If you’ve ever experienced technical difficulties with your digestive system, you know what a trial it can be. Celiac disease, IBS, food allergies and intolerance, inflammatory diseases like Chron’s or Colitis…the list of digestive woes is long and miserable. Often, dietary changes bring about a good deal of relief for people who’ve suffered…sometimes for years…from conditions that effect not just your gut but also nearly every aspect of your health and well being. If you’re one of these warriors, I salute you! Having fought a long battle with this myself, I understand how gut issues can effect your whole life. Feeling sick can effect how you sleep, your concentration, and your mood. It’s common to feel anxious, tired, depressed and distracted when you’re struggling with a chronic health issue. Even after your body starts to heal, you might find that you still just don’t feel 100%.
When you’re dealing with gut problems, it turns out the emotional side effects you might be dealing with may not all be in your head. New studies are showing that because most of your neurons are actually located in your gut, the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract may play an important role in your mood. In fact, some studies have shown that people who are taking probiotics show lowered stress levels and improved mood. Because issues like gluten intolerance or IBS can effect the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, it stands to reason that besides the general stress of not feeling well you may be dealing with some chemical imbalances due to a lack of “good” bacteria in your digestive tract.
That’s what led me to investigate water kefir soda. I’ve had dairy kefir before and I love it, but on a daily basis making kefir with milk wasn’t economical (or, in my case, digestible). Water kefir is grown in water and sweetened with a natural sugar (honey, being an antimicrobial, will kill the kefir grains and unfortunately can’t be used). Kefir “grains” (which are actually little clumps of bacteria and yeast…I know, not appetizing) are left in a jar with water that’s been filtered or boiled to remove the chlorine and a few tablespoons of organic, unbleached sugar overnight, or for up to 48 hours. As it ferments, the kefir “eats” the sugar. The end result is very slightly sweet water, with some natural carbonation. It tastes a little like yogurt, and is really good mixed with fruit juice. If you’d like a stronger, more fizzy drink, you can bottle the kefir and let it ferment a second time in an airtight container.
Once you get a good cycle down, you’ll have new kefir water every day! I have found that drinking kefir daily does seem to help my digestion, mood, and ability to focus. It’s very satisfying and refreshing, and my family looks forward to enjoying a daily “dose” of our favorite drink. On a slightly humerus note, when we first started making water kefir my kids got in the habit of calling the kefir grains “Our Kefir Buddies.” Because they live in a jar of water on our kitchen counter and require “feeding” daily, they’ve become a kind of family pet…in particularly fizzy batches, the grains of kefir even start to “swim!” This is just due to the carbonation, it’s like the dancing raisin science trick (which you can check out here) but it’s helped make water kefir a fun part of our daily routine.
How do you get started? First, you’ll need several tablespoons of water kefir grains. You can buy them dehydrated and rehydrate them according to the package directions, or you can get them from a friend…kefir grains tend to increase and multiply over time, so you may be able to find someone locally who’s ready to divide theirs and share them. You’ll need a very clean mason jar and some cheesecloth, and a canning ring. The water kefir ferments at room temperature in the jar with the cheesecloth over it to protect it from bugs and dust. The ratio that’s been working for me has been one cup of water and one tablespoon of organic evaporated cane juice or rapadura to every one tablespoon of kefir grains. This works perfectly in a quart-sized mason jar, which holds 1/4 cup of kefir grains and 4 cups of sugar water. Every few weeks I stir in a little organic black strap molasses to add some minerals to the water, because the kefir grains need them to thrive.
My routine is to measure water in a quart sized jar, boil the water, and stir in 4 Tablespoons of sugar while it’s still hot. When the water reaches room temperature, I strain the original batch of water kefir through the cheesecloth and into a cup or (if I’m going to do a second ferentation) into a bottle with a stopper. Then, I pour the new sugar water into the jar with the kefir grains. I often just rinse the cheesecloth off and reuse it, replacing it every now and then as needed. You can also use a sieve to strain the water kefir, but make sure it’s a plastic sieve because apparently kefir grains don’t like to come in contact with metal.
So, now you have a quart of strained water kefir sitting there on your counter! What do you do with it? You can bottle it in a stoppered bottle or a jar with a tight lid and let it ferment a second time, which will give you a stronger strain of bacteria and a fizzier drink. You can let your kefir sit out for up to 2 days, but I’d advise caution after that…kefir can become alcoholic if left to ferment too long! In fact, if that sounds appealing to you, kefir can be made into kefir beer. To avoid any unintended side effects, however, be careful not to let your kefir ferment too long. Whether it’s been fermenting for one day or for 3, kefir can be mixed with fruit or fruit juice to make a fun “soda!” There are many ways to do this, and there are hundreds of recipes out there (check out this water kefir flavor guide). I’ve put together 3 of my favorite kefir soda recipes for you below, but I’d love to hear about your experiences making kefir water and your favorite way to drink it! And, if you’ve got kefir questions, ask away.
Blueberry Kefir Lemonade
Blueberry Kefir Lemonade
Looking for more delicious real food recipes? I’ve got your back!
I’ve put together 85 incredible dishes that are full of flavor, super yummy, and good for you, too. From main dishes to desserts (and everything in between) you’ll have some fun new eats that I know you’ll love.
Best part? The ebook is only 2 bucks. It’s a total no-brainer, right? Right. Click here to check it out.
Have you tried water kefir?