Coconut Kefir: The Probiotic Food that Improves Immunity & Digestion

June 23, 2017
Coconut kefir - Dr. Axe

Tabbed as an “it” health food of the 21st century, kefir — especially coconut kefir — contains many probiotic, bioactive compounds and as many as 30 strains of good bacteria that help fight against tumors, bacteria, carcinogens and more. (1) What is kefir? It’s a delicious, tangy drink traditionally made with kefir grains and fermented milk, but kefir can also be made with milk substitutes like nutritious coconut milk. Or it can even be made with coconut water!

Coconut kefir is both lactose-free and gluten-free. It’s simply coconut water that has been fermented with kefir grains. Similar to dairy-based kefirs, coconut kefir supplies your gut with lots of beneficial bacteria that improve your immune system, digestive system and fight infection. Kefir made with dairy is typically tolerated well by lactose intolerant people, but some people are extremely lactose intolerant and avoid dairy at all cost. Other people are looking for a change in flavor and slightly different nutritional compounds in their kefir drinks. Coconut kefir is a great alternative to milk kefir with its delicious flavor profile plus the amazing benefits of coconuts and coconut water to boot.

Kombucha sprung to the natural health scene not too long ago, causing a boost in the probiotic drink craze. From there, people began branching out into other fermented drinks. Kefir is now cutting a large piece of the pie of this market. Sales in the U.S. alone by Lifeway, which accounts for 97 percent all kefir sales in the U.S., reported a growth from $58 million in 2009 to over $130 million in 2014. (2) I have no doubt that you will start seeing and hearing about coconut kefir more and more as times goes and for good reason — the health benefits of coconut kefir are seriously impressive! 


6 Awesome Coconut Kefir Health Benefits

1. Immune System Booster

Coconut kefir is one of the best probiotic foods around, and we know probiotics are the special forces of the microbial world. One in particular that is specific to kefir alone is called Lactobacillus kefiri, and it helps defend against harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. This bacterial strain, along with the various others handfuls, help modulate the immune system and inhibit many predatory bacteria growth. (3)

Kefir also contains another powerful compound found only in this probiotic drink, an  insoluble polysaccharide called kefiran. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents showed kefiran is antimicrobial, helps fight against candida symptoms and even speeds healing of external wounds. (4

2. Digestive Aid

Your gut flora or gut microbiome is made up of a complex community of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract, and it’s directly impacted by your diet. Consuming coconut kefir on a regular basis is an excellent way to optimize the health of your personal gut microbiome, which means improved functioning and health of your digestive system. 

The probiotics found in coconut kefir are excellent for discouraging constipation and encouraging healthy elimination on a regular basis. The probiotics also help restore your good flora that fight against pathogens and aid against disruptive diarrhea and other gastrointestinal side effects caused by taking antibiotics. (5)

Coconut water kefir is also especially great for digestion due to the lauric acid it naturally contains. Lauric acid converts to monolaurin in the body, which helps protect against gastrointestinal infections, worms, viruses and more. (6)

3. Allergies and Asthma Remedy

Coconut kefir is an excellent way to up your daily probiotic intake and get your allergies and asthma under control. Various forms of allergies and asthma are all linked to internal inflammation and suboptimal gut health. In animal studies conducted at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology’s Natural Medicine Research Center, kefir was shown to reduce inflammatory cells disrupting the lungs and air passages, as well as reduce mucus buildup. (7)

The live microorganisms present in kefir help promote the immune system to naturally suppress allergic reactions and aid in changing the body’s response to the systemic outbreak points for allergies. (8) Many scientists believe allergic reactions result from a lack of good bacteria in the gut. Researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center performed 23 different studies with almost 2,000 people, and in 17 of those studies, test subjects taking probiotics showed improved allergic symptoms and quality of life. (9

 

Coconut kefir benefits - Dr. Axe

 

4. Cancer Fighter

Cancer is a serious epidemic impacting our country and the world today. Coconut kefir can play a big role in helping your body fight this nasty disease. Kefir’s healthy bacteria play a large anti-carcinogenic role inside the body, making it a potential cancer-fighting food.

