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Ron Put

Water Kefir

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A few months ago I tested with the now bankrupt Ubiome and while it claimed that I have a highly diverse microbiome, it made me think about gut bacteria more. I have been drinking kombucha for years now, since I like the taste, but wanted to diversify.

So I bought a few bottles of goat milk kefir, but I am trying to stay vegan as much as I can, plus milk kefir is rather calorie-rich. So, I tried a bottle of "Aqua Kefir" by GT's and given it's minimal calories, I decided to read up on it. Long story short, I've ordered some water kefir grains and now I make my own water kefir (it's incredibly easy and it takes only a day or two).

In another topic, I was wondering about supplements, including possibly supplementing with biotin, since according to Cronometer, it is the one vitamin I don't get enough of from food. I understand that biotin is synthesized by bacteria, so it's possible that I don't have to supplement, but I am not sure how much is produced, or how bioavailable it is.

There isn't a lot of specific information about the nutrient content of water kefir, which is understandable, given the variability of the product. Here is the best site I have found with kefir information (including water kefir): http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#alternativekefir

Is anyone else here using kefir or water kefir?

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Our household (wife & I) has had a kefir operation going for close to 10 years now. We bought a kefir starter kit on Amazon (I think it was MR's recommendation), and it came with 2 packets of kefir grains. We used exclusively non-fat milk and we're still on the very first grains packet... I don't even know where the second packet is! Amazing. Even when we go on very lengthy vacations (2-3 months), we just stash the grains in the fridge and it keeps there no problem. For many years we used only distilled water to wash the grains, but as of a couple of years or so, I've been using ordinary tap water, and it has not killed 'em! We don't drink kefir every single week, but most weeks. But again, that's non-fat milk, so as a vegan that might not work for you. 

In my experience, kefir grains are extremely hardy (at least in milk). I can't speak to how the composition of the grains organisms may have changed over the years, but I can't taste any difference. FWIW, we've been using the same TJ's non-fat milk all these years (hormone free, blah, blah etc.). We make shakes with the kefir - adding some frozen berries from TJ's (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and so on). Occasionally my wife adds a banana or some protein powder. We drink this 1-2 times a week, most weeks. The idea is that we're hoping it's good for the gut biome - what the actual effect is... who knows; it's a gamble, like most dietary interventions. YMMV.

Bottom line, kefir grains are hardy and quite versatile in prepared shakes/drinks.

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How much kefir do you drink each day, Tom?

I have been chugging water kefir in quantities between about 750ml to a liter and a half on many days (I make a lot of it :) I find its tangy taste appealing and it's probably less than 150 calories a day (I usually ferment it for 2-3 days).

 

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I don't drink it every day. I drink it about twice a week. My sole reason for drinking it is the microbiome - non-fat milk kefir shake with a berry medley, sometimes fresh berries, sometimes frozen from TJ's. I figure it's a benefit to my microbiome, with maybe some trace calcium thrown in for additional goodness. I love the taste, but otherwise I'm a bit leery of unnecessary calories, hence I drink it only twice a week. 

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I used to prepare my own kefir and posted at least one picture of it in this forum. I used prevalently lowfat milk and often would strain it, producing something less tangy, more amenable to my taste, similar to greek yogurt and delicious.

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3 hours ago, mccoy said:

I used prevalently lowfat milk and often would strain it, producing something less tangy, more amenable to my taste, similar to greek yogurt and delicious.

I make kefir using 50% whole milk and 50% heavy cream and it comes out much like greek yogurt without straining.  I sometimes make 100% heavy cream kefir which is more amenable to my taste but so thick it is difficult to recover the grain which is unable to rise to the top.  So this is a treat only made when our grains grow too large and need dividing.

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32 minutes ago, Todd Allen said:

I make kefir using 50% whole milk and 50% heavy cream and it comes out much like greek yogurt without straining.  I sometimes make 100% heavy cream kefir which is more amenable to my taste but so thick it is difficult to recover the grain which is unable to rise to the top.  So this is a treat only made when our grains grow too large and need dividing.

