Digestive system

Our Digestive System and Intestinal Microflora:

As the food enters the stomach it is flushed with acids and enzymes to break it down. As digestion begins, nutrients such as protein, fat, fibre and carbohydrates are released in smaller particles and transported to the digestive tract and from there, to the blood stream as nutrients or to the colon, in the case of waste. This is a huge task. Our digestive system processes (in food and drink) equate to approximately the weight of 70 tonnes in an average human lifetime.

Our digestive tract is lined with more than 400 species of bacteria, approximately 100 trillion in total, weighing close to 2kg of our body weight. These micro-organisms make up our ntestinal flora. Some are friendly and have a symbiotic arrangement with our bodies such as the bacteria found in our kefir. Others are pathogenic (the bad bacteria) and can result in infections and disease, such as streptococcus, causing throat infection. Others like E coli are peaceful citizens of our colon that, on occasion, turn on us.

Typically as in the universal battle of good versus evil, the bacteria in our digestive tract are in constant battle for survival and space with each other. We all agree on who we want to win this cosmic struggle. When the pathogenic bad bacteria has the upper hand (superior numbers and colonies) our immune system suffers and we become susceptible to any incoming infections or viruses, or allow fertile ground for long term chronic ailments.

Without microflora, our entire digestive system would collapse after eating an unwashed piece of fruit. Intestinal microflora makes it possible to

  • Fight off toxic bacteria such as Salmonella
  • Pass waste matter efficiently through the body
  • Ultimately regulate the health of our immune system
  • Assist in vitamin synthesis

Consider this point of view on improving mood. “We have a “second brain” in our GI tract. You have more nerve-endings in your GI tract than you do in your brain. So when there’s ineffective digestion, you can experience irritability, or even depression. With proper digestion you can improve your mood and mental health”.

Lactic bacteria stimulates our immune defences

Disturbances in the ecological balance in the gut leads to the growth of harmful bacteria and to their possible translocation to internal organs, which induce disease.
Beneficially acting lactic bacteria (LAB) positively influences the immune system of the host.

The protection of the mucous membranes of the GI tract is ensured through local immunity defence mechanisms. This development is dependent on the direct contact of the host with antigens (a substance capable of inducing a specific immune response) from the outside environment.

The indigenous microflora joins in immune exclusion and protects the host from the adhesion of pathogens through competition for substrates and places of adhesion. These bacteria produce antibacterial sub¬stances and they stimulate the production of specific antibodies.

These bacteria influence the distribution and the numbers of lymphoid cells in lymphatic tissues associated with the gut, ensuring the balance in the composition of the gut microflora, and through their activity, are able to maintain the integrity of the gut mucous membrane.


Fermentation; leading to a functional food product:

Fermentation is a traditional method of preserving fresh foods that dates back far beyond canned food, freezers and preservatives. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the putrefying bacteria. Lactose in our milk is converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactobacilli bacteria. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented milk enhances its digestibility and increases vitamin levels. Thus, keeping the original healthy qualities of milk and making it healthier through fermentation.

Here are some of the other benefits of fermenting naturally

  • Tart but refreshing taste.
  • Naturally preserves the product for a longer period of time, thus making it unnecessary to pasteurise again, which kills the probiotic effect.
  • Provides a home for the friendly lactobacilli before they enter your system. These make the fermented drink probiotic.
  • Lactic acid, the bi-product of fermentation, lowers your gut PH. This makes a better home for the probiotic cultures and makes it harder for pathogens to affect you.
  • Kills bad bacteria whilst creating an inhospitable environment for these pathogens.
  • Creates B vitamins that milk does not have before fermentation.

Lacto fermentation is an artisanal craft that does not lend itself to industrialization. Modern commercial production of fermented drinks and yoghurts does not allow time for natural fermentation. The result is, that in order to speed up the process some commercial producers reduce the PH artificially, not allowing the product to form its natural character and natural benefits.

We use food acid to enhance pectin performance. The fermentation of our kefir is natural, we do not speed-up the process.

Lactic Acid

The link below takes you to a new study on lactic acid that will surprise athletes.

Lactose intolerance

Our Kefir is lactose intolerant friendly. Our friendly bugs, as part of their routine, break down the “bulky” lactose into smaller, easier to digest particles. This process makes Kefir easier to digest, even for those who have lactose intolerance.

Functional foods

Functional foods are foods that support human health and well-being, providing health benefits beyond basic nutrition. (Nceff)

These are foods which due to fermentation (in our case) have been modified to contain additional nutrients, providing specific health benefits. E.g. we all know that fermented grapes make red wine which is far more beneficial to our health than fresh grapes. Similarly, fermented kefir adds more benefits than plain milk.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Lactic bacteria are considered important to the health of the gastrointestinal tract (i.e., “good bacteria”). Increasing the populations of these “good bacteria” is important to maintaining optimal gastrointestinal health. There are generally two approaches for increasing the populations of friendly bacteria in the gut:

  • ingesting the live and active cultures, or
  • enhancing the growth of the indigenous microflora.

The first method has been referred to as a “probiotic” while the second is considered a “prebiotic”. Babushka’s Kefir combines both methods to maximize the benefits.

