Kefir or kephir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains, originally from the Caucasus Mountains.
Traditional kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung near a doorway.
The bag would be knocked by anyone passing through to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.
Traditional kefir is fermented at room temperature, mostly overnight.
Fermentation of the lactose produces a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage.
It is similar to yogurt, but as a drink, the length of the fermentation time will affect the taste.
Kefir is a good source of calcium and is rich in probiotic bacteria.

The kefir grains initiating the fermentation are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars.
This symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast form gelatinous white beads (grains) (the acceptable colour of healthy grains) to yellow.
This yellowing could be due to leaving the grains in the same milk during fermentation for longer than the optimal 24-hour period, and or continually doing so over many batches, slight differences in temperature between batches can also be a cause..
Grains can grow to the size of walnuts, and in some cases larger.

The composition of kefir depends on the type of milk that was fermented, including the concentration of vitamin B12
A complex and highly variable community of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can be found in these grains; although some predominate Lactobacillus species are always present.
Kefir grains contain kefiran, a water-soluble polysaccharide, which gives a creamy texture and feeling in the mouth.
During fermentation, changes in composition of nutrients and other ingredients take place.
Slow acting yeasts, late in the fermentation process, break lactose (the sugar present in milk) down into ethanol and carbon dioxide, which results in acidification of the product.
As a result of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in kefir.
Kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.
Propioni bacteria further break down some of the lactic acid into propionic acid.
A portion of lactose is converted to kefiran, which is indigestible by gastric digestion.
It has also been shown that fermented milk products have a slower transit time than milk, which may further improve lactose digestion, which as a result means that kefir is often tolerated well by people and animals that are lactose intolerant.

Other substances that contribute to the flavour of kefir are pyruvic acid, acetic acid, diacetyl and acetoin (both of which contribute a “buttery” flavour, citric acid, acetaldehyde and amino acids resulting from protein breakdown.

Nutritional benefits
Milk is a good source of protein and calcium, and kefir is no different.
However, kefir has the added benefits of probiotics.

And as you can read above, due to the low concentration of lactose, it is often tolerated well by those who are lactose intolerant.

Probiotics are known as ‘friendly bacteria’ that can ease IBS/IBD symptoms such as bloating and digestive distress.
The anti-inflammatory /immunomodulatory effects of probiotics have been reported in some studies, although still needs to be studied extensively.
It does appear that the LAB bacteria are anti-inflammatory but whether that translates to kefir is unknown.

Kefir grains contain around 30 strains of beneficial bacteria.
Some of the major strains include the lactobacillales (or lactic acid bacteria)
Lactobacillus kefiri, which is one LAB unique to kefir, has been shown in a study to inhibit the growth of some harmful bacteria such as salmonella, h-pylori and e-coli and is used in some gut inflammatory disorders.

Some find that kefir improves digestion due to its probiotic content.
Probiotics can help restore balance in the gut, and thus improve digestion.
As kefir is rich in probiotic bacteria, it can be beneficial to include it in the diet for the prevention and or treatment of gastrointestinal disturbances.

Traditional kefir made from cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin K, which are both important for bone health.

What does all this mean for your pet?
Kefir is rich in B complex vitamins such as Vitamin B1, B12, as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and biotin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Kefir provides antibiotic and anti-fungal properties
A must add after the use of antibiotics to restore balance to your pet’s digestive tract
Helps to prevent allergies in your pet
Beneficial for candidacies and heart problems in pets
Vitamin B will regulate the normal function of the kidneys, liver and nervous system
Helps to promote healthy looking skin, boosting energy and promoting longevity

All the micro-organisms present strengthen the digestive system
Helps to alleviate gas, bloating and heartburn
Probiotic aid may help with IBD, eczema and bad breath
Has been linked to aid in gastritis, pancreatitis, abdominal peptic issues, rheumatism, joint disease as well as gouty arthritis, weakening of bones, anaemia, as well as leaky digestive tract syndrome
Able to reduce risking potential a number of malignancies, such as colon cancer malignancy, stopping the increase of cancerous cells
Health advantages comprise of, sleep problems, unhappiness, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, all forms of diabetes, long-term weakness syndrome, allergic reactions, colitis, looseness of the bowels etc

