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The Uses and Benefits of Kefir and Yogurt

by Dr. Alva Irish


Kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products, but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.

Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by penetrating the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming a virtual SWAT team that housecleans and strengthens the intestines. Hence, the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.

Kefir's active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and healthy.

Because the curd size of kefir is smaller than yogurt, it is also easier to digest, which makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, invalids and the elderly, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders.

Kefir [Kephir or Kefyr] is pronounced kef é-er

The word kefir comes from the Turkish word keif, which loosely translates to good feeling or feeling good. This is for the sense of well-being one experiences after ingesting the culture-product. Kefir is a refreshing probiotic cultured-milk drink, which originated in the Northern Caucasus Mountains, many centuries ago.

Kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with Kefir grains. Kefir grains or granules are in fact a natural mother-culture, NOT like a cereal grain. The grain's structure is created through a symbiotic relationship, shared between a mixture of Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. The grains are a soft, gelatinous white mass, comprised of protein, fats and a soluble-polysaccharide complex. The microbes and yeasts not only create this bio-structure, they are also harbored by the very structure they create; either on the surface, or encapsulated within the bio-matrix itself.

Kefir is easily prepared at home. To culture real kefir, raw or pasteurized, full-cream, low fat or nonfat fresh milk is placed in a clean suitable container with the addition of kefir grains. The contents are left to ferment for approx. 24 hours at room temperature. After this period the cultured-milk is strained to separate the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir. The grains are added to fresh milk, and the process is simply repeated, to produce the next and ongoing batches. This simple process is performed on an indefinite basis...

The liquid-kefir may either be freshly consumed, refrigerated for later use, or further brewed at room temperature, forcing a secondary fermentation [but omitting the kefir grains] to make an alcoholic milk beverage. Made with Mare’s milk, this drink is called Koumiss.

Kefir can be made completely without refrigeration, which makes it a perfect way to preserve milk from lactating animals you may have on the farm, if you are without electricity.

Here’s how:
1. Pour freshly strained 12 to 24 hour brewed kefir into a glass or plastic bottle, not filling the bottle more than 3/4 full
2. Place a tight fitting lid on the bottle
3. Give the bottle a good shake once or twice daily. Release any CO2 gas build-up by opening the lid, then tighten the lid once again

One may pour amounts of kefir from the bottle daily, until all the kefir is consumed. Alternatively, after removing a portion of kefir, replenish the bottle with freshly strained kefir; repeating the process daily.

*The kefir must be shaken 1 - 2 times daily. The reason for this is to prevent Yeasts and Acetobacter colonies from forming. If not agitated, these colonies may be seen forming on the surface of the kefir, seen as a flaky light-brown wavy film. This phenomenon is similar to The Flowers of Wine [Mycodermia] in wine-making. In this case, I refer to this film as Flowers of Kefir. The initial development of such colonies are not harmful, but if left unchecked mold may begin propagation. Agitation prevents this from forming possibly due to increased oxygen.

Due to secondary fermentation, the processes explained above may produce a slightly sourer tasting kefir, with a considerable increase in effervescence. Although, this process will produce a kefir with less sourness in comparison to a kefir stored in the refrigerator, stored for the same period of time. Some of the B group vitamins, particularly Folic acid, will increase as the kefir is left to ripen for a few days. Within this time, *Folic acid may increase by 116 % in comparison to the original fresh milk or freshly stained kefir! Ripened kefir is extra good for pregnant women.

The benefits of consuming kefir regularly in the diet are numerous. Easily digested, it cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins. Because kefir is such a balanced and nourishing food, it contributes to a healthy immune system and has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS , chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer. Its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The regular use of kefir can help relieve all intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system. In addition, its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity.

Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition.

The actual size of kefir grains can vary from the size of this 0, to the size of a walnut or larger. The size of each individual kefir grain doesn't seem to affect the quality of the finished kefir. The longer you use the same Kefir grains to make Kefir, the larger the grains grow. When the grains grow too large, they may be eaten, or dried or shared with someone else to make Kefir at Their home.


