There’s a favorite European dairy product that could hold great promise when it comes to allergies and it’s called “kefir.”
Kefir, originally a Russian specialty made from cow or goat milk, is now very common throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Here, in North America, it hasn’t hit the mainstream market yet, but you can still find it at natural or organic food stores, or at a specialty deli.
Basically fermented milk, it’s like a cross between a few different dairy products — its taste is similar to sour cream and its consistency falls between that of yogurt and milk. It’s definitely an interesting taste sensation.
However, it’s more than just that — kefir contains all sorts of good stuff. Like yogurt, it has live bacteria in it, which gives it probiotic effects. If you drink kefir, you’ll be getting a ton of vitamins and minerals, plus protein. If you’re avoiding cow milk, note that kefir can also be made using soymilk as a base.
It’s claimed that kefir has all sorts of healthy properties — including the potential ability to promote protein digestion, lower cholesterol, and boost the immune system — but it’s the possibility that it could treat allergies that we’re concerned with here. In a recent study out of Taiwan, researchers looked at just that effect.
The researchers injected 50 mice with a substance that would cause an allergic response in the rodents. The subjects were then split into five groups and each fed different liquids: 1) distilled water (control group); 2) reconstituted milk; 3) milk-based kefir; 4) soymilk; or 5) soymilk-based kefir.
The mice were supplemented with their respective beverages for a period of three weeks and their blood was monitored for levels of “Immunoglobulin E” (IgE) and “Immunoglobulin G1” (IgG1), which are types of antibodies known as “isotopes.” Basically, they play a role in your body’s reaction to a foreign invader — which is otherwise known as an allergic reaction. Raised levels in the blood indicate that the immune system is mounting a response to something.
At the end of the three weeks, the results were in: the mice on both of the kefir milk regimes had a decrease in both IgE and IgG1, versus the control group and the mice supplemented with regular milk or soymilk. The levels in the mice eating milk-based kefir fell 66%, while those in the soymilk-based, kefir-fed mice dropped 50%. These are quite large decreases.
Moreover, the kefir supplements were found to give a boost to healthy bacteria in the intestine while lowering levels of “bad bacteria.” This last finding is significant because many medical experts believe that an imbalance in intestinal bacteria could have something to do with food allergies.
More studies are needed to confirm that supplementing with milk or soymilk kefir could be beneficial to people with allergies. For now though, it can’t hurt to incorporate a little bit of this European dairy product into your diet. If you don’t like the taste of it on its own, try popping some kefir into a blender with some fresh or frozen berries. It can make for a tasty smoothie.