Video- How Jim Dooley Makes Milk Kefir

Jim Dooley from http://www.newangelafoundation.com shows you exactly how he makes kefir at home. While Jim uses raw goat’s milk in his kefir, raw milk is outlawed in Canada. I simply use 2% milk from the dairy cooler and make the most delicious and beneficial kefir.

Jim also speaks a little about why kefir is so good for you, and what it does.

Jim’s technique for making kefir is a little different than mine. This just shows that kefir making does not have to be precise. These grains have survived and been passed around the world for thousands of years. Find a technique for kefir making that works for you in your own home. Here is more information about how I make milk kefir


Jim gives some excellent information about why kefir is so good for you. Unfortunately, at the time I uploaded this excellent video, The New Angela Foundation website was not functioning. Hopefully it will be up soon. 

How Much Kefir Should I Drink?

How Much Kefir Should I Drink? 

Here is a question I get a lot. 

"Hi, Can you tell me how much milk kefir to drink each day? We just started this and we don't know how much we need, thank you… Debbie"

Hi Debbie, Thanks for your question. I think many people will find this question helpful!~

In a world where everything has a suggested use, or prescribed dosage, it is understandable that you may not know how much or how little kefir to drink for health. In fact, everyone responds differently, and there is no real firm answer to the question. There are, however some tips and guidelines I could share that may get you started on the right track. 

First, let me start with the answer on our Kefir Questions and Answers page.

How Much Kefir Should I drink?-

Kefir is a food with benefits (not a drug), but some people still have an adjustment period. If your digestion tends to be finicky, start with 1/4 cup after a meal once every day, and listen to your body. If you tolerate this fine, then increase the amount, eventually moving it to BEFORE meals, as the good bacteria will aid in digesting your food. I personally drink up to 4 cups a day. There's no real limit. Just drink it when you want.

This is a good basic guideline, however some people will experience a detox crisis. When that happens you may have to adjust the amount that you begin with. Maybe take a tablespoon after each meal until your body adjusts to it.

You can also help your new probiotic friends establish a home by feeding them properly. Eat plenty of vegetables of all kinds, and fruit and healthy oils in moderation, and eat less meat and non-fermented dairy. You don't have to cut them out, and become vegetarian, but simply stack the deck in favor of plant foods. 

Drink lots of water, too.

Soon you will be drinking kefir as much as you want, whenever you feel like having some. 

 


 

Kefiran Benefits

KefiranWhat is Kefiran?

Kefiran is the stuff that binds the milk kefir grains and makes the slimy and gummy. Well that doesn't sound very attractive… but it is hard to describe kefiran. When you touch milk kefir grains, healthy ones have a clear viscous coating that is similar in consistency to a thin honey. It feels slippery between your fingers but if you were to touch the pads of your finger and thumb together with kefiran on them, and then pull them apart you will see what I mean.

Chemically it is described as a "complex sugar". Starch, glycogen and cellulose are all examples of polysaccharides. Dietary fiber is made up of polysaccharides that humans can not digest, and therefore stay in the intestine and add bulk.

Polysaccharides are found in all plants, and are responsible for many of the health benefits to humans. For example, the polysaccharides in mushrooms have some tremendous health health benefits like boosting immune system and fighting cancer.

Some scientists have been studying the kefiran in kefir milk to see if it perhaps has some health benefits as well. Of course, the word of mouth information is pretty solid. People attribute kefir with all kinds of health benefits, so many scientists have studied kefiran to see if it is has healing properties.

What Are The Health Benefits of Kefiran:

I specifically looked for studies that identified kefiran alone, because in studies of kefir, it is hard to know if it is the polysaccharide kefiran, the probiotics, or something else altogether that causes the positive effects. In the following studies, kefiran was isolated from kefir and studied independently. If you want to know some of the things I found when scientists studied kefir, in its whole form, view "Benefits of Kefir".

  • Blood Pressure, Blood Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, Constipation: This study found positive benefits in all of these areas.

    A study on the effects of kefiran in animals demonstrated that kefiran significantly suppressed increase of blood pressure and reduced the serum cholesterol levels in SHRSP/Hos rats when subjects consumed excessive dietary cholesterol. Kefiran supplementation demonstrated the ability to significantly lower blood glucose in KKAy mice. In addition, the administration of kefiran in constipated SD rats caused an obvious improvement in the levels of fecal moisture and wet weights of feces. These results suggest that kefiran could be used as a functional food to prevent some commonly occurring diseases.

  • Blocked Arteries: This study found that kefiran reduces atherosclerosis in rabbits fed a high cholesterol diet.
  • Asthma: Kefiran reduced lung inflammation caused by allergy induced asthma in this study.
  • Anti-inflammatory: This study abstract showed kefiran to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Immune System: The scientists in this study of kefiran showed that immune cells increased significantly.
  • Cancer: In a study of cancerous tumors in mice given kefiran, tumors reduced in size from up to 81% after being administered orally. (they ate kefiran). In this study of breast cancer kefiran was shown to inhibit breast cancer cell growth.