Yoghurt originated in the warm climate of Mesopotamia when goat's and sheep's milk stored in containers naturally formed a curd thousands of years ago..

Yoghurt is milk plus bacteria. The milk is fermented using starter cultures.

The most frequently used starter cultures are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Additional cultures can be used to make the yoghurt milder and creamier and/or to bring extra health benefits.

For example, Bio yoghurts are made with the starter culture called ‘Bifidobacterium bifidum”. Bifidobacterium, more commonly known as BIFIDUS is a microorganism (“friendly bacteria”) which has a healthy and favorable effect on the digestive system. Moreover, bifidus gives a unique smoothness and creaminess to yoghurt.

Here is the simplest way to make yoghurt at home:

Put a pint of milk in a clean saucepan and heat to 50 degrees C.
Remove from Heat.
Add a tablespoon of bought yoghurt or the contents of three freeze dried yoghurt capsules and put the lid on the saucepan.
Wrap towels around the pan to insulate it and leave it sit there for at least 7 hours.

Here is a much more involved way to make Yoghurt:

• Milk (cow's and/or goat's)
• Yogurt starter, if using this add 5 teaspoons to 2 quarts of milk, A good live culture yogurt can also be used, this is probably the least expensive approach.
• Large enough saucepan [Preferably glass, enamel or stainless steel, definitely not aluminum, if you have a double boiler this is perfect].
• A cooking Thermometer, it really helps so the milk doesn't over heat.
• Cup for blending yogurt (a 1 or 2 cup Pyrex works well)
• A place to leave yogurt undisturbed - oven, cooler, box - a blanket to lay over it or a towel to wrap around it.

Small size: 1 quart milk; use 4 ounces of yogurt
Large size: 2 quart milk; use 8 ounces of yogurt

1. Heating the milk
Place milk in a saucepan. (Preferably glass, enamel or stainless steel, never use aluminum.) Heat milk slowly so as not to scorch it. It helps if you have a thermometer, it is important not to boil the milk. Bring the milk to the temperature of 110 degrees F.

2. Adding the starter/yogurt
Have the yogurt starter ready in a cup and pour some of the warmed milk into the starter and stir into a smooth paste. Continue to add milk to paste, thoroughly blending after each addition, until the cup is nearly full. Stir this mixture gently back into the pan of milk and mix thoroughly.

3. Incubation
You can leave the milk in saucepan, covered, or pour it into a sterile jar with a lid. Place it in a warm, dark place where the temperature can be maintained for approximately 8 hours. A gas oven with only the pilot light on works well. An insulated cooler, or even a cardboard box covered with a blanket will work. Let it sit undisturbed. The temperature must be neither too hot nor too cold, or the yogurt will not form. After 8 hours uncover it without disturbing it, you may remove it and refrigerate, or you can let it sit at room temperature for up to three days to grow a stronger yogurt culture (for more acidophilus in your yogurt). The longer it sits the more sour/acidic it will taste, 24 hours is a good amount of time before refrigerating.

With goat's milk you will have a more liquid yogurt because the protein to fat ratio is different that cow's milk. Goat milk also has more natural inhibitors to coagulation.

Recipes to use YOGURT!

Some may not like the taste of yogurt, yet it is a healthy food and would like to be able to eat it. I thought I would give some ideas to help out with this. The way I usually use yogurt is to make it into a shake. You need a blender to make this.

1 ripe banana and/or 1 cup fruit of choice that is in season
1 cup plain yogurt
1 - 2 TBSP ground up flax seeds OR flax seed oil
1 - 2 TBSP ground up Milk Thistle seeds
1 - 2 TBSP blackstrap molasses or honey or real maple syrup
1 - 2 TBSP raw sesame butter, other nut butter OR 1 cup ground up raw organic nuts
2 TBSP of a high quality protein powder
Add liquid to thin out (goat milk, cow milk, rice dream, almond milk, or juice). Blend all together.

