I bought some Kefir “grains” a while ago (see them pictured above). With them you can make a kind of cultured milk which is full of healthy bacteria (like probiotics) and is meant to be very good for you. As i have been having a lot of trouble with my digestive system i thought i would give it a go when someone else with ME told me about it…
I would say it has been a bit of a bumpy ride, but that i am gradually finding a good relationship with my Kefir (well it is a living thing!).
The first problem is that it was quite cold weather when i first got my Kefir grains, and they were small. They need a warm place in the house to be able to “grow” in the milk (it takes a lot longer at cooler temps). An airing cupboard is recommended – we don’t have one. I think the Kefir was not fully active when it first arrived and that with the cool temps meant that nothing much seemed to happen.
Secondly i don’t actually like milk. Not the cow variety anyway. Kefir lives in dairy milk but i don’t like the taste and have long consumed soya milk instead. I eat cheese and used to eat yogurts (have not reintroduced them yet since my strict IBS diet as soya yogurts are so nice!) but hate warm yogurty smells. Milk Kefir is slightly soured/cultured milk and so not to my taste. I have been using soya milk to make it but it does involve keeping it fed in dairy milk every other batch to allow the grains to grow/stay alive as they cannot thrive in soya milk and would eventually die if only used with it. So i have been throwing a lot of cultured cow’s milk away which i don’t really like to do but even when holding my nose i cannot force it down! (I did try).
Good news is that with all that cow’s milk the grains have grown in size and are now happily producing me soya milk kefir on a regular basis. This tastes fine usually (not a lot different to soya milk but it goes thicker a bit like a soya yogurt or pudding – a bit like slime but it slides down!). I do have to be careful not to leave it too long as it can go fizzy which makes it less palatable, although from what i have read it is still fine to consume. The time this takes depends on the temperature, the size of the grain and the amount of milk so it is hard to judge.
I don’t know if it is having any positive effects on me; my IBS symptoms have certainly improved with my dietary changes and i have also been taking other probiotics so who knows. If what i have read online is to be believed Kefir is very good for us so i will carry on for a while and see what happens.
It is a bit of a hassle and i do end up throwing a lot away (both the cow’s milk and any that gets too fizzy etc) but i am also consuming quite a lot with no obvious negative effects. It does create some washing up too but i don’t usually have to do my own so that’s ok!
I am not sure i would recommend Kefir yet, as i feel i have a bit more experimentation to do to get reliably nice Kefir – i feel i must be missing something as i only like the flavour if it is not too fermented – as soon as it starts to separate (the soya milk – i have not let the dairy kefir get that far!) it tastes horrible to me… but i am carrying on for a while longer to see.
When i read about the new urine test for ME in the article in the Telegraph and saw it partly seems to be related to gut bacteria & probiotics http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/5407749/ME-Proof-that-it-isnt-all-in-the-mind.html i thought well at least that backs up that Kefir is worth a try. I do not know if this is the “key” to ME as they are claiming, but it may be a factor – we shall see what further research and trials bring… here is what the ME Association say about it: http://www.meassociation.org.uk/content/view/875/161/
I have emailed the company to ask for a test, but have not heard back from them (expect they have run out by now!). I thought it may be interesting to know if those processes/problems were part of my illness and to “test the test” and see if it mirrors the severity of illness i think i have, with the result. Will let you know if i ever get my hands on one.
This website has A LOT of Kefir info: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#soymilk and is a little eccentric too! (kefir in space?)
http://crystalcultures.co.uk/live_cultures.htm describes Kefir:
Kefir is such a balanced and nourishing food that Regular use of Kefir can help relieve Most intestinal disorders, Easily digested and It cleanses the intestines Reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system it Provides beneficial bacteria and yeast Vitamins and minerals and complete proteins It contributes to a healthy immune system.
Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition.
Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter Streptococcus species.
Beneficial yeasts :
Saccharomyces Kefir Torula Kefir
These eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body by forming a Controlling Agent That Toughens the intestines. The body Then becomes Better at resisting such pathogens as E. coli Salmonella and intestinal parasites. Kefir’s active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than yogurt by digesting some the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and healthy. Its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity. Because the curd size of Kefir is smaller than yogurt, it is also easier to digest, which makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, invalids and the elderly, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders.