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Kefir Cure? Another Quest for relief!

When I was younger, I was definitely a kid who was not interested in what was healthy for me.  If I had the choice of a glazed donut or an apple, glazed donut, all the way!  If I wanted a snack at eight or nine o’clock at night, then a sugary bowl of cereal, or two, looked like the right choice!  Sure, many kids act just like I did because who wants to eat what is healthy and good for you when some other item satisfies the taste buds so much more!

I’ll share with you a perfect example with my three year old son this morning.  As we were walking out the door this morning, I realized I hadn’t given him his last dose of an antibiotic he was taking for an ear infection.  I’m well aware that he does not like the taste of the medicine, so I have a swig of milk at his side ready to go.  After he takes his medicine, he says, “daddy, I’m still coughing”, as he fakes a cough.  I also notice that he is still tasting the medicine, the milk didn’t wash it all away.  I offer an Easter egg hard shelled piece of chocolate candy and I say, “try this.”  Immediately after eating that up, he says, “daddy, I’m not coughing any more.”  So case and point, he’s just like me, well, like most of us!

Between multiple glazed donuts, sugary pop (or soda as my New Jersey cousins like to say), and who knows what other sugar I ingested on a daily basis, I didn’t think twice.  During those years I also encountered many migraine headaches.  I don’t have anything charted, but I probably had on average six to eight within a year and maybe it was more; I just know I had a lot.  To this very day, I have no idea what caused them.  My guess would be that I was slightly over weight, probably ingested to much sugar, and when drinking soda, it was primarily Pepsi or Coca-cola, so I was throwing caffeine in there too.  As I grew into my later teens, I noticed less and less migraines.  Was I growing out of them or was I eating differently?  What I do know is that when I turned eighteen and graduated high school, I started working for a home builder that summer.  I was losing weight working the physical job and began drinking way more water.  So I believe that had something to do with it and it’s also about the same time I believe I started caring about what I ate… to some degree.

Although I don’t battle migraines anymore, it’s been replaced by something even more constant.  Sinus issues.  In my early twenties to current day, I continue to get a stuffy nose and I have a constant cough.  Typically my doctor will put me on an antibiotic, most people refer to it as the Z-pak.  When I was first introduced to this, it seemed to take care of things and I definitely felt better.  What I’ve noticed over time though, is that when my sinus infections started, I got the clogged head, followed by the stuffed nose, and then everything fell into my chest.  Now a days, I don’t notice the head congestion anymore but mostly just a stuffed nose, followed by chest congestion.  I know many people that deal with sinus issues, so I don’t worry much about the actual sinus issues.  What I started to become concerned with is how the Z-pak was always thrown at the problem.

Using the past to help me again, I started noticing that along with sinus issues, I repeatedly experienced more bowel issues.  So of course, my wheels started turning more.  You always hear about how antibiotics can destroy the bad bacteria and it’s essentially a quick fix to make us feel better.  That’s great, but in the process of killing off that bad bacteria, I’ve also heard how good bacteria in the gut also gets destroyed.  Although it took me some time to put two and two together, I started thinking, what if over all those years of taking a Z-pak, was it slowly destroying the good flora in my gut?

After doctor visits and educating myself more, the obvious choice was to introduce more probiotics, so welcome in the yogurt!  I started introducing more yogurt into my daily diet.  It started with a bowl in the morning with breakfast.  At other times, I’d use it as a treat or something sweet after lunch or dinner, if I hadn’t had any for breakfast that day.  For the most part, I felt like things were improving.  Even though I felt they could be better, I kept reading.  I began to learn that even though yogurt is good for you and even though it has active cultures, most reports find that when it’s processed, some of that goodness is diminished.  Although it’s better than a glazed donut, I want the full benefit of yogurt not just a little bit!

