Kefir. My sister first mentions it a few years ago when I’m staying with her in Spain. It is a fermented milk drink made by combining kefir “grains” with (normally) milk. The grains act as a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter and when combined with milk, produce a drinkable yogurt with amazing probiotic benefits.
So far, so good. My sister has been taking it for some time, and has felt all the better for it.
When ingested, Kefir colonises the digestive tract with 35 different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts; in comparison, most shop bought natural yogurt has only a few.
Kefir has many health benefits: it boosts the immune system by keeping healthy bacteria in the digestive system – 80% of the immune system is in the gut; it reduces symptoms of IBS; it can improve lactose intolerance; and it has (anecdotally) worked wonders for people with eczema and other skin conditions.
So what’s the drawback? I think. I need this stuff in my life! My sister casually mentions that kefir can’t be bought (true at the time); you have to ferment the grains at home and feed them every day, until you have a thick, yogurty, sour-tasting substance which you drink daily.
Well, that’s my love-affair with kefir over with then! The thought of having anything growing or fermenting in my fridge makes me feel, quite frankly, sick.
Clare mentions it enthusiastically from time to time over the years, but I just smile politely and make my excuses.
More recently though, mentions of kefir has been cropping up here and there; more people are reporting good things about it, and it’s back on my mind again. My digestive system is certainly not great: since having children I haven’t been able to tolerate dairy or gluten; plus my immune system is shot to pieces. All in all, I’m probably the ideal candidate to give it a go, and yet the whole fermenting thing…..
A month ago, I go to pick up Ollie from pre-school. Emma, who runs it, corners me excitedly.
“Have you heard of kefir?” she wants to know (we have these kind of interesting conversations).
Oh here we go again… I think. Except this is different. A company called The Chuckling Goat are producing their own kefir from their small goat farm in Wales. The kefir is made with goats’ milk (better for me) and most of the lactose disappears during the fermentation process.
The farm sends you a 21 day course which is apparently plenty of time for your gut to become repopulated (for the long-term) with good bacteria.
I sign up as soon as I get home. It isn’t cheap, but if it improves things, it’ll be worth it.
Three weeks later, seven pints of goats’ milk kefir are delivered to me. They all go into the fridge; every morning on an empty stomach I must drink a third of a pint.
Day One: The first morning (I can’t lie), is awful. I expect the sourness, but not the thick consistency and the ‘fizzy’ sensation on the tongue. All through making the kids’ breakfasts, I’m feeling rough at the thought of it.
Day Two: I persuade Ollie to have a sip (evil mother!). He doesn’t bat an eye-lid. I decide I’m being a wimp. This time I don’t gulp it (to get it over with quickly!); I imagine it’s the amazing drinking yogurt that I had as a child on our holidays to Yugoslavia. It goes down better.
The instructions with the kefir suggest keeping a diary for the 21 days so that you notice any (subtle) change as they happen.
So this is the stage I’m up to: two days in to a 21 day challenge. If you have any thoughts or experience of kefir, I’d love to know; if not, I’ll see you on the flip side when I’ll be reporting back on the results and hopefully feeling somewhat better….
My face on Day One (looking slightly traumatised….)