17 November 2012

Hello kefir, meet my gut

There's been an introduction taking place in my gut.

New, friendly bacteria, please meet existing, possibly not entirely friendly bacteria.

I've started on a new adventure making probiotic drinks, full of good bacteria that will colonise my intestines.

Kefir, water kefir and Caspian Sea yoghurt
Horrified by the price of probiotic powders and pills, and informed by a gastroenterologist at a party that most of them don't have the right strains of bacteria or not enough of them, I made some purchases that let me turn real food into probiotics. Hence the new line up of Agee preserving jars on our kitchen bench (at which my husband rolls his sterile western eyes).

I bought some kefir grains, which when plonked into milk and allowed to sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours, ferment the milk into a slightly thickened, tangy drink that is yoghurt-like, yet different. It's sharper and a bit fizzy, and I think has a tiny bit of alcohol in it. It's meant to be so probiotic that it puts normal yoghurt to shame.

If you've read the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' series, you might remember Lisbeth drinking some kefir. She'd bought it of course - Lisbeth doesn't make food! In some parts of the non-Western world it's drunk regularly, and a quick search on pubmed does suggest kefir is indeed good stuff. And the importance of healthy gut flora for good health is really taking off in mainstream medicine (see this from the Economist, where gut flora made the front cover).

Water kefir grains
I also bought some water kefir grains, which get put into a jar with sugar, water, lemon, raisins, root ginger and not much else, and make ginger beer (most of the sugar is eaten up by the kefir). I suspect this is the only one of my concoctions that anyone else in the family will partake in. The first batch is ready for drinking tomorrow, and my premature taster was delicious.

Finally, I bought a bit of Caspian Sea yoghurt. How did a yogurt fiend like me know this existed? Anyone who eats plain yoghurt, this is fantastic news: I just mix one part of Caspian Sea yoghurt in with nine parts milk and let it stand in a jar at room temperature for 24 hours. There is no preheating of the milk or anything fussy like that. It turns into the most wonderful, creamy yoghurt. It's definitely not as thick as Greek yoghurt, but I prefer mine a bit runny. Incredibly easy, and apparently full of probiotics.

I bought my water kefir grains and Caspian Sea yoghurt here. They are about $16 a pop.

You may remember I'm not having gluten or dairy to try to get rid of my migraines. It kind of worked, and at least halved their frequency. I'm still following that diet apart from introducing the fermented dairy. However, even with that my migraines have increased again. But I will persist for a while: it's meant to take two weeks for the gut bacteria to adjust.

However, I now know that my gut must be leaking gluten and casein into my blood stream (where, so the theory goes, it then acts on my nerves to sensitise them and make me more prone to migraines). There is another slightly whackier theory that says probiotics can heal the gut's leakiness. So that's what I'm trying to do with these unusual drinks - heal the gappy gut.

I shared this post at Frugally Sustainable.


  1. What is your water kefir recipe and method? I tried making some according to the directions that came with them, but it tasted so fermented that I couldn't drink more than a sip or two. I froze the grains with hope to try again.

  2. Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for your offer of Caspian Sea Yoghurt. We've moved to Wellington now so I won't be able to pick some up, otherwise I would definitely want to take you up on the offer.




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