KEFIR KNOWLEDGE: A quick general look at the importance of kefir in your diet.
Tibetan Kefir Mushrooms
I received my first batch of kefir grains about eight or nine years ago from a Russian friend of mine; she had brought them from Moscow via her mother. Apparently, they were the true ‘Tibetan’ kefir mushrooms. They looked very spongy, like tiny shrunken doll size cauliflowers. Moreover, they were truly a breathing growing fungus, and we coined them ‘kefir babies’. But I soon found out that you did not eat these mushrooms. You added whole full fat organic milk, and within 24 hours it miraculously turned into a thick yogurt-like drink. It had a slightly sour, almost fizzy taste. Mixed with a little honey, it was delicious. What was fascinating to me is that the mushrooms feed off the lactose in the milk, so even when you feed them with cow’s milk, lactose intolerant people can actually digest it. Kefir mushrooms do grow and once you have one batch, it will last forever if you look after them. The problem is, they are fussy and needy. When I was using them more regularly with clients, I had an over-abundance, asking all my friends if they wanted any of my ‘kefir babies’. No one wanted to commit. I do sometimes think it would be great to grow them again; perhaps this particularly Tibetan strain is more magical than the ‘industrial’ Whole Foods version. Alas, kefir is now very common and most basic supermarkets sell it, even if it is not the magic Tibetan kind. This is a very good thing because it is incredible for your gut health, and wonderful to see it so accessible and mainstream. But kefir is anything but new.
Kefir mushrooms have a long history and go back thousands of years. It is one of the oldest milk cultures known to mankind. Some scholars say they originate from the mystical Caucasian Mountains, others mention Tibet. Apparently, the Tibetan monks used to use them to heal themselves both inside and outside their bodies. Russian cultures claim that it is a fountain of youth; people who drink kefir will always stay slim, young looking, and healthy. At the turn of the 20th century, a Russian woman named Irina Sakharova was hired to steal kefir grains from a Caucasian prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov. She ended up being the first person to bring kefir grains into Russia. At the age of 85, Irina received a letter from the Minister of the Food Industry of the USSR, expressing his gratitude for her primary role of bringing kefir to the Russian people. In the 1970’s, microbiologists began researching the grain and could not find its true original source. Eventually they arrived at the door of the Tibetan monarchs, and according to them, they were a ‘gift from God’ provided for their people over 1,000 years ago. In the late 1990’s, Russia was one of the first to publish several studies about lactic acid bacteria, gut health, and fermented milk products. Russian hospitals had already been using kefir to treat conditions such as cancer, tuberculosis, and digestive disorders since the early 1900s. Around the same time, the French also started treating their tuberculosis patients with kefir. About twenty years ago, Americans started drinking kefir in teas and fermented drinks. However, these were mostly from water kefir grains, which is very similar in that it also feeds and helps develop your microbiome inside your gut. Today we have a new kefir paradigm, with most western societies fulling embracing the delicious drink.
The Kefir Process
Kefir mushrooms are actually small grains the size of wheat kernels, and the kefir milk is made by the fermentation process between the milk and the mushrooms. There are many probiotic micro-organisms that are produced during this process, which continue to stay alive and colonize in your digestive track, adhering to your intestines. They help your body fight disease and aid in digestion. These organisms produce lactic and acetic acid, as well as many other beneficial by-products. Most other cultured milk products, like yoghurt, do not have anywhere near as much good bacteria and enzymes as kefir milk, and this is what makes kefir standout.
Your gut has direct communication with your brain, which is called the gut-brain axis. It sends signals about hunger and weight, as well as regulating your hormones. Therefore, it is very important to keep your gut healthy for weight maintenance. Recent studies also show that this ‘good’ bacteria must fed on a regular basis to keep up the bacterial colonies living inside your gut. A daily drink of kefir then is a very good idea for optimum health.
Studies show that by drinking kefir milk you reduce the chances of many harmful diseases and disorders. Recent studies in Japan and China showed results of reduced tumor sizes in mice. The kefir milk induced a specific immune response in the mice. It also resulted in the reduction of breast cancer cells, restoring these mutations back to its healthy state. It has been used to treat tuberculosis for over a hundred years. Similar studies showed it reduced cholesterol and constipation, as it restores the intestinal flora. When you are treated with antibiotics, for example, a lot of this gut flora is destroyed. People can then suffer from yeast infections, and in some cases, it can turn into Candida and IBS. The enzymes in kefir help to restore the healthy bacteria in your gut flora to put it back into balance. Disease only starts when your body is out of balance.
Unfortunately, most western diets lack in fermented foods. But it is these fermented foods that are the secret to good health. These enzymes metabolize all kinds of things for our bodies, which result in nutrient assimilation, the transformation of cells, elemental transmutations, and plant and animal metamorphoses. If your body has any type of disease, the kefir will aid in the restoration of the tissues to a healthier state. Every living cell needs enzymes to help its monumental work of transmuting metabolic energy conversions. Furthermore, kefir could be one the most preventative health measure one can take.