Category Archives: Probiotics

Are We Genetically Modifying Ourselves?

genetically modifying ourselves titel

I remember way back in elementary school science class when the teacher handed out magnifying glasses and told us to look at the ends of our fingers to study our fingerprints. I remember the teacher had us draw the patterns we saw whether straight lines or wavy, circles or whorls. Then we took our magnifying glasses and looked at our neighbor’s fingers, and we looked at their pictures – I was so surprised to see that everyone was different.

As adults we understand no two people have the same fingerprints, it’s one of the many characteristics that makes us each unique. But now we have learned there is something else remarkable, something else about humans that is also unique to each individual – our microbiome.

The Microbiome

 

Did you know that within the digestive tract of each human being there is a little ecological community? Within each adult are three to four pounds of a highly organized micro-world of bacteria, yeasts and viruses that are so important and so vital to our health and well-being that if they were sterilized away we would probably die.  This micro-world is populated by three categories of creatures. The Essential or beneficial flora, the Opportunistic flora, and the Transitional flora. The Transitional flora come into our bodies every day riding on our food, in our beverages or on our hands and fingers, and usually they go right on through to exit without any trouble. The Essential/beneficial flora are the ones that live permanently within us.  We are born into this world as a blank slate and within the first 20 days of life we receive our first and most important colony of Essentials coming initially from the birth process and from breastfeeding. As we grow into adulthood this colony grows and changes depending on what happens to us, how we eat, stress, the places we live, go to school, work, and play. The third category, the Opportunistic flora – about 500 different species strong – just hang out waiting for an opportunity to stage a coup; they want to take over, but a healthy population of the Essentials keeps them under control…unless something happens.

What does a healthy microbiome do?

When we have a healthy microbiome we are naturally protected from all kinds of threats from the outside world. The healthy microbiome, like a burly offensive guard, can physically block invaders such as undigested food or toxins or even parasites from getting through to the rest of the body. The healthy microbiome, like a living pharmacy, can also make their own antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and other specialized chemicals to aide the immune system. It can also neutralize toxins, chelate heavy metals and inactivate carcinogens. A healthy microbiome can even protect us from cancer.

What about an unhealthy microbiome?

If the Essentials grow weak or get damaged, the Opportunistic flora seizes the chance to take over. Candida, c. diff, salmonella and e. coli are all Opportunistic flora able to severely damage our bodies and even kill us when left uncontrolled. If we accidentally ingest something toxic the weak Essentials can’t do their job neutralizing it and we get poisoned. And then, if undigested food gets past and into the body we develop allergies and inflammation leading to serious disease. Without a healthy balanced and flourishing community of Essential flora the whole structure of our gut changes and we get sicker and sicker.

Gene Transfer and GMOs

Genes in our DNA are like computer programs for our cells, telling them what pattern to follow in order to replicate or make repairs.   In the 1950s scientists discovered that single-cell organisms like bacteria were able to share their genetic information (DNA) to other bacteria even when they weren’t related. This is called gene transfer.  Sharing genes with each other is how bacteria can quickly become resistant to anti-biotics. Scientists are now discovering that gene transfer can occur with organisms more complex than single-cell bacteria.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have artificially shared their genes via a laboratory process of Genetic Engineering. Read more about GMOs here. But since we know about gene transfer occurring in nature, we need to question the wisdom of Genetic Engineering. Tinkering with the genes of a corn plant doesn’t stop with the corn, it is altering a whole lot more in ways that biotech companies didn’t forsee.

A 2004 study showed that when humans ate genetically modified (GMO) foods the artificially created genes transferred into the Essential/beneficial bacteria of the gut and altered the character of the flora so that it couldn’t function normally.

GMOs and Superweeds

In a similar fashion we are now seeing gene transfer from genetically engineered crops like corn, soy, cotton and canola infecting the native plants surrounding the crop fields giving rise to superweeds that are highly resistant to chemical herbicides. Whether or not the biotech companies took these possibilities into consideration when they chose to release their creations into nature, we are now experiencing the consequences of their actions. The artificially engineered genes are now spreading among us and altering us on an intimate level as well as altering our environment.

How to Protect Your Microbiome

  • Avoiding GMO foods is one way to protect your microbiome from GMO gene transfer. You can learn more at the Institute for Responsible Technology’s site and get their shopping
    GMO verification

    look for this logo

    guide.

