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Originating from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, Kefir drink has gained popularity in the US, Japan, France, and Brazil. It is made from kefir grains which are small grains that look like cauliflower florets in shape and color. (1)
The fermented kefir drink is traditionally made by adding kefir grains to milk (animal or plant milk) and allowed to ferment. A certain compound within kefir grain called kefiran is what aids the fermentation process and also determines the final texture of the product. (2)
A non-dairy version of kefir is also made by adding kefir grains to a sugar solution and is commonly known as water kefir. (3)
In addition to the development of beneficial bacteria and yeast strains in fermented kefir, kefiran also adds to its health-giving ability. (1)
Along with the traditional benefits that fermented foods offer, kefir is also a great drink to promote liver health!
Why Kefir Is Good for the Liver
Here are some reasons why kefir is beneficial for your liver health.
1. Improves fatty liver disease
Kefir has the ability to improve liver health by reducing fatty liver and reducing its weight in relation to the body.
Studies have found that kefir reduced not only total body weight, but in mice given kefir daily for 4 weeks, reduced the activity of fat synthesis and prevented the action of liver enzymes which reduced triglyceride and cholesterol in the liver. (4)
This ability was deemed a useful remedy in managing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which if left unmanaged, can cause obesity, insulin resistance, and ultimately obesity. (4)
A more recent study also evaluated kefir to benefit non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is the more aggressive form of NAFLD. In the study, kefir lowered inflammation in the liver and reduced the progression of the disease. (5)
2. Increases activity of antioxidants in the liver
Kefir, like other fermented foods have antioxidant ability that can protect the cells against changes due to free radicals. There is evidence of kefir improving antioxidant enzymes specifically in the liver manifolds. (6)
This ability of kefir can protect the liver against damage by medication or other harmful substances.
How Does Eating Fermented Foods Benefit Health?
Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and buttermilk are some classic examples that benefit the body greatly.
Fermenting was originally meant as a means of preserving foods through the year and enhance flavor. The fermentation process increases lactobacillus or the lactic acid bacteria which is what gives fermented foods its many health benefits. (7)
Some of these benefits include: (7)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving the diversity of gut bacteria
- Act as antioxidants and prevent damage to cells by free radicals
- Preventing infections by acting as an antimicrobial
- Managing blood sugar
- Reducing inflammation within the body
- Reducing the formation of fatty plaques within the blood vessels.
Most-Asked Questions About Consuming Kefir
Should someone avoid kefir?
Kefir is a potent fermented food and overconsumption may cause bloating or diarrhea. In such a case, reduce or limit consumption immediately. You can slowly increase the amount as you build tolerance.
Can I flavor kefir with other ingredients?
The addition of certain foods like strawberry, melon, onion, fennel, and carrot have reportedly improved the flavor, smell, and antioxidant ability of kefir. (3)
Which type of kefir is better for liver: milk or water kefir?
The benefit of kefir is due to the fermentation process which is equally good in both types. You can choose to consume milk kefir for added nutrients from milk, however, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, opt for water kefir.
What kefir is good for someone with lactose intolerance?
Water kefir or kefir made with plant-based milks is a good option if you are lactose intolerance.
Can drinking kefir make me tired and give me stomach pain?
Drinking kefir may give you cramps or stomach discomfort if you drink it for the first time. This is attributed to the changing gut diversity which takes a couple of days to adjust.
Lower the amount of kefir you drink each day until your body adjusts. Start with a quarter cup or lesser and build your way up over time. Additionally, avoid starting kefir if you have any acute infection or illness.
If the feeling of discomfort still continues over 3–4 days, consult a doctor.
- Kefir is a potent fermented food that is made by adding kefir grains to milk or a sugar solution.
- This drink plays many important roles in the body, but its role in managing liver health is the most potent.
- Studies have found that kefir has the ability to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride in the liver which is useful for reducing fatty liver and resulting consequences like weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
- It also increases the ability of antioxidant enzymes in the liver which plays a protective role. The antioxidant enzymes can protect cells of the liver from changes due to free radicals.