Kefir is one of the oldest cultured milks, having its origin in the Caucasian Mountains. With a bubbly effervescence and no bitter aftertaste, Kefir has been called the "champagne of milk". Kefir is a fermented milk which contains a mixture of several species of lactic cultures. Yogourmet Kefir starter is prepared from selected strains of active Kefir cultures and Kefir grains, so it produces a rich, creamy, alcohol free drink every time. It is a refreshing, nutritious, and therapeutic dairy treat for all ages. Yogourmet Kefir starter does not require the use of a yogurt maker, since the milk is incubated at room temperature for about 18-24 hours.
Kefir is believed to restore the intestinal flora of people who are recovering from a serious illness or being treated with antibiotics. Kefir May be a remedy for digestive troubles because of its very low curd tension, meaning that the curd breaks up very easily into extremely small pieces. The small size of the Kefir curd facilitates digestion by presenting a large surface for digestion agents to work on.
Its also predigested due to the fermentation process, rendering itself tolerable to those persons who are lactose intolerant. Kefir has a pH of about 4.0; a clean pleasant acid taste without any bitterness (aftertaste); a slight taste (and aroma) of yeast; a smooth texture; its taste is rather identical to that of buttermilk or sourcream; altogether a very refreshing beverage! No refrigeration needed. Can be made with low-fat or non-fat milk, goats' milk, and soy milk!
Kefir dates back many centuries to the shepherds of the Caucasus mountains. They discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.
In the Caucasian Mountains, legend has it that the resulting kefir "grains" (not really a true grain) were a gift to Orthodox people from Mohammed, who instructed them on how to use the grains. Mohammed strictly forbade them from giving away the secret of kefir preparation to other people, or pass anyone kefir grains, because they would lose their "magic strength." The legend explains why kefir grains and the method for kefir preparation have been surrounded by mystery for so long.
For most of recorded history, kefir was scarcely known outside the Caucasian Mountains, although Marco Polo mentioned it in recounting his travels. This self-carbonated dairy-based beverage continues to be popular in Russia, southwestern Asia and Eastern and Northern Europe, and has recently gained some popularity in the United States.
What is Kefir?
Basically, kefir is made by fermentation of the "kefir" grains, which resembles miniature cauliflower that are the size of wheat kernels. These grains consist of casein and gelatinous colonies of microorganisms that are grown together symbiotically. The dominant microflora are Saccharomyces kefir, Torula kefir, Lactobacillus caucasicus, Leuconnostoc species and Lactic Streptococci. In addition, some yeast is present.
These many beneficial microorganisms are what separates kefir from virtually all other cultured milk products, which typically use only one, and rarely more than three species in the culturing process. These microorganisms produce a variety of changes in the milk.
Kefir, The Drink in Modern Times
Renewed interest in Kefir occurred in the West in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the best known researcher on Kefir is an international Nobel Prize winner (1908) Russian professor Elie Metchnikoff. Professor Mechnikoff considered Kefir a natural and a most effective means of combating intestinal infections, intoxications, and putrefactions. In his opinion good health and longevity could be attributed to the constant use of Kefir. Mechnikoff had proved in a scientific manner that the bacteria contained in Kefir would be of value in promoting the improvement and longevity of the human life if this form of fermented milk were brought into general use. Since then Kefir attained a considerable usage in Europe and is being extensively produced there.
