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The Magic Of Goat’s Milk Kefir For Optimal Gut Health

Shann Nix Jones and husband Rich with one of their goats on their Welsh farm.

I love goats. There, I said it.
No, not for the cheese they produce (that has ruined too many pizzas for me), but mainly because of the goat’s milk kefir they’ve brought into my life. Kefir – a fermented milk drink – is like a supercharged probiotic that can do wonders for your gut health, skin, and mental health. I love the stuff and noticed a clear shift in my mood after just a couple of weeks of drinking it (#gutbrainconnection). We recently had gut health expert and author Shann Nix Jones on the podcast talking about the many ridiculously good reasons to drink kefir. Shann, who is pictured above with husband Rich on their Welsh farm, is founder of Chuckling Goat. Their business is the leading gut health company in the UK. Here, Shann shares in her own words why you should also fall in love with the goats…

Goat’s milk kefir is the most beneficial – and it has to do with the difference between goat’s milk and cow’s milk.
Most cow’s milk has the A1 casein, which is very allergic and can cause a lot of autoimmune issues.
Goat’s milk, on the other hand, contains A2 casein and is considered to be a functional food by scientists. It’s even given to babies who cannot tolerate their own mother’s breast milk. It is hypoallergenic and easily tolerated. This is down to the A2 casein, but also because it contains smaller fat molecules than cow’s milk and is bio-profiled to be almost exactly like human milk.

Goat’s Milk Kefir vs Supermarket Kefir

On supermarket shelves you’re going to find kefir products that have additives, sugar or sweeteners, and flavourings. All of these will degrade the level of probiotics in the drink.
It’s also going to be made with cow’s milk – which is more allergic – and almost always will be made with powdered sachets rather than real kefir grains. A kefir grain is a living organism that you put in the milk for 24-48 hours until it hits a certain pH level.
In our kefir, there are 28 different strains of bacteria all living and thriving in their own environment. They actually have their own prebiotics in there. So that in itself creates what we call a ‘synbiotic’, which is a probiotic plus a prebiotic.
A supermarket kefir that has been produced with a powdered sachet will have maybe two, three, or four strains of beneficial bacteria at most.
At Chuckling Goat, we use a traditional fermenting process where we put the kefir grains into pasteurised milk and ferment them. The end product is not pasteurized; it’s completely live with all those bacterial strains still thriving in there.
We then send off every bottle to be microbiologically tested at the food safety laboratory, and we wait until we have the paperwork before we ship out the batch – and we therefore have 100% traceability on every bottle.

Gut Health And Skin Problems

I discovered that kefir works as well on the skin as it does inside the gut. Our son Benji had eczema and all of these things go together – eczema, asthma, IBS, food allergy, food intolerance, bronchitis – it’s all a constellated group of autoimmune issues.
If you combine the probiotic on the inside, so you’re drinking the kefir, with a probiotic lotion on the skin, you get amazing results on eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne.
Because all of those things, as it turns out, are autoimmune disorders. Those are not skin conditions.
And you will never clear your skin until you heal your gut.
Shann Nix Jones at her farm in Wales.

The Four Enemies Of A Healthy Gut

Sugar, stress, chemicals, and antibiotics.
Your gut microbiome is like a fragile ecosystem. And I like to think of it like the Amazon rainforest, full of all beautiful little creatures. And like any ecosystem, it’s fragile and it can be damaged.
What I have described in my book, The Kefir Solution, as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Gut Apocalypse’ are those things that damage your gut health (sugar, stress, chemicals, and antibiotics).

The average woman hosts 515 chemicals by the time she steps out of the bathroom in the morning. You put stuff on your skin – and it goes right into your system.

We’re all experiencing stress to some level.
And the chemicals, that’s a huge issue. Antibacterial soap. Triclosan in your toothpaste, air pollution, plastics…all of these things actually leach into your system and can change the DNA of your cells.
The average woman hosts 515 chemicals by the time she steps out of the bathroom in the morning. You put stuff on your skin – and it goes right into your system. That’s why women are about 70 of the autoimmune population because it’s women who are using the makeup, and using the cleaning products, and exposing themselves to these chemicals all the time.
So you’ve got to sort of push that back intentionally with some biohacking – and kefir is the best way that I know to do that.

