These days, there’s a lot of talk about the health benefits of probiotics. If you’re trying to improve your gut health, you may be dutifully adding supermarket probiotics into your cart every time you shop.
But did you know that unless you purchase the right type of probiotics, you’re not only wasting your money, but might actually be doing more harm than good to your microbiome?
Which type of probiotic food is best for you?
In January 2017, Dr Michael Moseley of the BBC 2 show Trust Me I’m a Doctor performed NHS tests to determine which type of probiotic food was the most beneficial for your health. The study found that best results came from something called kefir.1
Kefir is a powerful Eastern European probiotic, made from fermented milk. It’s a bit like drinking yogurt, but far stronger and better for you.
This is because yogurt contains something called “transient” bacteria, which is actually killed off during your digestive process. None of the bacteria in yogurt actually make it alive into the gut, to have a positive effect. So all that money that you’re spending on bio-live yogurt, is really just a waste of your hard-earned cash!
Kefir, on the other hand, has been shown to contain “non-transient” bacteria that actually survive the digestive process to have a powerful beneficial impact on the gut. This positive impact is so strong that kefir has been termed a “psychobiotic,’ which means that it benefits conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as IBS, eczema, arthritis, diabetes, and numerous other autoimmune conditions.
So – kefir is good. But what kind of kefir is best?
Dr Moseley then went on to explore different types of kefir. He found that supermarket kefirs have very little effect, because they are pasteurised after preparation, which kills off all the beneficial bacteria.
The best option was found to be live, active kefir made in a traditional process, with real kefir “grains.” A kefir grain is not like a wheat grain, but a living constellation of yeasts and bacteria that looks a bit like a small, squishy cauliflower.
Kefir grains are actually living organisms, and will reproduce indefinitely. Kefir made with these living grains will be far more powerful than kefir made with a powdered starter, as is used in most commercial processes.
So, we know that we want traditional kefir made with real grains. But what’s best to use as a base? Both milk kefir and water kefir is widely available. The difference between the two is that water kefir requires the addition of sugar during the fermentation process, and you have to drink much more water kefir than milk kefir. Dairy has been shown to be the most powerful base for probiotics, so milk kefir is far stronger than water kefir.2
What if I’m lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy?
If you’re lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy, here’s some good news: milk kefir is 100% lactose-free, as all the lactose is consumed during the fermentation process.
Also, many people who think they are allergic to dairy are actually only allergic to cow’s milk, which contains the allergenic A1 casein.
Goats milk, on the other hand, does not contain the A1 casein, and is so hypoallergenic that many babies can tolerate goats milk,, even when they cannot tolerate their own mother’s breast milk. So goats milk is the best, most powerful and least allergenic base for kefir.3
How about sweeteners?
For maximum health benefit, your kefir should also be completely unflavoured and free from all sweeteners. Flavourings and sweeteners kill off the good probiotics in the kefir, and will ultimately do your microbiome more harm than good. Yakult, for example, contains more sugar than Coca Cola!4
A proper probiotic will be tart and tangy – this is the result of the fermentation process. If you struggle with the taste of unflavoured kefir, you can blend it up with fruit (banana or blueberries are ideal) and 100% pure stevia, which will not harm the microbiome. If you do blend your kefir with fruit, be sure to consume it immediately and do not sit it overnight in the fridge, as the fructose will degrade the good probiotics over time.
So to sum it all up: the best possible probiotic for your health is live active goats milk kefir, unflavoured, made in the traditional style with real grains. This type of kefir can be shipped directly to your door, with free shipping, from www.chucklinggoat.co.uk.
Shann Nix Jones is the author of The Kefir Solution: Natural Healing for IBS, Depression and Anxiety, due to be published by Hay House in June 2018.