Kefir ingredients could help food allergies



16/10/2006- Drinking the probiotic, fermented milk, kefir, decreased the allergic response to ovalbumin (egg white) in mice, and may offer hope to preventing food allergies, suggests a new study from Taiwan.

"Consumption of milk kefir and soymilk kefir suppressed [immune] response and altered the intestinal microflora in our supplemented group," wrote lead author Je-Ruei Liu from the National Taiwan University. "Milk kefir and soymilk kefir may be considered among the more promising food components in terms of preventing food allergy and enhancement of mucosal resistance to gastrointestinal pathogen infection."

Kefir, which orginates from the Caucasus region in Russia, is popular in Eastern and Central Europe but is also gaining awareness among West European consumers for its probiotic and nutraceutical properties.

The fermented milk contains a mixture of several live microorganisms and has many of the nutrients required by the body: proteins, minerals and vitamins. Its acidity and enzymes stimulate protein digestion and appetite and decreases the cholesterol content in blood, according to research. It is also thought to stimulate microphage production, improving immunity.

The study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (doi: 10.1002/jsfa.2649), looked at the effects of milk kefir and soymilk kefir supplementation on mice injected with ovalbumin to produce an allergic response. Levels of the allergic-specific response Immunoglobin E, IgE, and G1 (IgG1) were measured, as well as intestinal microflora concentrations.

Fifty mice were randomly assigned to one of five groups. The control group were given distilled water, while the other groups were given equal amounts of reconstituted milk, milk kefir, soymilk, or soymilk kefir (10 per cent).

After three weeks of supplementation the researchers reported that blood levels of the IgE and IgG1, both associated with an allergic response, were decreased in the kefir supplemented groups, compared to control and normal (soy)milk groups.

Both milk kefir and soymilk kefir supplements were associated with about a 66 and 50 per cent reduction in IgE and IgG1 levels, respectively.

Populations of intestinal bacteria were also found to be affected by the kefir supplements, with populations of the so-called beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. both significantly increased, while levels of the potentially harmful bacteria, Clostridium spp., decreased.

Many studies, both epidemiological and animal, have reported that disorder of the intestinal microflora is closely related to food allergy development, said the researchers, suggesting that probiotics in the kefir could offer an interesting avenue of future study.

"These results suggest that milk kefir and soymilk kefir may be considered among the more promising food components in terms of allergy prevention and enhancement of mucosal resistance to gastrointestinal infection," concluded the researchers.

Sharon Matthews, an allergy specialist from the Isle of Wight NHS Primary Care Trust told the Society of Chemical Industry's magazine Chemistry & Industry (16 October) that while the scientists have reported that the kefir is able to reduce the levels of IgE in mice, this is still some steps away from food allergy.

"Many children have specific IgE to a food but are not allergic to it," she said.

"We need much more supportive evidence before a human trial could be contemplated."

On Oct 17, 2006

Another article [url="$454770.htm"]$454770.htm[/url] 'Alcoholic milkshake' targets food allergies Monday, 16 Oct 2006 11:42 Kefir, a fermented milk, is thought to target food allergies A traditional fermented drink from eastern Europe could help to reduce the number of children who develop food allergies, a new study has found.

Kefir, an alcoholic milk, is often used to wean babies and is easily digested. It contains 'friendly' bacteria that are thought to play a role in blocking the process involved in all allergic responses.

The milk is said to hold promise as at present the only treatment available to tackle food allergies is the avoidance of problematic food.

Research published in the Journal of Science & Food Agriculture found that the milk drink inhibits the allergen specific antibody IgE.

In the presence of allergens IgE can activate cells responsible for the release of histamine, a chemical which stimulates allergic responses such as blocked airways and inflammation.

Mice were fed the milky drink and after three weeks were found to have three times less the amount of ovalbumin (OVA) specific IgE, which causes most food allergies in young children.