Contribution of Each Microorganism
Kefir Rediscovered / The Nutritional Benefits of an Ancient Healing Food By Klaus Kaufman Published by Alive Books PO Box 80055 Burnaby British Columbia Canada V5H 3X1 ISBN 0-920470-65-3 From pages 23-27 Chapter 3
Fun and Fundamentals of Food Ferments
Fascinating Ferments Most people's diet is devoid of fermented food and drinks other than alcoholic beverages. Few people ever eat lactic acid-fermented foods or drink lactic acid-fermented drinks. This is true even of those who eat commercial yogurt. Though many people eat yogurt, it is most often "pseudo-yogurts" that are consumed and they no longer contain adequate quantities of beneficial cultures, most often because the yogurt is heat-treated, killing off the live ferments. According to researcher Khem Shahani, Ph.D., Professor of Food Sciences and Technology at the University of Nebraska, and a consultant to the industry, centrifugation of commercial products is another treatment that results in insufficient microorganisms (ferments) in the yogurt. Yet it is the ferments that are the magic key in the realm of nutrition. Ferments are supermetabolizers that cause such miracles as food constituent conversion, nutrient assimilation, cell transformation, elemental transmutations and plant and animal metamorphoses. They help the diseased body reassemble healthy tissues. Ferments are the ultimate promoters of continued good health. But why should this be so? Where does the energy for transmutation come from? Well, you see, ferments are minuscule converter reactors that create tremendous energy for living tissues. Inside our bodies, ferments- or enzymes, as we moderns prefer to call them - control anabolism (synthesis of complex molecules) and catabolism (breakdown of complex molecules). Enzymes are in charge of the build-up and separation of the metabolic pathway. So it behooves us to look a little closer at these magical enzymes. Enlivening Enzyme Eccentricity Every modern lock has a unique key. Enzymes are like keys in that they are highly specific in their tasks. Examples of such specific enzymes are the amylases. They catalyze the conversion of starches to sugars. Protease, another enzyme, unlocks the mechanism that reduces proteins. Lipase enables the break-up of fats. Oxidase by its "turning in the lock" prevents oxygen in nutrients from interfering with intestinal nutrient absorption. Every living cell needs enzyme helpers - ferments! - for mastering the huge task of transmutation in metabolic energy conversions. It is the totality of this act we call metabolism. In discussing enzymatic catalysis, it helps to know that the word enzyme comes to us from the Greek "enzym" and that "enzumos" means "leavened." Leavening involves mixing in something to induce a general change for the better. And as you probably know from experience, leavened bread is quite a different product than unleavened bread. Just as most breads need leavening, so every human cell needs specific enzymes (leavenings) for the many steps of anabolism and catabolism. A living cell contains thousands of different enzymes whose task it is to hasten or to hinder or to fix living metabolic processes. Without the presence of active enzymes, cell division cannot and does not take place. This means that growth or renewal cannot occur. It also means that substances spotted as injurious, such as harmful bacteria or poisons, cannot be dissolved and eliminated. Without the helping ferments, our cells would be as helpless as we are before a locked car or a locked house or a locked place of work without the key to let us in. Enzymes grant access! Just as we safeguard our important keys, so our enzymes need protecting. Many enzymes (ferments or leavenings) are sensitive to major fluctuations in temperature (a rise from 78 to 122 o F; 25 to 50°C, for example). As a result, they lose their ability to make active, to activate. Suppose the key is rusty and no longer works in the lock. Oil would be needed. Poisons cause similar unwanted affects on enzymes. Many prescription medicines and pharmaceuticals inhibit proper enzyme activity through unwanted side affects. Often enough, the damage to important enzymes can be so overwhelming that a return to normal functioning is no longer possible. The key has broken off in the lock, as it were. You can no longer enter the system even with oil. We must take care to protect these sensitive keys to our system and keep them safe from harm. Holistic nutrition and holistic healing, and fermented milk products, kefir in particular, provide just such a means. Right Is Right, Left Is Gauche Kefir contains more L[+] or right-turning lactic acid than D[-] or left-turning lactic acid. The structural formulas of the isomers (chemical substances that have the same molecular formula but different physical and chemical properties due to the different arrangement of the atoms in the molecules) of the two types oflactic acid give a good illustration of how different these two forms really are: Molecular fonnulas showing the two isomers of Lactic Acid 0 C-OH H-C-OH H-C-O H 0 C-HO HO-C-H O-C-H H Left-turning D [ -] Lactic Acid (levorotatory) Turns rays of polarized light to the left Right-turning L[ +] Lactic Acid (dextrorotatory) Turns rays of polarized light to the right In the structural formula, 0 stands for oxygen, H for hydrogen, C for carbon. But notice in particular the arrangement of the OH groups. In the left-turning lactic acid, the grouping is to the right, in the right-turning acid, it is to the left. This is a quirk of science that has led to misunderstandings before. As can clearly be seen, one version is very much like a mirror image of the other. They are indeed very, very