Here in lies my introduction to milk kefir.  One Thursday afternoon I was attending a Toastmaster’s meeting and one of the members of the group spoke about how to make your own milk kefir.  As I heard him speak and the process was explained, I couldn’t believe how dead simple this was.  The hardest part about it is finding milk that is not ultra high pasteurized.  Let me share how simple the process is:

  1. Start by ordering kefir grains (online or get some from a friend who already makes milk kefir)
  2. Next, find milk that is not ultra high pasteurized (I use Snowville Creamery Whole Milk)
  3. Depending on your kefir grain, you may need to hydrate a few times before use.  Since my friend at Toastmaster’s gave me some of his, I didn’t have to do this step.
  4. Once hydrated, put about a tablespoon of kefir grain in a jar.
  5. Fill the jar with about 8oz of the milk and put a loose lid on so the gases that form during the fermentation process can escape.  You could also use a paper coffee filter with a rubber band around it.
  6. Put the jar in a cupboard or someplace the temperature stays in the range of 70°-85° for a 24 hour period.
    • I’ve modified this step by putting my jar in what’s called a ‘culture box’.  Basically, I have a small cooler that I place the jar of kefir in along with a jar of boiling hot water, and then I close the lid to the cooler.
    • If I can, I try to reheat the water over the 24 hour period.
  7. After 24 hours, I tighten the lid and place the kefir in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.  I only drink my kefir or mix it in with bowl of cereal, every other day.
  8. When it’s time to ingest the kefir, get a plastic strainer (metal is not recommended because it can weaken the kefir grain) and strain the kefir into a clean glass.
  9. You will need to use a wooden or rubber spatula to help the kefir through.  Lightly move the mixture back and forth and you’ll slowly see the kefir grains appear as the milky yogurt passes through the strainer.
  10. Once it’s through, put the kefir grain back in a glass jar and start with step 4 above and start the process all over.

Alright, so I might have spelled it out in greater detail than is necessary, but as you can see, it’s not that difficult to get better, more effective probiotics.

I’ve been drinking it or mixing it in with my morning cereal every other day for about two months now.  I’ve also tried blending it with honey or combining it with strawberries.  There are really a ton of options for what you can do with it.  Just search online!

Overall, I feel like it has improved things in my system compared to the store bought yogurt.  Has it helped relieve any sinus issues?  Well, no or at least not that I know of.  Even though I’m keeping up with the kefir more regularly than the honey and lemon concoction I wrote about in my other Quest for Relief article, I do feel like the kefir is benefiting me.

It’s amazing how my perspective has changed over the years and how I am more conscious about what I’m ingesting to help cure my ailments.  I believe more and more that the saying, “you are what you eat” does directly affect your body.  I’m also pretty sure that as much as I enjoy a glazed donut, it’s probably not a solution for anything but a sugar craving!

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Living in Ohio, I get to enjoy the glorious changes of the seasons!  Even though that may seem like I’m being sarcastic, I’m not.  I really do like the change of season.  Don’t get me wrong, living in a nice warm climate all the time would be nice, but in my opinion, it could be boring too.  I always tell people that living in Ohio makes me appreciate those other places so much more.  If I had the warmth all the time, I wouldn’t know what I was missing.  Aside from that, being surrounded by boring, flat land, it makes me appreciate the gorgeous mountain ranges out west when I get to visit them.  See, there’s an upside!

 

During my early years as a child growing up in Ohio, I suffered a lot from migraine headaches.  I never did find the root cause and mysteriously enough, as I reached my late teens, they seemed to just vanish.  So not real sure if living in Ohio is connected to them or not.  However, with the resolution of one problem, something else inevitably needs to take its place.  This is where my body decided to now bless me with sinus issues.  Now, having suffered through many migraine headaches as an adolescent, I felt like moving to sinus issues was an upgrade of sorts.  With migraines, I typically wanted a dark room, minimal sounds, a pillow, and a bed.  Sleeping them off was the best way I knew how to cope.  The down side to this is that it prevented me from going places and I was usually confined to my bedroom until the migraine wore off.  With sinus issues, although I might feel miserable, I could still function and go places.

As a kid, I never really had any interest in figuring out what caused my migraine’s.  As an adult, I’ve had more interest in knowing what causes my sinus issues.  I did the allergy tests, taken my fair share of z-packs, and came to a determination with my doctor that my sinus issues are related to barometric pressure changes in the atmosphere.  Initially, when the doctor came to this conclusion and there didn’t seem to really be any solution, I threw my hands up and figured I’d just have to live with it.  Over the years as I have read more and more articles, I’m starting to think I might be able to find a balance between my sinus cavities and mother nature.

One thing I’m starting to realize is that my sinuses may not be the only issue.  Over the last six months or so I’ve come across something known as silent reflux.  It’s basically acid reflux without the heartburn but the one characteristic that has me interested is the chronic cough symptom.  I always assumed it was post nasal drip from my sinuses but now I think both could be at play here.  The problem is figuring out if they’re in play at the same time or not.

