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Announcing the opening of our Brooklyn office!

Thats So Gutsy

Like many others, I’ve suffered from intestinal issues for years but I seek nutrition to help out versus taking a pill. We’ve all seen commercials, and advertisements telling us to eat yogurt or take probiotics to improve our digestive systems. These companies claim their products are enriched with vitamins, minerals, and helpful bacterias.  Helpful bacteria? What is this all about?  Is this healthy and does it really make a difference to ingest something that adds “bacteria” to my gut?

The answer is, DEFINITELY!  Some “bugs” are actually good for your body.  "We depend on a vast army of microbes to stay alive: a microbiome that protects us against germs breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.  

What is a microbiome? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s Definition of Microbiome is:

 1: a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body

Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome.”

We need to maintain a proper level of healthy “bacteria” or microbes to enrich our gut.  Poor diet, medications, and illnesses such as obesity, can cause a decreased level in our intestines resulting in unwanted GI issues.

In obesity, research shows improvement in microbes is found soon after Bariatric surgery as your gut “changes in the microbiome and increases microbial gene richness.”  As with other causes (that decrease our GI microbes) diet is a key factor in maintaining a healthy gut. So, to keep a rich supply of these microbes in your gut and promote flora diversity, it’s important to be on a good probiotic and ingest fermented foods.  Research suggests that the most effective sources are live probiotics found in the refrigerated section of your grocers such as Kefir, Kombucha, sauerkraut, or other drinks/yogurts that contain bacteria strains, including Bifidobacterium lactis. The bacteria strain Bifidobacterium lactis is particularly helpful, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

If you want homemade products, there are many tutorials in making fermented foods.  One nutrition guide I’ve explored is “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. In this book, you’ll find several recipes including making sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and sourdough bread.

Getting back to my intestinal “issues”, one fermented product that helps me is Kefir.  I drink homemade Kefir daily to maintain regularity and retain a “calm” gut. 

Kefir is a “superfood” drink that has ancient roots.  There are many benefits to this delicious creamy “yogurt type” drink: 

  1. It contains Calcium which is good for your bones
  2. Is rich in probiotics and improves digestion
  3. Strengthens the immune system and is packed with plenty of protein, B vitamins, and potassium
  4. Has antifungal and antibiotic properties
  5. Is good for your skin

 

Homemade kefir is the best way to experience the numerous benefits.  If the store-bought kefir had the same fermentation activity as homemade, then the tops would blow, and it would be impossible to keep on the shelves.    

 

Equipment Needed:

  • Quart glass jar
  • Large plastic, fine-meshed strainer
  • Non-metal stirring utensil
  • A rubber band to secure a paper towel cover over the jar

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon milk kefir grains (first batch 7 years ago was purchased from Cultures for Health ).
  • 4 cups (I quart) whole milk is highly preferred.  But don’t worry, part of the fermentation process concentrates the protein and burns up the sugars.
Directions:
  • Place the kefir grains into the quart of milk in the glass jar.
  • Cover with a paper towel and secure with a rubber band or a lid ring around the open top.
  • Place in a warm area of the house 68-85 degrees.  The mixture will begin to culture.
  • Culture until the mixture slightly thickens and separates into a watery and a creamy base like this:

  • Remove the grains by pouring small amounts through the strainer into another non-metal bowl and pressing the creamy mixture through.
  • The grains look like cottage cheese and will remain in the strainer as the creamy kefir is strained into the bowl.
  • The creamy kefir, strained from the grains, goes into a milk jar, or a food-safe jar, and into your fridge.  This is a deliciously drinkable beverage.    
  •  Place the grains in another quart jar filled with fresh whole milk.  Then, repeat the process.

 

My Go-To Breakfast Shake:

½ cup Kefir

½ cup of coconut milk

1 scoop vanilla protein

½ frozen banana

½ cup frozen strawberries, pineapples, or mangos (Tropical fruit blend found in the frozen section at Costco)

1 handful spinach

1 Tablespoon sour cherry juice (good for inflammation)

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

Most of the ingredients, except the liquids, can be assembled in the blender jar and placed in the freezer the night before.  In the morning pour in the kefir and coconut milk and blend on high until blended and smooth.    

 

Check out these other Recipes:

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/tag/milk-kefir-recipes/

Additional studies of kefir’s benefits can be found online: 

https://www.slideshare.net/DrRaga/kefir-probiotic-benefits

https://simplyhealth.today/10-powerful-kefir-benefits-making-it-a-real-miracle/?msclkid=d0fb3187ec70116077cc6ca4807d4ce4