  • Eat plenty of fermented foods and beverages, especially if you have to take antibiotics. For some delicious fermented food recipes check here or here, or follow our Pinterest board on ferments.
  • Use filters for your water that remove chlorine.
  • Reduce your stress
  • Reduce your intake of sugar.

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7 Secrets to Controlling your Genes

Ben Lynch

Dr. Ben Lynch

Dr. Ben Lynch runs the website MTHFR.net where he posts his latest findings and research dealing with the MTHFR genetic mutations that so many people around the world have.  In spite of the health challenges faced by people with these genetic mutations (including the doctor, his wife and three children) Dr. Lynch still says we are not our diagnosis, we are still in control of so much simply because we can control our environments.

He gives as an example the fact that nearly 50% of people of Mexican heritage, and a large percentage of Caucasian and black Americans all have some kind of MTHFR mutation that results in neural tube defects, but people of Italian descent living in Southern Italy who have these same mutations do not have the problems with neural tube defects simply because their lifestyle and environment make up for their genes.

In reality everyone can have an impact for good by what we do to manage our environment. Dr. Lynch says one of his mentors was Dr. Lipton who taught at Lynch’s medical school, as well as produced a DVD about the impact of lifestyle. Lipton taught that everything we do in our life has an impact on what goes on with our bodies.

  1. We can be proactive and seek out dietary changes to bring about healing such as the GAPS diet, the Paleo Diet, or other clean-eating, nutrient-dense, probiotic rich food tradition.
  2. We can avoid using toxic pesticides inside our house and on our lawns, avoid harsh chemical cleaners and detergents, and make our homes as non-toxic as possible. Just like agricultural insecticides are killing off the bees, so are the toxic chemicals in our home environments causing injury to ourselves and our families.
  3. Even our state of mind can bring health or sickness. When we wake up grumpy, irritable and pessimistic this turns on our sympathetic nervous system and floods our body with negative hormones and neurotransmitters. Instead of allowing our body to work at fighting the toxins outside in our environment, instead it now has to work overtime just to detoxify those negative stress hormones, causing us to be more susceptible to sickness.
  4. Keeping our digestive tract populated with healthy, strong gut bacteria is important. Overgrowths of bad bacteria such as Candida will produce acetylaldehydes which have to be detoxified and cleared away. Beneficial bacteria actually absorb toxins for you, and even make certain vitamins for you thereby taking a load off your methylation pathways.
  5. Methylation is a critical function your body needs in order to keep your DNA regulated. If your DNA isn’t regulated then everything else can spiral out of control and you get cancer and many other conditions.
  6. Dr. Lynch reminds us that we are not born with things like bipolar, cancer or autism, but rather these kinds of conditions are environmentally triggered. If we life a life that is focused on eating well, sleeping well, exercising, living well and eliminating the toxins from our environment then we are on the right path. We need to be motivated and take the time and effort to understand and educate ourselves and others on important things like eliminating GMOs from our diet, focusing on organics and growing our own food and finding grassfed beef and eggs.
  7. Lastly we need to seek out integrative forms of healthcare, because the more advanced we get the more we realize that we need to return to our roots and live more simple lives. Follow the example of the backyard squirrel – he runs around outside all day, doesn’t eat anything processed, and then goes home and sleeps with his family and doesn’t worry about GMO pine nuts.

Be like the squirrel, find a good backyard and eat natural foods. That will control your environment in a positive way and help to keep the negative genes from getting activated and turned on. squirrel from Marie

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Vanilla Cinnamon Apple Holiday Kombucha

I have been making kombucha for years and still never get tired of imagining new flavor combinations. I love the fizzy, fermented, slightly sour taste; it makes a great afternoon pick-me-up. It’s just an added bonus that it’s good for me! If you don’t know what kombucha is, I blogged about it here.

Buchi Kombucha company donated all the delicious kombucha for the meals at the recent Wise Traditions 2013 conference. They showcased their new holiday flavor of apple, vanilla, cinnamon and clove. I loved it and wanted to recreate it at home. My daughter, who loves my kombucha, isn’t crazy about clove, so I left that out for her. I include it here in the recipe, but you can omit it if you want.

apples and cinnamon sticksVanilla Apple Spice Kombucha

1 quart plain kombucha

1/2 cup organic apple cider

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2″ piece of cinnamon stick

1 or 2 whole cloves

Add the spices, vanilla and cider to a clean swing-top or screw-top quart jar. Slowly pour in the plain kombucha to fill the container as full as possible. Close cap tightly. Cover the jar with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in an undisturbed place. Let the kombucha ferment at room temperature for two days. Chill well before enjoying.

