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19 August 2006

Dr Andrew Weil on Kefir

Today's Question
Crazy about Kefir?

I have been drinking kefir occasionally for a few years, but now I am interested in making my own so I can drink it regularly. Is kefir as healthy as they say? What are you thoughts on using it everyday?

-- Brian Thomas

Today's Answer (Published 08/18/2006)
Kefir, an ancient drink from the Caucasus Mountains that resembles liquid yogurt, is made by adding a live culture - called kefir "grains" - from a previous batch of kefir to room-temperature milk (usually from a cow, goat or sheep, though soymilk can be used). The cultures are a combination of bacteria and yeasts, usually lactobacillus acidophilus and Saccharomyces kefir.

Traditional kefir is tart - even sour - and contains a bit of carbonation and some alcohol from the fermentation. However, much of the kefir sold commercially in the United States is neither carbonated nor alcoholic.

I think kefir is great. It is a probiotic, which means it contains "friendly" bacteria that can stabilize the digestive tract, and when it is well made, it is delicious. Kefir also provides you with calcium and protein, and may have some additional benefits for the immune system. You can certainly use it every day. A small study published in the May, 2003, Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that drinking kefir eliminated - or, at least, dramatically reduced - symptoms of lactose intolerance in 15 adult participants. Researchers at Ohio State
University tested plain kefir, raspberry-flavored kefir, plain yogurt, raspberry-flavored yogurt and two-percent milk in this group after a 12-hour fast. The participants recorded any symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming each food. They reported few or no symptoms after ingesting both types of kefir and both types of yogurt.

The researcher who conducted the study, Steven Hertzler, an assistant professor of medical dietetics at Ohio State University, said that kefir might be a better option than yogurt for some lactose-intolerant people because it contains a wider array of microorganisms believed to break down lactose in the digestive tract. In addition, Hertzler suggested that kefir microorganisms may be able to colonize the intestines and protect against disease-causing bacteria.

The one caution I would give you is that commercial kefir often is overly sweetened and full of additives. Read labels carefully. I would buy plain varieties and add your own sweetener and flavoring if you like. And making your own kefir isn't difficult, with starter kits widely available. You'll have to experiment a bit to produce kefir that bests suits your taste. In general, the longer the fermentation time, the more sour the finished product. Enjoy!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

14 August 2006

Scoliosis and Underweight

Today I came across an article from the New York Times which would
interest those with scoliosis and suffering from weight problems. It
has long been known that scoliosis usually affects those who are
underweight. We all know someone who is like this, they eat all they
want and still never put any weight on. Previously genes and
metabolism has been blamed... though as this article highlights
something else might be awry. While this article is long, in summary a
doctor who specializes in weight management believes that the gut
flora of bacteria, viruses and microbes could be the ones to blame. It
highlights that the type and proportion of microbe directly affects
the absorbability of foods and hence calories and nutrients used.
Something that surprised even me is that 90 percent of the cells in
your body is in the form of microbes, only 10% is your own cells!

"Gordon likes to explain his hypothesis of what gut microbes do by
talking about Cheerios. The cereal box says that a one-cup serving
contains 110 calories. But it may be that not everyone will extract
110 calories from a cup of Cheerios. Some may extract more, some less,
depending on the particular combination of microbes in their guts."

This is one of the reasons why I have encouraged all scoliosis
patients to start making their own kefir to help restore the gut flora
to optimal levels and to diligently eliminate sugars and refined
carbohydrates which inevitably feed bad bacteria. Those that have
listened to this advice tended to show better outcome results and
eventually return their weight to normal range highlighting the
multifactorial process of this condition.

Towards the end of the article the Specialist highlight how eventually
a personalize dietary program could be devised based on the persons
gut flora. Fortunately through metabolic typing this already exists.

In practice we take care of the physical imbalances of scoliosis
however it is your responsibility to take care of the biochemical
through the foods that you eat. These recommendations are just as
important for those with normal weight:

1) Restore gut flora with kefir (type kefir in google) either in kefir
starters or grains.
2) Eat according to your metabolic type.
3) Eliminate sugars and refined grains and starch such as potatoes
which research shows produces a blood sugar rush simimlar to sugar it

NYTimes Link