Kefir. A cultured and tangy, prebiotic and probiotic drink. Maybe you never have had kefir or possibly you have never heard of it. In this article, I am going to share with you why kefir is such a big piece of our Skin Resolution and why it's so important for your gut health.
Probiotics & Microbiome
Many people have heard about probiotics and how they can help your gut and whole body. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help benefit your gut and the rest of your body. Kefir-one of the most perfect probiotic foods in my book, is what many people have not heard of. First lets back up to the micro-biome. Your micro-biome is simply the collaboration of microorganisms both beneficial and neutral that coexist in your body, mainly the gut. It's estimated that there are a quadrillion/septillion bacteria in the gut. Yes, you have bacteria, "gut bugs". You might be shocked but, you do have benefical bacteria in your gut that you need to help fight the bad bacteria that comes into your gut and bring everything into balance. You are part of a natural ecosystem in your body! Simply put, when your microbes suffer, you also suffer. You may have heard the common old saying, " you are what you eat". I'm here to tell you that, " you are what you absorb". That is determined by your gut bugs. If you wreck the health of your gut (which absorbs nutrients), your health will suffer. Some things that will wreck your gut are: diet, antibiotics, stress, sugar, traumas, and environmental toxins. Environmental toxins like those found in cleaning and personal care products, will affect your entire body. This is why we are big on using natural and pure body and skin products. Your skin is a sponge and will soak up to 70% of what you put onto it, that's a lot!
The bacteria in your gut help break down food and turn it into building blocks that will harvest energy from what you eat. Some of the things they help with are: protecting you against infections, building skin, building bone and muscle cells, controls hormones, and more! We all have probably had antibiotics a time or two in our lives, and those disrupted some of our microbes in our gut. Maybe you have been stressed before, that can change the shape and function of microorganisms in the gut! Even using common antimicrobial agents will disrupt the gut bacteria. In that case, you probably need a probiotic boost!
Kefir can be that boost, as well as other probiotics. Kefir can accomplish what antibiotics cannot do. Antibiotics completely wipe out good and bad bacteria. So really, there's nothing good left. So what do you do? You can't just leave an empty space because you know the "bad guys" aka (bad bacteria) will creep in again eventually and take over once more. So you need to repopulate your gut with the "good guys".
A lot of people also probably have a decreased diversity of good bacteria in their gut. People who have dysbiosis have this, it's an imbalance in their gut. The bad bacteria in your gut cause symptoms. They could be stress, depression, IBS, various skin issues, and so many more health issues. You may have heard that your gut is like your second brain. This certainly is true as there is a gut-brain axis. A gut-to-brain pathway. Meaning when someone has symptoms happening like for example in IBS, be it diarrhea, digestive issues, bloating, or constipation, mood disorders can follow like depression or anxiety. Something benefical needs to be signaling from brain to gut. If you have any of these issues or those listed before like skin problems, you have microbiome damage. So you need to start in the gut to help repopulate the benefical bacteria.
On to kefir!
Kefir has been around for thousands of years and originated in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia. People are just beginning to explore this powerful food. It's made from living kefir grains. Which made of yeasts and bacteria. It contains not just one strain of benefical bacteria but several. It's similar in taste and consistency as yogurt, but is much more medicinally powerful!
Kefir is also known as a "synbiotic", which contains it's own food source in one food- prebiotics and probiotics together.
Kefir has non-transient bacteria which doesn't get killed off by the digestive process and gets to where it needs to be, in your gut. The strong acid in kefir will kill off dangerous bacteria in food and will suppress disease causing bacteria. Forget eating yogurt for probiotic benefits because it has transient bacteria, it really won't work. Use kefir instead.
Plain goat milk kefir is best as it is much less allergenic than cow's milk and has better vitamin and mineral content. During the fermentation the lactose is consumed, so most people can drink it!
Here's a big kicker, never buy flavored kefir! Why? It has sugar, sweeteners, glucose or other flavorings that kill off good bacteria. It's pretty pointless to drink flavored kefir then! Make sure to look for plain goat milk kefir. The reason why it's good to stay away from sugar is because, It feeds your bad gut bugs and kills the good ones. Even kefir brands with fruit are not good, as the fructose will kill off the probiotics over time. It's okay to make a smoothie with kefir, just consume it right after you make it and don't let it sit overnight. Also do not use honey to sweeten kefir as it can kill probiotics because honey is a "natural antibiotic". Kefir really never goes bad unless it is not made correctly. It will just ferment longer and eventually separate into curds and alcohol, which by then most people don't like.
