Kefir, Probiotics and Weight Loss

Can Kefir Help Weight LossKefir and Weight Loss

Can kefir Help Me Lose Weight?

If you search the internet you are going to find many websites that claim Kefir is a weight loss food. In fact, you may even find information about a "Kefir Diet" ! So underneath all the hoopla and hype, is there any scientific proof that kefir can help you lose weight? 

Our body is brimming with bacteria, that much you probably already know. In fact there are trillions of bacteria and yeast that live within our intestines. Bacteria also exist, not just in the digestive tract from mouth to rectum, but also externally on skin and hair. Bacteria are largely ignored by the medical community when assessing disease. The scientific community is beginning to focus much more research in this important area. It is becoming abundantly clear that bacteria and yeast affect our health in many more ways than we thought about before. 

So we know that our friendly bacteria affect our health. You can review some of the benefits I have discovered in the scientific literature by reading my "Benefits of Kefir" article. Specifically though, I wondered if there was any reason to believe that kefir can help me lose weight.

I found an abstract on pub med where researchers looked at all the data related to fermented milk bacteria and weight loss, metabolic syndrome etc. They reviewed over 600 original studies related to the question "can probiotics help weight loss?" Their discovery was welcome news. The answer is yes, fermented products like kefir can help weight loss!

Here is the conclusion of their study:

Knowledge on the impact of the microbiota on metabolic pathways allows to conceive new factors associated with obesity and modulation by prebiotics and probiotics. In this sense, the main effect observed was the increase in bifidobacteria, usually accompanied by weight loss and enhancement of parameters related to obesity.

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This is great news for kefir lovers. Kefir products are easy to make at home, and bifidobacteria are abundant in the millions in home made kefir. Since it is convenent and delicious, diet that includes kefir may help people lose weight by increasing the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut! 

Benefits of Kefir

Benefits of Kefir

Bacteria- We Need Them To Live- Probiotic Benefits

There is a term that scientists use to describe the microscopic community that lives on our skin and hair, in our mouth, nose, intestines, and anywhere else that we naturally have bacteria. The term is "Human Microbiome" or "Human Microbiota". They include bacteria, yeast and fungi that exist in harmony with all living beings. Without this community that lives with us, and within us, we would not exist.

If you have ever had a vaginal yeast infection following a dose of antibiotics, or a fungal infection such as athlete's foot, or thrush in your mouth, then you already have a sense of the benefits of balance in our microbiota. Would you be surprised to know that bacteria, fungi and yeast that live in and on you actually contribute to your good health?

An average human has 200 times the amount of microbiotic cells as compared to body cells. On the skin, your "good" bacteria help to fend off more harmful strains keeping infections at bay. Inside your body, microflora have a variety of important functions which include digesting food, providing a barrier that prevents unwelcome invaders into your body from the intestine, preventing tooth decay, strengthening your immune system and more! The benefits of probiotics are becoming more clear.

Our Bacteria-phobic Society

From the time that it was discovered that simple hand washing could reduce the spread of disease and infection in hospitals, we have been attempting to eradicate bacteria. The problem is that we have affected the helpful colonies as well. Antibiotics are a good example. They do help rid the body of infection causing harmful bacteria, but they affect the balance of our helpful communities as well. The over-use of antibiotics is a well known and much discussed topic. Hand washing and other forms of personal hygeine are important, but is it necessary to use antibacterial soaps in the home?

The consequences to our health of attempting to eradicate bacteria from our lives could be manifesting in many ways that we may not be aware of. For example, whenever there is a breakout of food poisoning, such as salmonella from eating tainted hamburger, we often hear of sicknesses and deaths arising from the exposures. Would you stop and consider that for everyone that has reported being sick, there are many more who have eaten the tainted food and not fallen ill at all. A healthy microbiota can maintain a balance, and keep harmful bacteria from establishing a foothold. Even in circumstances where the exposure is too great, symptoms can be limited.

What Causes a Bacterial Imbalance?

Some of the most common causes of imbalanced bacteria in the gut are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Stress (stress hormones may encourage bad bacteria growth)
  • Dietary causes such as sugar, preservatives, alcohol, processed foods, over-eating, inadequate fibre
  • Radiation or Chemotherapy or other aggressive medical treatments
  • Eating too much animal-based protein, especially highly processed (e.g. luncheon meats)
  • Stagnant bowel function (which could be caused by the some of the above)

What Do Gut Bacteria Do?

