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Kefir – The Probiotic Powerhouse

The number of fermented dietary supplements in the market has recently increased, owing to increased health awareness and lifestyle changes. This has put a strong focus on beneficial foods with probiotic microorganisms and functional organic substances. One such product which is finding a lot of traction is ‘Kefir’.

Probiotics are microbial cell preparations or components of microbial cells with a beneficial effect on the health of the host

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage, which comes under ‘probiotic foods’. It contains many bioactive compounds, including as many as 30 strains of good bacteria. Scientifically speaking, milk kefir contain a complex microbial symbiotic mixture. The nutritional values of kefir are due to its rich chemical composition, including minerals, sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, peptides, vitamins and fats. The fermentation process further enhances kefir’s nutritional value owing to secondary bioactive ingredients such as catechin, vanillin, ferulic acid, vitamins B1, B12, K, folic acid, calcium and amino acids, further adding to kefir’s health benefits.

Kefir is also rich in the amino acids serine, threonine, alanine, lysine, valine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine and tryptophan, which play a major role in the central nervous system, improve general fitness and prolong the healthy life expectancy. It also holds the key to improving many health issues related to digestive health and immune function, owing to its antimicrobial and gastrointestinal tract effects, gut microbiota modulation and anti-diabetic effects.

In a 2015 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, kefir was recognized as a potential source of probiotics and molecules with several healthy properties. According to this study, its biological properties suggest its use as an antioxidant, anti-tumor agent and immunomodulator, amongst other roles.

Kefir vs. Yogurt/Curd

Kefir and yoghurt are both probiotics and are beneficial to general health when incorporated into our diet. However when stacked against each other Kefir far out performs compared to yoghurt.

Probiotic Numbers

Yogurt contains 2-7 types of probiotics, good bacteria strains.

Kefir contains 10–34 strains of probiotics as well as numerous beneficial yeast strains.

Mode of Action

Yogurt contains transient bacteria to help clean and line the gut, giving food to the beneficial bacteria. They go in and don’t stay.

Kefir bacteria can actually attach to the walls and colonize to stay and regulate. They’re also aggressive in nature and can actually go out and attack pathogens and bad bacteria in your gut.

Ease of preparation

Yogurt cultures mostly come from thermophilic strains and need to be heated to be activated.

Kefir comes solely from mesophilic strains, which cultures at room temperature and does not require heating at all.

Health Benefits

Immune Assistance

One kefir probiotic strain in particular that’s specific to kefir alone is called Lactobacillus Kefiri, which helps defend against harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli. It also contains an insoluble polysaccharide called kefiran that’s been shown to contain antimicrobial properties.

Supports Digestion

When it comes to bacteria in the gut, it’s a tricky balance. Research suggests that consuming probiotic foods like kefir can help restore that balance and fight against gastrointestinal diseases. It is especially effective in restoring the lost gut flora caused due to antibiotic use and side effects caused by some types of medications. Kefir also contains partially digested proteins (e.g. caseins) that aid in its digestion and absorption by the body.

Inflammation Modulation

According to this study kefir derived (Cow’s milk) from β-casein proteolysis, 236 peptides were detected and found to display antimicrobial, antioxidant, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory (SARS-CoV-2 is known to utilize angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors for entry into target cells), immunomodulation and antithrombotic effects. Extracellular vesicles (EV) produced from kefir can ease the TNF-induced inflammation in intestinal cells by inhibiting inflammatory cytokine production. Kefiran also exhibits nitric oxide scavenging activity (get rid of free radicals produced due to oxidation).

When the generation of free radicals exceeds the scavenging capacity of the cell’s endogenous systems, the excess free radicals seek stability through electron pairing with biological macromolecules of healthy cells such as proteins, lipids, and DNA.

Antimicrobial and Wound Healing

It is well established that probiotics can aid in skin healing by stimulating the production of immune cells. Probiotics like kefir showed significant wound healing effects due to the presence of bioactive ingredients like acetic acid and lactic acid produced by the bacteria. as indicated by this research paper. According to this study It also exerts an antibacterial effect against several microorganisms, including S. aureus, E. coli, and Salmonella, higher than that achieved using standard antibiotics such as ampicillin.

Improves Allergies

There is increasing evidence to show that one of the reasons for allergic reactions can attributed to lack of good bacteria in the gut. Researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center reviewed 23 different studies with almost 2,000 people, and in 17 of those studies, test subjects taking probiotics showed improved allergic symptoms and quality of life.

Kefir may help treat inflammation at the source to help reduce the risk of respiratory issues like allergies and asthma. According to an animal study in Immunobiology, kefir was shown to reduce inflammatory cells disrupting the lungs and air passages as well as decrease mucus buildup.

Improves & Heals Skin

When your gut is out of whack, it can send signals to your skin that disrupt its natural balance and cause all sorts of problems like acne, psoriasis, rashes and eczema. Kefir helps bring good bacteria back to the forefront and supports the health of your largest organ, the skin.

Risks and Side Effects

Just like anything out there, when consumed in moderation, kefir can be a safe and healthy addition to the diet as the potential dangers of kefir are very minimal to non existent in most people. It can be a good substitute to yoghurt/curd or can even complement it.

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