home made kefir. There is no better probiotic out there, period. In only one weeks use of culturing my own from grains so far I've already noticed a change... the sticky white residue which I'm almost certain was candida that used to always be/form on the inside of the lips of my mouth simply isn't there... it's gone. I used to be able to wipe my lips with my arm and see the little white things rub off onto my arm... now they are not there.
The Great Yogurt (and Kefir) Conspiracy
If you're a health conscious person, you've probably seen the hype over probiotic supplements. However, some of the literature from the probiotic supplement manufacturers has become a little overzealous. These manufacturers are forgetting their roots, in that yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods serve as the basis for their entire industry. We asked ourselves, is it fair for a probiotic supplement manufacturer or reseller to produce literature against yogurt, kefir, and other fermented milk products in order to increase their market share? Here's what we found:
Claim 1. "Our product contains 15 billion bacteria at the time of manufacture. It would take ten tubs of yogurt and a dozen bottles of kefir to get the same amount of bacteria."
To answer this claim we went digging into the scientific literature. From several different references, we were able to determine an average concentration of yogurt. Homemade yogurt that is fermented for 24 hours, as recommended in the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, will have an average concentration of 3 billion cfu/mL of yogurt. What does this mean? Well, if you were to eat a small bowl (500 ml) of 24 hour fermented homemade yogurt, you would receive 1.5 trillion beneficial bacteria - 100 times more bacteria than a 15 billion capsule.
Furthermore, freshly made kefir can have an average microbial count as high as 10 billion cfu/ml. This includes a mixture of various bacteria and yeast strains. This means that a 500 ml glass of homemade kefir could contain as many as 5 trillion beneficial microorganisms or even more!
Claim 2. "Our probiotics have more bacteria than commercial yogurt and kefir."
We wrote to several yogurt manufacturers to see what the standards were. The National Yogurt Association has set the standard for commercial yogurt with live cultures as: “Refrigerated yogurt must contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture, and at least 10 million cultures per gram at consumption (i.e. throughout shelf life).” In their response to our inquiry, Stonyfield Farm stated that their yogurt far exceeds this standard, “Stonyfield Farm yogurt consistently far exceeds the NYA minimum culture counts (hundreds of billions).” At a minimum, depending on shelf life, the manufacturer, and other factors, one would receive 5 billion bacteria in a small bowl of commercial yogurt. Because of the variability of commercial yogurts, shelf lives, and lactose contents, we recommend fermenting your own yogurt for 24 hours.
We were not able to find any information on commercial kefir at this time.
Claim 3. "Our X technology (enteric coated capsules, special matrix, etc.) allows the bacteria to survive the trip down your Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract. The bacteria in yogurt and kefir have no protection and will not survive."
Again, to answer this claim we checked the scientific literature. Do fermented milk products have any properties that might help the bacteria survive in your GI tract? The answer is yes. Fermented milk contains many substances that nourish and protect the lactobacillus species. A recent study demonstrated the ability of calcium phosphate to protect lactobacillus acidophilus from bile acids but had no effect on salmonella. Milk products also serve as excellent buffering agents and will help neutralize stomach acidity. A common recommendation from poison centers is to drink milk when confronted with a poison situation. Furthermore, the bacteria in yogurt are alive and well, not in a dormant cycle as the bacteria in probiotic supplements are, making them more fit to adapt to sudden changes in their local environment.
Claim 4. "Our probiotic supplements are more effective. Yogurt, kefir, and other fermented milk products are nothing more than fancy desserts."
All fermented milk products should be considered functional foods. Why? Because they are foods that functions as a health promoting substance. Probiotic supplements can only offer one thing: bacteria. Fermented milk offers so much more than just bacteria: minerals, vitamins, protein, amino acids, L-carnitine, fats, CLA, antimicrobial agents, and much more! A recent study demonstrated the ability of fermented milk to kill H. pylori infections when bacteria alone could not. Another study monitored two groups of people for allergy symptoms. The group that consumed yogurt on a daily basis suffered far less allergies than a control group. In addition, the complex microflora found in kefir have demonstrated a keen ability to stimulate our immune systems, ward of infections from bacteria such as salmonella, and in some cases, even fight cancer.
There is little doubt that probiotic bacteria and fermented foods offer benefits to our health. Making kefir and yogurt at home can be a nutritious, healthy, and fun hobby. Probiotic supplements also offer health benefits and can be very convenient, especially when traveling. However, to claim that probiotic supplements are somehow superior to what you can make yourself is unfounded. Fermented foods offer the same benefits as probiotic supplements and sometimes more.