 

What is kombucha and where did it come from?

kombucha scoby in jarWhen you see your first kombucha culture it is easy to imagine that it might be some ancient creature from a forgotten civilization. The kombucha beverage itself defies exact description as it can be both tart yet somewhat sweet, effervescent yet not really carbonated. The mystique surrounding kombucha only grows when you inquire about its health-giving properties. From the Russian provinces come reports of certain kombucha-drinking districts that appeared to be immune to the cancer and alcoholism plaguing other parts of the country. Asiatic populations have used it for centuries to combat fatigue, tension, hardening of the arteries, gout, rheumatism, hemorrhoids and diabetes. Other people find kombucha to be effective against headaches, constipation, arthritis, and irritability.

Yet kombucha is fairly new to the US. Trendy Hollywood starlets have been photographed with bottles of kombucha as they stroll around town. Pricey bottles with fancy labels line the refrigerated shelves in upscale health food stores. Still many Americans have never even heard of it. Before commercial brewers made the beverage widely available, kombucha developed a wide following in the 1990s by immune-compromised people looking for alternative treatments to conventional drugs. Kombucha’s low-carb qualities helped boost it into the mainstream in the early 2000s as dieters began looking for sugary soda alternatives.

Kombucha truly is ancient. According to Tom Valentine of Search for Health magazine ( http://www.kombu.de/val-gwf.htm ), kombucha derives its name from a Korean physician, Kombu,apple kombucha who was called to treat the Japanese Emperor Inkyo back around the year 415 A.D. Longstanding Russian tradition calls the beverage “tea kvass” made from “Japanese mushroom”. Even the culture itself goes by several names. Names include tea fungus, sponge, mushroom and SCOBY. This last name is an acronym, and is probably the most accurate. It stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.

How does the culture work and what does it really do? The kombucha SCOBY takes tea and sugar and ferments it, or cultures it, to make a powerful probiotic beverage full of beneficial acids, helpful enzymes and a wide spectrum of vitamins. The culture feeds on the sugar and tea producing these wonderful acids and vitamins. Star among the acids is glucuronic acid. Additional acids include lactic acid, acetic acid, usnic acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, gluconic acid and butyric acid. These various acids aid in digestion and assimilation of nutrients, provide antiviral properties, inhibit harmful bacteria, work synergistically with other nutrients, and aid in cell energy production. The main benefit of kombucha may come from the detoxifying effects of all of these components working together. Our bodies profit from kombucha due to these detoxifying effects.

Healthy livers make plenty of glucuronic acid in order to bind it to toxins that come from day-to-day metabolism and also from our environment. These toxins bind with glucuronic acid and are then sent to the excretory system and eliminated from our bodies. Toxins bound to glucuronic acid cannot be reabsorbed, so once they are bound up we are rid of them. Perscription drugs and antibiotics, pesticides, painkillers, even just eating too much sugar are all things that can damage a healthy liver. This begins a vicious cycle when our body’s detoxification system is damaged and we begin to suffer more disease and so we need more perscriptions to combat them which causes more damage and so on. The support received from the kombucha’s supply of glucuronic acid can be just what our bodies need to break free from this cycle.
kombucha ingredientsKombucha is easy to make at home. You can make gallons of refreshing, probiotic kombucha that cost less than one pint jar purchased from a health food store. You can flavor your home brewed kombucha in any way you like making custom-flavors not available in stores. Well Fed Family offers classes on home brewing kombucha. These classes include a starter jar and a SCOBY for each class participant. Contact us at healthyeating@wellfedfamily.net to schedule a class with your friends or to find out if we have an upcoming class available.