Most cancer studies have involved dairy kefir, but positive outcomes are easily and likely transferable to coconut kefir since the fermentation and resulting good bacteria make kefir of all varieties so amazing. One study (with dairy-based kefir) showed that kefir can slow the growth of early tumors and their enzymatic conversions from non-carcinogenic to carcinogenic. (10) In addition, one in-vitro test conducted at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Canada showed that kefir reduced breast cancer cells by 56 percent (as opposed to yogurt strains that reduced cells by 14 percent). (11)

Coconut kefir can also help fight cancer due to coconut water’s antiviral properties. Research published in 2009 identified not one but three antimicrobial peptides in green coconut water. (12

The hydration power and high electrolyte content of coconut kefir can also help combat chemotherapy’s common side effects of diarrhea, dehydration and general nutrient depletion. Leading conventional cancer treatment centers even recommend coconut water as part of management of chemo symptoms. (13) Coconut kefir is an even better choice than coconut water since coconut kefir can replenish the good bacteria that chemotherapy kills, replenish electrolytes and provide hydration. 

5. Safe to Consume for Those with Lactose Intolerance

Some might be wondering: Is coconut water dairy? While dairy-based kefirs contain very small amounts of lactose, for some, even small amounts of lactose are problematic. Coconut water kefir contains no dairy or lactose, making it a safe option for those who suffer from the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Coconut water’s natural sugars and proteins are able to be broken down by the kefir grains and transformed into the delicious beverage without the need for the lactose of dairy. Coconut water kefir is also a lighter, more refreshing alternative to the thick, creamy and rich flavors of dairy kefir, and it’s gluten-free. 

6. Provides a Potassium Punch

Coconut water kefir is certainly high in the crucial mineral known as potassium. In fact, a serving of coconut water contains just as much potassium as four bananas. (14) The powerful level of potassium in coconut kefir is excellent for improving overall bone health, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing heart disease and stroke risk. The potassium in coconut kefir can also help people with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and of course, it’s great to consume in order to reverse or prevent low potassium.


Coconut Kefir Nutrition

Coconut water kefir contains only young coconut water and the residual good bacteria left over from the kefir grains. Coconuts come from the palm tree family, Arecacaeae. The coconut is actually the seed, or nut, from the coconut palm. Coconut water is the clear liquid inside young green coconuts. The water itself is the liquid within the nut used to suspend the young endosperm in development. (15)

Coconut water alone contains multiple vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are ideal for human health. It’s especially high in potassium and also contains cytokinins, which are naturally occurring plant hormones that may help reduce the growth of cancer cells. (16) An awesome aspect of making coconut kefir is that you don’t lose any of the nutritional value of coconut water after fermenting it with kefir grains.

In general, kefir of all kinds contain high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics. Because kefir does not have a standardized nutrition content, the content values can vary based on the various milk or water bases, cultures, and region where it’s produced. Yet even with the range in values, kefir is loaded with nutrients.

Water kefir, like coconut kefir, doesn’t have the white, creamy look that makes kefir popular because water kefir grains are not white and fluffy. While milk kefir looks like yogurt, water kefir looks like soda or beer. The water kefir grains are usually made of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida, Kloeckera as well as other minor yeasts. (17)

You can also make coconut milk kefir. Ideally, coconut milk is homemade by soaking the grated white flesh of the coconut in hot water and using that liquid. The creamy fat of the flush rises to the top, as in regular dairy, and subsequent soakings result in less creamy milk. However, coconut milk and coconut yogurt do not hold the same nutritional profile as coconut water, which offers more nutrients and is more beneficial for hydration purposes.


