What I do really well and believe in whole-heartedly is individualized medicine. This means an approach that is tailored to every individual and in all things. It’s been easier to ignore the whole microbial issue with so many supplements on the market that have high potency and good quality, but I’m starting to realize that every person has a different microbial milieu and that probiotic supplements may not be able to assist in all cases.
I’ve started looking into a variety of truly living, cultured foods like kvass, kefir and kombucha. These are all easy to make or find and can definitely have an abundance of microbial activity. But they are all different and will affect different people in different ways, so obviously I cannot recommend any of them across the board. I am however, experimenting and cautiously trying my beet kvass (which at first seemed rather frightening) and I am quite enjoying my varieties of kombucha. All these drinks may have a little bit of alcohol in them from the fermentation process, so if you are strictly avoiding alcohol (.5 – 1%), this may not be the right thing for you.
Below is a bit more information about each:
Kombucha – is generally made from a sweetened tea, to which is added a “scoby” – a symbiotic colony of yeasts and bacteria (Saccromyces generally and the bacteria can vary) – it resembles an opalescent mushroom. The drink can become fizzy but also quite acidic if it brews too long – I’ve used some of my brews in place of vinegar when the process went on too long.
Kefir – is traditionally made from milk (goat, sheep or cow) and also innoculated with a different variety of scoby (Kefir grains), but milk alternatives have also been successfully cultured. Sometimes the scoby doesn’t survive in the milk alternatives.
Kvass – the aim is to grow the wild yeasts from the beet skins and have them ferment the sugars that come out in the water. It’s hard to know exactly what you will grow, however, home-fermentation is thankfully forgiving and allows for a lot of variation. My understanding is that it is easier to get a good ferment than not, and while there is always the possibility of poisoning oneself, it is often from lack of attention and carelessness. There will likely be differences from batch to batch and a white scum or white mold is not unusual. Apparently the mold can be skimmed off and the kvass is still quite good.
If you do decide to try any of these home made living drinks, my recommendation is to smell it first, if it smells okay, proceed to tasting, if it tastes alright, then sample a small quantity. There can be a period of adjustment as your microbiome (a real, living part of yourself!) changes, so easy-does-it.
What to watch for:
- If you develop a rash or break out in pimples after your first dose, I would advise caution on a second dose. If the rash is not too bad and resolves quickly, you might want to try a second and smaller dose, but watch for similar reactions.
- Diarrhea or constipation – both signs of digestive disturbance. Sometimes diarrhea is just the right thing, in which case, you should feel better during and/or afterward. Constipation….not usually helpful.
- Feeling tired, sluggish, irritable, dull, and/or blood shot eyes, even worse, yellowing of the eyes. This may indicate that something is affecting your liver in a negative way. In this case, I would discontinue. It could be the batch, or it could be something that your home environment supports but that is not good for you.
And like everything else, fermented foods may or may not be just the right thing for you.
I started drinking kombucha more regularly and this is what I’ve noticed:
- My body odor seems to have lightened. Everyone has their own particular smell, mine has stayed similar, but has become much less obvious (at least to me)
- I don’t need to bathe as often. I still bathe regularly, of course, but there is no urgency, no dire consequences if I skip a day, say on Sunday, or opt to forego my evening shower.
- I feel a little lighter, a little better – although other changes are happening at this time, so hard to say…..
Then I added in a bit of kvass:
- Developed a mild rash on my hand which felt quite warm and irritable. I did not take a second dose that day, but had kombucha instead. The rash was much improved by morning. I’m trying again to see if the same thing happens.
Beet Kvass Recipe – This is the recipe I got from my mother and am trying right now:
1/3 beet – cubed
1 quart ( approx 1 litre) of dechlorinated water
1 – 2 tbsp of good quality salt (1 tbsp if using 1 tbsp of whey) –
1 tbsp whey (optional) – this is a dairy product.
* I did not use whey and used less salt anyway
Combine ingredients in a glass jar, cover lightly. It is recommended to place something under the jar because the contents can bubble up. Let stand for 3 days. Refridgerate.
You can drink a small quantity (1 – 4 oz) once or twice daily. Start on the low side and if you like the effects, see how you do with an increase.
What about store bought kombucha and kefir?
Businesses selling in the stores will have to meet standards higher than those found at home and the process will have to be controlled much more so there will be consistency between batches. Will these products provide the same microbial benefit? Are these drinks pasteurized, thus killing off all the microbes?
These questions will have to wait until further investigation. I will let you know when I find out.
Yours in Health –
Dr. Tanya, ND