Sunday, May 22, 2011


A friend gave me some kefir grains a week or so ago.  I had never tried kefir (pronounced keh-fear) before.  Jeff had tried some of the store bought flavored stuff and liked it.  So I read up on how to make kefir with the grains I had, how to store it, and its health benefits.  I decided it was time to see how it worked.  So I puts a couple tablespoons of kefir grains in a quart mason jar, covered it with 2 cups of raw milk, stirred, and let it sit.  24 hours later I strained the grains out and had fresh kefir.  We decided to refrigerate it and try it chilled.  Jeff and I had a glass at dinner.  All but one of the kids had a sip.  It was too tart for their tastes.  While Jeff and I don't love the taste, it isn't so horrible that we can't drink it.  I'm hoping it is an acquired taste!

I already knew that cultured foods are really good for our bodies.  Most people have heard about the good bacteria (or cultures) in yogurt.  Some have even heard of these bacteria being referred to as probiotics.  If you are unfamiliar with beneficial bacteria or probiotics, I recommend learning about them.  Our bodies have bacteria and yeasts in them and they should be balanced.  The good bacteria and yeasts (not the kind you use to make bread) keep the bad ones in check.  Sometimes the bad ones take over and we have an imbalance.  Kefir and other cultured products can help to restore that balance.  You can also buy expensive probiotics in the store.  The benefit of kefir versus yogurt is that kefir has move variety of bacteria as well as healthy yeasts whereas yogurt has only a very few bacteria and no yeast. An overgrowth of bad yeast (candida) can cause thrush in babies and nursing moms, yeast infections, and is the cause of many of the illnesses that we suffer today- food allergies being one of them.  Most people may not believe that a systemic yeast infection can cause food allergies, but I will tell you why it does.  When yeast takes over in your gut it grows "roots" that create holes.  Undigested proteins go through these holes and into the bloodstream.  Your body attacks these proteins because they are foreign.  This is an allergic reaction.  Now, this isn't to say that there are no other possible causes of food allergies.

There are many reasons that yeast has the ability to take over in our systems.  We drink water with chlorine.  Chlorine kills beneficial bacteria in our system.  We eat so much refined sugar in our diet.  Yeast feeds on sugar.  In fact, it feeds on any kind of sugar - fruit, lactose in milk, sugars in grains.  So kefir and other cultured foods are a must in this day and age if we want to keep our systems in balance.

Over the Christmas holiday in 2009, our family got hit with a horrible stomach flu.  We refer to it as the Great Plague of 2009.  It was probably a form of salmonella or e-coli picked up by my then 3 year old Natalie while we were traveling.  As much as we washed our hands, it didn't seem to matter.  Drew was 4 weeks old.  The plague left us with thrush.  Natalie and I were sick for a few weeks.  It seemed to come and go.  It was THE WORST illness I have ever experienced.  No one else got it as bad as the two of us.  I honestly believe that our systems have not been in balance since that time.

I am now on a mission to fix this.  We are changing our eating habits.  I plan to introduce more cultured foods into our diets.  I plan to try lacto fermented vegetables, which include sauerkraut.  I'm hoping that fresh, homemade sauerkraut is better than the canned stuff you can buy at the store.  We are also going to eliminate the use of refined sugars.  I will be using sucanat, honey, and maple syrup.  I already grind my own whole grain flour, but I intend to make sourdough breads or soak our grains to aid in digestion.  I have attempted to make a sourdough starter several times, but it just hasn't worked out.  5th time is the charm, right?  I'm going to get it one of these days! 

All of these new ways of preparing food require more time and effort.  Most of the time involved doesn't actually require me to be standing there doing actual work, so maybe it is more planning that is really required.  I have learned what to do, and now I have to learn to DO IT.  That is the hard part- at least for me.  So here we go.  Kefir was the first step.  I am now drinking 8 ounces each day.  My next step is to eliminate white sugar and stick to only whole grains.  I have been about half and half on the whole grains and it is time to step it up!

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