Coconut Kefir History & Interesting Facts

Kefir has been made for generations by Asian and Central European farmers as a way to boost gut health and help strengthen the body in the form of a dense, fermented beverage. Even Marco Polo wrote about this wonder drink, believe it or not. Mass production of kefir didn’t begin until the mid 1900s in Russia, but 1.2 million tons of the fermented product was produced by the late 20th century. (18)

There are various myths as to how the grains were founded, including tales that the prophet Muhammad brought the grains to the mountain tribes (they’re also called “grains of the Prophet” by some), and they were also specifically mentioned in the Old Testament as the “manna” that fed the Israelites in the desert for so many years. (19)


How to Use & Make Coconut Kefir

Coconut water is a great starter for making a water kefir. It has naturally occurring carbohydrates and sugars that are needed by the yeast during the fermentation process of making coconut kefir.

Coconut water kefir recipes are just as simple as regular milk kefir recipes. Water kefir is made from crystalline-like and salt-like grains that feed on sugar. Water kefir grains can be used to culture sugar water, juice or coconut water, while a milk kefir is made from white, fluffy grains that feed on milk lactose. Water kefir does contain fewer strains of bacteria and yeasts than milk kefir, but water kefir typically contains a lot more beneficial bacteria than yogurt or buttermilk. (20) You can also use milk kefir grains to make coconut milk kefir.

For coconut water kefir, it’s ideal to use fresh, young coconuts and extract the water yourself. Store-bought coconut water is pasteurized and therefore won’t contain all the natural goodness of fresh coconut water. 

It’s important, if you’re buying grains online for either a water or milk kefir, to buy from a reputable dealer that packages them fresh and does not previously dehydrate the grains. If you purchase the grains, they should be shipped overnight or express. When cared for properly, water kefir grains have an unlimited life span and can be used repeatedly to make water kefir.

 

Coconut kefir vs. milk kefir - Dr. Axe

 


Coconut Kefir Recipes

Coconut Water Kefir Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart coconut water
  • 3 tablespoons water kefir grains
  • Optional: 1 cup fresh fruit of your choice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Activate grains by using sugar water first. Generally, this is done by adding ¼ cup sugar to 1 quart water and adding the grains and soaking for 24–48 hours. Once the grains are activated in sugar water, you can then use them with coconut water.
  2. Place the kefir grains in the coconut water into a large jar with a lid. Cover the jar and allow it to sit for 24–48 hours.
  3. Remove the grains before drinking.
  4. To add fruit, blend the coconut kefir and the fruit in a blender.
  5. You can continue to reuse the grains if you refresh them in sugar water between uses.

You can also try making this rich and delicious Coconut Milk Kefir using milk kefir grains. Want to stick with using coconut water but make it a little more interesting? Try Cinnamon Coconut Water KefirYou can also try my Broccoli Salad with Turkey Bacon Recipe with coconut kefir.


Potential Side Effects of Coconut Kefir

There aren’t many side effects of consuming coconut kefir. When you first start consuming any type of kefir, constipation and intestinal cramping can occur, especially if your system is worn down, severely compromised, or not accustomed to certain types of yeast and bacterial strains.

With coconut kefir, be careful if you take blood pressure medications. Coconut water kefir can actually lower blood pressure, which is a positive for many, but if you combine it with medication, the combined lowering could be too much. While coconut kefir is not extremely high in sugar, it does have enough that you don’t want to overdo it on a daily basis, especially if you have diabetes. 


Final Thoughts on Coconut Kefir

Kefir in general has many health benefits. When you make kefir using a wonder liquid like coconut water, you subtract the lactose present in dairy kefir, but add the potent minerals and electrolytes of coconut water. Coconut kefir is a potent health food that has the ability to stay in your gut to provide internal healing and reduction of pathogens.

The power of your homemade coconut kefir has a lot to do with the quality of the grains as well as the use of fresh, young coconuts. The integrative and systemic effects of coconut kefir can improve your digestive issues, allergies, asthma, blood pressure and health health while fighting carcinogens and pathogens. All that goodness in a mild, sweet and fizzy tasting beverage that’s been shown to boost the immune system, aid digestion, remedy allergies and asthma, fight cancer, and provide plenty of potassium, all while being safe for those who are lactose intolerant — pretty amazing.

Read Next: 8 Greatest Probiotic Foods You Should Be Eating


From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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