How To Increase Serotonin In The Gut

Serotonin is incredibly important, not just for your brain, but for every single organ in your body. Serotonin is produced inside your gut by certain cells called enterochromaffin cells.
Like anything else, they can be damaged (mainly through the various ways described above). Most of the serotonin that is produced is used up in the gut anyway, and you have to produce enough then for there to be some leftover for it to get to the brain. So you’re already, fighting a losing battle.
The good news is you can actually boost the serotonin cell process by restoring your gut health. This is part of the reason why the first thing that happens when you start to restore your gut health by taking kefir and a prebiotic is your mood improves. You start feeling calmer, you start feeling happier, and that can happen within about three weeks.
We’ve just had a study done with Cardiff University on our kefir plus prebiotic – so symbiotic – and they found a profound emotional impact on workers within six weeks of taking the synbiotic.
People felt less tired during the day. They felt a heightened sense of wellbeing. They felt more immersed in their work. They felt a larger sense of thriving. That’s what you’re after, right?

The Gut Brain Connection

The brain and gut have neurons which communicate using serotonin. The serotonin is like the bird song traveling from one bird to another.
If you have too much bird song, there’s too much communication between neurons…and it’s anxiety. Things are just going too fast. Your thoughts are racing. Everything seems frightening and your amygdala is overacting.
In your brain that feels like anxiety, in your gut that feels like diarrhoea. Everything is whooshing through too quickly.
And conversely, if everything is too slow, if there’s not enough serotonin, then in your brain that feels like depression. You can imagine a scenario in the Amazon rainforest where the birds are just not communicating. There’s not enough signal going from neuron to neuron.
So it’s dark and slow. In your brain – depression. In your gut – constipation.
It’s a real mind blower to realise that, not only are your brain and your gut connected, but they’re literally one thing and we are really not used to thinking about it that way.
If you have IBS, then chances are you’re going to have anxiety, depression. And if you have anxiety, depression, chances are you’re going to have IBS.
It just works in a cycle. You can enter that cycle at any point. The good news is that you can break the cycle by eating something that changes your gut, which then changes your brain.

Gut Skin Connection

With skin issues, you’ve got a genetic predisposition. So there is going to be somewhere in your family, on either side, someone who has eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, IBS, depression, chronic fatigue etc.
And then you have a trigger event. This is a hormonal event like birth, puberty, pregnancy, menopause. It can also be a stress event. It can be a virus. It can be a course of antibiotics.
Any of those things can trigger that preexisting genetic disposition towards autoimmune and it will start to roll inside your system and it will become symptomatic.
Subsequent trigger events then will cause that to roll at an even higher level. Such as going to university for the first time and then having a lot of late nights, or a bereavement can be a trigger event.
We have just launched, in partnership with University of Cambridge, our own microbiome test, and what we’re finding is that if you’ve ever had food poisoning, tooth infection, a skin infection, a UTI, or a hospital acquired infection, then some of the bacteria from that may have lingered and gone down into your gut microbiome.
The bacteria sets up a biofilm and your immune system fails to get rid of it. And so it’s just this sort of low grade infection that your immune system is kind of revving and revving, and exhausting itself trying to get rid of.
So what we’re finding is that you might’ve had food poisoning 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and ever since, maybe nothing’s ever been right. Maybe you had a tooth infection. So we’re finding these bacterial correlations with these different kinds of conditions.
Shann Nix Jones at work in her farm.
And, also excitingly, we now have a sister company to Chuckling Goat called Ana’s Farmacy where he have produced vinegars that are steeped with antimicrobial herbs. We’ve had the vinegars lab tested and they are shown to actually remediate these pathogens.

Shann's Advice For Getting Started With Kefir

These days I recommend that people start slowly. Kefer is incredibly strong, and I think there is this feeling that, because it’s natural, you can just chunk it down.
We find that if someone’s gut health has been damaged over a long period of time, and they’re very sensitive, if they start slugging down 170 ml (the recommended daily dosage), they can throw themselves into a detox because your system just gets unbalanced.
So I do recommend, particularly if people feel like they’re really sensitive. or they have taken a lot of antibiotics in the past, to start slowly.
Just one tablespoon a day every day for a week, and then two tablespoons a day every day for a week, and three tablespoons and so on.
Everything should be feeling better. Your skin health should improve. Your mood should improve. Your tummy should feel better. If anything starts feeling worse instead of better, then go right back down to that one tablespoon and start the slow increase process again.
This is not a no pain, no gain thing. You’re dealing with a whole ecosystem and it’s all about gentle, small steps. You don’t go in with a chainsaw, chop down the whole ecosystem, and replant it all with fully grown oaks.
Instead, you’re sprinkling in some new species, being respectful to your ecosystem, and paying attention to your body.

To listen to the full interview with Shann, visit the podcast section.

Shann Nix Jones

Shann is a journalist and author, originally from the US, who now lives on a farm in Wales with her husband Rich and family. She is author of several gut healing books, including The Kefir Solution and The Good Skin Solution, and of course leads the team at gut health company Chuckling Goat, www.chucklinggoat.co.uk

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