salsabefore

Delicious Homemade Fermented Salsa

salsa packet mixEver since my first cell phone with a camera I’ve been dangerous in the grocery store! I keep snapping photos of stuff I can’t believe exists in the food chain. Here we have a packet of “Hot Salsa Mix”. When I saw it strategically placed next to the produce display of fresh tomatoes I just about popped a contact lens rolling my eyes in disbelief.  Earlier this week I did a nutrition class for a local Brownie Scout troop. These bright 6, 7 and 8 year old children caught on very quickly that real food doesn’t have strange chemical names you can’t pronounce, and real food is grown outside not in a giant processing plant.  After we talked I had the girls (with some mommy helpers to use the sharp knives) chop up some fresh vegetables, squeeze a lemon and mix up some awesome salsa. It probably took a little longer than it should have since it was salsa-by-committee but still I don’t think it took more than a few minutes. Those girls eagerly dug in to the tantalizingly fragrant bowl of colorful veggies. They all said they were going home and making this again!

That is why this packet from the produce aisle caused me such grief. Here we have maltodextrin, tomato powder, sugar, modified corn starch, “spice”, natural flavors, powdered lime juice, artificial flavor and citric acid conveniently packaged up (and several of these ingredients are absolutely GMO too!) so we can have an “authentic blend of peppers, garlic and Mexican seasonings with ripe tomatoes and diced onion to create a fresh and spicy salsa.”  The trouble is I just don’t see any cilantro, oregano, garlic, or jalapeno peppers, which are the real “authentic Mexican seasonings”,  anywhere on the ingredient list. Spice, natural flavors and artificial flavors could be anything, anything at all. (Remember Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution ice cream sundaes with all-natural beaver gland flavor toppings!)

Since we have to chop up tomatoes and onions anyhow, let’s go ahead and go the whole nine yards and chop up the rest of the ingredients and make ourselves some honest-to-goodness real salsa.  This salsa has something else the packet mix doesn’t have – this one has beneficial probiotics!  If you have been wanting to take the first step into fermented vegetables this is the one to start with.  It’s easy to do and the results are something delicious and familiar, because everyone has had salsa before!

salsabefore

Homemade Fermented Salsa

4 ripe tomatoes        1 bunch cilantro or parsley

1 or 2 peppers (spicy or mild or both)

1 large onion             4-6 cloves of garlic        

1 Tblsp sea salt         4 Tblsp of whey*

  2 lemons        1-2 stems of fresh oregano

Have a large cutting board, sharp knife, large bowl and a quart-sized mason jar ready.  I like to peel my tomatoes but you can skip this step if you don’t mind the skins.  I peel tomatoes quickly by making an X cut on the bottom of the tomato and slipping it into a small pan of boiling water for about 30 seconds. The skins slip right off when you take them out of the water. You will need to scoop the seeds out which is also easy, just hold the cut half of a tomato in your hand and squeeze gently, then use your fingers to swipe out the seeds in one clump.

Use your sharp knife to dice the tomatoes, onions and peppers. Place them in the large bowl.salsa Mince or press the garlic and add it to the bowl. Chop up the cilantro or parsley, and strip the leaves off the oregano and chop them up too. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl over the veggies and herbs. Now sprinkle the sea salt over everything and mix well. Add the whey and mix thoroughly. 

Scoop everything into the mason jar and use a long-handled spoon to make sure everything is solidly packed into the jar. Bump the jar on the counter to settle everyting. Fill it to about an inch below the rim of the jar. If there isn’t enough of the juices to cover the top of the vegetables add in a little filtered water to cover. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean towel and cover tightly with the jar lid.

Now comes the fun part.  Set the jar of salsa in an out-of-the-way spot on your counter or in a cupboard where it won’t be disturbed. Let it stay there for two days.  At the end of the two days check to see how you’ve done. Hold the jar in a towel or over the sink and open the lid. It is perfectly fine to see fizzing or bubbles, the lid may even make a “pop” like opening a soda bottle. Next you give the salsa a good sniff. It should smell delicious and garlicky and tomato-y. If it smells good then you have done it! Congratulations! 