Probiotics: – (From the Greek meaning “for life”)

Probiotics are live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. (Definition by World Health Organisation)

To qualify as being probiotic, the bacteria must be able to survive the journey through the acid baths of the stomach and continue onto the intestinal tract to form colonies. This is Nature’s wonderful and complex ability to create symbiotic relationships.

We all need certain friendly bacteria and yeasts in our digestive system to remain healthy. In fact, we are born with them! Our Kefir is a source of natural probiotic bacteria resulting from traditional fermentation. Added to our Kefir are the tried and tested lactic ABC (Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, Casei) probiotic cultures.

The bacteria making up our intestinal flora play a vital role in the digestive system and without them; our digestive system would not function correctly.

Probiotic bacteria help you digest foods, help keep away harmful pathogenic bacteria and produce a variety of beneficial vitamin B’s.

Babushka’s Kefir uses the Lafti range of Probiotic cultures by DSM.


Prebiotic Inulin

Inulin is a natura,l non-digestible fibre that is found in more than 35,000 plants and vegetables throughout the world including onion, banana, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, and chicory. On average it’s estimated that today we eat less than 3 grams of inulin per day. Historically, we have eaten significantly large amounts of inulin. The highest concentrations occur in burdock roots, chicory roots and greens; foods that are not usually eaten in large amounts nowadays. Sixteenth century Europeans and South Americans consumed about 35gs of inulin daily.

Inulin is a prebiotic that helps promote the growth of these “good” bacteria in the colon. It serves as food for these organisms. The Lactic bacteria actually digest the inulin and then increase as much as 5 to 10 times in volume.

Because inulin is a fibre, it helps maintain normal bowel function, decreases constipation, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and helps normalise blood sugar levels.

Calcium Absorption Booster. Assisting with osteoporosis .

On average, we only absorb about 30% of our ingested calcium. Most people don’t realise this. While our Recommended Daily Intake is 1000 mg, we need to ingest that amount to provide ourselves with about 300 mg that we actually absorb and use. During the human growth stage, there is a higher absorption rate. The absorptive ability of the intestine however decreases with age. Other factors also positively affect the absorption of calcium, like the presence of vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus. These encourage absorption. The negative effects of phytate and oxalate found in plants bind with the calcium and make it unavailable. Too much protein and sodium in the diet cause increased excretion of calcium as well. Calcium is a nutrient that many people, particularly women, need more of.

Inulin has the potential to have a beneficial effect on cancer prevention as well. Bifido bacteria digests inulin to short chain fatty acids like propionic acid and butyric acid. Butyric acid has been shown to have cancer-preventing properties in the large intestine. There has also been animal research to suggest that inulin prevents pre-cancerous changes in the colon. More research needs to be done to be able to claim such positive effects, but the studies look promising.


Antibiotic, from the greek anti (against) + bios (fit for life) coined by Selman Waksman in 1942 to describe these chemotherapeutic agents that are antagonistic to the growth of other micro-organisms such as bacteri and fungi.

When you take antibiotics to help get over a ailments such as a cold or an infection the antibiotics enter your system and kill the pathogens. This is why antibiotics work and when first discovered they were called “wonder drugs”.

An unfortunate side effect of antibiotics is that they are blind in their killings and deplete the good bacteria in our digestive system too. It is strongly recommended that one replenishes their friendly bacteria after antibiotic treatments.



Kefir grains are the main culture of our products. Babushka’s Kefir is a natural probiotic food, with a creamy consistency, a tart, refreshing flavour and the slightest hint of a natural effervescent zesty tang. The yoghurt is prepared by inoculating milk with kefir grains.

Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins (caseins), lipids (fat), and sugars (lactose). This symbiotic matrix forms grains that resemble cauliflower, resulting in a complex and highly variable community of micro-organisms. Many different bacteria and yeasts are found in the kefir grains, such as a polysaccharide known as L. kefiran that imparts a rope-like texture and feeling in one’s mouth as well as L. Rhamnosus, L.Casei, L. Plantharum, L. Acidophilus, L.Brevis. Daily consumption supports a balanced intestinal eco-system, the foundation for healthy immunity.

One of the most thorough studies on kefir was conducted by Edward R. Farnworth Food Research and Development Centre, Quebec, Canada.

Below is part of E. Fanworth’s shortened conclusion.

“Many probiotic products have been formulated that contain small numbers of different bacteria. The microbiological and chemical composition of kefir indicates that it is a much more complex probiotic, as the large number of different bacteria and yeast found in it distinguishes it from other probiotic products. The study of kefir is made more difficult, because it appears that many different sources of kefir grains exist that are being used to produce kefir.

The production of kefir depends on the synergistic interaction of the microflora in kefir grains. During the fermentation process, the yeasts and bacteria in kefir grains produce a variety of ingredients that give kefir its unique taste and texture. Furthermore, there is evidence to show that kefir consumption not only affects digestion, but also influences metabolism and immune function in humans.

We have chosen and recommend Kefir because it is naturally made up of more then a dozen Lactobacilli bacteria and various yeasts, offering you the benefits of multiple live probiotics happily co-existing in this complex food product.