Kefir Is Making Me Sick

Can Kefir Make Me Sick?

I drank a cup of kefir and now I feel sick! 

Is It Normal To Feel Sick After Drinking Kefir?

This is the email I got from a frantic reader who had hoped kefir was going to be the answer to her prayers. The woman had a history of multiple antibiotics as a child and young adult. She has a history of IBS, and depression, as well as many digestive complaints. She started making her own kefir but every time she drinks it, she feels nauseated and gets a really bad headache. She is also complaining about a sensation of blood rushing in her ears. What is happening?

Most likely what this lady is experiencing is a Herxheimer reaction, and no this is not dangerous. It is actually a very good sign! 

A Herxheimer reaction (sometimes called Herx for short) happens when organisms in your body start dying off, and release toxins into your blood stream. It was originally described as a reaction to taking antibiotics for an infection, but it happens much more frequently in the 'natural healing' world, as you cleanse your body of the bad and replace with the good! 

Herx reactions are sometimes described as "die off", "healing crisis". The symptoms are diverse, and can be quite different for everybody. Some people will be terribly ill, and some people will have mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all. Here are some things that you might feel when experiencing Herx reaction after drinking kefir:

  • Digestive issues- flatulence, foul smelling stools, unusual colored stools, diarrhea or constipation, cramping, heartburn, nausea etc
  • Flu-like symptoms- increase mucous production, low grade fever, sore throat, cough etc
  • Neurologic symptoms- headache, dizziness, 'brain fog', difficulty concentrating, depression or euphoria (drunk feeling), anxiety, extreme tiredness
  • Other- bad breath, achy joints, mild rash etc

All of these things are normal, so what do you do if you experience a Herx reaction? Or what if you are not sure if you are having a Herx reaction, or you are really sick? The answer is simple; Stop drinking kefir until the symptoms subside, and then go at it more slowly! 

Start with a tablespoon. Wait a few hours, and if you feel fine, have another tablespoon. 

The worst possible thing you can do is throw out your kefir and swear to never drink it again. People who have Herx reactions NEED to get rid of the bad bacteria that has taken over your life! You must persevere. Taking it a little at a time can reduce the severity of the symptoms and ensure that you are still getting the benefit of good probiotic bacteria. 

 

 

Kefir, Probiotics and Weight Loss

Can Kefir Help Weight LossKefir and Weight Loss

Can kefir Help Me Lose Weight?

If you search the internet you are going to find many websites that claim Kefir is a weight loss food. In fact, you may even find information about a "Kefir Diet" ! So underneath all the hoopla and hype, is there any scientific proof that kefir can help you lose weight? 

Our body is brimming with bacteria, that much you probably already know. In fact there are trillions of bacteria and yeast that live within our intestines. Bacteria also exist, not just in the digestive tract from mouth to rectum, but also externally on skin and hair. Bacteria are largely ignored by the medical community when assessing disease. The scientific community is beginning to focus much more research in this important area. It is becoming abundantly clear that bacteria and yeast affect our health in many more ways than we thought about before. 

So we know that our friendly bacteria affect our health. You can review some of the benefits I have discovered in the scientific literature by reading my "Benefits of Kefir" article. Specifically though, I wondered if there was any reason to believe that kefir can help me lose weight.

I found an abstract on pub med where researchers looked at all the data related to fermented milk bacteria and weight loss, metabolic syndrome etc. They reviewed over 600 original studies related to the question "can probiotics help weight loss?" Their discovery was welcome news. The answer is yes, fermented products like kefir can help weight loss!

Here is the conclusion of their study:

Knowledge on the impact of the microbiota on metabolic pathways allows to conceive new factors associated with obesity and modulation by prebiotics and probiotics. In this sense, the main effect observed was the increase in bifidobacteria, usually accompanied by weight loss and enhancement of parameters related to obesity.

This is great news for kefir lovers. Kefir products are easy to make at home, and bifidobacteria are abundant in the millions in home made kefir. Since it is convenent and delicious, diet that includes kefir may help people lose weight by increasing the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut! 

Benefits of Kefir

Benefits of Kefir

Bacteria- We Need Them To Live- Probiotic Benefits

There is a term that scientists use to describe the microscopic community that lives on our skin and hair, in our mouth, nose, intestines, and anywhere else that we naturally have bacteria. The term is "Human Microbiome" or "Human Microbiota". They include bacteria, yeast and fungi that exist in harmony with all living beings. Without this community that lives with us, and within us, we would not exist.

