People who are lactose intolerant stay away from dairy products because they cannot digest the lactose contents properly. This means, if you are lactose intolerant, you most probably will suffer from bloating, diarrhea and other stomach problems after consuming milk, cheese, butter, gelato or ice cream. This is because you are not producing enough lactase in your body. Lactase is an enzyme whose sole task is to digest lactose. According to recent polls, over 30 million Americans above 20 years old develop lactose intolerance to a certain degree, although the condition is more common among Asians, Hispanics, Africans, and Native Americans.
The lactase enzyme needs to simplify and break down lactose, which is sugar in milk, so that the proteins and nutritional contents in lactose may be absorbed in the blood stream.
Finally there’s a health drink that can help people digest lactose properly. The health drink is called kefir; it may sound new to you and to a number of people but believe me, it’s been with us for thousands of years already. Let’s take a closer look at kefir and see how it can help the lactose intolerant to finally enjoy milk and other delicious dairy products.
Kefir grains are not really grains because they are living substances that are composed of yeasts and bacteria that exist symbiotically in a matrix of proteins and sugars. These bacteria are probiotics, meaning they are friendly bacteria that are beneficial to life. You may not know it but the human body is home to millions of good and bad bacteria. Your health depends on which kind of bacteria has the upper hand.
The probiotics in kefir grains love milk. Once they are mixed with their favorite food, milk, the bacteria will start munching on the lactose, fermenting the milk as a result. And so, kefir drink is fermented milk that is rich with probiotics, yeast, enzymes, sugar, calcium, proteins, phosphorous, minerals, and vitamins.
In other words, kefir grains have munched and digested the lactose in milk on behalf of people who are suffering from lactose intolerance. Instead of indigestible lactose, milk kefir contains friendly probiotics.
Kefir grains are referred to as “Grains from the Prophet“. Apparently, the Prophet Mohammad visited a monastery in Tibet and handed out real kefir grains. Most of the real kefir grains that are now in circulation around the world may be traced back to the Prophet’s grains.
Today, there are two types of kefir grains being circulated in the market: real kefir grains and commercialized ones. The real ones are given out for free by kefir growers, but a certain amount of donation and payments for shipping costs are required. Growers and distributors of real kefir grains ship internationally. They don’t intend to make a profit, but simply to keep the grains circulating and enjoyed by people.
I have grown a couple of new batches of real kefir grains and have given out some to friends for free. If you will turn out to be a kefir lover and grower, don’t forget to spread the love as the Great Prophet did.
The commercial version of kefir is available in several groceries and health stores near you. They are sold either in packed, dehydrated grains or ready-to-drink milk kefir.
Although kefir drinks from the grocery may have their own health and therapeutic merit, they are not as helpful to lactose intolerant people as would real kefir. Store-bought kefir may contain fewer strains of bacteria, more inactive types of microbes or none at all. It is the living and fresh bacteria that will breakdown the lactose. This means store-bought kefir grains cannot consume lactose as would the real grains. It is therefore best to buy real kefir grains and make your own homemade kefir than purchasing store-bought kefir.
Meanwhile, a number of studies through the years have proven that kefir can indeed treat lactose intolerance. When kefir was first recognized as a health rink several centuries ago, however, it was first acknowledged for its capability to treat tuberculosis. During those days, the most common types of milk that were used for kefir fermentation were milk of goat, sheep and cow. Today, almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk works just fine. I like goat’s milk for my kefir since it proves to be the smoothest.
When turning milk to kefir milk, it is normal for curds to form and for the fermented milk to be thick and gooey. Goat milk is the least thick and least likely to form curds. The thickness and texture of kefir are all about the grains and very few of the lactose.
It is easy to determine whether kefir is adversely affecting a lactose intolerant person or not. You just have to isolate kefir by refusing to consume all other kinds of dairy except for milk kefir. The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, foul-smelling stools, and cramping. If some or any of these symptoms don’t show up, then kefir was made for you. It is difficult to say how much lactose is actually removed from the kefir drink, but if there are no symptoms, that means there isn’t enough lactose that could trigger the condition.
Finally, you should know that kefir can treat many other kinds of illnesses as well. These include arthritis, gout, bronchitis, hypertension, urinary tract infection, cancer, and HIV/AIDS to name a few. This wonder beverage can cleanse your digestive tract, boost your immune system and give you an over-all feeling of good health and youthfulness. The benefits you could get from kefir are definitely enough reason to start or continue taking it regularly.