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Although I don’t battle migraines anymore, it’s been replaced by something even more constant.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!