I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101) Featured

Authors: TheGreatFitnessExperiment

I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101)

Tell me how you really feel, kids…

Horror-stricken and wide eyed, my four little ones spent an hour last night staring through their grubby fingers at the TV — the only noise the ocassional “Oh GROSS.” At one point my second son groaned, “Please let me go mom! I can’t watch this show; I’m going to throw up!” I had no sympathy. “Sit down, kid.” No, we weren’t showing our kids the latest horror film. It was the tv show Hoarders. And they had to watch it as punishment for refusing to clean their room and hiding food in the basement making our home into a vermin Valhalla. We may be the only parents who punish our kids by making them watch television but then again we’re probably the only parents who once tried bribing our son to eat his pizza by giving him marshmallows. (Seriously long story whose ridiculousness was trumped only by it’s ineffectiveness. We were new parents. The end.)

I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101)

They are such hams. Just aim a camera in their general direction… Don’t know where they got that from!

On the episode, a “professionally certified organizer” (which is actually a thing! My husband looked it up and there really is a an international certification for being a good organizer!) lectured a woman who hoarded food about the perils of bacteria. “Bacteria can kill you!” he preached ominously as he held up an open carton of chicken broth so expired that the chickens who had died to make it met their bitter end five years before Jelly Bean was born. The expert poured out the broth into a clear glass so we could all appreciate the horror of the dark, bubbly brown liquid and the container that bulged with vaporous death.

Only the most truly dedicated of health nerds will appreciate what happened next. “Mom that looks exactly like what you drank at dinner!” my son chirped. Even better: it probably was pretty much what I drank.

“Actually not all bacteria will kill you,” I answered huffily. “Lots of kinds of bacteria are really good for you.”

If you’ve watched Jamie Lee Curtis discuss her bowels on international yogurt commercials then you are probably already familiar with the concept of “probiotics” or good bacteria. (And also the concept of gray hair as hot – I love how that woman rocks the silver locks!) The human gut has 500-1000 species of bacteria living in it that help us digest our food and if you wipe them out, say with antibiotics, you suffer all kinds of health consequences ranging from diarrhea to migraines and rashes. In fact, mitochondria – the cellular organelle typically referred to as the “powerhouse” of the body for its role in energy production – may be a specialized type of bacteria.

But back to my dinner beverage that looked like pond scum. I’ve always been a huge fan of probiotics but I’ve always gotten them from milk sources like yogurt. I used to even make my own yogurt! Since I’m currently dairy-free to help with my panic attacks (and I know that lots of people say yogurt’s okay to eat even if you’ve got problems with dairy- I’m just not ready to chance it yet) I thought that left me with a probiotic pill as my only option. Thankfully I was rescued by this girl:

I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101)

I don’t normally profusely praise myself in photo captions – this one is from Jenn’s instagram! Although I’d say the same (and more!) about her:)

I got to meet Jenn from Girl Heroes! She came to dinner! With her beautiful family!

She brought me the best hostess gift ever: Kefir grains! And the ingredients and directions how to make my very own kefir water! Kefir grains are “a combination of bacteria, yeasts in a complex matrix of sugars, proteins and lipids” that have been used for centuries as a way to ferment a wide variety of liquids. Kombucha and milk Kefir are popular but I didn’t know you could make kefir water too. (Despite the name, kefir “grains” are only a grain in the shape – they’re kind of chunky as opposed to a powder – and not in nutrient makeup.

Kefir grains have lots of benefits. According to one awesome site (that I think might have been translated from a language other than English?):

“Ferments are super-metabolizers that cause such miracles as food constituent conversion, nutrient assimilation, cell transformation, elemental transmutations and plant and animal metamorphoses. They help the diseased body reassemble healthy tissues. Ferments are the ultimate promoters of continued good health.”

You catch that? They cause animal metamorphoses!! Power Rangers unite!

No seriously though, while the research is still emerging some of the purported benefits include:

  1. Improves digestion and absorption of essential vitamins and minerals
  2. Aids in treatment of constipation, diarrhea, colon cancer, ulcers and even inflammatory bowel syndrome
  3. Regulates both the blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even cholesterol
  4. Is used as a treatment for various respiratory conditions
  5. Effective against acne, eczema and various skin disorders
  6. Fortifies the body’s immune system
  7. Improves the body’s defenses and resistance to diseases.

Okay so numbers 6 & 7 pretty much say exactly the same thing but who stops a list at 6 items, amiright?? But the best benefit, for me at least, is that it helps improve lactose digestion which is something I have serious problems with.

In addition to being super healthy, they also have super powers:

“In appearance, kefir grains look very much like white cauliflowers. But when seen under a microscope you can see why kefir grains are so valuable and beneficial to our health, with its many many good bacteria. And the best thing about kefir grain is that it lasts forever. All you will ever need is one batch, then every time you make kefir, your little kefir grains actually grow more and more. So in no time, you’ll actually have too much kefir grains!”

You can buy the starter grains at most health food stores and online but the easiest way is probably to find a hippie and get them to share some of theirs with you (or to have a hippie travel to your house – Jenn is the cleanest, most gorgeous hippie ever!).

I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101)

Kefir Water Recipe 


Filtered or spring water

1/4 cup turbinado (or regular) sugar

1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses

1/4 c kefir grains


Mix water, sugar and molasses in a quart sized Mason jar. Add kefir grains. Cover loosely with a lid or a kitchen towel. Let sit for 24-48 hours. Strain out kefir grains and repeat for a new batch. (Every so often stir grains in a jar of water to clean them.)

Note: There is some debate about whether kefir beverages are alcoholic and considering I know a lot of people who feed them to their kids, this is a valid question. (Not to mention I’m LDS – Mormon – and we choose not to drink any alcohol.) From what I’ve read, the yeast fermenting can produce some alcohols (because that’s what yeasts do) although they’re very small proportionately to the volume of the liquid. One woman (who was hilariously accused of feeding beer pop to all the kiddos at a family reunion) teamed up with her chemist brother-in-law to truly measure it. Their conclusions: if you let it ferment 18 hours or less the alcohol content is negligible. After 48 hours it’s at about 0.5%. For comparison purposes a beer has 5-7% and wine about 12%. Vodka is about 50% alcohol. Moral of the story: don’t let it sit too long unless you want chicken broth vodka like the Hoarders lady.

Also (please correct me if I’m wrong) but isn’t this the same fermenting process that makes yogurt, sour cream and sauerkraut? And they’re not alcoholic, right?

How do you guys get your probiotics? Anyone ever experimented with kefir before – how do you use it? What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever gotten?? Do you have a creative way to help your kids keep their rooms clean?

I Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101)

This is my patented I-have-no-lips smile. I practice it.

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying EverythingI Drink Pond Scum: The Kerfuffle About Kefir Grains (Probiotics 101) for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!

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