If you have ever had a vaginal yeast infection following a dose of antibiotics, or a fungal infection such as athlete's foot, or thrush in your mouth, then you already have a sense of the benefits of balance in our microbiota. Would you be surprised to know that bacteria, fungi and yeast that live in and on you actually contribute to your good health?

An average human has 200 times the amount of microbiotic cells as compared to body cells. On the skin, your "good" bacteria help to fend off more harmful strains keeping infections at bay. Inside your body, microflora have a variety of important functions which include digesting food, providing a barrier that prevents unwelcome invaders into your body from the intestine, preventing tooth decay, strengthening your immune system and more! The benefits of probiotics are becoming more clear.

Our Bacteria-phobic Society

From the time that it was discovered that simple hand washing could reduce the spread of disease and infection in hospitals, we have been attempting to eradicate bacteria. The problem is that we have affected the helpful colonies as well. Antibiotics are a good example. They do help rid the body of infection causing harmful bacteria, but they affect the balance of our helpful communities as well. The over-use of antibiotics is a well known and much discussed topic. Hand washing and other forms of personal hygeine are important, but is it necessary to use antibacterial soaps in the home?

The consequences to our health of attempting to eradicate bacteria from our lives could be manifesting in many ways that we may not be aware of. For example, whenever there is a breakout of food poisoning, such as salmonella from eating tainted hamburger, we often hear of sicknesses and deaths arising from the exposures. Would you stop and consider that for everyone that has reported being sick, there are many more who have eaten the tainted food and not fallen ill at all. A healthy microbiota can maintain a balance, and keep harmful bacteria from establishing a foothold. Even in circumstances where the exposure is too great, symptoms can be limited.

What Causes a Bacterial Imbalance?

Some of the most common causes of imbalanced bacteria in the gut are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Stress (stress hormones may encourage bad bacteria growth)
  • Dietary causes such as sugar, preservatives, alcohol, processed foods, over-eating, inadequate fibre
  • Radiation or Chemotherapy or other aggressive medical treatments
  • Eating too much animal-based protein, especially highly processed (e.g. luncheon meats)
  • Stagnant bowel function (which could be caused by the some of the above)

What Do Gut Bacteria Do?

In our gut, good bacteria can crowd out bad bacteria and affect our overall health, metabolism, digestion, and body composition (fat vs. muscle). Gut bacteria are involved in the immune response and help to ensure our immune system doesn’t over react (such as in food sensitivities or food allergies). There are numerous benefits associated with a healthy gut bacterial community.

Gut bacteria also:

  • help synthesize B and K vitamins
  • enhance gastrointestinal motility and function
  • enhance digestion and nutrient absorption
  • obstruct the growth of “bad bacteria” and other pathogens
  • help metabolize other plant compounds/drugs
  • produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and polyamines
  • produce coagulation and growth factors
  • produce cytokines (cell signaling molecules)
  • help regulate intestinal mucus secretion and ultilization
  • help regulate blood flow to the viscera

 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Healthy bacteria (also called PROBIOTICS) have been shown to help us achieve better health in many ways. Here are a few.

Kefir Benefits:

Note on Kefir Scientific Research– At the end of the day, I don't get too hung up on kefir science studies. It is not like taking a drug developed artificially. Fermented beverages have been around for a long time, and I am quite happy to drink them because they taste great and "could" be good for me. However, it is nice to know that science backs up what i want to believe. References with links to individual studies are all listed at the end of this article.

Autism– In a recent study in mice, autism behaviors, abnormal intestinal bacteria and leaky gut have been linked suggesting that probiotic treatments could help. There is also a ton of anecdotal evidence that a diet low in sugar and high in fermented foods makes a positive difference in the behaviour and the intestinal symptoms of children who fall on the autism spectrum.

Anti-oxidant Effect– Kefir has been shown to have potent anti-oxidant effect in scavenging free radicals. Since free radicals are linked to aging and disease, it can be hypothesized that the probiotics in kefir could be a powerful anti-aging product.

Bladder Infections– Use of probiotics has been shown to reduce the number of urinary tract infections in women, and to effectively treat some urinary tract infections.

Cancer– Probiotic effects are being studied both in the prevention, and treatment of certain cancers. The most obvious one is colon cancer, where beneficial bacteria have been shown in some studies to prevent DNA mutations necessary for bowel cancers to form, and grow. An extract from kefir has also been shown to suppress proliferation (spread and growth) of human breast cancer cells, but not normal breast cells.

Cholesterol Reduction– Kefir was shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol in a danish study where middle aged men with high cholesterol were given Kefir to drink. Men given a placebo had no reduction pf cholesterol at all.

