How to make a very easy, simple and powerful probiotic at home to help balance your gut flora, improve your nutrient absorption and improve the strength of the immune system. To buy probiotic capsules from the shop is very expensive while making kefir at home costs pennies and is more powerful. Store-bought yoghurt, contrary to popular opinion, is not a very efficient probiotic at all, due mainly to the fact that it has been pasteurized (unless you buy raw yoghurt).
Kefir is a fizzy, bubbly, tasty probiotic drink you can make at home very cheaply. It is sometimes called the 'raw foodist champagne', and also natural soda. The health benefits of drinking kefir are vast.
It is simple and easy to make: you just purchase either water kefir or milk kefir grains from a reliable source online. (They tend to be very cheap.) Kefir grain is a living culture, which has beneficial yeasts and bacteria in it (as opposed to harmful yeasts like candida). The beneficial bacteria will help to keep the bad bacteria in your gut in check; and healthy bacteria balance is absolutely crucial for digestion, the ability to utilise nutrients from food, immune system function and energy.
For example, if you have a iron or B-12 deficiency, it would be a good idea to look into probiotics to help your body to digest effectively because quite often, despite eating food rich in these nutrients, your body may not be able to effectively make use of them.
You will need to know how to take care of the kefir grains - they will need feeding and caring for. This is all pretty straight-forward, however.
Personally, I have only tried water kefir, and not the other variety, with different grains: milk kefir. Since I don't drink milk, this article will just focus on the water kefir probiotic crystals. These are also sometimes known as: Japanese water crystals, tibicos (tibi), sugar kefir grains, California bees, ginger beer plant, etc.
Kefir probiotic drink comes out naturally bubbly and slightly tart-tasting, similar to other fermented drinks, and it is a refreshing and satisfying beverage. You can control the sugar content, from zero to very sweet. Some raw foodists even feed the grains only fruit, instead of sugar.
It is easy to kill the grains, however, so be sure to follow the instructions below.
The links at the end of this article provide further resources for the research-hungry. These discuss fermenting on a larger scale: fermenting vegetables, making your own beer and wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, other probiotic drinks such as rejuvelac and kombucha, etc. You can also make probiotic vegan nut cheeses by using fermentation and beneficial bacteria starter cultures!
Instructions on how to make kefir probiotic are provided further down on this page. But first I want to discuss the benefits of drinking this powerful and extremely cheap probiotic.
Kefir is a very potent probiotic and more powerful than many capsules you can buy at the health food store. Typically, probiotic capsules are very expensive, whereas making kefir at home costs almost nothing. The only costs come from:
"Our digestive system is lined by very specialized cells, which are called enterocytes. These little cells only live for [two or three days]. Then… they die, get shed off, and get replaced by new, healthy enterocytes. The cell regeneration process in your gut lining is a very active process.
"… We have a real chance to heal and seal our damaged gut lining thanks to this wonderful process of cell regeneration. But here's the catch: in order for your body to give birth to healthy functioning baby enterocytes, it needs two factors. It needs building blocks for them, because they're made out of certain nutrients (proteins, certain fats, vitamins, enzymes, and other active molecules)… Second, it needs the whole process to be orchestrated by the beneficial microbes in your digestive system; by the beneficial healthy gut flora."
- Dr. McBride, in an interview with Dr. Mercola, link below
The beneficial microbes and healthy gut flora are, in other words, the good bacteria and yeasts in your system. Taking probiotics or drinking kefir puts more of these good bacteria into your gut. Needless to say, much of our processed junk foods constantly harm the gut lining, making the regular eating of probiotics an important component of a contemporary health regimen.
This is what Dr. Mercola has to say on the topic:
"The importance of your gut flora, and its influence on your health cannot be overstated. It's truly profound.
"Your gut literally serves as your second brain, and even produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin — known to have a beneficial influence on your mood—than your brain does.
"Your gut is also home to countless bacteria, both good and bad. These bacteria outnumber the cells in your body by at least 10 to one, and maintaining the ideal balance of good and bad bacteria forms the foundation for good health — physical, mental and emotional.
"The challenge is to identify strategies to optimize that bacterial population, so that you can live in a beneficial, symbiotic relationship where they nourish you, help you fight disease, and optimize your health."
Dr. Mercola in "Why this Single Organ Powerfully Dictates Whether You're Healthy or Sick"
Dr. Mercola highlights that gut health is especially important for people who suffer from the following ailments:
Surprisingly, gut health can have a great influence on our mental health - thus Dr. Philpott in the book Brain Allergies emphasizes the huge role food and chemical sensitivities play in serious mental illnesses. Food intolerances can seriously compromise your pancreas functioning and gut health, where sometimes the symptoms are so delayed that the person does not know he/she is suffering from it. This is where kefir probiotic drink can come to rescue!
Also, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explains:
"Any dysfunction of the brain is usually connected to what's going on in the digestive system. In Gut and Psychology Syndrome, we're talking about the functioning of the rest of the body. Hippocrates… made a statement that all diseases begin in the gut. The more we learn now with all our modern scientific tools, the more we realize just how correct he was.
"Once you heal and seal your gut lining, and once you make your digestive system healthy and working properly again, you'll be surprised how many various symptoms in your body originated from your digestive system. Most [symptoms] start disappearing, because the health and the disease are usually born inside your digestive system."
- Dr. McBride, as quoted in Mercola's article, above.
In the section called 'Cultured Drinks', starting from page 52 of "Ani's Raw Food Essentials", Ani Phyo describes:
"These drinks are a refreshing and delicious way to obtain more good-for-us probiotics, the beneficial bacteria we need to build a healthy inner-body environment.
