You know the feeling when there just doesn’t seem like you have any more to give? Despite all your best efforts to get a project going or paddle your life into a new stream, you just seem to break after four or six weeks.
No matter all the driving energy I carried into a new project, I would lose momentum. It was as if my paddle would break and I’d be trying to move my boat with just my hands.
I was trying to meditate my way to better mental health but it just wasn’t working because my body, the vessel, was a straw boat – staying together for a while but breaking at the first sign of rocks. So, I tried several radical changes to my diet to set a strong foundation.
OK, what is kefir?
Kefir grains are not “grains” in any sense, really. They are simply clumps of bacteria conglomerated together into a shape like an oat.
Kefir (pronounced kə-FEER) has a long history of being used by different cultures and amalgamated into various forms but kefir begins in the Caucasus mountains. Nomadic tribes would keep milk preserved in cow bladders and drink the fermented milk for strength and vigor. The bladder full of milk would be held outside the tent and slapped as people entered the tent – stirring the kefir and keeping it from clumping together.
The people of the Caucasus mountains were quite secretive about their kefir grains, as were many other cultures. The Muslims got a hold of them; they called them the “grains of the prophet” and believed them to be gifted to Muhammad by Allah. The grains were revered and carried from generation to generation as a store of wealth.
You can watch a short video to learn more about this process here.
Psychobiotics? Do you mean psychedelics?
Now, when I started storing my milk in the cupboard, I didn’t know that much about kefir’s long and reverent history. I just wanted to feel better, stronger, and think with more clarity.
Down in the South of Ireland, two professors at the University College Cork are working to establish the gut-brain connection.
“We have discovered that the gut microbiota influences our emotions. We have shown that people who are clinically depressed have less diversity in the bacteria in their gut than people who are not depressed. The question now is how can we improve the diversity of our bacteria,” explains Professor Dinan.
“It proves the theory that a healthy gut is connected to a healthy mind,” says Professor Cryan. He added: “We’re talking about a paradigm shift in relation to how we conceptualize how our brains work. In medicine, traditionally, we tended to compartmentalize systems in the body so if you’re interested in what happens in neuroscience or psychiatry you’re interested in what happens from the neck up. However, what we are talking about in this book is so very different as we show how bacteria in the gut can influence brain function.”
Listen to an Irish podcast interview with these two professors here.
There are more psychobiotics than kefir: sauerkraut, kimchi, and more. (Sadly, not fermented beer.) In general, though, they have startling effects in the short term and could have monumental long-term effects.
What does it taste like?
Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. It’s not nearly as nasty as that, I promise. Really, the taste is somewhere between the sweetness of fresh milk and the sourness of sour cream.
Over time, though, you begin to train your tastebuds to crave tartness over sugar.
Bitterness is not always bad. Today’s modern diet is very oriented around taste. Sugar, fats, and salts are popular because they taste good but are not always the most nutritious, life-enriching foods. The taste may be an accurate indicator of whether a food is healthy or edible, but especially in today’s processed food pyramid, it does not show whether something is healthy.
In today’s processed food pyramid, there are thousands of foods sold to consumers that taste delicious but are knowingly poisoning them. Maybe not on the level of cyanide or strychnine, but compromising short and long-term health for flavor.
Don’t trade brain function for flavor. Kefir is a tart, sour drink that tastes somewhere between yogurt and sour cream. It is an exercise in mind over matter, really to drink the stuff but I’m always better for it.
Once you start caring for your gut and see the benefits you will become very protective of your body. Drinking tap water loaded with chlorine can kill your gut microbe just as quickly as non-organic produce and meat laced with antibiotics, herbicides and pesticides.
Whether you try it or not, here’s the bottom line.
What I notice more in my life:
- More focus and mental clarity like having a cup of coffee without the jitters from the caffeine.
- More regulated mood.
- Stronger gut and less heaviness even after I eat a big meal loaded with carbohydrates and gluten.
Kefir and psychobiotics introduce an ancient way of thinking about nutrition and health that has become radical in today’s modern world. It may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ancient remedies for modern ailments, but it can be a simple way to bring regulation to anyone’s diet. Sure, it may not taste like chocolate milk or a vanilla milkshake, but the short-term health effects are outstanding.
The effects are also really personal but easy to see. After convincing my girlfriend to drink 250 ml each morning with me, she is absolutely radiant. Her hair is stronger, her skin is lighter, and she now craves it, like me, because it is connected with stronger energy in the day.
Image 1: A new batch ready for fermentation.
Image 2: Overfermented kefir.
The intersection between mental and physical health is central to Stardust’s mission
Stardust Startups is all about projects that have a local and global impact. The impact of psychobiotics is monumental as it begins to bring light into just how dark the modern diet of sugar, starches, fats, and salts truly is.
Psychobiotics bring to light an old adage. You are what you eat. If you eat like crap, then you will feel like crap.
How on earth can we build a sustainable, enlightened, mindful society of neighbors when everyone is walking around one hour away from a caffeine or sugar crash unable to focus, with low energy?
But we can only begin by changing ourselves.
To prove this point I will leave you with one more point of information before the recipe below.
One study done by the UCC (Cork) professors on psychobiotics examined rats that were sterilized of all gut bacteria. Grown in a sterile lab environment without any bacteria in their gut, the preliminary study reinforced the relationship between the gut and the brain.
When in groups, compared to the control, the sterile rats were far less social, more isolated and didn’t even recognize that there were other rats in their environment. In other words, there was no species link. No empathy.
Listen to the UCC Professors discuss this study on this Irish podcast.
It is a dark image, but that is radical. It is also familiar. While the study is preliminary, it asks many questions about the relationship between food and community and, in my opinion, maybe a piece in the link explaining how suburban American individualism has destroyed communities. Maybe microwave TV-dinners and processed foods are responsible for fragmented communities just as much as foreign wars, mass media propaganda, and the 40-hour workweek.
Image 3: A perfectly separated kefir.
Image 4: Organic, raw unpasteurized milk is essential.
How do I make kefir, this magical elixir?
- 1-liter glass jar
- Muslin cloth
- Rubber band (to seal the cloth to the rim of the jar)
- 1 liter of the best cow’s milk you can find
- Raw, ideally, but that can be hard to find. So, you can also use whole, organic, pasteurized milk.
- Vegetable milk cannot be used because kefir bacteria eat lactose.
- 10 g of milk kefir grains
- Water kefir grains are different and eat sugar water. They cannot be used in milk and vice versa.
- Pour your milk of whatever kind into your clean jar. The jar should be clean, but it doesn’t have to be completely clean. There is no need to clean the jar between batches. After all, the bacteria is what you want.
- Cover with a muslin cloth and attach with a rubber band.
- Store the milk in a cupboard at room temperature for around 24 hours. Ideally 23ºC or 71ºF. Fermentation will happen faster with more active grains that have been used for a few batches (Image 1) and at higher temperatures.
After 20 – 24 hours:
- Give the kefir a stir. It should not have completely separated from the whey but it should seem thicker at the top. Overfermentation happens when they chew through the lactose sugar too fast. But, it is still drinkable and much healthier… albeit… an acquired taste.
- Strain the kefir in a colander slowly catching the kefir in a container. Use a plastic colander and a wooden spoon to slowly move the kefir. Be gentle and soft. They are alive!
- Pour the kefir into a glass jar and store it in the fridge. Once in the fridge, the fermentation will slow down and it can keep for up to two weeks.
- Ferment after straining for an even more sour, thick, and potent kefir.