similar lactic acids. Yet if we employ the model of lock and key mechanism, we can easily see why only one key fits while the other will not "turn" the lock. Just imagine the formulas above were key bits and you can see how only one could work to unlock a certain lock. In Germany, manufacturers of soured milk products are already advertising their particular brand as containing mostly right-turning lactic acid, usually 80 percent. Why should they bother? Who cares? Isn't left-turning lactic acid just as good? Besides, have you ever seen anything turning one way or the other? You mean that matters? HOLD IT. Let's examine this directional business and see if it takes us into the right, sorry, proper direction. After or during vigorous exercise the lactic acid level in the blood rises by five to ten times of normal values. We experience this excess lactic acid as muscle soreness or pain. While this is an unpleasant symptom oflactic acid metabolism, it is balanced by the fact that lactic acid also intensifies our breathing faculties and therefore the oxygen intake into the cells of our brain, liver and kidneys. Right-turning lactic acid is a normal constituent of the human body. It is important, according to scientific experts, that the cells of the heart muscle obtain their energy primarily from right-turning lactic acid. Right-turning lactic acid is able to increase breathing, that is the intake of oxygen, of highly active cancer cells.lO Does this mean that cancer cells will proliferate under a diet that includes regular intake of kefir? No. It means that the oxygen-deprived and for this reason proliferating cancer cells are turned in the right direction again! This is such a complicated mechanism that I have fully delved into it elsewhere. (See Reviving Choked-Off Cells, page 31.) Suffice it here to say that soured milks like kefir, with mainly right-turning lactic acid, represent great value for our health. They increase the metabolism of our tissues, promote intestinal activity and are indispensable cofactors in the prevention and treatment of all malignant conditions. The Trouble with Left-Turning Lactic Acid While the individual kinds of soured milks vary considerably in the way they are produced and the use of lactic acid-producing bacteria and ferments, their nutrient and active ingredient content is similar. It is their lactic acid content that is very different. It depends very much on the method employed. An L. bulgaricus yogurt, for instance, contains a total of 65 to 70 percent left-turning lactic acid according to one kefir expert. Only the remainder, i.e., up to 30 percent is right-turning. Consuming left-turning lactic acid can be problematic. On the polarized light circuit at least, being right-turning is far more right than being left-turning. For the human body, only the right-turning, (L+) lactic acid is natural and physiologically correct. Left-turning (D-) lactic acid is a foreign substance for the human organism. It does not contain the necessary enzymes for proper utilization by the body. The urinary system flushes the majority of left-turning lactic acid out of the system and the liver converts the remainder into carbonic acid and water. For this task the human liver contains a nonspecific enzyme that is not fully functioning in babies. Consequently, babies react to left-turning lactic acid with inner distillation that results in acidosis and increased expulsion through the urine. This causes a disturbance of the mineral household and metabolism. Because of this problem, parents should curtail the consumption of large quantities of lactic acid products by babies. Even so, according to some experts, proper amounts of kefir playa vital role in the development of a healthy digestive tract in babies. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations investigated the question of lactic acid fermentation. This resulted in the recommendation that consumption of left-turning lactic acid be limited in adults to 100 mg perlkg of body weight. There is no limitation, however, for right-turning lactic acid for adults. In foods prepared for babies and toddlers, on the other hand, only right-turning lactic acid should be used. For these reasons, large quantities of yogurt (more than one liter per day), are not good even for adults, as their overwhelming content of left-turning lactic acid can lead to a strain on the metabolism. Consumption of large quantities over extended periods can also harm the flora normally living in the intestines. Homemade, thickened milk on the other hand, contains both kinds of lactic acid, with only a small excess of one kind or the other. Most kefir contains between 0.85 and 1.5 percent lactic acid. Acidity is a controlling factor in microbiology. A pH (standing for potential hydrogen, i.e., hydrogen potential) below seven is acid, above seven it is alkaline and at seven the pH is neutral. Different cultures require different pH. Final acidity in kefir is below pH 3. As lower pH numbers indicate higher acidity, and higher pH numbers indicate higher alkalinity, kefir is on the acidic side of this scale. The predominant form oflactic acid produced is the right and right-turning form, with some left-turning lactic acid present. And from pages 31-36 Chapter 4 Reviving Choked-Off Cells Kefir has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. It seems that proliferating cancer cells can be at least partially restored to normal function, i.e., healed through reactivating them to normal function by involving the work of lactic acid in the body. And some of the most respected scientists have suggested a pathway by which lactic acid fermentation might fight mutant cancer cells. To understand this, we must first know that in cancer pathology, the destruction of normal cell respiration is one of the root causes of the disease.