The drink was also found to prevent food antigens from passing through the intestinal wall.

Lead author Ji-Ruei Liu from the National Formosa University, Taiwan, said that elements of the drink hold promise for future treatments to prevent allergies.

"In the future, maybe we can screen out the certain components (bacterial strains or bioactive peptides) from kefir and utilise them in medicine," he said.

On Oct 17, 2006

Wow that's REALLY interesting! I used to babysit for a family that drank Kefir. I've never tried it... anyone know a brand that tastes decent? I'm wondering if I could get my toddler to drink it.

On Oct 17, 2006


On Oct 17, 2006

I make my own. You can probably find someone nearby who has kefir grains available for sale or trade. Someone on my freecycle list offers them up every so often.

I've never noticed an improvement in allergies. I just need the flora for my gut.


On Oct 17, 2006

Liberty kefir is really good---it is a Quebec company so I don't know if it is sold in the US, but you can get it in various cities in Ontario: [url=""][/url]

I've been buying Pinehedge Kefir---it is less expensive if I buy it in the 1 kg glass bottles + I like the fact that they reuse the bottles.


I haven't seen this brand outside of Toronto, however. (you can buy the glass bottles at Whole Foods or The Big Carrot)

Kefir tastes *the best* with maple syrup!

On Oct 17, 2006

Very interesting article...Thanks for posting it...

stupid questions...

It's alcoholic milk? What does that mean?

I have seen kefir before but never tried it...I assumed it was like yogurt...does it have a strong taste?

On Oct 18, 2006

Kefir is actually very easy to make. I've made it once but didn't like it. I believe it's in the Gourmet Home Diary package at [url=""][/url] found in this link:


The kit, IMO, is worth every penny. I make my own cream cheese a lot, and it's far better tasting that the Philly bars or tubs at the store. I've made the yogurt and marscapone, and some others, but always come back to my fave--cream cheese!

And their homemade ricotta and mozzarella kit is fantastic! We've been known to eat half the mozzarella before it even cools. The hard cheese kit, however, takes too long (for me). I like to have my cheese and eat it now. Not 6 to 9 months from now. Just my personal preference though.

On Oct 18, 2006

It's lightly fermented, but barely. And it's a tiny bit fizzy, but not with noticeable bubbles--more of a tang on the tongue.

I like to mix it with OJ and a bit of vanilla. Tastes like a creamsicle.


On Oct 18, 2006

ygg, what brand of vanilla extract do you buy? I'd love to find a gluten-free, soy-free kind.

It has crossed my mind that it would be a good idea to make my own Kefir---do the Kefir grains last for a long time? Does keeping them in a viable state take a lot of time and effort?

On Oct 18, 2006

Distilled alcohol is gluten-free, so I just buy whatever vanilla looks good to me. I've never seen pure, organic vanilla which contained soy.


On Oct 18, 2006

I didn't know that the alcohol was okay--I thought that it could be from wheat. I'm happy that I can have vanilla again! I'll try your "creamsicle Kefir" idea--sounds good.

I did look into buying Frontier Naturals, which doesn't (or doesn't always) have alcohol in it---I can't remember exactly why the vanilla was objectionable or seemed so at the time. But I do know that Frontier Naturals adds vitamin E (=soy) to their lemon flavouring. So maybe there was a similar issue with their vanilla . . . or maybe it was because it contains glycerin (not sure whether glycerin is from soy or not . . .)

On Oct 18, 2006

Aye, I don't use frontier naturals. I can't do soy or wheat-derived vitamin E.

Distilled alcohol *can* be made from wheat, but gluten cannot pass through the distillation process. Distilled alcohol is absolutely gluten-free. If you're still not comfy, you can always make your own vanilla extract from potato vodka and vanilla beans.


On Oct 18, 2006

I'm glad you cleared the alcohol issue up for me--I had just assumed that it wasn't safe. I'm really looking forward to buying vanilla flavouring again!