Come again? How does that work? I didn't realize there were so many ways of doing this. My way: I have a little plastic floater in which all the keffir grains reside, so there is no question of "recovering" or "rising to the top" - when the kefir is ready I just pick up the floater with the grains inside and that's all there is to it. I then deposit the floater in a little cup with milk in the fridge until I want to make a new batch. At which point I pick up the floater from the cup, rinse it thoroughly with water so that the grains are free from any milk/kefir residue, and plop the floater into a container with milk which will make the next batch of kefir. I never "divide" the grains or do anything else with them. They reside in the floater, period - it's been like that for the past 10 years now.  

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@ Todd: I should have specified 'nonfat greek yogurt', which can be creamy even without fat (in consistency if not in substance). Of course, your heavy cream recipe is very appealing, I realized though that a lot of fat in my stomach tends to give me nausea. I'm already eating lots of EVOO.

I didn't use kefir grains, rather the dried starter to be kept in the fridge, and use the kefir residue to start another batch. After a few months, I would open up a new powder bag and start again.

Last but not least, I have some doubt which you guys are maybe able to dissipate:

Are we sure that the beneficial bacteria in kefir, yogurt and other fermented drinks are really going to reach the intestine?  They have to survive the extremely hostile gastric environment. 

I've not searched the above but that seems to be a genuine concern. Some articles would tend to suggest, like the one I'm going to paste, that survival is improved by the presence of metabolizable sugars and other media. Probiotic supplements are protected by gastric resistant capsules.

Quote
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jun; 71(6): 3060–3067.
PMCID: PMC1151822
PMID: 15933002

Survival of Probiotic Lactobacilli in Acidic Environments Is Enhanced in the Presence of Metabolizable Sugars

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
 

ABSTRACT

Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is an industrially significant probiotic strain with proven health benefits. In this study, the effect of glucose on L. rhamnosus GG survival was analyzed in simulated gastric juice at pH 2.0. It was found that the presence of 19.4 mM glucose resulted in up to 6-log10-enhanced survival following 90 min of exposure. Further work with dilute HCl confirmed that glucose was the sole component responsible. Comparative analysis with other Lactobacillus strains revealed that enhanced survival was apparent in all strains, but at different pH values. The presence of glucose at concentrations from 1 to 19.4 mM enhanced L. rhamnosus GG survival from 6.4 to 8 log10 CFU ml−1 in simulated gastric juice. The mechanisms behind the protective effect of glucose were investigated. Addition of N′,N′-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide to simulated gastric juice caused survival to collapse, which was indicative of a prominent role in inhibition of F0F1-ATPase. Further work with neomycin-resistant mutants that exhibited 38% to 48% of the F0F1-ATPase activity of the parent confirmed this, as the survival in the presence of glucose of these mutants decreased 3 × 106-fold compared with the survival of the wild type (which had a viability of 8.02 log10 CFU ml−1). L. rhamnosus GG survival in acidic conditions occurred only in the presence of sugars that it could metabolize efficiently. To confirm the involvement of glycolysis in the glucose effect, iodoacetic acid was used to inhibit glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) activity. The reduction in GAPDH activity caused survival to decrease by 8.30 log10 CFU ml−1 in the presence of glucose. The data indicate that glucose provides ATP to F0F1-ATPase via glycolysis, enabling proton exclusion and thereby enhancing survival during gastric transit.

 

Edited by mccoy

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Whether the bacteria reach the gut or not is of no concern to me. That's not how I approach most of my health-related interventions. Rather, I approach them from a black-box perspective. At one end of the box I feed the intervention (in this case: consuming home-made kefir). Then, inside the black box, I don't know what happens - sometimes I speculate, or read about it, but ultimately most of the time I can't be sure, and I really don't care. Then at the other end of the box comes out the result: good for health, bad for health, or no effect on health. I am interested in what goes into the black box and what comes out - and I don't believe most of the time we can really know what happens inside the box, nor do I particularly care, although it's certainly interesting to speculate.