Depression and Depressive Illnesses– Studies suggest that depression is also associated with an alteration in the microbiota. Psychobiotics are good bacteria that have the potential to increase microbial diversity and treat the symptoms of depression. Scientists are starting to draw a stronger connection between the gut and the brain. Our bacteria produce many chemicals that our body then uses in routine bodily functions, so it is not a stretch to think that many of those chemicals could affect brain function. After all, our entire body functions on chemical reactions. Brain function is but a single example.

Detoxification– Probiotic bacteria help digest and eliminate harmful substances that sneak into your gut… substances such as pesticides found on foods. A study done in 2009 proved that bacteria from the Korean fermented food called Kimchee degraded an organophosphorous insecticide by day 3 and by day 9 it was completely gone. Organophosphates (such as RoundUp) are some of the most common pesticides used on food. The bacteria identified to be responsible for the detoxification are the same ones found in kefir. Probiotics have also been proven to neutralize nitrites (commonly used to preserve deli meats ("cold cuts"), bacon, ham etc. In another study, probiotics were found to effectively detoxify the intestines of heavy metals such as mercury.

Diarrhea, Crohn's Disease and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS)– Most people are aware of the fact that bacteria live in the bowel. Controlled trials have shown that Lactobacillus GG can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in infants and children. Clinical trial results vary, but there have been a number small studies done that suggest certain probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis, and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease and the recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery to treat ulcerative colitis).

Flatulence– Probiotics and probiotic foods and beverages, including water kefir and yogurt, have been shown in many research studies to reduce flatulence. (intestinal gas)

"Several studies have demonstrated significant therapeutic gains with probiotics in comparison with placebo. A reduction in abdominal bloating and flatulence as a result of probiotic treatments is a consistent finding in published studies;" source: World Gastroenterology Organisation Practice Guideline – Probiotics and prebiotics

Food Poisoning– Kefir has been shown to prevent and/or treat E. Choli infection in mice.

Immune System Stimulation– Ingestion of kefir has been shown to increase the immune response, and control the inflammatory response, thereby increasing resistance to disease, and limiting inflammation in allergy.

Inflammation– Good bacteria help reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, not just in the intestine. This includes blood vessel inflammation, arthritis and other areas of inflamation that show up with chronic disease. The mechanism of action is not known, although there are many theories. This is good news since most chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancers and more) have an inflammation component taking a probiotic supplement or drinking a probiotic beverage such as kefir could help.

Insulin Resistance– Some studies have found that people with insulin resistance also have an alteration in their gut bacteria.

Muscle Recovery After Exercise– Delayed onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) has an inflammatory component that has been shown in studies to be reduced when athletes took probiotics.

Obesity– Recent studies have discovered a link between obesity and gut bacteria.

Sugar Cravings Reduced- The cravings you experience, it has been determined by science, have a lot to do with what is inside of you. There have been many studies that show people who crave chocolate, or sugary treats have a different bacterial composition in their gut than people who do not. It has been shown that people who consume probiotic foods and supplements see a significant reduction in carbohydrate cravings. 

Vaginal Yeast Infections and Other Candida Albicans Issues– Some women have reported either ingesting probiotics orally or inserting vaginally to repress an over abundance of yeast growth. see article: Can Kefir Help Candida Albicans Growth?

Conclusion– Probiotic foods and drinks have been a part of human culture since the beginning of recorded history and beyond. Since there are no harmful side effects, and a myriad of benefits, does it not make sense to add probiotics to your daily diet? Especially since it costs a mere pennies to get started making water kefir, or other probiotic beverages and foods. Order Water Kefir Grains (buy grains one time and they will last a lifetime!)

References:

Home Made Milk Kefir vs Store Bought

Making Milk KefirKefir Products- Homemade or Store Bought Milk Kefir?

What Is The Difference?

People often ask whether they should buy kefir products in Canada at the local grocery store. My answer is always, "It depends."

The best kefir is the one you have and drink. So the first criteria is often simply to know whether you will take the time to care for the kefir culture, or if ready-made is better. Don't get me wrong, it is not a lot of work to keep a milk kefir starter healthy, but it does require a daily milk change, and some stirring. Not much work, but still more than some people are willing to take on.

If you do have 5 minutes a day to care for a milk kefir culture, then milk kefir grains will be a very worthwhile investment for your health. You may have heard that home made kefir milk is better for you than store bought milk kefir. Or you might just assume it is better without knowing why.

Store bought milk kefir is factory made using a very few specific bacteria strains. In fact it is more similar to yogurt than it is to authentic kefir milk made from heirloom milk kefir grains. Foods sold in the store need to be standardized. It is important for manufacturers to produce a consistent product. They limit the numbers of bacteria, and inhibit their growth. They also completely leave out the beneficial yeasts that are in the products. All of this is to provide consistency, but also to prevent bacterial activity from causing enough gas that the container will explode.