Place your fermented salsa in the refrigerator and let it chill. Then invite some friends over for a little party, serve your homemade salsa and celebrate! salsaafter

             *whey is the key to successful fermentation here. Whey is the clear liquid that drains out when you place cultured yogurt or kefir in a cheesecloth or coffee filter to drain. When the whey has drained into the bowl, save it in a jar in the refrigerator and use it to make delicious fermented vegetables. Use the thickened yogurt or kefir in recipes calling for cream cheese.                                                                                          

 

Homemade Ranch Dressing

“Maltodextrin, buttermilk, sald, monosodium glutamate, dried garlic, dried onion, lactic acid, calcium lactate, citric acid, spice, artificial flavor, xanthan gum, calcium stearate, carboxymethylcellulose, guar gum”     MMMM! Delicious! What???!!!   hidden valley ranch packets

Let’s take a look at the scary things in this ingredient list. Maltodextrin is a starch, a carbohydrate, that mostly just gives bulk to powdered things – a filler if you will. Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is an excitotoxin that has been proven to cause brain lesions and a long, long list of other horrible side-effects that are hazardous to your health. Citric acid is NOT, as the name implies, derived from citrus fruit. Citric acid is derived from Genetically Modified corn and is used to give foods a tart or sour flavor. Spice is a completely unregulated and undefined term the FDA allows food processing companies to use when they don’t want you to know the proprietary ingredients they are using. Basically it’s a loophole to protect the $ of the company and NOT to protect the consumer. Frequently “spice” means MORE MSG! Artificial flavor – again this could be anything.  Some artificial flavors are more toxic than others but since they don’t tell you we just don’t know.  Xanthan gum is a thickener made from bacteria that in and of itself is ok, but you don’t know what the growing medium for the bacteria was. Most likely it was GMO corn again. Calcium stearate keeps things from clumping, to waterproof fabrics, to make concrete pavers, to make glossy printer paper and as a lubricant in crayons. Hmmmm, is it food? Carboxymethylcellulose helps your laundry detergent clean tough soil stains better, they also put it in ice cream to make it seem thicker when they haven’t used any real cream or eggs. Again, is it food?

Thank goodness you can make Ranch Dressing at home!  Like so many, many of our modern foods this salad dressing was once both frugal and healthy.  Made from the buttermilk leftover from churning raw cream into butter it was high enzyme and had probiotic properties. The addition of a little sour cream boosted the probiotic factor and also added healthy fat that aided the digestion of the fresh salad greens and garden vegetables with which it was eaten. Try this recipe with your own homemade kefir in place of the buttermilk for even more probiotic goodness.

Ranch Dressing    minced garlic

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk or kefir

2 Tblsp quality, full-fat sour cream

2 Tblsp homemade mayonnaise or a good store-bought safflower mayonnaise

1 to 3 tsp chopped shallots or green onions

1 tsp chopped chives

1 tsp chopped parsley

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp sucanat or raw honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 small clove of minced fresh garlic OR you can use 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill for one hour to let the flavors blend. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to one week.

thyme

Customize Your Smoothies – Immune Boosting Superfoods

 

mango smoothie with titles

Smoothies are easy to make, healthy to eat and a great way to use fresh, seasonal fruit.  They are a tasty vehicle for your daily dose of probiotics as well as healthy fats.  Use your own homemade yogurt, kefir or coconut milk and they become quite economical, too.  What a great package! Eating in season, boosting immunity and thrifty too!

To make one generous serving gather your ingredients and a blender. I’ll show you how to make a basic version. Once you get the hang of it you can alter the ingredients to suit the season and your tastebuds.  I like to use frozen fruit or a mixture of frozen and fresh to give the end result a milkshake texture.

smoothie1Put one cup of plain whole milk kefir (coconut milk kefir for dairy free) or plain whole milk yogurt (preferably raw) into your blender.  I’ve found my hand blender works for a single serving but if I’m doubling or making more I use the large blender.  Add one frozen banana and a cup of sliced frozen or fresh strawberries.  I keep blueberries in the freezer and like to add a few of those too.  This plus an optional squirt of raw honey is all you need for a basic smoothie.

But don’t stop here – take the nutritional profile up a few notches by adding in a few other extras.  Use a half-cup of full fat coconut milk and/or a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil in your smoothie to get some healthy medium-chain fatty acids.  Add a spoonful of flax seeds for an omega-3 boost and extra fiber. A tablespoon of raw cream gives a silky texture and more fat soluble vitamin A and D. A sliver of raw ginger adds a zippy flavor and helpful anti-inflammatory properties.  Substitute an avocado half for the banana to reduce the carbohydrate count.  Add a raw egg yolk from a pasture-raised fresh egg too boost nutrient-density with B vitamins, choline and vitamin D as well as protein for healthy nervous system and cell repair. A tablespoon of nut butter or coconut manna makes it thicker plus adds more healthy fats.  A tablespoon of plain gelatin powder adds extra protein plus collagen for healthy digestion, joints and skin.

