Discovering the power of kefir

Keep calm and drink kefir.

The topic of probiotics and gut health is a vast and complex subject. FELICITY EVANS provides a small insight into this fascinating universe.

What is kefir?
Kefir is a drink that uses cultured fermentation techniques to create a delicious source of probiotics. There are many different types of kefir including a refreshing fizzy water kefir with delicious flavours that can be added to it. Turn to page 38 to find the recipe and techniques for a basic water kefir, as well as some delicious variations.

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria that play a key part in your overall wellness. They add ‘good’ bacteria to your gut to outweigh the ‘bad’ bacteria. The probiotics in the digestive system can:

  • Assist with the manufacture of B vitamins
  • Protect against external toxins
  • Improve the efficiency of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Boost the immune system
  • Improve bowel function
  • Help to absorb nutrients from food

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are indigestible fibre that serve as food for the probiotics in the gut, allowing them to thrive. Examples of prebiotics are:

  • Artichokes
  • Dandelion
  • Garlic
  • Onion and leeks
  • Corn
  • Cabbage

What imbalances the gut?

  • Chemicals in food, water and air
  • Poor food choices, including sugar, gluten and preservatives in processed foods
  • Stress
  • Medications, including antibiotics

How do we obtain ‘good’ bacteria?

  • By consuming fermented foods and drinks
  • By taking probiotic dietary supplements
  • By feeding the probiotics in the gut with prebiotics in the form of fibre-rich foods
  • The gut and good health

The gut needs to be nurtured by living probiotics and nourishing foods to keep it functioning optimally. In addition to processing and digesting the nutrients from our food, and being responsible for effective elimination, the gut is integral to other vital body functions. It’s home to around 80 per cent of the immune system and is also where many hormones and neurons are made and metabolised. Enzymes and nutrients that are important for vitality are also made and housed in the gut. Pathogens like bad bacteria and viruses can be overcome with a strong gut, which in turn should lead to fewer illnesses.

Increasing evidence shows that an imbalance of gut bacteria can be implicated in a whole host of diseases and conditions such as asthma, allergies, arthritis and obesity.
Having a robust gut means that nutrients are better absorbed and utilised by the body. This leads to glowing skin, stronger hair and nails, and increased energy. Probiotics contribute to good gut health, leading to good digestion, good immunity and good emotional wellbeing. The bottom line is, if you want excellent health, focus on probiotics, good nutrition, the integrity of your gut and moderate exercise, and the rest should follow.

Good health begins in the gut. The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is only partly true; ‘you are what you absorb’ would be a more accurate statement. You could eat the most nutritious diet possible, but if your gut microbiota is weak and can’t properly digest and absorb nutrients, it won’t do you much good. That’s why having good digestion is one of the keys to having great overall health, and why improving the function of your digestive system will help improve your wellbeing.
It could be said that digestion actually begins in the mind, with how you feel about foods and drinks and your relationship to eating and drinking.
Physical digestion is the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from food, which starts in the mouth and continues through the gut. We need a regular intake of probiotics to help digest and absorb the nutrients from the food we eat, as well as to increase the number of good bacteria that are essential for good health. Prebiotics also play an important role because they feed the probiotics.

Whether we realise it or not, we damage our digestive system daily, through medications, environmental toxins, food choices and lifestyle.
Consuming a probiotic drink such as kefir is a great way to help repair and strengthen the digestive system. The fermentation process used to produce probiotic drinks increases the nutrient profile of the ingredients they contain and makes them much more absorbable.

The microbiota
Your body has trillions of bacteria that live in and on you. The name of this complex group of bacteria is the microbiota. Almost all microbiota live in your gastrointestinal tract. Like fingerprints, every person has their own unique microbiota and there are countless strains of bacteria that make up your microbiota. That’s why it’s a good idea to consume a variety of probiotic strains in the form of different fermented foods and drinks to add to this diversity. The ‘microbiome’ is the genetic information contained in the microbiota.

The gut houses around 80 per cent of your immune cells, so it’s a good idea to first work on your gut health in order to enhance your immunity.
Because the gut is an easy entry point for pathogens, your digestive system acts as a barrier between you and the outside world. This barrier has gut flora that helps protect against invaders. There is also an intestinal mucus layer that lines the gut, forming another barrier to keep invaders out of your body. Probiotics and prebiotics help stimulate the production of this mucus layer.
Even if you are healthy, taking living probiotics in the form of fermented foods and drinks is an important step in increasing the integrity of your gut and therefore boosting your immunity.

Emotional wellbeing
Your gut is responsible for up to 90 per cent of the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. When ‘good’ gut bacteria are overtaken by the ‘bad’ bacteria, serotonin production and other chemical reactions in your body are impeded. You also have around 500 million nerve cells and around 100 million neurons in your intestines, which communicate with your brain via the vagus nerve. There are two nervous systems in the body. The first is the central nervous system: your brain and spinal cord. The second is the enteric nervous system: a mesh-like system of neurons controlling your gastrointestinal tract and responsible for neurotransmitters, hormone production and peristalsis.
The vagus nerve connects these two nervous systems, linking brain and abdomen. To increase wellbeing, there are many ways in which you can exercise the efficiency of the vagus nerve, including the following:

  • Practising loud singing and gargling for 30 seconds each day
  • Meditating daily to help calm the nervous system and encourage good digestion
  • Focusing on deep, long, slow breathing to settle the nervous system

Rate This

No votes yet
The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.