Kefir, a fermented dairy drink that has contributed to health and vitality for hundreds of years, is about to hit the big time. Fans claim that regular consumption aids weight loss and results in clear skin, more energy and better sleep.
Want in? Read on...
"All disease begins in the gut" - some credit this oft quoted expression to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. What we do know for sure is that the gut is not only responsible for digestion, but is a big player in healthy immune function.
Chronic, inflammatory conditions such as cancer and heart disease are now linked to poor gut health. In light of recent findings about the human microbiome and it's role in immunity this is no surprise. Did you know, for example, that our intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of the body?
We share our body with a system of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. This system is known as the microbiome and contributes to good health and vitality. Ideally, it's considered that the ratio of 'good' to 'bad' bacteria should be around 85% to 15%. Illness occurs when the microbiome falls out of balance (dysbiosis) and this ratio is altered.
So how do we optimise our microbiome? One of the simplest ways is by adding fermented foods such as kefir.
What is kefir and where did it come from?
It's thought that kefir originates from the Caucasus Mountains, the area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea where East meets West. Some say kefir translates as 'good feeling' - and who doesn't want to feel good?!
The grains are a combination of bacteria, yeast, sugar and protein and have a similar appearance to cauliflower. By adding these grains to milk, a fermenting process takes place and turns milk into a nutrient packed superfood!
It's certainly an acquired taste, slightly tart, with a consistency somewhere between milk and yoghurt. Make it more palatable by adding honey, or blended with fruit in a smoothie.
9 evidence based benefits of kefir
DIY Kefir - easy as 1, 2, 3!
Whilst you can now pick up a bottle of kefir from most supermarkets, the optimum benefits are obtained by homemade kefir. It's so incredibly simple, you can even delegate this task to your least clumsiest child!
Step 1 - Get your hands on some kefir grains - a quick online search will find some for sale, or do you have any kefir making friends who have some to give away? (healthy colonies multiply quickly!). Add one to two tablespoons to a small glass jar.
Step 2 - Top up with milk - organic dairy milk works best, however non-dairy alternatives such as coconut/oat milk can also be used, but won't match the nutritional profile of dairy kefir. Leave an inch or so at the top of the jar.
Step 3 - Leave at room temperature for around 24 hours. You'll know it's ready when the grains clump at the top of the jar. Strain with a non metallic strainer; you may need the help of a wooden spoon (kefir doesn't like metal) and consume immediately, or refrigerate for up to three weeks.
Now repeat step 1! It really is that easy!
Start the day the healthy way by enjoying kefir poured over a bowl of granola, or in a smoothie. It's also lovely as a bedtime drink as it's rich in the amino acid tryptophan, known as a natural tranquiliser.
Are you a kefir fan? How do you like to take it? Perhaps it's something you're interested in adding to your diet in 2017? Comments below please!
The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure. If you have a medical condition, it's wise to seek advice from your doctor before commencing any complementary therapy or food supplement.
Hay fever is an allergic response to pollen found in the air during pollen season (March to November in the UK). This over reaction to pollen triggers a release of inflammation causing substances including histamines, resulting in the symptoms hay fever sufferers are sadly all too familiar with.
Anti-histamine medication works by blocking the action of histamine, reducing symptoms such as a stuffy nose and itchiness. Unfortunately, it can cause drowsiness in some people, due to the fact that histamines are needed in small amounts to help keep us alert.
Did you know, there are certain foods that contain natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine substances? This easy to make, delicious smoothie combines a few of these foods - here's what's included and why:
Stinging nettles, small handful - Yes, those pesky plants found in most back gardens DO have a use! Nettles have been used for centuries to treat inflammatory conditions and allergies; more recently, a few small research studies have verified its ability to reduce sneezing and itching associated with hay fever. Pick the small leaves from the top of a plant away from the roadside (wearing rubber gloves!). The heat generated from the blender blades will take the sting out of the nettles.
Half an apple - An apple a day may keep hay fever at bay... Apples contain a natural anti-histamine substance called quercetin, which is thought to prevent the release of histamine from mast cells.
Papaya (frozen) - one of the most richest sources of vitamin C, an immune boosting nutrient that has been shown to have an anti-allergy effect by decreasing the amount of histamine released into the body.
Spinach, small handful - A good source of two natural antihistamines, vitamin C and quercetin. makes spinach a great anti-allergy food to include! However, those sensitive to oxalates may wish to avoid it - add a small amount of romaine lettuce instead.
Ginger - Used for centuries to warm and boost circulation, ginger root may enhance absorption of other nutrients by increasing blood flow. It is also a fantastic natural decongestant due to its anti-inflammatory nature - great for clearing a stuffy nose!
Chia seeds - These tiny powerhouses are chock-full of nutrients, including highly anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats which can help improve allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation in the mucous membranes.
Half a lemon - Citrus fruits, especially the white pith, contain a phytonutrient called hesperidin, which has been shown to have an antihistamine effect. Lemons are also a good source of vitamin C and quercetin.
Pineapple (frozen) - The core contains one of the most anti-inflammatory enzymes, bromelain, which is thought to enhance the absorption of quercetin into the bloodstream.
Green tea - Catechins in tea have demonstrated an ability to inhibit the function of the enzyme that converts histadine to histamine, resulting in a reduction of allergy symptoms. The high vitamin C content of this smoothie makes the catechins more readily absorbed by the body. Steep the leaves for five minutes and allow to cool, before topping up the blender jug to the fill line.
I'd love to hear what you think of this smoothie; post your comments below! Do you have any natural tips for allergy sufferers? Please share!
This article is written for entertainment and is not a substitute for medical advice. The reader accepts full responsibility should they wish to test this recipe. Those on medication should consult their physician as some medications interact with stinging nettle. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid consumption of stinging nettle.
Complementary therapist and natural health expert. On a mission to sprinkle health and wellness wherever I go...