When you start making your own kefir, you will appreciate what that means. As bacteria and yeast devour the milk sugars, they put out gases like CO2 that create an effervescent (fizzy) quality. I always make kefir with a loose fitting lid so the gases do not build up. Manufacturers, however, need to properly seal their product. That could be a recipe for disaster.

So here is the breakdown of bacteria and yeast found in traditional kefir milk made from authentic heirloom milk kefir grains like we sell to Canadians on this site.

Homemade Kefir Bacteria and Yeast Breakdown

Bacteria Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Lactobacilli
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus brevis
Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei
Lactobacillus paracasei subsp.paracase the
Lactobacillus fermentum
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lactobacillus helveticus
Lactobacillus kefir
kefiranofaciens Lactobacillus subsp.kefiranofaciens
Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens subsp. My kefirgran
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis,
Lactobacillus parakefir the
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris,
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis,
Streptococcus thermophilus
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.cremoris,
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.mesenteroides
Enterococcus durans
Acetobacter aceti

Fungi Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Dekkera anomala / Brettanomyces anomalus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Candida Friedrich the
Candida humilis
Saccharomyces Exiguus Torulopsis Holm
Candida inconspicu A
Kluyveromyces marxianus / Candida kefir
Pichia fermentans / Candida firmetari Candida lamblia by
Issatchenki orientalis / Candida krusei
Candida maris
Cryptococcus humicolus
Debaromyces hansenii / Candida Famatina A
Debaromyces occidentalis
Galactomyces Geotrichum
Kluyveromyces lactis has . lactis
to loddera Kluyveromyces
Saccharomyces cerevisiae,
Saccharomyces pastorianus
Saccharomyces unisporus
of Yarrowia lypolyti / lypoliti by Candida
Zygosaccharomyces rouxii
Saccharomyces sp nov turicensis

Kefir-specific Yeast Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Kluyveromyces marxianus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces Exiguus
Candida kefir,
Saccharomyces unisporus
turicensis Saccharomyces
Pichia fermentans
in Yarrowia lypolyti

Bacteria, Fungi and Yeast Isolated In Store Bought Kefir

Str.lactis,
Str.diacetylactis,
Str.cremoris,
L.acidophilus,
Lb.lactis,
Kefir bars Type I (Licaucasicus and
L.brewis)


Liberte Kefir ProductsWOW! That is quite a difference right? I don't know which brand was tested. The study I read was in Turkish so I assume it was a Turkish bought kefir product. In Canada, one of the most prominent brands (and my favorite store brand!) is Liberté brand. Their kefir is organic, and quite delicious. You can also choose between effervescent and non-effervescent types. On their site, they state, "Our flat Kefir contains 10 types of bacteria and provides one billion bacteria per serving." (Comparatively, 2 cups of home made kefir can contain as many as 5 TRILLION bacteria!!) source~ SCDiet.net

That's a great start. If you think you do not have time to care for milk kefir grains starter culture, then Liberté kefir may be for you.

So now, when someone asks you, "What is the difference between homemade milk kefir and store bought milk kefir, you can tell them, "The difference is microscopic!"

Kefir Facts FAQ

I Have A Question About Kefir….Kefir Questions and Answers

Whether you are new to kefir, or an old hand, questions are bound to come up from time to time. Here are some frequently asked questions about kefir making. Click the linked question to go directly to that answer, or read through the whole page. If your question is not answered here, please take time to ask in the comment section. This way everyone can learn!

General Kefir Grains Questions:

Water Kefir Questions:

Milk Kefir Questions:

General Kefir Grains Questions:

  • What The Heck Is Kefir?- Kefir is a probiotic rich drink made by introducing a culture of "kefir grains" to milk (usually dairy) or water and sugar. Making kefir is simple and costs literally pennies a glass. The result is quite possibly the most healthy super food I have in my wellness arsenal. Follow these links to read more…

