I sent KCLM Research some questions about their new kefir product and they answered them. Lots of interesting information on kefir. I received your email that was forwarded to me concerning the soy kefir product, Soya Kefir, which is produced by KCLM Research in Nutrition, Inc. I am the Chief Scientific Officer of KCLM and an Associate Professor at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal Canada. I have written a couple of articles regarding the research that we have performed regarding the soy kefir product, which were published recently in National ME/FM Action Network newsletters regarding our clinical trial results on pain and energy in relation to CFS and fibromyalgia. For your information, our soya kefir product has shown remarkable improvements in clinical studies of individuals suffering from pain and fatigue in clinical trials involving chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia subjects. Additionally, a double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial assessing the safety of soya kefir, showed no serious adverse side-effects or any adverse changes in blood chemistry, urinalysis or body weight. Questions 1) Kefir consists of different types of bacteria in a mix of yeast and proteins and fats and sugars. There are many different types of 'kefir'. How did you come up with your particular strain of kefir and how is it different from others? You are right as there are many types of kefir produced worldwide, which vary greatly due to differences in microflora in the kefir product, the type of manufacturing and fermentation process used as well as type of milk (cow's, goat, soy, etc.) utilized as the base milk for the fermentation process. There are no regulations concerning what consists as a genuine kefir product, which traditionally was produced via the introduction of kefir grains, which is used as an inoculent to start the fermentation process. The kefir grains are not a plant grains per se but rather are a soft white gelatinous mass that resemble small cauliflower florets containing a complex mixture of probiotic bacteria and yeast residing in a polysaccharide matrix. The presence of many types of bacteria and yeast in kefir grains distinguishes kefir from many other fermentation products such as yogurt that typically have only one or two types of probiotic bacteria. Many so-called "kefir" products only use bacteria isolated from kefir grains in the fermentation process as opposed to the traditional and more difficult manufacturing process of kefir grain-mediated fermentation, which I think produces a product with greater biopotency. The few kefir products that do utilize kefir grains in their products generally have an issue of consistency of product in terms of variations in the bacterial and yeast microflora in the grains over time that can lead to problems of product consistency including health benefits. The particular strain of kefir grain used by KCLM is provided by our partner organization, Moscow Dairy Institute, which regulates all dairy product manufacturing in Russia including kefir drink manufacture. The Moscow Dairy Institute has many decades of experience in kefir research and manufacturing and produces highly consistent kefir milk products due to the potency and consistency of their kefir grains. These latter kefir grains are also provided regularly to KCLM for the purposes of manufacturing our concentrated dried form of soy kefir, Soya Kefir, for use as a health supplement. As opposed to the typical kefir manufacturing process that focuses kefir manufacturing towards producing a kefir food product similar to yogurt, KCLM utilizes the consistency and potency of the Russian grains in a dramatically different fermentation process that was developed to enhance greatly the biopotency of soya kefir towards health benefits. 2) Your company KCLM is focused on kefir products and not the more well known yogurt products? Why did you focus on kefir? What is the difference between the two products? As mentioned above kefir drink production involves involves a very different fermentation process than yogurts and other types of food fermentation products due to the many types of bacteria and yeasts involved in the kefir-mediated fermentation. As bacteria and yeast each produce their own bioactive molecules, the large variety of probiotic bacteria and yeasts in kefir can produce a synergistic variety of fermentation by-products that can show greater biopotency than is observed from the fermentation involving only one or two types of probiotic bacteria used in yogurt production. Indeed, a variety of recent research publications report such synergisms in terms of health benefits occurring from the administration of several isolated multispecies probiotic strains as compared to intake of a single probiotic bacteria strain. 3) It appears that your first two studies focused on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Why did you focus on these diseases? Do you believe kefir grains are particularly helpful in these disorders versus other disorders and if so why? The intake of soya kefir anecdotally showed particular impact in chronic fatigue syndrome individuals in terms of improvements in energy levels, pain and mood although many other individuals have shown improvements in that regard. It is possible that since individuals with chronic fatigue experience a considerable degree of symptoms of fatigue and pain, their favorable response to the product was more dramatic. In view of these encouraging results, an initial clinical trial was conducted by Dr. Dominique Garrel, who is the chair of Dpartement de Nutrition, Universit de Montral, Montreal. Dr. Garrel is a clinician who has long history of practice in treating patients with the chronic fatigue syndrome at the highly respected medical clinic of the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal (IRCM). A subsequent study to confirm these initial findings was independently carried out in US clinics that regularly treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome patients, which was performed by Oceanova, Quebec City, Canada and Douglas Laboratories, Pittsburgh, PA, which is a division of Atrium Biotechnologies, Quebec City. 4) My 'gut feeling' was that once you put live bacteria in there they'll multiply more and more and eventually you'll have a lot of good bacteria in your gut. But your grains are not alive- they're dead. How do dead Kefir grains stimulate bowel activity in the gut? It should be realized that the kefir grains are solely used as an inoculant to ferment the milk to produce the kefir drink but the grains themselves are not consumed as they are removed and re-used in subsequent fermentations. Thus, the kefir drink does not contain kefir grains. Recent research has rather conclusively indicated that ingested bacterial strains do not become established members of the normal gut bacterial flora and only persist during the period of ingestion or for rather short periods afterwards. There is a complex interaction in terms of the cross-talk between probiotic bacteria with the bodys immune system that involves components of the bacteria themselves and their by-products of fermentation that does not appear to require viable live bacteria. For example, non-viable dead bacteria have shown anti-inflammatory effects that were equally effective as viable live bacteria in animal models of inflammatory bowel disease. It should be mentioned that in addition to the bacteria themselves, their by-products of fermentation within the fermented soy kefir product can be equally or even more important for health benefits than the probiotic bacteria themselves. 4) Would patients with gut distress be more likely to experience benefits from this product? This has not been studied to date, however, anecdotally some persons with irritable bowel syndrome have shown benefits, which is consistent with several clinical study reports of benefits regarding probiotic bacteria administration. 5) Some physicians believe that as ME/CFS patient's age they become more susceptible to problems like irritable bowel syndrome. Do kefir grains show any efficacy in treating irritable bowel syndrome? Yes, as mentioned above some people with IBS have shown benefit including one case study where the individual had taken a cows milk kefir for a prolonged period but steadily experienced a worsening of her IBS symptoms despite intake of the cows milk kefir. When she switched to soya kefir, her symptoms disappeared but they re-appeared when she stopped taking the product. After prolonged intake of soya kefir, however, the IBS symptoms completely disappeared even after stoppage of intake of soya kefir. More studies, however, are needed to confirm such findings. 6) Why did you choose soy has a base for this product? Our initial studies showed a greater biopotency when soy milk was used as the fermentation liquid as opposed to cows milk as illustrated in the example above. Hence, based on biopotency results and in view of the wide variety of health benefits associated with soy, research was re-focused upon production of a soya kefir product as opposed to a cows milk kefir product. Indeed, in terms of our findings of pain relief associated with intake of soya kefir, there is supportive research in animal models showing significant pain relief from the intake of soy protein and soy lipids. Research publications have also shown that fermentation of soy is also associated with an accentuation of the health benefits seen with soy intake, which also supports the potency associated with the intake of the KCLM soya kefir product versus consumption of soy milk itself. 7) Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) have food sensitivities. Will the soy in these products be a problem for those people who don't do well with soy? This has not been examined and we have no data to verify this aspect. Fermentation of soy leads to the total bacterial breakdown of all soy protein that is present and thus it is possible that if the sensitivity is associated with soy protein, the fermentation might alleviate this aspect. However, more studies are needed to clarify this concern. 8) If people try this product, if they are going to see a difference how long should it take to see that difference? This appears to vary greatly according to the reports that we have seen as some people experience significant benefits within 24 hours of intake whereas others note benefits only after two weeks of daily intake of the product. 9) Where can people purchase these products and how much are they? Your study that 30 g a day seemed to be a more optimal dose. How much product would need to be bought to sustain a 30 g a day protocol for two months? The soy kefir product is a concentrated dried form of soy kefir produced by KCLM Research in Nutrition, Montreal, Canada (SKP; sold under the brand names of Soya Kefir via www.kclmresearch.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) or toll-free line 1-877-693-1121 or via Centre Stomo-Phlebo de Montral Inc. (www.stomophlebo.com) or toll-free line 1-800-823-7573 or as Liberation via the websites of www.wykanta.ca and www.wykanta.com. The product has different prices according to the quantity ordered as 200 g costs $39.99, 500 g costs $79.99 and 1 kg costs $144.99. A 30 g per day protocol for two months will require 30 g x 60 days = 1.8 kg or 2 orders of the 1 kg product. Some people have found that after their initial symptoms are improved with the 30 g dose that they can taper down their daily intake to 20 g or 10 g as a maintenance dose. I will be happy to answer any further questions that you might have regarding this product. Sincerely, Stan Kubow, Ph.D.