Updated: Feb 1
Do you suffer with digestive issues, IBS, autoimmune disease, brain fog, anxiety, depression, or addiction? You may suffer with leaky gut or an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria that could be contributing to these conditions.
Our gut health is directly linked to our physical and mental health. The health of our gut (especially our small intestine) has such an impact, that dysfunction in the gut is being linked to dozens of physical and mental health conditions, especially those that have skyrocketed over the last few decades including autoimmune, anxiety, depression, and autism.
One of the most powerful things that we can do to improve our gut health is to consume fermented foods. These foods contain what are known as ‘probiotics’, tiny living microorganisms (bacteria) that are beneficial and crucial to nearly every process in our bodies (and brains).
With the number of inflammatory foods and toxins in the average American diet, it is important to eat fermented, probiotic foods regularly.
They build up good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria in our gut. They are the great natural antimicrobials of the world. They defeat bad bacteria and leave the good bacteria alive, which is far better than antibiotics in many respects (unless you’re on the verge of death).
Out of all the fermented foods out there, milk kefir is one of the most powerful, especially goat and sheep milk kefir.
These effervescent drinks have been used for thousands of years to heal illnesses and improve vitality, energy, and well-being.
Milk kefir is made through the fermentation of ‘kefir grains’. These are not actually ‘grains’, rather they are little structures (which look a bit like cottage cheese) that contain colonies of beneficial bacteria and casein.
The good bacteria in kefir grains feed off of the casein and other micronutrients to stay alive. These kefir grains are then mixed with milk, turning it into a powerful beverage that is beneficial to the digestive system, immune system, and hormonal system.
First, let’s talk about what this powerful beverage does for your body and mind.
What are the Benefits of Goat and Sheep Milk Kefir?
There are many benefits of milk kefir, some of which we still don’t fully understand.
This probiotic drink has benefited people physically and mentally for thousands of years. It is also far better than typical cow’s milk or yogurt. Here are a few amazing things about goat and sheep milk kefir:
Higher Nutritional Content Than Regular Milk
The beneficial live cultures (bacteria/probiotics) found in milk kefir grains actually ferment the vitamins and minerals in milk. This leads to higher absorbability and nutritional content in milk - much higher.
Billions of Probiotics
Goat and sheep milk kefir contain hundreds of billions of probiotic cultures.
This blows cow’s milk yogurt out of the water.
Typical yogurt contains no probiotics or live cultures, due to pasteurization. Even when yogurt from cow’s milk has probiotic cultures added after pasteurization, a few billion probiotic cultures is all this yogurt will contain - which isn’t a whole lot surprisingly.
More Easily Digest Casein and Lactose
The live good bacteria in milk kefir actually assist our body in properly digesting the proteins and sugars contained in milk.
This is very similar to raw, unpasteurized milk, which contains probiotic strains that help the stomach digest milk. When milk is unpasteurized, it is beneficial to baby cows, goats, and sheep. It is also beneficial for us.
When milk is pasteurized, however, all live beneficial bacteria are killed, making cow’s milk very difficult to digest, if not unusable for the body.
Specific Probiotic Benefits of Milk Kefir
Goat and sheep milk kefir contain a diversified profile of probiotic cultures. The number of beneficial species of bacteria and yeast found in milk kefir and their powerful applications could fill a textbook.
Here are a few of the probiotic strains, as well as a beneficial yeast, found in milk kefir. The benefits listed next to each one are pulled from clinical research:
Lactobacillus paracasei (beneficial bacteria)
Lactobacillus acidophilus (beneficial bacteria)
Treats bad bacterial overgrowth
Lactobacillus delbrueckii (beneficial bacteria)
Lactobacillus plantarum (beneficial bacteria)
Saccharomyces cerevisiae (beneficial yeast)
There are many, many more strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast present in milk kefir, especially sheep and goat milk kefir.
Here is a more complete list of the beneficial bacteria and yeast found in milk kefir.
Why Choose Goat/Sheep Milk Kefir over Cow Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir from cows is certainly healthy and beneficial. It contains many vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria and yeast.
I have chosen to focus on goat and sheep milk kefir simply because they are much better for our health in multiple ways.
Here are several reasons to choose goat or sheep milk kefir over cow milk kefir:
Higher Essential Fatty Acid Content
Sheep and goat’s milk have a higher beneficial essential fatty acid content. Essential fatty acids are crucial for our gut health, immune health, and mental health.
Cow’s milk is acidic, or acid-forming, which is harmful to the body in multiple ways. On the other hand, according to some sources, goat and sheep milk are alkaline. Alkaline foods are associated with preventing cardiovascular, muscular, and neurological diseases.
A2 Casein Rather Than A1 Casein
Casein is one of the proteins contained in milk. Both goat and sheep milk contain mostly alpha-2 casein (A2 casein), whereas cow’s milk contains mostly alpha-1 casein (A1 casein).
