What are the health benefits of kefir?
Wondering what the health benefits of kefir are? Here are some good things that kefir does for your health when you consume it on a regular basis.
Kefir contains millions of probiotics
You probably already know that probiotics are good for you, and there is already a growing body of research that suggests consuming probiotics confers numerous health benefits. For example, studies have suggested that probiotics reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea; may help with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome; may be useful for yeast infections and urinary tract infections1; and is linked to fewer cold symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and cough2. Kefir, containing such high amounts of probiotics, provides these benefits too. In fact, studies have been done on the health benefits of kefir and of them these are discussed below.
Kefir is better tolerated by the lactose-intolerant
People who are lactose intolerance face annoyances such as unwanted gas or stomach cramps when consuming dairy. However, a study found that lactose-intolerant participants report few or no symptoms from consuming kefir3. Being lactose intolerant, I can confirm that consuming milk kefir brings about none of the troublesome symptoms that drinking milk or eating cheese come with.
Kefir is antibacterial and antifungal
Kefir itself is made using bacteria and yeasts but some of the substances found in it inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. Research has found benefits such as inhibition of harmful bacteria in our gut. Salmonella and E.coli, two pathogens commonly associated with food poisoning, were found to be inhibited by kefir in a few studies. Additionally, kefir has been to found to limit the growth of a wide variety of fungi, yeasts and mold4.
Kefir reduces the side effects of antibiotics
The widespread use of antibiotics has brought up concerns about their side effects. Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid taking antibiotics, but its side effects may be alleviated or prevented.
A study of 125 children found that those who were given live kefir were less likely to develop diarrhea due to antibiotics compared to those who were given an inactive version or a placebo.5 *Update* Apparently, the difference was not statistically significant but suggests kefir may work better in children who are younger or sicker6.
Kefir may be protective against cancer
Although no human studies have yet been done on this topic, research with animals has reported promising results. Studies with mice have found that kefir and kefiran protects against tumor growth, reduces metastases of certain cancers, and lowers the frequency of mutations4.
Other health benefits of kefir
Studies with rats have reported that kefir enhances immune function. Interestingly, these immune-boosting effects were limited to young rats and not old ones. Other studies have also linked kefir to improving digestion, lowering cholesterol, and reducing allergies4.
Although the health benefits of kefir are numerous, it isn’t a cure-all. If you’re suffering from a medical condition, it’s still a good idea to consult a doctor. However, kefir is still a great food that can be easily made at home and should be part of a healthy diet.
- Health benefits of taking probiotics – http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0905c.shtml [↩]
- Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162335.htm [↩]
- Kefir may bolster lactose tolerance in intolerant people – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530081555.htm [↩]
- Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods, Second Edition (Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals) [↩] [↩] [↩]
- Kefir, a probiotic‐rich drink, may benefit specific groups of children – http://lifeway.net/Press_Releases/2009/georgetown8-3.pdf [↩]
- Kefir, although rich in probiotics, didn’t prevent diarrhea in children using antibiotics – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803172938.htm [↩]