In our gut, good bacteria can crowd out bad bacteria and affect our overall health, metabolism, digestion, and body composition (fat vs. muscle). Gut bacteria are involved in the immune response and help to ensure our immune system doesn’t over react (such as in food sensitivities or food allergies). There are numerous benefits associated with a healthy gut bacterial community.

Gut bacteria also:

  • help synthesize B and K vitamins
  • enhance gastrointestinal motility and function
  • enhance digestion and nutrient absorption
  • obstruct the growth of “bad bacteria” and other pathogens
  • help metabolize other plant compounds/drugs
  • produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and polyamines
  • produce coagulation and growth factors
  • produce cytokines (cell signaling molecules)
  • help regulate intestinal mucus secretion and ultilization
  • help regulate blood flow to the viscera

 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Healthy bacteria (also called PROBIOTICS) have been shown to help us achieve better health in many ways. Here are a few.

Kefir Benefits:

Note on Kefir Scientific Research– At the end of the day, I don't get too hung up on kefir science studies. It is not like taking a drug developed artificially. Fermented beverages have been around for a long time, and I am quite happy to drink them because they taste great and "could" be good for me. However, it is nice to know that science backs up what i want to believe. References with links to individual studies are all listed at the end of this article.

Autism– In a recent study in mice, autism behaviors, abnormal intestinal bacteria and leaky gut have been linked suggesting that probiotic treatments could help. There is also a ton of anecdotal evidence that a diet low in sugar and high in fermented foods makes a positive difference in the behaviour and the intestinal symptoms of children who fall on the autism spectrum.

Anti-oxidant Effect– Kefir has been shown to have potent anti-oxidant effect in scavenging free radicals. Since free radicals are linked to aging and disease, it can be hypothesized that the probiotics in kefir could be a powerful anti-aging product.

Bladder Infections– Use of probiotics has been shown to reduce the number of urinary tract infections in women, and to effectively treat some urinary tract infections.

Cancer– Probiotic effects are being studied both in the prevention, and treatment of certain cancers. The most obvious one is colon cancer, where beneficial bacteria have been shown in some studies to prevent DNA mutations necessary for bowel cancers to form, and grow. An extract from kefir has also been shown to suppress proliferation (spread and growth) of human breast cancer cells, but not normal breast cells.

Cholesterol Reduction– Kefir was shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol in a danish study where middle aged men with high cholesterol were given Kefir to drink. Men given a placebo had no reduction pf cholesterol at all.

Depression and Depressive Illnesses– Studies suggest that depression is also associated with an alteration in the microbiota. Psychobiotics are good bacteria that have the potential to increase microbial diversity and treat the symptoms of depression. Scientists are starting to draw a stronger connection between the gut and the brain. Our bacteria produce many chemicals that our body then uses in routine bodily functions, so it is not a stretch to think that many of those chemicals could affect brain function. After all, our entire body functions on chemical reactions. Brain function is but a single example.

Detoxification– Probiotic bacteria help digest and eliminate harmful substances that sneak into your gut… substances such as pesticides found on foods. A study done in 2009 proved that bacteria from the Korean fermented food called Kimchee degraded an organophosphorous insecticide by day 3 and by day 9 it was completely gone. Organophosphates (such as RoundUp) are some of the most common pesticides used on food. The bacteria identified to be responsible for the detoxification are the same ones found in kefir. Probiotics have also been proven to neutralize nitrites (commonly used to preserve deli meats ("cold cuts"), bacon, ham etc. In another study, probiotics were found to effectively detoxify the intestines of heavy metals such as mercury.

Diarrhea, Crohn's Disease and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS)– Most people are aware of the fact that bacteria live in the bowel. Controlled trials have shown that Lactobacillus GG can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in infants and children. Clinical trial results vary, but there have been a number small studies done that suggest certain probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis, and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease and the recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery to treat ulcerative colitis).

Flatulence– Probiotics and probiotic foods and beverages, including water kefir and yogurt, have been shown in many research studies to reduce flatulence. (intestinal gas)

"Several studies have demonstrated significant therapeutic gains with probiotics in comparison with placebo. A reduction in abdominal bloating and flatulence as a result of probiotic treatments is a consistent finding in published studies;" source: World Gastroenterology Organisation Practice Guideline – Probiotics and prebiotics

Food Poisoning– Kefir has been shown to prevent and/or treat E. Choli infection in mice.