You can experiment with this recipe. Mixing in the sesame butter and molasses gives it an almost chocolate like quality. The sesame butter adds additional calcium, the molasses is loaded with iron. Almost any fruit can be used, I like banana best, but peaches, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries (berries are all blood builders - organic best for any type of berry), pears, etc. could all be added in. Experiment! Use organic milk and yogurt from farms not using BGH (Bovine Growth Hormone). Drink each day.

Mango Lassi: 2 cups plain yogurt, 2 medium mangoes (very ripe), 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, 6 ice cubes, 1/8 teaspoon rose water. Peel and slice mangoes. Put all ingredients in the blender and blend at high speed. Serves 4 - 6.

Yogurt Cheese: Use 1 quart plain yogurt. Line a fine-mesh colander with a double-thick piece of cheesecloth. Place yogurt on top of cheesecloth and place colander over bowl (the bowl must be as large as the colander because the yogurt will be dripping liquid). Allow yogurt to drip at least 6 hours (overnight or up to 12 hours). At end of time, what's left in cheesecloth will be thick, luscious, Yogurt Cheese.
Use in place of cream cheese. If you want to make a flavored cream cheese, mix in your favorite flavoring (such as fresh chives, dill, chili peppers, pimentos, or other combinations) either after your cheese has been made or beforehand. Fruit-flavors can also be used. Again experiment to make it suits your taste.

Cucumber Salad can be made using 1 1/2 cups of Yogurt Cheese, 3 cucumbers, peeled, and diced, 1 clove of garlic minced, 1 TSBP extra-virgin olive oil, 2 TSBP fresh lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Herbed Yogurt Cheese can be made using 1 1/2 cups of Yogurt Cheese, 1 TSBP fresh thyme (or 1 TSP dried), 1 TSBP minced fresh parsley, 1 TSP black pepper, 1 TSP chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 TSP dried).

Middle Eastern Yogurt Cheese can be made using 1 1/2 cups of Yogurt Cheese, 1/4 cup and 2 TSBP chopped radishes, 1/4 cup and 2 TSBP chopped cucumber, 2 TSBP minced red onion, 1 TSBP raisons chopped, 1 TSBP mint leaves (fresh), 1 TSP grated lemon peel.

An excellent Spanish type Spread can be made using 4 cups yogurt (1 quart), 1 can pitted olives, sliced, 2 teaspoons chili powder, Salsa. Mix brine of sliced olives and sliced olives into yogurt and spicing. Then hang as for Yogurt Cheese (see recipe above) for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Unmold onto serving platter and pour salsa over it. Serve with corn chips.

Raita - Cucumber and Yogurt Salad: 2 large cucumbers grated or sliced in rounds, an amount of yogurt equal to cucumbers (1 cup to 1 cup, etc.), 1/2 - 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped (optional). Mix cucumbers and yogurt. In a hot, cast iron skillet, toast cumin seeds without oil until brown. Stir briskly to prevent burning. Pound the toasted seeds in a mortar and pestle and stir into the cucumbers and yogurt along with the mint. Serve cold as an accompaniment to curries. Serves 4 - 6.


• Yogurt is rich in potassium, calcium, protein and B vitamins, including B-12.
• Research shows yogurt strengthens and stabilizes the immune system.

The lactobacillus in yogurt feeds the intestines maximizes nutrients you can absorb into your body, insures the digestive system stays healthy, and stabilizes the immune system.

"Yogurt has strong medicinal properties, including the ability to stimulate the immune system and kill bad "bugs" or bacteria in the human gut. ...research at the University of California at Davis showed that eating live-culture yogurt was associated with higher-than-average levels of gamma interferon, a key component of the body's immune system."(1)

The secret to good yogurt is that it contains live cultures, there are four major strains of bacteria to look for: L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, and bifidobacteria. There are good brands of yogurt available check the label to make sure it specifies active cultures. It is always better to buy the yogurt plain and add in the fruit or jam just before eating it. Frozen yogurt is not the same product and will not yield the same health benefits; even if they specify live cultures they will have only a fraction of the beneficial bacteria of fresh yogurt and they will not enhance lactose tolerance.