A new study has been released in The Journal Of Dairy Science
Center for One Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul, 05029, South KoreaDepartment of Pet Science, Seojeong College, Yangju, 11429, South Korea
Kefir is a traditional dairy product with multiple probiotic characteristics derived from its associated microorganisms, including more than 50 species of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. For centuries, many people have produced kefir for human consumption; its consumption and potential role as a probiotic supplement in companion animals have never been tested. The present study explored the potential application of kefir as a probiotic supplement for dogs. Kefir was orally administered to healthy adult dogs (n = 6) for 2 wk. On d 0 and 14 (before and after kefir consumption, respectively), gut microbiota was analyzed comprehensively using quantitative PCR and 16S rDNA amplicon-based community analysis using fresh fecal samples. The 16S rDNA amplicon-based community analysis showed that the relative abundance of the phylum Fusobacteria was significantly decreased after kefir consumption. Furthermore, the relative abundance of the families Prevotellaceae Selenomonadaceae , and Sutterellaceae increased significantly, whereas that of the families Clostridiaceae, Fusobacteriaceae, Ruminococcaceae decreased significantly. The quantitative PCR assay showed that kefir consumption significantly increased the population of lactic acid bacteria and the lactic acid bacteria: Enterobacteriaceae ratio and significantly decreased the Firmicutes: Bacteroidetes ratio. Taken together, 2-wk kefir administration successfully modified the gut microbiota without causing any clinically evident adverse effects. Therefore, kefir could be further developed as a novel probiotic food supplement for dogs to improve the quality of life of dogs.

Recommended Minimum Daily Intake of Kefir

Small size dogs or cats – 1 tsp. – 1 tbsp.
Medium size dogs – 1 – 2 tbsp.
Large dogs – 2 – 3 tbsp.

As always variation, moderation are key
Kefir is very safe to give to your pet,
This does not mean that some pets won’t have a negative reaction, especially when trying it for the first time.
Always go slow when introducing something new, E.G half the recommended dosage for the first week.
This will avoid digestive upset as your pet’s system adjusts to the increase of good flora in their GI tract.

Where can I Get Kefir
Most supermarkets and Polish shops sell Kefir, but you can also try farmers markets where it is produced locally (this would be preferred)

Alternatively you can make your own, that way you know your batch is always fresh

How to make Kefir
There are 2 ways to make kefir.

The first one is the easiest way
You can buy kefir culture packages

Culture packages are really easy and you can make as much as you want.
It comes in a powder form, and you basically just add milk and you’re done, so if you’re struggling or easily feel overwhelmed, the culture packs would be a great place to start.

Or you can use kefir grains that will reproduce and last a lifetime (if you don’t kill them with heat or starve them by not feeding them.)

There is a little bit more involved when using kefir grains, but it’s still really easy.
You have to keep your grains fed and happy, but in return they will make you kefir for a lifetime, and you can give extra grains to your friends or family.

Kefir instructions

If you need to take a break from making kefir, place your grains in milk (1 Tbsp to a cup of fresh milk will last a week in your fridge before you need to change the milk). Add more milk if you have more grains.
Your grains will continue to grow and multiply with every batch of kefir you make, so you will need to add more milk as they do.

1) Water kefir need a cloth and rubber band.
Lots of people say you need to use a cloth and rubber band both on milk kefir or non dairy kefir, but they will often have problems with cross contamination which will be eliminated when you put a lid on it.
Milk kefir needs lids, but  only water kefir needs a cloth and rubber band.

2) You can use any type of jar, it doesn’t have to be a kilner (clip lid) jar.
If the lid is made of metal the only thing you have to watch for is that the kefir is not touching the metal

3) A lot of fermentation products need air to ferment and if it they don’t get enough air circulation, it can cause problems with mould.
Putting it in a closed cupboard will not give them the air circulation they need.
Also, you never know what kind of bacteria have been living in your cupboard.
Leave your ferments out on the work top and try to keep them out of direct sunlight and it will do best.
Because you have a lid on kefir, putting them in a cupboard won’t affect them, but it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight, though it won’t kill them if you do get direct sunlight on them.

4) Kefir is best when it’s done fermenting at 24 hours or when it is sour and tart, letting it ferment 48 hours or longer diminishes the probiotics as the bacteria run out of food to eat.
The only time there is an exception is when you second ferment your kefir. You are placing some fruit in your kefir which gives it another food source.
This will actually increase the probiotics as it eats the sugars from the fruit.

5) Don’t wash your kefir grains in water, It washes off their protective coating of bacteria and yeasts which will harm them.
They can survive, but it diminishes the good bacteria and yeasts and they won’t be as strong.

6) When it comes to kefir, using a stainless steel strainer or spoon is ok.
People panic when they hear they’re to never use a metal strainer or spoon, kefir does not have the same kind of properties as some other ferments
Metal canning lids on jars are fine, as long as the kefir isn’t in direct contact with the metal.

7) No Batch is the same
They will change with the temperature and how often you use them.
They love to ferment, the more you use, the better they will perform.

Why isn’t this batch the same as the last one?
Kefir ferments milk and can be thin and pour-able, or thick like yogurt.
The temperature in your home determines how fast it ferments.
In the summer when it’s warm, kefir ferments faster and tends to be thinner, compared to winter when it’s colder and kefir ferments slower resulting in it usually being thicker and creamier.

If your kefir separates into whey and curds, you’ll need to add more milk or shorten the fermenting time. Don’t worry it’s just a little over fermented and is still good to drink.

Taylor & Francis
US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Cambridge University
Fronteirs In Microbiology
American Dairy Science Association
Biotechnol. Agron. Soc
International Food Information Service