Immune System Stimulation– Ingestion of kefir has been shown to increase the immune response, and control the inflammatory response, thereby increasing resistance to disease, and limiting inflammation in allergy.

Inflammation– Good bacteria help reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, not just in the intestine. This includes blood vessel inflammation, arthritis and other areas of inflamation that show up with chronic disease. The mechanism of action is not known, although there are many theories. This is good news since most chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancers and more) have an inflammation component taking a probiotic supplement or drinking a probiotic beverage such as kefir could help.

Insulin Resistance– Some studies have found that people with insulin resistance also have an alteration in their gut bacteria.

Muscle Recovery After Exercise– Delayed onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) has an inflammatory component that has been shown in studies to be reduced when athletes took probiotics.

Obesity– Recent studies have discovered a link between obesity and gut bacteria.

Sugar Cravings Reduced- The cravings you experience, it has been determined by science, have a lot to do with what is inside of you. There have been many studies that show people who crave chocolate, or sugary treats have a different bacterial composition in their gut than people who do not. It has been shown that people who consume probiotic foods and supplements see a significant reduction in carbohydrate cravings. 

Vaginal Yeast Infections and Other Candida Albicans Issues– Some women have reported either ingesting probiotics orally or inserting vaginally to repress an over abundance of yeast growth. see article: Can Kefir Help Candida Albicans Growth?

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Conclusion– Probiotic foods and drinks have been a part of human culture since the beginning of recorded history and beyond. Since there are no harmful side effects, and a myriad of benefits, does it not make sense to add probiotics to your daily diet? Especially since it costs a mere pennies to get started making water kefir, or other probiotic beverages and foods. Order Water Kefir Grains (buy grains one time and they will last a lifetime!)

References:

Home Made Milk Kefir vs Store Bought

Making Milk KefirKefir Products- Homemade or Store Bought Milk Kefir?

What Is The Difference?

People often ask whether they should buy kefir products in Canada at the local grocery store. My answer is always, "It depends."

The best kefir is the one you have and drink. So the first criteria is often simply to know whether you will take the time to care for the kefir culture, or if ready-made is better. Don't get me wrong, it is not a lot of work to keep a milk kefir starter healthy, but it does require a daily milk change, and some stirring. Not much work, but still more than some people are willing to take on.

If you do have 5 minutes a day to care for a milk kefir culture, then milk kefir grains will be a very worthwhile investment for your health. You may have heard that home made kefir milk is better for you than store bought milk kefir. Or you might just assume it is better without knowing why.

Store bought milk kefir is factory made using a very few specific bacteria strains. In fact it is more similar to yogurt than it is to authentic kefir milk made from heirloom milk kefir grains. Foods sold in the store need to be standardized. It is important for manufacturers to produce a consistent product. They limit the numbers of bacteria, and inhibit their growth. They also completely leave out the beneficial yeasts that are in the products. All of this is to provide consistency, but also to prevent bacterial activity from causing enough gas that the container will explode.

When you start making your own kefir, you will appreciate what that means. As bacteria and yeast devour the milk sugars, they put out gases like CO2 that create an effervescent (fizzy) quality. I always make kefir with a loose fitting lid so the gases do not build up. Manufacturers, however, need to properly seal their product. That could be a recipe for disaster.

So here is the breakdown of bacteria and yeast found in traditional kefir milk made from authentic heirloom milk kefir grains like we sell to Canadians on this site.

Homemade Kefir Bacteria and Yeast Breakdown

Bacteria Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Lactobacilli
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus brevis
Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei
Lactobacillus paracasei subsp.paracase the
Lactobacillus fermentum
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lactobacillus helveticus
Lactobacillus kefir
kefiranofaciens Lactobacillus subsp.kefiranofaciens
Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens subsp. My kefirgran
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis,
Lactobacillus parakefir the
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris,
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis,
Streptococcus thermophilus
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.cremoris,
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.mesenteroides
Enterococcus durans
Acetobacter aceti