  • Can I Make Kefir Without Grains?– First of all, some people think kefir grains are made from grains like wheat. They are not. The "grains" terminology is simply a name for the firm gelatin-like cultures that make kefir. So the facts are, while kefir is not made with grain, you want to know wether you can make your own kefir grains at home without buying them.Most people say "no", but it has been done.In 1990 researchers made kefir grains for the first time and documented their method in a scientific paper. It was not easy, and it was made using goat hide bad and bacteria from sheep intestines. These are things that are not readily available in Canada. I did a post about the procedure. Read How To Make Kefir Grains
    So for most people, buying the culture, or buying kefir grains are the only ways to make kefir at home. The great news is if you buy kefir grains they will last a lifetime.
  • What's Better… Kefir Grains or Powdered Kefir Starter?– Powdered kefir starters have a limited number of bacteria, as they are developed to be standardized and consistent every time. They also lose their potency with subsequent brews so you need a new packet of starter every 3-6 batches. Kefir grains are inexpensive (usually about $5 a tablespoon) and you only need to buy them once in a lifetime. Once you start brewing your grains they grow and get stronger. Live kefir grains also provide a wide range of bacteria and yeast similar to what would be found in your intestine. Since the idea is to create a healthy microbiota in your body, kefir grains are superior.
  • Can I make my own kefir grains?– Kefir grains can not be made. Real kefir grains are passed from one owner as their supply grows into more than they can use themselves. Kefir grains are a very precise community of bacteria and yeast that exist together without one overpowering the other. I suspect "in nature" that the formation of milk kefir grains is a relationship that develops occasionally in raw milk and prevents it from going bad. In most parts of the developed world, milk is pasteurized (in Canada i is illegal to sell raw milk), so the formation of grains just would not happen. Even when people can get raw milk, I suspect one would spoil an awful lot of milk before the proper mix of bacteria and yeast. I suspect something similar if trying to culture sugar and water. Rather than causing people to get sick trying sour beverages, or trashing a lot of milk and/or sugar, it is best to just spend a little bit of money and get the culture. After all, when buying kefir crystals, it is a one time purchase that lasts a lifetime! also  Read How To Make Kefir Grains
  • Is My Kefir Ready?- This question is not easily answered in a few sentences. Please see How Do I Know If My Kefir Is Ready for answers.
  • How Much Kefir Should I drink?– Kefir is a food with benefits (not a drug), but some people still have an adjustment period. If your digestion tends to be finicky, start with 1/4 cup after a meal once every day, and listen to your body. If you tolerate this fine, then increase the amount, eventually moving it to BEFORE meals, as the good bacteria will aid in digesting your food. I personally drink up to 4 cups a day. There's no real limit. Just drink it when you want.
  • How Long Does Kefir Keep?– The kefir grains will keep indefinitely as long as you follow the instructions for storage. Once kefir is made, it will keep for a very long time. Remember that fermentation was a way of keeping foods safe to consume before refrigeration. I keep mine a month or more. Use your own judgement, and trust your nose and taste buds. Bad kefir smells bad and tastes bad. You will know. 
  • Where can I buy kefir grains?– It is particularly difficult to find them in Canada I have found. I ordered mine from someone in the States when I got them, and worried about extra duties and getting stopped at the border. We now sell kefir grains- we ship anywhere in Canada or US. Our kefir grains are packed to withstand the Canadian winter too! 
  • Does Kefir Cure Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Like Crohn's or IBS?– Kefir does not cure inflammatory bowel disease. It could help though. Read my article – Kefir and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Water Kefir Questions:

