On Wednesday Feb 1 at 8 pm, the BBC Two television show Trust Me I’m a Doctor unveiled some ground-breaking science, in the form of an experiment to determine whether probiotics can actually alter gut bacteria and improve health.
The overwhelming conclusion was that a little-known probiotic drink called kefir created statistically significant results for gut health.
So now everyone is talking about kefir! But what is it, and what makes it so special?
At Chuckling Goat we’ve been making kefir in the traditional style since 2011. Here are a few things that you may not know about this now scientifically-proven medical miracle food:
- Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from living kefir grains that originally came from the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. You can’t manufacture a kefir grain – grains only grow from other grains. NO ONE KNOWS where the first kefir grain came from. A mystery for the ages!
- Kefir is similar in taste and consistency to drinking yogurt, but as demonstrated on the show, it’s a lot more medically powerful. Yogurt contains “ transient bacteria,” that gets killed off by the digestive process. Kefir contains “non-transient bacteria”, that survives the digestive process and re-populates the gut with the good bugs it needs for health.
- The best (and most traditional) base for kefir is goats milk, as cow’s milk is highly allergenic for human beings, and is a known trigger for eczema and other autoimmune conditions.
- Elie Metchnikoff, known as the Father of Natural Immunity, won the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work on kefir. He observed that the peasants in Bulgaria who drank kefir lived to an extremely long and healthy old age, and this observation stimulated his award-winning research.
- Kefir is helpful for many autoimmune conditions, allergic and inflammatory conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, IBS, asthma, diabetes, Crohn’s and colitis.
- Never buy flavoured kefir, or kefir that contains sugar or other sweeteners. The flavourings and glucose kill off the good probiotics in the kefir, ultimately doing more harm than good.
- If you want to safely sweeten kefir at home, you can blend it with your favourite fruit and stevia, which won’t harm the probiotics. If you do blend your kefir with fruit, consume it immediately and don’t let it sit overnight, as the fructose will harm the probiotics over time.
- Never blend kefir with honey, as honey is a natural antibiotic which will kill off the good probiotics in the kefir.
- Kefir never goes “off,” – it just continues to ferment, getting stronger in taste and potency over time. If you leave it to ferment long enough, it will separate into curds and whey, turning itself into cheese and alcohol!
- Kefir was traditionally made in a goat’s skin bag that hung by the door of the peasant hut. It was considered etiquette to kick the bag as you entered or left the cottage, as this would “stir” the kefir and speed the fermentation process.
- Heat also speeds the fermentation process, causing the kefir to “work” more quickly. Keeping your kefir in the fridge isn’t necessary, as it won’t go off, but it will keep the kefir from blowing out of the bottle.
- Always look for kefir made in the traditional style, with real grains. Kefir can be made with a powdered sachet, but the result will not be as powerful as the kefir made with grains.
- If you want to make kefir at home, be sure to ferment it until the pH is under 4.5, as this is the level at which most pathogens are unable to survive. You should test your kefir at a public health lab from time to time, to ensure that your grains remain free from contamination.
To watch the Trust Me I’m a Doctor episode that features the kefir experiment, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08d6ctr/trust-me-im-a-doctor-series-6-episode-1
Traditionally made kefir, ready to drink, is available from www.chucklinggoat.co.uk
Shann Nix Jones has investigated the science behind kefir and how it can benefit the skin in her new book, The Good Skin Solution: Natural Healing for Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea and Acne, due out from Hay House on Feb 7, 2017.