A-1 casein is very difficult for the human body to digest, and is associated with multiple health risks. It is said that the dominance of the protein A-1 casein in cow’s milk is actually a mutation. Just like goat’s and sheep’s milk, cow’s milk may have contained mostly A-2 casein in the past.
This mutation may have occurred due to cow’s modern mainstream diet of wheat, corn, and soy, rather than the grass they are meant to eat. It also may have occurred due to their severe mistreatment through use of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones.
A study on A1 Milk published in 2012 states:
“… Consumption of beta-casein A1 milk is associated as a risk factor for type-1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome, autism, schizophrenia etc.[3,4]
A broad range of studies from American and European investigations has shown reduction in autistic and schizophrenic symptoms with decrease in A1 milk intake.
Further, animal trials have also supported the linking of type-1 diabetes to milk exposure in general and A1 beta-casein in particular… Populations, which consume milk containing high levels of β-casein A2 variant, have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and type-1 diabetes.” (Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2012, National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health)
Higher Vitamin, Mineral, and Nutritional Content
Goat and sheep milk is more easily digestible than cow’s milk and does not cause the inflammation cow’s milk does.
Some studies show a higher absorption of several minerals from goat’s milk compared to cow’s milk. Studies show that nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are more easily digested in goat’s milk.
This is important because the nutrition of food has more to do with how much of that nutrition we can actually absorb, rather than its ‘nutrition facts’.
Because of goat milk’s higher absorbability, it has been recommended for treatment of malabsorption issues, osteoporosis, and anemia.
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant
Several studies have shown goat’s milk to be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which is central to gut health and overall physical and mental health.
Inflammation is linked with depression and anxiety. Addiction, as it stems from mental and emotional instability, can also be treated through decreasing inflammation in the body.
These benefits come in part from goat milk’s essential fatty acid composition, its immune-boosting properties, and its ability to decrease plaque build-up in the gut mucosal barrier (the gut wall). The latter is crucial for gut health and prevention of leaky gut.
Sheep Milk Kefir vs. Goat Milk Kefir
Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about goat’s milk and goat milk kefir. But of course this article is about goat and sheep milk kefir. So why the focus on goat’s milk?
This is because goat’s milk is far more popular and abundant than sheep’s milk. Therefore, more research has been conducted on goat’s milk.
Make no mistake though, sheep’s milk kefir is just as good as goat’s milk. Maybe even better! It is extremely beneficial and contains all those same vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and beneficial yeasts found in goat’s milk.
Sheep’s milk is higher in vitamin C, folate, B12, and magnesium than both cow and goat milk.
Sheep’s milk has twice the fat content of goat’s milk. This is a good thing though! As it is loaded mostly with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial fats. These help us lose weight, improve mental health, and more.
But of course, with its high fat content, we might want to drink less sheep’s milk than we would goat’s, as we can have too much of a good thing. Balance in our diet is important.
Conventional Milk is Pasteurized and Homogenized
Most milk that you buy in the store or online these days is pasteurized. It is required by law in some states for farmers and businesses to pasteurize their milk in order to sell it on the market. Which is unfortunate.
Pasteurization destroys all beneficial bacteria in milk. It also denatures many crucial enzymes and essential amino acids found in milk, making them undigestible at best and harmful at worst.
Conventional milk is also homogenized, a process which mixes the fat and protein together so it can look prettier. Homogenization oxidizes the fat content in milk. When we drink this milk, it causes inflammation throughout the gut and body, which directly impacts our physical and mental well-being.
This, in many ways, causes cow’s milk to be harmful and unusable to the human body.
It’s true that goat’s milk and sheep’s milk are far better, due to their higher vitamin and mineral absorption rate, higher beneficial fatty-acid content, A2-casein rather than A-1 casein, and possibly higher alkalinity. But of course, these milks, just like cow’s milk, are still pasteurized unless otherwise specified.
The Answer to Pasteurization Problems
Purchase raw cow's milk from the store or from a local ranch if your state's laws allow it. If you'd like to know which states allow for milk to be sold raw, here is an article that lists this information.
In addition to buying milk raw, kefir can be a great solution to the problem of pasteurization. Kefir contains all of those awesome beneficial bacteria and yeast cultures that milk is supposed to contain, and more! Kefir also helps make many enzymes in milk bioavailable.
This miracle food will aid in digestion and give your body many of the benefits raw milk would, and far more. Kefir will improve your physical health. It is also likely improve your mental health as well, as it reduces inflammation in the body by feeding good gut bacteria, rebuilding the intestinal wall, improving healthy hormone production, and increases absorption and metabolism of vitamins and minerals beneficial to the brain.
Where to Buy Goat or Sheep Milk Kefir
Some of the best places to find goat or sheep milk kefir is at your local farmers market or health food stores, such as Good Earth, Whole Foods, or Sprouts. You can also find these effervescent, nutritious miracle drinks online.