• Lactose in milk is converted by Yogurt's bacteria into lactic acid which helps digest lactose or dairy products.
• The lactic acid of yogurt is a perfect medium to maximize calcium absorption.

In yogurt the process of growth from milk into yogurt involves the conversion of lactose into lactic acid. Lactic acid helps digest lactose. In other words, yogurt provides the enzyme needed to digest milk products. Calcium, which is found in dairy products, needs to enter the body in an acid matrix or your body will not absorb it. So the lactic acid of yogurt is a perfect medium to maximize calcium absorption. Eight ounces of yogurt will equal 400 mg of calcium, 25% more calcium than you would get out of a glass of milk.

When someone is HIV positive and has a CD4 count under 200 their production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) slows down. HCL is normally produced by your stomach to help with the digestion of food. When you have less HCL and digestive enzymes digestion becomes incomplete, food moves too quickly along the digestive tract. Your body doesn't get enough calcium and other minerals. Difficulty sleeping and malabsorption are common end results. Yogurt is one of those foods that you can eat to enhance your HCL production thus improving your digestion, vitamin and mineral absorption, and your body’s general well being.

• Research shows women who eat 4 cups of yogurt/week have less vaginal and bladder infections.
• Yogurt can be used as an effective douche.

Have you experienced the irritating vaginal itch, usually accompanied by a discharge?

We can get yeast overgrowth in our vaginas. Living with HIV makes women even more vulnerable to these kinds of infections. Taking antibiotics has the unwanted effect of wiping out normal flora in our bodies. Antibiotics or antifungals (just another type of antibiotic) tips the balance of good and bad yeast. Candida will grow in abundance when other bacteria and yeasts are depleted. Candida is trying to solve the problem of the imbalance. It is vital to keep a healthy diet of a wide variety of foods that contain natural bacteria and yeasts.* Yogurt is just such a food. It can be used internally and externally, and it is a prime good yeast replacer for our vaginal and intestinal flora. If you've ever used the applicators to insert antifungal into your vagina save them -- they can be filled with yogurt instead!

A study at Long Island Jewish Medical Center showed that "women prone to vaginal yeast infections experienced a threefold decrease in infections when they ate a cup of Lactobacillus acidophilus yogurt daily for six months." The women were so pleased with the improvement that they did not want to stop eating the yogurt when the study wanted them to stop!

I highly recommend making your own yogurt, it's easy and there are some advantages. "While some commercial yogurts are better than others, most do not allow the bacteria to multiply to the extent that you can when you make it at home. The longer you let your yogurt sit a room temperature before refrigerating, the stronger the bacteria cultures will become.... Most commercial yogurts, even those made without gum, gelatin or stabilizers, add milk solids to thicken the yogurt. This makes the yogurt a concentrated food which is more difficult to digest.

So which should you use? Kefir or Yoghurt?

You are asking ME? I eat BOTH! I keep both in the fridge and working at all times. I want me and my family to have the best health possible. J


Bell, Brenda, "The hidden world of yogurt," View Magazine, May/June 1994, pg. 16 - 19.
Khalsa, G. S. & Khalsa, P. S., Editors, FOODS for Health and Healing Remedies & Recipes Bases on the teachings of Yogi
Bhajan, Berkley, CA: KRI Publications/Spiritual Community, 1983.
Konlee, Mark, AIDS Control Diet Sixth Edition, West Allis, WI: Keep Hope Alive, 1994.
Kefir Rediscovered!: The Nutritional Benefits of an Ancient Healing Food (Kaufmann Food Series) -- by Klaus Kaufmann D.Sc Yogurt, Kéfir by Beatrice Trum Hunter
Kefir - Un Yogur Para Rejuvenecer by Mercedes Blasco
Kefir for Pleasure, Beauty and Well-Being by Tietze
Yogurt, Yoghurt, Youghourt: An International Cookbook by Linda K. Fuller
The Magic of Kefir by Linda Schatz, Donna Gates
Home-Made Butter, Cheese and Yoghurt by Maggie. Black
Yoghurt: Science and Technology by A. Y. Tamime

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