The quest to figure this out has introduced me to some new food items or concoctions.  For instance, I had never heard of apple cider vinegar before but as I read more and more about silent reflux I kept coming across this item.  It seems to work all kind of wonders and seems to be a magic food, but where it relates to silent reflux is balancing pH levels.  Odd that vinegar, which is an acid, would balance pH levels.  The best way I can explain it is similar to ingesting a lemon.  Again, being a citrus fruit, acid is present, but when it metabolizes with the body, it becomes alkaline.  You might also think that oranges would be good too.  This is not the case.  Because oranges contain more sugar, the sugar causes a different reaction causing it not to have the same alkaline properties. This knowledge led me on the quest to find more alkaline foods and how could I start introducing them into my diet.

 

Having listened to a podcast by Lewis Howes, called The School of Greatness,  I referred back to episode #250.  Lewis interviewed the ladies who started simplegreensmoothies.com and I was curious about whether or not their smoothie recipes tasted as good as they claimed.  I also figured this would be a good way to introduce alkaline foods more easily.  Looking at their recipes, I narrowed the list by filtering the results by ones kids would like using their “KID-FRIENDLY” option so my kids could try them as well.  Having a reduced list, I started with one titled “Strawberry, Banana, Blueberry, Spinach Smoothie“.  strawberry-banana-blueberry-4The recipe is very simple and my wife, kids, and I have been drinking one every morning for roughly the last two weeks.  Depending on the ripeness of the fruit, the kids really like the mixture on some days versus others.  We also substituted real oranges with orange juice.

Aside from the orange juice it has some very good alkaline foods in it.  Strawberries, blueberries, and banana’s all seem to be on most alkaline lists.  But the super alkaline food in this recipe smoothie is the spinach.  It seems that most green foods have a decent alkaline content.  The extra bonus here is that even though I like spinach in its raw form, my kids don’t.  The beauty of the smoothie is that they can’t even taste the spinach and they know it’s in there!  They help me make the smoothie!

Having success with the first smoothie, I decided it was time to venture on to the next one.  I went back to the site, selected the “KID-FRIENDLY” filter, and choose the “Berry Protein Bash“.  This one involved the use of unsweetened almond milk, as well as real almonds.  In theory, this one sounded great to me but my wife had her doubts.  I should have listened to her.  I hyped the kids up by asking them, “who wants a smoothie?”  Typically, from the success of the first smoothie recipe, this gets a great reaction!  Anticipating another great tasting treat, I blending the ingredients, poured it into cups, plopped in some straws and waited for the results.  Unfortunately for me, the feedback came quicker than I anticipated.  Everyone’s face showed an expression of disgust!  It wasn’t that it tasted bad but most people don’t expect to chew anything in their drink!  Maybe it’s that our blender can’t shred almonds like the one the ladies from simplegreensmoothies.com have, but I know now, not to make that one again!

Navigating through all the various recipes, I came across one that I thought had potential to help both my sinuses and silent reflux.  So this next recipe I felt might provide comfort for both problems.  They call it the “Lemon, Ginger and Honey : All-natural Remedy“.

lemon-ginger-and-honey-all-natural-remedy-15
Their’s
IMG_2102
Mine

Although it’s not a smoothie, I’ve only been trying this recipe for the last few days and I’m not sure my mixture is right.  The recipe indicates that after putting it into the refrigerator, it should begin to form a jelly like texture.  Mine is not.  I’m not giving up yet!  With fresh lemons, I hope it will balance my pH levels, with the honey, it satisfies my sugar craving, and the ginger is good for the digestive track, which by improving digestion, I’m hoping it improves my sinuses and my overall health.

I plan to continue introducing more natural and fresh options to my diet like these.  Although it’s to early to tell if any of these options have a positive effect, I feel like my body is probably benefiting from them regardless.  More and more, I feel like you are your own best doctor.  I’m not saying to disregard doctors all together, but when the doctor tells you there isn’t anything you can really do to combat something, then why not explore yourself.  Watch for the patterns, listen to your body, and watch how your body reacts to what you try.

So although I may be still on my quest to combat the barometric seasonal sinus problem and the silent reflux that could be hiding in my belly, I do believe what’s in my gut could change things.  I’m learning new healthy options to introduce into my diet that are not only benefiting me, their benefiting my family!  Raise your (smoothie) glasses to that!

Have you been on a quest to change your diet to resolve some ailments?  If so, let me know, I’d love to hear about them and what you’ve found!

 

 

 

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