections. The fact that kefir contains L. kefiri makes the yogurt-type drink especially beneficial for your immune system.
Kefir Drink Can Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms
If you suffer from diabetes, kefir is a good probiotic drink to help keep symptoms of diabetes under control.
One randomized clinical trial involving 60 diabetic persons found that consuming 600 ml of kefir daily helped to significantly lower the average blood glucose levels (HbA1c). Scientists concluded that fermented milk drinks such as kefir can be a good complementary therapy for diabetes.
Kefir Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Another reason that kefir milk is extremely good for your health is that anti-inflammatory kefir compounds help to reduce inflammation.
One study using mice found that kefiran extracts from kefir grains helped to inhibit inflammatory processes. Kefir milk also reduced inflammation, but not to the same degree as kefiran extracts. Scientists concluded from this experiment that kefir has anti-inflammatory prebiotic compounds.
Another study found that milk fermented with kefir grains can help to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and alleviate symptoms of colitis.
Kefir Consumption May Help Lower Blood Pressure
If you suffer from hypertension, the probiotics in kefir milk can help to improve your cardiovascular health.
One trial involving hypertensive rats found that treating high blood pressure with kefir was effective after 2 months of daily consumption. Researchers noted that kefir helped to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which has a positive outcome in reducing high blood pressure. Scientists also found that the kefir probiotic L. kefiranofaciens has particular cardiovascular benefits.
While there is no research on the blood pressure-lowering effects of kefir on humans, consuming kefir daily will certainly benefit your overall health.
Kefir Has Shown the Potential to Lower Cholesterol
It may be possible that drinking kefir daily could have benefits for your health if you have high cholesterol.
However, there are mixed results on the cholesterol-lowering effects of fermented milk products such as kefir.
One study found that a kefir probiotic L. plantarum Lp27 from kefir grains helped to lower cholesterol in rats.
However, a study on 13 men who had elevated cholesterol levels found that consuming 500 ml of kefir daily for 4 weeks had no effect on cholesterol levels.
Kefir Has Calcium That Improves Bone Health and May Prevent Fractures
Milk kefir probiotic drink can help prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones because it has certain bacteria strains that increase calcium metabolism.
The journal PLoS One reported that fermented milk products using kefir grains have a positive effect on bone health. In one trial, people with osteoporosis took 1,600 mg of kefir daily with a calcium supplementation. After the end of 6 months, researchers found that kefir boosted the effects of calcium supplements, and bone mineral density increased.
Another study involving postmenopausal women found that kefir consumption helped reduce bone resorption which can lead to osteoporosis.
One glass of kefir contains about 316 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D, so drinking kefir daily can add toward meeting your daily recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D.
Kefir Can Assist in Losing Weight
One of the many benefits of kefir milk is that drinking kefir regularly can actually help you lose excess pounds and reduce your waistline.
One randomized controlled trial involving 144 overweight adults found that increasing kefir drinks helped women lose weight and reduce their waistline in an 8-week period. Consuming 4 servings of kefir milk daily resulted in greater weight loss than those persons on a similar diet who didn’t consume kefir.
Other studies on mice have found that compounds in kefir help to prevent fat accumulation and can prevent obesity.
Kefir Grains Have Wound-Healing Properties
Kefir contains antimicrobial properties that can help wounds heal quicker and prevent infections while wounds are healing.
One trial involving animal subjects used a kefir gel (prepared from an extract of cultured kefir grains) to treat infected wounds. Kefir gel was applied 2 times a day to some of the rats, and silver sulfadiazine to the other. At the end of 2 weeks, scientists noted that inflammation and scar tissue was lower in the wounds treated with kefir gel.
Other studies have shown that kefir has antimicrobial properties that help heal skin and boost wound healing.
Kefir Can Help Improve the Symptoms of Allergiesa
If you suffer from asthma, then you could benefit from drinking kefir milk regularly due to probiotics in kefir having an anti-allergic effect.
The journal Immunobiology reported that kefir has the potential to suppress allergic reactions in the respiratory tract. Scientists said that kefir could be used as a natural treatment for allergic bronchial asthma.
The fact that kefir can benefit people with allergic respiratory symptoms was shown in a study on probiotics. Many probiotic strains help produce antigens that help to improve the body’s immune response to allergens.
Kefir Has Anticancer Properties
Kefir contains bioactive compounds such as peptides and polysaccharides that have the potential to inhibit the spread of cancerous cells.
The journal Medical Oncology reported in 2017 that fermented milk products like kefir contain antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. Enzymes in kefir and probiotics help strengthen immune response and reduce inflammation. This can help to reduce the effects of oxidative stress and prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer.
Compounds extracted from kefir have been linked to treating or preventing skin cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and gastric cancer. The researchers say that many studies discovered promising results, using kefir both in vivo and in vitro as an anti-cancerous agent.