Buying individual bottles of milk kefir, however, costs a lot of money. If you don’t want to spend all the money on individual bottles of milk kefir, you can always make your own using organic kefir grains and some goat milk or sheep milk.
How to Make Your Own Goat or Sheep Milk Kefir
If you want to make your own goat or sheep milk kefir, it’s actually pretty easy. All you need is:
Live, active kefir grains
2 glass mason jars
Typically, you’d need to go through a process over several days to ‘activate’ your kefir grains. Instead of that though, you can simply purchase an active kefir grain culture.
Organic Active Milk Kefir Grains by Fusion Teas is an excellent choice.
Fusion Teas keep their kefir grains active and healthy with organic milk. It is important that kefir grains are fed high-quality milk. Organic milk is the way to go.
Fusion Teas guarantees your culture is active and works well. If not, they’ll replace it for free.
Their product also comes with an ebook filled with tutorials and information. Not bad for 12 bucks!
So, once you have your active milk kefir grains, how do you make milk kefir?
Step 1: Purchase Goat or Sheep Milk (or Powder)
If you want fresh goat or sheep milk, the most sensible place to purchase it would be at a natural foods store or a local farmer’s market.
On the other hand, it can be convenient to purchase quality goat’s or sheep’s milk powders that you simply mix with water.
When you purchase goat or sheep milk, it is best to get it from a grass-fed source. You never know if the milk you are getting is from sick or poorly fed animals. If so, their milk is far less beneficial and even harmful to the body.
If you’re looking for goat’s milk powder, I recommend Whole Goat Milk by Mt. Capra. While it is not labeled “organic”, it is grass-fed and non-GMO. This likely means they have treated their animals really well. Also, when it comes to nutrition, grass-fed milk is light years ahead of typical milk.
If you’re looking for sheep’s milk powder instead, you could check out Naturita’s Sheep Milk Powder. This product is organic. Though, you will pay more for it than quality goat milk powder.
Important Note for Milk Powder: Do NOT mix milk powder with chlorinated water to make milk kefir. Chlorine is antimicrobial. It kills bacteria and wreaks havoc on your gut. If you mix your milk powder with chlorinated water to make kefir with, it could kill your kefir grains. Do not use distilled water either as its pH is changed.
Step 2: Feed Your Active Kefir Grains
Take roughly 1 tbsp of Organic Active Milk Kefir Grains and place them in a mason jar.
Add 4 cups of organic goat or sheep milk.
Place a coffee filter over the top of the jar and secure it with a rubberband.
Set this on the counter and allow it to ferment for the next 12-24 hours (Temp: 65-85 degrees). Make sure it does not get colder than 65 degrees or hotter than 85 degrees. If it does, no worries, you can always start over.
Step 3: Drain Your Grains and Make That Kefir!
Check to make sure your fermented milk is thick, similar to a runny yogurt, and smells a little sour. If it doesn’t, you can always start over. If it looks right and smells right, continue forward.
Place a non-metal strainer over your 2nd mason jar, and then pour the milk kefir from your 1st mason jar through the non-metal strainer into the 2nd mason jar.
You are doing this to get your kefir grains back.
Gently sift the milk kefir through the strainer. You can use a wooden or other non-metal spoon to softly mix the kefir until it all filters through. Do not use metal, as it damages the bacteria.
At the end, you should have a mason jar full of beautiful milk kefir and see your kefir grains sitting in the strainer.
Rinse your 1st mason jar out (with non-chlorinated water), and then place the kefir grains back inside the mason jar and fill it with 4 cups of milk.
You now have two mason jars with milk. One containing milk kefir, and the other containing kefir grains and fresh milk.
Step 4: Slurp that Miracle Drink!
Your 2nd mason jar contains the milk kefir you can drink! If it’s thick (like a runny yogurt), white, and smells a little sour, it should be right! If you’d like it to keep for longer before drinking it, simply stick it in the fridge.
Your next batch is building in your 1st mason jar. If you want it to keep longer before making another batch, stick it in the fridge as well. This slows the fermentation. If not, simply keep it on the counter at room temperature for the next 12-24 hours as you did before.
Don’t do this all the time though, as it can slow the culture down too much and be hard on those little microorganisms.
Goat and Sheep Milk Kefir are the BAAAmb
(That's goat for "bomb")
Out of all the fermented and probiotic foods out there, goat and sheep milk kefir are some of the very best for healing leaky gut and improving health.
Drinking milk kefir will fill your body with powerful nutrition and billions of healthy probiotic cultures that have been clinically shown to boost immunity, improve physical health, and treat anxiety and depression.
I hope you enjoy this superfood that blesses the mind and body.
Thanks for reading!
To learn how probiotic cultures such as milk kefir benefit the brain, check out my article The Relationship Between Gut Microbiome and Mental Health or watch my Youtube video Humans Have 3 Brains.
Best of luck on your mental health journey!