Kefir has been shown to alter the gut in two different ways. It adds in benefical species of bacteria and also suppresses pathogens. When you start to restore your gut with kefir, it will begin to produce the right amount of serotonin again. This is important because serotonin helps nearly every bodily process! It regulate the central nervous systems, digestion, body temperature, reproduction functions, and more. It help shapes the process of sleep, mood, pain, hunger, and breathing rate. It also helps control the muscular contractions to move food through your body. Serotonin affects so many things: our thinking, our digestion, and our skin. 90% of your serotonin is produced in the gut! Wow. So when serotonin isn't distributed properly, that's also were you can have mood issues and other body functioning problems. So now you are wondering how kefir can help. It's not that you necessarily have to increase serotonin, but that it needs to get where it's needed. Kefir will help balance the immune system by allowing the T cells ( our defender cells) to do their job better. This will in turn allow the T Cells to direct EC cells ( in the gut) to make serotonin and control production of it. This will eventually help with mood and issues I listed above. Now your body also needs something called tryptophan (an essential amino acid) which helps to make serotonin. So you also need to be getting high levels of tryptophan. Where can this be found you might ask? Kefir! Yep, kefir is not just a probiotic punch. It also has tryptophan, for which your body needs.
What Kind Of Kefir Can I buy?
Plain kefir can be hard to find in grocery stores, not all places have it. We make our own raw kefir and that is what we use when we have milk. When we don't have that available, we find some at a local coop near us that offers plain goat milk kefir. Make sure to find one that does not pasteurize after the fermentation process. This will kill all the good bugs and then it won't be benefical for you. Make sure you buy milk kefir and not water kefir. Water kefir isn't bad per say, but it has to be fermented with refined sugar, which can cause damage to your microbiome. Milk kefir does not have to be and is much more powerful. Milk kefir has lactoferrin which is a protein that has many functions in the immune system. If you are vegan and can't have dairy at all, then try out coconut water kefir as it will still help get some good bugs into your gut. Make sure that all sugar added is consumed by the fermentation process. Plain goat milk kefir is best, again making sure it is plain with no sugar added. Goat milk is also hypoallergenic so most people can have it.
What About Other Probiotics?
First of all, I really advise getting kefir for your probiotics as it's much more powerful than powdered probiotics. However, if you can't get past the taste or don't have access to it, make sure you do get some probiotics into your system. Other probiotics are not necessarily bad, It really depends on the quality and how many strains they have. They are more convenient and you don't have to taste them. However, remember, they are not as powerful as kefir. Some powdered probiotics only have a couple strains mentioned on the bottle. Stay away from those. You want to look for something with multiple strains. Make sure it's a refrigerated kind, this is one way you know it's higher quality. Make sure to look for at least 100 Billion CFU. Most are lower then that, but you will need much more, especially if you are dealing with digestive or skin issues. Kefir on the other hand literally has between 250 billion to 2.4 trillion in a cup depending on the type of kefir and how it's made! Wow, that's pretty unbelievable. Easy choice for me to pick.
Now, when taking capsules or a powder, make sure to take a prebiotic or getting that into your diet. Probiotics need a proper food source or they won't work! This can be hard and get more expensive. Kefir on the other hand, is a two in one with prebiotics and probiotics together. This way the bacteria have everything they need to survive. Getting enough fibers in your diet is what you need to do. Examples: oatmeal, chia seed, broccoli, etc. You need these foods or a prebiotic supplement if you are going to take a probiotic capsule or powder.
Powdered and capsule probiotics also are desiccated and on their way towards death, which this is why the number of bacteria will decrease over time. Kefir though is living and thriving so the number of bacteria is always increasing and becoming more powerful!
Figuring out what probiotic is best for you is what's next. Now that you know the benefits, it's time to figure out what will work for you. Powder, capsule, or kefir? My choice is always kefir but not everyone has access to it. Maybe you want to do a little bit of both? You might not have access to kefir to take on the go, but maybe you can with probiotic capsules or powder. It you are looking for a couple brands, here a couple that I trust for a capsule or powder.
Klaire Labs: THER-BIOTIC Complete Powder. This is a powder you could mix with anything. It has 100 million CFU and this is a great choice for those looking for a higher dose of probiotics without drinking kefir. Amount to take is on the bottle. 1/4 tsp daily. Check it out on www.klairelabs.com or find it on amazon.
Ancient Nutrition: Probiotics Ultimate. 100 million CFU with added ayruvedic herbal blend. Amount to take is on the bottle. 2 capsules daily. Check it out on www.draxe.com
Kefir: This will always have the most probiotics and prebiotics needed for your body. Try to find some kefir in your area if you can. Redwood Hill Farm has a good plain goat milk kefir if you are looking in grocery stores. You can find kefir in some more specialized grocery stores like food coops or whole foods, fresh thyme, and some others. Do not buy lifeway kefir! This is not goat milk based and it is not good quality. It also has tons of added sugar, so it's a big no-no. In the future we hope to offer kefir with our products! We recommend having at least 6oz a day and having that twice a day if you are in need of help with skin or gut issues. Remember to be careful with amount if you have severe gut problems, consult your doctor or practitioner. I am not a doctor. These are just guidelines I have researched well and recommended to others and have done myself.
My hope is that you have gained some knowledge about the benefits of kefir and probiotics. I hope in your journey of health you can begin with simple steps to combat things that come your way. Hopefully you give kefir a try or at least try out some probiotics if you haven't before. Everyone's body is different and getting results takes time. Probiotics is just one piece to greater health. It is a significant one but it's also not the only one. We need everything to work together in our bodies to function like they were created.
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