"The friendly bacteria in cultured drinks create a healthy digestive system and colon, to help us break down and digest our food and absorb more nutrients. They also help remove toxins from our body, detoxing us from the inside out.
"Kefir, my favourite and the simplest to make, and kombucha, are made with the help of a living culture that ferments and 'brews' the drink. Rejuvelac is another popular drink made by fermenting grains in water alone without the help of a living culture." - Ani Phyo
And more specifically, here are her musings on the kefir probiotic:
"Kefir is a probiotic drink with healing properties that slow down our aging process. [...] These [water kefir] grains are not actually a cereal but are a mother culture that digests sugar in a fermentation process, resulting in a frizzy, carbonated beverage similar to champagne. [...]
"Unlike dairy yogurt, kefir contains about thirty strains of bacteria and yeast. The culture comes in small translucent balls called 'grains', which are made up of a polysaccharide called kefiran, organic acids, yeasts, and bacteria.
"Kefiran has antitumor properties, is an anti-inflammatory, and boosts the immune system. Kefir is known to lower cholesterol levels; helps with heart and artery disease; regulates blood pressure; aids in digestion; and heals the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder and stomach ulcers.
"Water kefir is brewed using 'water kefir grains', as opposed to 'dairy kefir grains' used in dairy milk. The grain allow us to create a new recipe of water kefir every 24 to 48 hours. It's a great, healthy, soda replacement that's delicious."
- Ani Phyo, p. 52, Ani's Raw Food Essentials
Note that if the kefir tastes very vinegary, you have fermented it for too long.
This is a perplexing topic, since white sugar is often highlighted as one of the worst possible things to one's health. This is what Ani Phyo has to say:
"As with Kombucha brewing, some people are concerned about the sugar used to feed the culture's fermentation process. I've done extensive research and have found that though the water may still taste sweet at 48 hours of brewing, the sugar content is very low. Allowing for a secondary fermentation, by placing the water kefir, after the grains have been removed, in a glass jar at room temperature for another day or two, will decrease the sugar content even more, while substantially increasing B-group vitamins."
Personally, I choose to use molasses sugar instead of white sugar, as it is much less processed and includes more minerals in it. However, some have reported that kefir itself prefers white sugar, and that fermentation is more successful with that.
Apparently it is also possible to just use sugary fruits to feed the kefir probiotic, but I suspect you have to use quite a lot.
Ani Phyo recommends using 1/3 cup of organic sucanat, turbinado sugar, or agave syrup to 2 cups of filtered water. Sucanat and turbinado sugar are vegan choices, whereas agave I would personally not recommend because, according to some reports, it's not actually very different from normal syrup. This may depend on the company you are buying from, however, so you may wish to contact the company to check their background.
Other probiotic drinks you may wish to try to make are 'kombucha' and 'rejuvelac', both of which, however, can be a little more vinegary tasting.
You can also create raw probiotic nut cheeses by fermenting your vegan nut cheese with various different probiotics, for example with the contents of a probiotic capsule. For raw probiotic cheese recipes (dairy free) google it or check my facebook site for a couple of links to good recipes.
Sandor Ellix Katz and Sally Fallon: "Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods" (yogurt & cheese, vegetable krauts & kimchis, beers, wines & meads, miso & tempeh, sourdough breads)
Donna Gates and Linda Schatz: "The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity: Changing the Way the World Eats with Probiotic Nutrition".
Teruo Higa: "An Earth Saving Revolution: a Means to Resolve Our World's Problems Through Effective Micro-organisms (EM)". Prof. Teruo Higa also sells probiotic porcelain jewellery (!) and has been credited for discovering bacteria that is capable of eating radioactive waste and rendering it harmless. His research on probiotics is pretty cutting-edge.
Hiromi Sninya: "The Microbe Factor: Using Your Body's Enzymes and Microbes to Protect Your Health".
This webpage has a good simple explanation of what it takes to grow kefir probiotic and make a nice drink out of it:
"How to Make Water Kefir" by Gnowfglins.com
You can also check out Sandor Katz's website: www.wild-fermentation.com, although it may be a little overwhelming when you are just starting.
A better website for beginners, with kefir probiotic and kombucha recipes - is: www.culturesforhealth.com. They also sell starter kits, starter cultures, soy cultures, fermentation crocks, sprouting seeds, etc.
Also useful may be the FAQ section of Kefirshop.co.uk. They answer questions on water kefir, milk kefir, kombucha and yoghurt. If you are based in the UK you can also order grains/ starter cultures from there, including ginger beer starter culture.
Ken Rohla has an excellent talk on the topic of probiotics but you need to be quite open-minded to believe what he says... It is quite 'out-there', yet I personally find it very interesting. This 2hr 13min -long talk is available on his site in downloadable mp3 -format: Beyondrawfood.com: "How to Make Your Own Nutrient-Dense High ORMUS Probiotic Antioxidant Superfoods".
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This book came out of a necessity to begin putting in one coherent place, neatly ordered, all the amazing ways we can use to naturally reclaim back our health, free of charge.
This book contains 70 brief chapters, each introducing you to the benefits of a certain technique, or a trick, to improve your health affordably. Methods suitable for busy lifestyles. Natural, noninvasive and easy techniques. Pick the ones that suit your lifestyle and interests best and begin enjoying the good life!
Ulla is the Editor of Cheap Health Revolution, covering natural remedies and health solutions.