  • What are some other names for Water Kefir?- Tibicos, tibi,& water kefir grains, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees, and in older literature asbébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees. source: Wikipedia
  • What is Water Kefir?– Water kefir is a probiotic rich beverage made with water, sugar, bacteria and flavoring.
  • What Is The Difference Between milk Kefir and Water Kefir?– Aside from the obvious, they are pretty similar. Even though you need milk kefir grains to culture milk, and water kefir grains to culture sugar water, the resultant beverage has a similar probiotic mix. They both have many strains of bacteria and yeast that exist in a perfect balance.
  • Can I Use Milk Kefir Grains to Make Water Kefir?– No. While you may find on the internet that some people claim to ferment all kinds of things with milk kefir grains or tibicos grains, the bottom line is … these probiotic culture starters have evolved to eat a specific kind of sugar and to survive in a specific kind of medium. Milk kefir grains thrive on lactose and other components of milk. While you may get a probiotic beverage once or twice, eventually it will be evident that the bacteria and yeast are out of balance. The grains will stop growing, perhaps even die, and the beverage will show signs of being off.
  • How Do You Make Water Kefir?– I have easy instructions for making water kefir right on this site. Click the link or use the menu at the top of the page or on the right hand side to find the instructions.
  • What Is Water Kefir Supposed To Taste Like?- Water Kefir taste depends somewhat on the type of sugar used and whether you use molasses or not. It also depends on the amount of time you let it ferment. In my Basic Water Kefir Recipe I do use molasses and I usually let mine ferment for 48 hours and then drink it with no added flavor. Made this way it is sweet. It has a bit of a "fermented" taste to it. It is lightly fizzy but not as carbonated as pop (or soda depending on where you live). It taste to me like a slightly fruity, slightly fermented, slightly fizzy drink. It reminds me of dried fruit like apricots or raisins. It smells slightly sweet, and slightly fermented (like a very light beer smell) If you have ever had REAL apple cider (not the pasteurized stuff from the super market) then you will find it is similar. I think it is absolutely delicious just the way it is but some people like to flavor it. After you strain the grains, you can add a tsp of vanilla or more and it taste like cream soda. Add ginger slices and let it ferment another day and you have ginger beer. Add strawberries or pineapple and some ice and… well you get the picture!
  • What Does Water Kefir Look Like?- It looks like iced tea if you make it with brown sugar and/or molasses which is how I make water kefir. The grains are anywhere between white/clear and brown or yellow/clear depending on what color sugar you use. Browse around this site. There are lots and lots of pictures of kefir in various stages of the fermenting process.
  • What Is The Alcohol Content Of Water Kefir?- This totally depends on how long you let it ferment, what kind of sugar you use etc. Alcoholic fermentation is the conversion of sugar into carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and ethyl alcohol through the work of yeasts found on the food itself and within the culturing agent (kefir grains, kombucha culture, whey, ginger bug, etc.) It is safe to say that the alcohol content of a 24-48 hour ferment is 0.5%- 2.0% according to authority sites. If you add fruit juice for a secondary ferment you can increase the alcohol content to something quite highly alcoholic, especially if done under air lock. Water kefir and milk kefir both often smell a little like beer. It is partly because of the fermentation which adds alcohol content, and it is partly because of the yeast (kefir probiotics are made of yeast and bacteria)
  • Does Water Kefir Have The Same Benefits As Milk Kefir?– Yes… with the exception that milk kefir has some benefits imparted to it by the milk itself… protein, calcium etc. Tibicos bacteria tend to be less in number than in home made milk kefir so it can be tolerated better in people who are sensitive. So as far as probiotics go, water kefir is just as beneficial and may be tolerated better by some people. I have a Kefir Benefits page on this site with references to Studies and Clinical Trials. Click "Benefits" in the menu above for more facts.
  • How much Water Kefir Should I Drink?- This is another "It Depends" kind of question. Some people can drink as much as they want and not have any problems. Some people have side effects or "die off" and need to drink a little bit each day until their body gets used to it. In traditional diets, people used to eat or drink fermented foods and beverages every time they ate. Since we have gotten away from the practice, your internal works may experience some issues. So take it slow in the beginning. Start with a small amount… maybe 1/4 cup the first day and slowly increase as tolerated. Whatever you do, don't stop drinking it once you start. Your body will thank you.
  • What Are The Side Effects of Water Kefir?- Kefir is not a drug, so I really dislike the term "side effects" applied to it. Sometimes when you start adding back the good bacteria you can have a "war" of sorts in your belly. This struggle happens as the good bacteria fight to get the upper hand and the bad bacteria start to die off. The most common complaints are flatulence (gas), and be warned… it can get pretty smelly. Constipation and belly pain or discomfort, and heartburn are common complaints. I can not stress enough that you must persist! What's a little gas in the short term for all of the long term benefits of a healthy gut?
  • How Do I Know The Water Kefir Grains Are Working?- As a new kefir maker, you often are unsure whether your brew is behaving normally or not. Visit the Water Kefir Instructions Page to find out what signs to look for so you know what is normal.
  • Should Water Kefir Grains Float?- In a healthy kefir brew, some of the grains will float to the top, or rise and sink. This is quite normal and in fact it one of the signs of a healthy kefir. You see, the crystals let off gases like CO2 during the fermentation process. Occasionally some of the gas gets trapped in the kefir grain as it is growing, and this causes it to float.
  • Why Do You Add A Lemon To Water Kefir?– Sugar and water is THE perfect environment for bacteria and fungii to grow. A slightly acidic environment suppresses the activity of the 'bad' stuff. Lactic Acid bacteria produce acidity in the beverage, but needs a bit of time to establish itself. The citrus piece is a very important step as it adds a little bit of acidity to keep the bad bugs suppressed until the probiotic bacteria get established. 
  • Can I Eat The Solid Bits?- Yes absolutely. They often multiply fast, and it is not unusual to have lots of extras. Blend them into smoothies or just sprinkle them on your cereal in the morning.
  • Is Water Kefir Good For Diabetics?- You need to use your own judgement on this but I say YES! Here is why… Even though you put 1/4 C of sugar in 3 cups of water, by the time you drink it 48 hours later, the grains have devoured somewhere around 80% of the sugar. Since there is about 55 grams of sugar in 1/4 cup that means that there is only about 3 grams of sugar in a cup left after a 48 hour ferment. There is 10 grams of sugar in a cup of apple juice. Adding to that, probiotic use in diabetics has been shown to improve lipid profile (cholesterol) and help manage blood sugar. Here is just ONE of the many many studies done on this … Antidiabetic effect of probiotic dahi containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei in high fructose fed rats.
  • What To Do With Extra Water Kefir Grains?- Healthy tibicos multiply. In fact, when my grains are really happy they will double or even triple in 24-48 hours! That's a lot of culture! Eat them as mentioned above. Add them to smoothies or shakes. Feed them to your pets. They are also a great soil amendment and are wonderful in the compost pile.
  • Can I Freeze Water Kefir Grains?- Yes absolutely. Freezing cultures for short periods of time usually won't kill the cultures. In fact, sometimes when shipping cultures in Canada they freeze while in transport. If your live water kefir grains arrive frozen, simply allow them to defrost at room temperature, and proceed making your first recipe. For storing purposes, water kefir grains do better if they are dehydrated, but freezing for a couple of months at a time is an option. Remove them from the sugar solution, rinse them gently and pat dry with a paper towel. Then put into a ziplock freezer bag and cover them with sugar to help protect against freezer burn, and pop into the freezer.
  • Can Water Kefir Crystals Go Bad?– There are a number of things that can cause water kefir grains to go bad. Chemicals in the water, not enough sugar, or cross contamination from other bacteria are just a few examples of what could cause bad grains. For information on how to fix bad water kefir grains visit "Good Grains Gone Bad".
  • Can Kefir Grains Die?- Yes they can (after all they are made up of live bacteria and yeast), but sometimes you might think they are dead but they are only sick! They are pretty resilient little guys. If your grains have a white film, a really stinky smell, and are doing nothing in the sugar water, then they may be dead, but they may just need some TLC. Follow the link above and visit the Good Grains Gone Bad post and see if you can revive them by following the instructions found there.

