Every one of us has trillions of little companions. Some are inside our bodies. Some are on our skin. Trillions of microorganisms that not only need us to survive but help us survive also. Every day we are bombarded with untold numbers of harmful germ, bacteria and viruses. That's where our little hitchhikers come in to play. They not only attack and kill the nasties, they consume their tiny little corpses. How helpful are they? Well, about 80% of our immu8ne system is in our digestive system. Without our little cleanup crews we would all be dead.
Not only do those bad microbes cause problems, they release toxins that make us even sicker.
So, why do we need to replace the good bacteria? Various things can cause this. Have you ever: Taken antibiotics? Consumed chlorinated or fluoridated water? Used antibacterial soap? Consumed non-organic food (Agricultural chemicals.)? Consumed processed foods? Consumed a lot of sugar? Consumed refined grains? Been around pollution? These are all things that will kill off the beneficial bacteria which, in turn, promotes the growth of harmful bacteria.
What happens why your beneficial bacteria die? All sorts of things can, and do, go wrong. How about a list?
Some of the known health benefits of live Kefir made from live Kefir grains:
Apoptopic (cellular self-destruction)
Radio- and chemo protective
Upregulates glutathione and certain glycoproteins that help regulate immune responses, including interleukin-4, interleukin-10, and interleukin-12
Downregulates interleukin-6 (a cytokine involved in chronic inflammation and age-related diseases)
Inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitor, NF-kappaB, epidermal growth factor receptor, and more
Celiac disease, leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome Mood, psychological health, and behavior Epstein-Barr virus
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes
Common cold, influenza, and pneumonia
High cholesterol and hypertension Acne
Eczema and atopic dermatitis
Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and cancer
Food- and wheat allergies
Here is a link to Green Med Info which has studies of probiotics and a list of 199 things that can be treated with them!
Now I will talk a little about types of probiotics. First and foremost, don't bother with store bought probiotics.
Store bought kefir only contains about 7 bacterial strains and costs $5-10 for every small bottle. That brings us to the two types of milk kefir. You can get either live kefir grains of kefir starter. Don't bother with the starter. It also only has about 7-10 bacterial cultures and can only be reused a few times. Kefir grains, on the other hand, typically contain 50+ bacterial strains and can often be obtained for free (Check the links below, bulletin boards in your local whole foods/ health foods/ food coop/etc stores, friends that might make their own kefir, Craig's List free section or other online sources. The beauty of kefir grains is that as long as you take care of them they will keep multiplying and you will end up having to give some away from time to time. If you take care of them they will live longer than you will.
Milk kefir can be used in many ways. The natural taste of kefir is pretty much like unsweetened, plain yogurt. The taste will vary depending on the milk you use and what stage you let it get to. The more it ferments the more sour the taste. We typically let it get thick but still liquid enough to drink (This takes about 18-24 hours.) and make fruit smoothies out of it. If you let it sit longer you will see the curds and whey separate. I will get back to this in a minute.
The other kind of kefir is water kefir. Like milk kefir, water kefir grains can often be found online for free because they also multiply. As the name implies, this type of probiotic is made with water. Water kefir contains about 30-40 strains of beneficial bacteria, but these strains are different than the milk kefir strains. Water kefir can be made with many different flavors and is often called kefir soda because it carbonates while fermenting.
Now on to the super probiotics. Cultured, or fermented whole foods. You are already familiar with these foods just not in a probiotic form. Pretty much any vegetable that can be pickled falls into this category. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, etc. The difference is that the version you buy in stores or eat in restaurants has been pasteurized and/or homogenized. These processes kill the beneficial bacteria. Now, why did I call them super probiotics? Because they typically contain 100-200+ strains of beneficial bacteria!
There are different ways to make these super probiotics. The first is to buy culture starters. Typically you can make many gallons of fermented foods with the starters. You can also just follow recipes for these foods and let nature take its course. This method take a good bit longer than using cultures. The third way brings us back to the milk kefir separating into curds and whey. You can use some of the whey to culture your veggies!
This is an excellent site with tons of information on kefir.
Where to get kefir grains
You can get them from the above website, one of the following websites or you can Google Kefir grains.
I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children… - Wendell Berry, 1971