* * According to cancer researchers Dr. Heinrich Jung, Johannes Kuhl, PhD and others. It helps to understand that if certain processes in the body can go wrong, leading to the proliferation of cells that no longer service the whole body but work against it, then certain other processes may correct the imbalance and restore cellular order. The body's immune system produces T-cells that can destroy tumor cells. Certain chemicals, called carcinogens, can inhibit T-cells by blocking them and effectively locking them out. Now we must find the right key that might unlock the power of the immune system again to successfully deter cancerous growths. There are a number of chemical repressors that successfully fight cancer cells, such as the chemicals employed in chemotherapy. Unfortunately, these chemical agents. German physician and scientist Johannes Kuhl, who has studied the workings of cancerous cells and the healing action of lactic acid. According to Dr. Kuhl, "Cancer is not a localized tumor only, but a generalized ailment of the entire organism." Therefore, to remove part of the body through surgery, or to submit a cancerous organ to gamma radiation is hurtful and insufficient as it does not remove the root cause. Kuhl considers such methods actually harmful as the most immediate effect of surgery and radiation is to further weaken the patient. "Lactic acid is the functional element of growth in nature and the regenerative component for damaged plant and animal cells," writes Dr. Kuhl in his book Checkmate to Cancer (Schach dem Krebs). He goes on, "It's the lack of the presence of nature-grown lactic acid in our daily diet that is the real problem." Dr. Kuhl is working from within the framework of isopathic law, which holds that a disease contains the means for its cure in its own causative agent, when he suggests that fermented milk products are invaluable as a preventive and healing agent in disease. According to isopathic law, lactic acid from ferments like kefir removes excess lactic acid from body cells. Therapeutic administrations of lactic acid-fermented foods are therefore curative of body cells that are "fermenting." Following the isopathic law that was first applied by Hippocrates and reaffirmed by Paracelsus, Robert Koch and Pasteur, Dr.Kuhl recommends to start cancer treatment with a weak but frequent dose of lactic acid, which should then be gradually increased. Says he, "In tumor treatment we must treat the very formation of cell life; respiration and fermentation." It is only possible to treat cell respiration indirectly, so as to avoid destroying or paralyzing the cell. This is best accomplished through the ingestion of lactic acid-fermented foods. Latest scientific findings suggest that it is best to introduce lactic acid-fermented foods from a variety of sources, e.g., kefir, kombucha, lactic acid-fermented fruits, lactic acid-fermented vegetables, etc. Dr. Kuhl emphasizes that it is "completely meaningless to expect a normal fermentation in an artificial tissue, such as cancer. The over-acidification of the body cells is not to be fought and eliminated allopathically, but isopathically. Nobody can change that. Preventing cancer means, according to the results of my research, seeing to it that there is a regulation of the lactic acid metabolism in the body cells (tissues), so that the physiological (that is the normal quantity needed by the body) lactic acid never becomes a pathologically overabundant substance." Kuhl goes on to explain that, "the cancer disease is a chronic disturbance of the lactic acid metabolism. . .. The toxic amount of lactic acid present causes precipitous proliferation of cells that do not reach the stage of maturity. This process is called the whip effect. They form the cancer nodes, or if there is decomposition, the cancer tumor. These immature cells cannot breathe. Since the last cell regeneration has not been reached, they lack a respriatory system" The body, fighting for survival, wants to regain health. It works to reorganize the affected tissues. It produces a supportive growth substance, lactic acid. But the noxious elements present prevent the sick cells from healing. The body, its system gone awry, produces more lactic acid. The cells must regain their health, that is become mature and then proliferate, to eliminate defective tissue. But when the level of the growth substance (lactic acid) becomes toxic, the cells are driven to multiply but can no longer mature. The byproduct of this cellular struggle is a malignancy. The immature cells fail to develop breathing capacity. "Cancer," according to Kuhl, "is a chain of causes [and] the only sure way for overcoming cancer is prophylaxis through nutrition which . . . protects the fermentation and hormone systems of the organism from damage, maintains the ability of the lymphatic defense apparatus to function preventatively, and prohibits the forming of diseased lactic acid through cancer poisons." Kuhl's analysis of the nature of cancer, the destructive nature of the body's endogenous lactic acid, and the role that lactic acid plays constructively, are nothing short of astonishing. Yet the universally held idea of cancer as a localized condition prevails even today in most medical centers, where researchers are still desperately seeking, but not finding, the magic bullet that will cure cancer. Dr. Kuhl believes that people who eat lactic acid-fermented foods hold the reins of their lives in their own hands. They are preventing malignant tumor growths by observing the isopathic law, even if they do so unknowingly.