Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Are you trying to kill me?!?!"

The response when Michael tried my first batch of homemade kefir?

"What the heck is that stuff? Are you trying to kill me?!?!"

It may sound a little dramatic for a title (it really did happen), but I wanted to get your attention for this post because the benefits of probiotics are SO numerous that if I could only get you here for one post (to begin with), I wanted this one to be it.

Kefir is a fermented milk
drink rich in probiotics.
Before you get to read my kefir story, what is kefir? Kefir is a probiotic fermented milk drink. Probiotics (meaning for-life vs antibiotics, meaning anti-life). Probiotics are all the new craze right now in the supplemental world and by all means, it can be justified because adding well-sourced probiotics into your REAL FOOD diet can dramatically change your health for the best. I have seen it first hand in our home and others as well.

From Dr. Axe's article on probiotics

The roots of the word “probiotic” mean “for life.” Probiotics refers to the “friendly” flora living in our digestive tracts that help us to break down our foods and gain nutrition from them. These bacteria, yeasts and molds make up 70%-85% of our immune system.

There is no standardized definition of probiotics as of yet, but the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations refer to probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Probiotics have existed in every traditional diet in recorded history. German sauerkraut, Russian kefir, Korean kimchee, the cured meats and cheeses in France, soy sauce, pickles, sourdough breads, beer… even ketchup was originally a fermented fish sauce!

Food preservation before the use of refrigeration was the reason the practice of fermentation and the use of “friendly” flora emerged. The practice was sustained by the healthy by-product-benefits they conferred.

What are some of the health benefits of probiotics?

Besides helping us to digest our food, probiotics:
  • compete with unhealthy bacteria for food
  • produce antibacterial substances
  • help to manufacture vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A and K
  • help us to extract minerals from our food
  • help us to produce essential fatty acids
  • eat excess sugar
  • stimulate cell repair
  • increase number of immune cells
  • combat allergies and inflammation
  • transform toxic metals and chemicals into useful compounds


The strongest evidence to date finds that probiotics help to:
  • reduce diarrhea during antibiotic use
  • prevent and treat urinary tract infections
  • prevent and treat genital tract infections
  • treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • manage and prevent eczema in children
  • fight food-borne illnesses
Read on...

Since not all probiotics in the supplemental pill form are not created equal, two trustworthy sources are from Garden of Life and New Chapter Organics which can be found at most health foods stores. Click onto Amy's List to find more local stores who carry these products.

Foods that contain probiotics naturally that you should know of are:
  • Yogurt
  • Fermented cabbage
  • Fermented cheeses
  • Brine-cured olives
  • Salted gherkin pickles
  • Apple cider vinegar
Kefir is a popular European drink that has gained popularity here in the States these past couple of years. Kefir is a gold-mind of probiotics and is considerably healthier than yogurt with numerous studies touting different comparisons, but with kefir always rising to the top over yogurt. I already made homemade yogurt every week from our raw milk (that's for another post, so easy and cost effective to make your own), but my husband really wanted me to make kefir instead since we only have so much milk to work with and kefir offers more health benefits.

Kefir Grains
I did three days ago. I got kefir grains from our herd-share farmer and followed all most of the instructions except one key point that no one really pointed out. I cultured my kefir with a metal lid instead of a breathable lid such as cheesecloth or a coffee filter. When we opened the kefir, it made this weird fizzing sound as all the gases from fermenting escaped. It tasted like, err... I can't quite think of a word to describe the taste. Like kefir, just with an extra toxic flavor to it. After the response on my husband's face once I realized what I did wrong, I apparently should have known the obvious, just unfortunately didn't.

So... next week I will be posting about how I have succeeded at making my first  second batch of homemade kefir. Stay tuned to my adventures of healthy eating because it is always an adventure in our home!