Fungi Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Dekkera anomala / Brettanomyces anomalus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Candida Friedrich the
Candida humilis
Saccharomyces Exiguus Torulopsis Holm
Candida inconspicu A
Kluyveromyces marxianus / Candida kefir
Pichia fermentans / Candida firmetari Candida lamblia by
Issatchenki orientalis / Candida krusei
Candida maris
Cryptococcus humicolus
Debaromyces hansenii / Candida Famatina A
Debaromyces occidentalis
Galactomyces Geotrichum
Kluyveromyces lactis has . lactis
to loddera Kluyveromyces
Saccharomyces cerevisiae,
Saccharomyces pastorianus
Saccharomyces unisporus
of Yarrowia lypolyti / lypoliti by Candida
Zygosaccharomyces rouxii
Saccharomyces sp nov turicensis

Kefir-specific Yeast Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Kluyveromyces marxianus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces Exiguus
Candida kefir,
Saccharomyces unisporus
turicensis Saccharomyces
Pichia fermentans
in Yarrowia lypolyti

Bacteria, Fungi and Yeast Isolated In Store Bought Kefir

Str.lactis,
Str.diacetylactis,
Str.cremoris,
L.acidophilus,
Lb.lactis,
Kefir bars Type I (Licaucasicus and
L.brewis)


Liberte Kefir ProductsWOW! That is quite a difference right? I don't know which brand was tested. The study I read was in Turkish so I assume it was a Turkish bought kefir product. In Canada, one of the most prominent brands (and my favorite store brand!) is Liberté brand. Their kefir is organic, and quite delicious. You can also choose between effervescent and non-effervescent types. On their site, they state, "Our flat Kefir contains 10 types of bacteria and provides one billion bacteria per serving." (Comparatively, 2 cups of home made kefir can contain as many as 5 TRILLION bacteria!!) source~ SCDiet.net

That's a great start. If you think you do not have time to care for milk kefir grains starter culture, then Liberté kefir may be for you.

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So now, when someone asks you, "What is the difference between homemade milk kefir and store bought milk kefir, you can tell them, "The difference is microscopic!"

Diabetes Concern? Drink kefir!

Scientists Confirm Yogurt, Kefir Intake Reduces Incidences of Type 2 Diabetes

Kefir Milk Reduces Risk Of DiabetesA study published this month in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for Diabetes, confirms that regular servings of fermented dairy products reduces the risk of developing diabetes later in life. It is not a trifling reduction in risk either. In fact, the risk is reduced by nearly a third!

The reasons behind the reduction in risk are as yet undefined, but it is thought to be linked to an increased intake of probiotic bacteria, as well as perhaps a form of vitamin K that is produced during the fermentation process.

Dr Nita Forouhi, the head of the scientific team, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University, said:

“This research highlights that specific foods may have an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and are relevant for public health messages.

“At a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yoghurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health.”

Just the other day I posted an article about researchers who have discovered that diabetics have different bacterial communities in their gut as compared to people who do not have diabetes. See Type 2 Diabetes May Be Caused By Probiotic Imbalance

As the evidence mounts, the message I am hearing is loud and clear… Drink Up Me Hardies Yo Ho! Fill up my cup with kefir!

 

What Are Kefir Grains?

Kefir Grains- What Are They? (and what I love about them!)

Kefir grains are officially a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast)… fancy words huh? Basically that just means that it is a group of bacteria and yeast that live happily ever after, in harmony and balance, and they make my favorite healthy drink!

Kefir grains

Milk Kefir Grains- No one has ever been able to make kefir grains in modern times at home. In ancient times there are stories of sheep stomach sacs filled with milk hanging next to a door, and everyone who came through the door would give it a knock thereby stirring the contents. From this sac would come a fermented beverage known by many names (including kefir of course) and along the lining of the sac would form harder clumps which could then be used to make kefir. 

Some scientist in Iran made kefir grains and in documented history, this is the first time we know of that someone set out to make kefir grains and succeeded. I wrote about that here… How To Make Kefir Grains At Home

Water Kefir Grains- According to a Wikipedia article water kefir grains are found in many different cultures around the world, with no 2 being exactly the same. As with milk kefir grains, the exact origin is not known, although current theory points to Mexico as being the country of origin. A scientific paper written in 1889 talks about "Tibi", which is another word for water kefir grains, growing as hard grains on the leaves of a certain cactus plant and being able to ferment sugar water. Like the milk kefir grains, no scientist has ever been able to make the water kefir grains without first having the grains themselves.

I do love kefir grains. They are living things. In my home they have become as important as my pets in my life. I feed them, and keep them clean and warm, provide an environment in which they can thrive, and in return they provide me with a drink that has so many health benefits that I feel as if my very life depends on them.