Milk Kefir Questions:

  • Why Does My Kefir Curdle or Clot Before It Thickens?– It is the kefiran that gives your kefir a thicker consistency. You can encourage the production of kefiran and healthy milk kefir grains by keeping your kefir in an area close to 25 degrees celsius, by stirring it often, by using higher fat milk, and by using milks that have lactose as the main sugar. This is such a universal question that I answered it more in depth in a post. Read more about making thicker kefir.
  • My Kefir Is Fizzy (or tingly) On My Tongue. Is It Bad?– Both Milk Kefir and Water Kefir have an effervescent quality. They get fizzy, just like pop (soda). In fact, if you cover it nice and tight for a second ferment, it can get so fizzy that a pressure build up can pop a top! Milk Kefir that you buy in the store is often like drinkable yogurt with no fizz, but that is because they use inhibitors to stop that action. Otherwise they would be blowing tops all over the place! This is another reason why I love home made kefir.
  • Can Kefir Grains or Kefir Milk Be Frozen?– Both kefir grains and traditional milk kefir made from heirloom grains can be frozen, and still maintain biological action with no diminished bacterial count. read more on the post "Can I Freeze Kefir Grains?"

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Diabetes Concern? Drink kefir!

Scientists Confirm Yogurt, Kefir Intake Reduces Incidences of Type 2 Diabetes

Kefir Milk Reduces Risk Of DiabetesA study published this month in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for Diabetes, confirms that regular servings of fermented dairy products reduces the risk of developing diabetes later in life. It is not a trifling reduction in risk either. In fact, the risk is reduced by nearly a third!

The reasons behind the reduction in risk are as yet undefined, but it is thought to be linked to an increased intake of probiotic bacteria, as well as perhaps a form of vitamin K that is produced during the fermentation process.

Dr Nita Forouhi, the head of the scientific team, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University, said:

“This research highlights that specific foods may have an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and are relevant for public health messages.

“At a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yoghurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health.”

Just the other day I posted an article about researchers who have discovered that diabetics have different bacterial communities in their gut as compared to people who do not have diabetes. See Type 2 Diabetes May Be Caused By Probiotic Imbalance

As the evidence mounts, the message I am hearing is loud and clear… Drink Up Me Hardies Yo Ho! Fill up my cup with kefir!

 

Kefir and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Is IBS caused by an imbalance of the intestinal bacteria?

Could kefir cure IBS or Crohn's Disease? In fact, as reported by Huffington Post UK in May of 2012, "The results of a new Cedars-Sinai study suggest that an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut has been 'definitively linked' to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)." There are several other studies that link inflammatory bowel diseases with the gut microbiota (the term used to describe the intestinal bacteria as a whole).

Does that mean that kefir can cure Crohn's Disease or IBS?

No it does not mean that kefir will cure anything. There is compelling evidence that some of the probiotics that occur naturally in kefir can help resolve symptoms of IBS. Studies such as this one show that certain bacterial strains (in this case a type of Lactobacillus, which is found in fermented products such as kefir) did completely resolve the abdominal pain associated withIBS.

A study of a different strain of Lactobacilli used in children with antibiotic resistant enterococci infection showed that "LGG supplementation temporarily eliminates the VRE carrier state and increases gastrointestinal counts of Lactobacillus spp. in children versus placebo."

More study is needed, however, in the meantime it is my opinion that kefir falls under the umbrella of "Could Help, Can't Hurt". if you could make something for pennies a day that would give you a boost in nutritional status, improve immunity against disease, and COULD reduce or remove intestinal inflammation… why wouldn't you?