Over the past few years, kefir has appeared on the shelves of numerous supermarkets and health food stores. But is it just a fad? Is it actually something you should add to your cart?
We recently chatted with Shann Jones, the founder of Chuckling Goat; the producer of the UK’s best milk-based probiotic kefir. She gave us valuable insights into kefir, probiotics in general, and gut health.
What is kefir?
A fermented milk drink with live, natural kefir grains that repopulates the ecosystem inside your gut called the “microbiome” with good bugs that you need. It suppresses pathogens and boosts beneficial bacteria. Our kefir contains 36 separate strains of active probiotic cultures.
Why do you make yours from goats milk?
It tends to be better tolerated than cows’ milk. Most people who are intolerant of cow milk are actually sensitive to one of the proteins found in it, A1 casein, and lack the ability to digest it.
Goat milk contains only A2 casein. Protein-wise, it’s the closest milk to human breast milk, with the least allergenic response.
Why do we need to look after our guts? Is taking probiotics just a health trend?
No. It’s something we all ought to do because our gut microbiome influences every area of health. A healthy gut is vital to a healthy life. Stress, antibiotics and environmental toxins all take their toll on our guts and wipe out the good bacteria in them.
Gut health is a particularly important area to focus on if you have an auto-immune condition. Many of our customers have auto-immune conditions and find that taking kefir helps improve symptoms. All auto-immune conditions always have 3 components: genetic predisposition, a trigger event (infection, virus, antibiotics, stress, bereavement, hormonal event such as pregnancy or menopause), and a gut disturbance. A gut disturbance manifests itself as chronic bloating, gut cramps, constipation or diarrhoea, food intolerances, skin problems, poor energy levels etc., and once the gut is supported, our customers feel much improved.
Is all kefir equal?
No. Most kefir in the supermarket is flavoured, or has added sugar. Both of these things detract from the real benefits of kefir and make it an inferior product.
Also, most kefir that you see in the store is man-made. Man-made kefir only has a few strains of bacteria, which is not as nearly as beneficial as real kefir grains; a natural product with a diverse range of active cultures.
The only kefir that you buy should made with real kefir grains. If this isn’t on the label, don’t buy it.
Are all strains of bacteria equally important?
We have a tendency to focus too much on specific strains. There’s a misconception that some are better than others, but actually, the best thing to do is simply ensure we have a wide range of good bacteria.
Imagine the microbiome is the Amazon rainforest: when healthy, it has lots of different life forms including birds, lizards, leaves, trees, deer, jaguar and fish. Imagine if all the jaguar died. The deer population would have no predator and would graze lots more. They would strip the bark from trees, and the trees would die and fall into the river. There would be more dirt in the river, the fish would die and the birds that eat the fish would die.
The ecosystem is only healthy when it is biodiverse and has a vast range of life forms. The same goes for your system. Take candida for example.
There is nothing wrong with candida: everyone has it. It’s only problematic when there is a candida overgrowth. This happens when the bacteria that keeps it in check is killed off.
The gut microbiome works best with many bacterial strains to control bad bacteria and ensure a good population of good bacteria.
What are your top 5 tips for good gut health?
Drink kefir every day.
Take a complete prebiotic every day. The kefir puts the good bacteria into your system, but you need to feed them.
Take flax seed oil: a good fat, anti-inflammatory and has been shown to improve gut health.
Take marine collagen. It’s the most bio-available form of collagen. This means, it’s the form that our body uses best. The intestinal epithelium (lining of your gut) is only one cell thick to accommodate the exchange of nutrients and water. Consequently, it gets ripped frequently. Marine collagen helps rebuild this.
Eat a wide range of foods. Restrictive diets are not good for your microbiome over time, and are proven to create dysbiosis (imbalanced gut microbiome). We tend to focus on cutting out certain foods, but it’s so important to have diversity.