Kefir cultures are one of many ways to ferment milk and create a probiotic beverage. It originates from the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe where it has been used to preserve milk for centuries. Kefir cultures contain a community of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that make a cauliflower-like kefir grain. The grains are living organisms and will continue to live and ferment milk as long as they are put into fresh milk on a consistent basis. Kefir grains will also multiply in milk, and can be passed on to others for their benefits.
The live bacteria found in kefir helps to keep a healthy bacterial balance in the digestive tract. According to the University of Michigan, probiotics can help with diarrhea, may prevent tumors in the colon, and improve digestion of lactose sugars in people with lactose intolerance. The University of Michigan also said that probiotics my reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Kefir also helps to improve overall digestion and the immune system. It may also help to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.
It’s important to always clean any utensils, jars and other tools you use between each fermentation. It is difficult to get food-borne illnesses from kefir because the beneficial bacteria protects the drink. However, pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella can still contaminate your kefir if you use unsafe practices. Fermented foods can also interact with metals, so it’s also important to use wooden, plastic or glass tools while culturing your kefir. Avoid exposing your kefir to sunlight or freezing temperature, which can damage the grains.
Don’t expose your kefir to any tools that have been exposed to chlorination. It is also important to use your kefir grains to ferment milk that is free of antibiotics and toxins The best milk to use are brands labeled “organic”, “hormone-free” and “antibiotic-free”. It is also best to avoid using your kefir cultures in raw milk. The milk you use should be pasteurized to reduce the possibility of it becoming contaminated by a food-borne illness. Kefir fermentation helps the body to absorb vitamins and minerals in the milk better. If you use milk with antibiotics or toxins in it the body may absorb these easier once the milk is fermented; therefore, it’s best to only use organic milk free of antibiotics and toxins.