Kefir is one of the most powerful probiotic drink in the world, and it has existed in many cultures for thousands of years. It looks like yogurt, or a yogurt drink; however, it is vastly more powerful. Not all kefir is created equal though, so note in this article that I am speaking about the full potential of a properly made kefir, which many people are not aware of.
Kefir will aggressively populate your digestive system with many beneficial organisms that will kill (and/or crowd out) pathogens in your gut, greatly aid in digestion, and strengthen your immune system. It has been shown to help fight countless diseases, including cancer, and even helps to mitigate the damaging effects of antibiotics, chemotherapy, pollution, and more.
  Kefir Kombucha Yogurt Sauerkraut
Probiotic Species 30-60 Species 10-15 2-7 4-10+
CFU per Milliliter 10 Billion 10 Million 100 Million 100 Million

Notice that Kefir is a thousand times more potent than kombucha, by CFU count alone. When you consider it also has greater diversity, that potency is magnified even more. No other food item comes close to the probiotic potency of milk kefir. (Water kefir is a very different product, and while not the same, it is an excellent addition to your diet, as are all the items above).

Probiotic capsules? A spoonful of kefir has more probiotics than a whole bottle. Still, capsules can be a good way to increase diversity by adding some specially selected species that are difficult to get.

* CFU = Colony Forming Units = living bacteria or yeast that can reproduce.

*Commercial kefir in stores will have far fewer probiotic species and CFU, as will powdered versions that are sold to make at home.

*The table above is only a tiny sampling of probiotic foods. There are thousands of other powerful probiotics
*More species leads to even more strains, so the diversity advantage of kefir is greater than it appears, with it containing hundreds of strains.
The quality of the product has an enormous impact on the probiotic and nutrition content, so always choose the most natural products you can find.
  • Kefir ‘grains’ (pictured below) are the living, growing culture that you ‘feed’ every day with raw milk, and they ferment the milk into a kefir drink that is at least five to ten times stronger than any commercial product.
  • Kefir made with organic raw milk from grass-fed (pastured) cows has additional probiotics, enzymes, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Kefir that is fermented a 2nd time with added fruits will have even more vitamins, especially folic acid and the B vitamins (B6, B9, & B12). In addition, the fruit will provide fiber or resistant starch that feeds the probiotics in your body.
  • Kefir that is ripened (aged) several days continues to eliminate any remaining lactose, continues to increase nutritional content and probiotics, and continues to make the proteins and fats more digestible.

Kefir (from raw organic milk that has been aged and fermented a second time with fruit) is a nutritional powerhouse, containing many valuable nutrients in abundance:

  • Anti-inflammatory – Omega 3 fatty acids, CLA, antioxidants, and more.
  • Tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is known for relaxing the nervous system.
  • Phosphorus, which is important for cell growth, maintenance, and energy.
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7), Pantothenic acid (B5), Folate (B9, Folic acid, etc.), Riboflavin (B2), B12, and B1, are all in abundance, and are more effective together.
  • Vitamins K2, D, and A, along with calcium, magnesium, and boron work together to promote strong bones and prevent osteoporosis and other such diseases.
  • High quality protein and healthy fats, which are essential for your body to actually absorb and use many of the other nutrients. Many nutrients need proteins to make them bioavailable, and vitamins D,E,A, & K cannot be absorbed without fat.
  • A lot of enzymes (lactase, lipase, & proteases!) that digest fats, proteins, and lactose. Thus, most people that are lactose intolerant can consume kefir with no problem, and will likely find that they can then enjoy other dairy products as well.
  • At least 236 unique peptides that are broken down from the beta-casein milk proteins; demonstrating the enzymatic power of kefir on protein digestion. Kefir breaks down a variety of casein proteins, including the troublesome A1 variety.

Kefir is powerful stuff, and it is even more powerful when made with quality raw milk.

CAUTION Against Pasteurization and Homogenization

Most commercial milk sold in supermarkets is homogenized and ultra-pasteurized, which kills all beneficial bacteria and severely denatures proteins, fats, and more. Allergies, atopy, and other ailments can result because our body cannot recognize the denatured (unnatural) parts.

The lowest temperature pasteurization (63-65C, 145-150F) still denatures and kills, and while it is much better than ultra-pasteurized it is still not nearly as good as raw milk. If you cannot get raw milk to make kefir, get the lowest pasteurization temperature that you can find, and non-homogenized.

Our body needs fats and proteins to absorb vitamins and minerals, so only raw milk can give us all the natural proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria. The denatured (unnatural) versions are also alien to the kefir bacteria, and thus the kefir cannot reach its maximum potential when made with milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized.

In an article about ‘Milk Homogenization & Heart Disease‘ they point out these issues (and more) caused by homogenization:

“During homogenization there is a tremendous increase in surface area on the fat globules. The original fat globule membrane is lost and a new one is formed that incorporates a much greater portion of casein and whey proteins. This may account for the increased allergenicity of modern processed milk.”

Try to use only raw milk for your kefir.

The fermented kefir beverage looks like a yogurt drink, and this is what the ‘grains’ look like when they are not in milk, courtesy of one of my clients:

Science is only just beginning to understand our relationship with bacteria and other micro-organisms.

Note about Species vs. Strain:  In most writings about probiotics you will see the word ‘strain’ used to count the different types of probiotics. Although I often do it myself, this is technically incorrect. The correct word to use is ‘species.’

This is an important distinction in science, especially with bacteria, because the more species you have together, the more potential there is for new strains. This is because bacteria are often exchanging DNA with each other. Thus, when we look at kefir, with its dozens of different species, we will find hundreds of different strains.

Outnumbered. Bacteria outnumber human cells 10 to 1 (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea).

There are trillions of cells, somewhere between 500 and 1,000 species,  and probably more than 5,000 strains. We do NOT know all the strains yet.

95% our our biological functions seem to be incorporating bacterial DNA.

Bacteria produce micro RNA that can alter and turn our genes on and off.

Bacteria make many things that our body uses… such as the cellulase enzyme that can digest cellulose.

Good For The Environment Too!

When you drink kefir it is not only good for you, but also good for the environment. Human waste contains the bacteria from our gut, so a good gut biome contributes a lot of good bacteria to the environment.

The effects of this can actually be seen on sewer and septic systems, and anywhere else that human waste might be deposited.

Here is one of the best raw milk resources.