Customize your smoothies with your favorite fruits and change them with the seasons. Melons and ginger are refreshing for summer, pumpkin puree and a dash of cinnamon and spice keep things lively in autumn, you can even add a handful of parsley or kale for some super-green nutrition any time. Experiment and find your own favorites. I love pitted fresh/frozen cherries and a scant tablespoon of raw cacao powder or vanilla extract for a chocolate cherry or cherry vanilla treat. Or get that island feel with mango, pineapple and fresh coconut.

Customize Your Smoothies - Immune Boosting Superfoods
 
Author:
Recipe type: smoothie
Serves: 1 serving
 
smoothies are an easy, delicious way to pack a lot of nutrition into a portable meal
Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain full fat kefir, yogurt, or coconut milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 Tblsp raw honey (opt.)
  • Optional additions:
  • 1 Tblsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 Tblsp flax seed
  • 1 Tblsp plain gelatin
  • ½" slice fresh ginger
  • 1 egg yolk from a pasture-raised egg
  • 1 Tblsp nut butter or coconut manna
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
  2. Optionally - substitute a half an avocado for the banana to reduce carbs.
  3. Customize with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits such as chunks of melon, sliced mango, pineapple chunks, peach slices, pitted cherries, etc.

Share your favorite flavor combinations or your best superfood add-ins in the comment smoothie2section! We love trying new ideas!

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makingkefir

Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is one of the simplest of the cultured dairy products to make at home. A quart of storebought kefir costs about $4.40 but you can make your own for simply the cost of your own milk. Even a quart of our local raw grassfed milk kefir is half the cost of a quart of store bought made from pasteurized milk.  When you don’t have access to local clean raw milk making kefir from your store bought milk restores necessary enzymes and cultures helping to make inferior milk healthy and digestible again.

makingkefir

Milk Kefir

3 to 4 cups fresh, whole milk, non-homogenized and preferably raw

2 or more Tblsp milk kefir grains

1/2 cup organic or raw cream (not ultra-pasteurized) optional but delicious

 

    Place milk and optional cream in a clean quart-size mason jar.  Add kefir grains, stir gently and cover loosely wiht a clean cloth or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Place in a draft-free place for 12 hours or up to 2 days.  The length of time you leave your milk to culture depends on several things. How tart do you like your kefir? The longer you culture the more tart it will taste. How many kefir grains do you have? The more grains you have in relation to the amount of milk the faster it will culture.  Use a clean spoon to taste a bit of your kefir at the 12 hour mark and see if it is to your liking. If not, leave it to culture longer. If it is ready then continue as follows.

    Place a stainless steel strainer over a bowl. Pour the cultured milk, cream and kefir grains through the strainer. The kefir grains will stay in the strainer and your cultured milk kefir will go into the bowl. Use the kefir grains to make a new batch of kefir. Pour the kefir from your bowl into a jar and store covered in the refrigerator. 

    If you want to take a break for a little bit you can just leave the grains in the cultured milk kefir, cover it tightly and place it in the refrigerator for a few days. When you are ready to make more then strain and proceed as directed above. If you want to store your grains for longer then a few days then place the grains into a jar of fresh milk, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When ready to use again pour off the storage milk and discard, then proceed as directed above.

    The more often you use the grains the more powerful they will be. Unused grains will eventually die off and no longer be effective. Each time you use them the grains will multiply somewhat. Eventually they will multiply to the point where you have enough to give away to someone else so they can enjoy the benefits of cultured milk kefir! 

    Let your nose be your guide. Smell your kefir and become familiar with what fresh kefir smells like so that you can know when something is wrong by a change in scent.  When culturing the milk it is common and normal for separation to occur. If your milk and grains clump and a clearish liquid appears this is no cause for worry – just stir everything back together!  The white liquid is simply the whey, which is a powerful, protein-rich liquid useful for all kinds of recipes.

    Kefir grains can be obtained from a friend or online mail-order source. You can also purchase powdered kefir culture from health food stores but they will not reproduce. You must buy new powder each time. Kefir is a powerful probiotic beverage. Drink it straight or use it in smoothies, salad dressings or other recipes.