Main properties of water kefir
A probiotic food is one that contains live bacteria that contributes to the equilibrium of intestinal flora, and improves immunological system. As it has previously been mentioned above; water kefir is composed by a vast amount of live microorganisms, which will be further discussed regarding its effects on gastrointestinal and immunological systems.
Rehydrates and provides minerals
Due to its unique flavour and the little sugar concentration it has, water kefir rehydrating performance is better than water. It results in a greater amount of drink consumption when thirsty. Its benefits make it an optimal isotonic drink, nor only for any thirst situation, but also as a post-workout beverage.
The sugar added during the first steps of the fermentation process, together with the natural sugar found in fruit (dates or raisins), are used to elaborate kefir water. But these sugars are consumed by the microorganisms resulting in a final drink with less than 2 grams of sugar per 100 ml. When compared to other isotonic drinks, we can determine that the sugar percentage found in water kefir is remarkably lower. Furthermore its great flavour is not compromised, and there is no need to add other sweeteners that are commonly used in “diet” drinks.
Improves intestinal flora
Water kefir effects on intestine’s microbial flora can be caused by accumulation of various factors. In one side, we find inhibition of pathogens by organic acids and bacteriocines produced kefir cultures. On the other side, it increases lactic bacteria population found in the intestinal flora which is directly associated to lactic bacteria present in kefir. In addition to that, some tests have been conducted to prove that water kefir has positive effects in gastrointestinal disorders, peptic and duodenal stomach ulcers.
Immune system boost
Formation of bioactive peptides during the fermentation together with water kefir’s digestive process, have shown a great diversity of physiological actions that include immune system boosting in animals. It seems that polysaccharides produced by kefir grains can also have several beneficial effects on immune system stimulation. It has also been observed an increment in intestinal mucous immunity and an increment of innate immune system. Furthermore, kefir’s lactic bacteria can influence on secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, our immune system weapons.
It has been purposed that the lowering effect on cholesterol serum levels after a regular ingestion of water kefir is caused by the inhibition of external cholesterol capture and the suppression of bile reabsorption by a process called enzymatic deconjugation of bile salts. Other effects on LDL and total cholesterol, and accumulated triglycerides in the liver has been observed too.
Other properties found in water kefir
Several studies have concluded that kefir´s microbial activity is related to the production of organic acids, peptides with antibiotic action (bacteriocins), carbon dioxide, oxygenated water, ethanol, and diacetyl. During the production of kefir, these compounds degrade pathogenic bacteria, and once bottling is done, they can be beneficial in gastroenteritis and vaginal infections.
Anti-inflammatory and healing action
Several experiments carried out on mice and cell cultures have shown an anti-inflammatory effect due to water kefir. Another outstanding effect on mice is the recovery of burn wounds infected with Pseudomonas. Considering such effects on humans it is premature yet, however, the possibility exists.
A little bit of science
Kefir grains are a symbiotic mixture of different microbial species and groups. The predominant ones are lactic bacteria; found in dairy products like yogurts, cheese or milk kefir. Most detected species are Lactobacillus delbruekii, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus kefiri, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus hilgardii, Lactobacillus lactis, Lactococcus spp, Leuconostoc spp. Water kefir also contains yeast species, often found in other vegetal fermentations, like in olives, chuckrut, beer or wine. The most important ones are Kluyveromyces spp, Debaryomyces hansenii, Candida kefyr, Dekkera anómala, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Torulaspora delbrueckii, Pichia fermentans and Sacharomyces turicensis. The last biological contribution to the product is acetic bacteria, which are responsible to elaborate vinegar. Such species found in water kefir are Acetobacter favarum and Acetobacter orientalis.
Mentioned microorganisms interact between them and depend on one another. During the first steps of water kefir production some of them use the sugar of the mixture, and generate metabolites that others need. These second species, at the same time, produces metabolites usefull for the first ones. Actually water kefir complexity is such that is not known in detail the steps involved in the process, or the complexity of the final product. Water kefir is a drink with very low sugar; however it contains millions of bacteria in suspension and is enriched by their metabolites produced during the fermentation.
Along time, water kefir has been recommended to treat different illnesses such as: gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, ischemia or cardiovascular problems. Nevertheless, up to now, not enough studies have been carried out to prove a clear utility of water kefir on these health problems or compare different studies carried on.
Water kefir benefits are based on three factors:
- The own nature of the drink and its composition
- The great variety of bioactive components present in the drink resulting from the microbial action during the elaboration process
- The presence of live kefir microorganisms in the final drink