So in answer to your doubt - as long as you observe good effects, it's all good, and who knows where it reaches. If research shows good effects, that's good enough for me - how about you?

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20 hours ago, TomBAvoider said:

I didn't realize there were so many ways of doing this. My way: I have a little plastic floater in which all the keffir grains reside

I avoid plastics in food storage and prep as much as possible.  I make kefir in glass mason jars.  For a one quart jar I'll drop in a kefir grain lump about the size of a hazelnut.  When the fermentation is nearly done CO2 gets trapped in the grain and floats it to the top of the jar making it easy to retrieve.  It gets bigger with each batch and when it has doubled in size I divide it.

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2 hours ago, TomBAvoider said:

So in answer to your doubt - as long as you observe good effects, it's all good, and who knows where it reaches. If research shows good effects, that's good enough for me - how about you?

Basically, I agree with you, although my mind keeps reasoning about details and the black box fascinates me. At this point, my hypothesis is that the benefits may not be so much derived by the probiotics themselves, rather mainly by the chemical transformations which the probiotics trigger in the food before its consumption.

.

 

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I avoid plastics in food storage and prep as much as possible.  I make kefir in glass mason jars.  For a one quart jar I'll drop in a kefir grain lump about the size of a hazelnut.  When the fermentation is nearly done CO2 gets trapped in the grain and floats it to the top of the jar making it easy to retrieve.  It gets bigger with each batch and when it has doubled in size I divide it.

I also do my kefir in glass, and agree that it's best to avoid plastics contact with food - I'm hoping after 10 years there isn't much leeching from that floater. What's interesting is that it sounds like you don't do any rinsing of the kefir grains at all - when I bought my starter kit, the instructions were to religiously rinse the floater/grains with water, and that's what I've been doing, but it sounds like you have a good system going. I am curious though how you store your grains longer term - f.ex. if we happen to leave for a 3 month vacation, the floater grains seem to do OK in the fridge, and are good to go whenever we come back. I understand in some cultures there's continuous kefir production from the same grains non-stop for decades if not centuries - pretty amazing.

Edited by TomBAvoider

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19 hours ago, TomBAvoider said:

I am curious though how you store your grains longer term

Between batches I store grains in a 4 oz mason jar in fresh milk in the refrigerator.  I typically don't rinse the grains but just lift them with a fork and let them drip for a few seconds before transferring them.  About once a year when dividing a grain I'll replace the one I keep stored in the freezer as a back up in case the ones in the refrigerator go bad.  I've only once resorted to my back up grain when I got a little fuzz growing on the storage jar in the fridge.  They probably were still salvageable by rinsing but I didn't bother trying and tossed them when the frozen one worked.  To wake the frozen grain I first used it for a day to make a mini 4 oz batch before transferring it to make my typical 1 quart batch.

I used to regularly use the thickened milk from the 4 oz grain storage jar to ferment other things like rolled oats, wheat bran, and sometimes fruit such as prunes or dried tomatoes for sour dough bases which I'd use with nuts, seeds and eggs to make dense breads.

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This is an interesting article discussing milk kefir microbial/yeast geographic diversity:

http://microbialfoods.org/science-digested-exploring-kefir/

I am thinking of buying a goat milk kefir which Whole Foods carries once in a while, maybe monthly or bimonthly, and sticking to water kefir for regular consumption. I also still drink store-bought kombucha occasionally.

Water kefir has fewer, less diverse organisms than milk kefir (10-15 vs 30-50 by most accounts), but it is also non-dairy and has far fewer calories -- depending on the time allowed for fermentation, 20-30 or less calories per 500ml.

I use sugar which is truly unrefined (most have the molasses taken out, and even most of the expensive dark varieties are processed, with molasses put back in after). This is the best I have found and the fact that my grains grow well in it supports it: 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0797JQQK5/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also keep the grains in cloth sachets and place them in a large glass jar.

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FWIW, Dr. Greger did a video about how you can powder dried dates and you get a very strong sweetener that's even more benefit-packing than unrefined molasses (and without that molasses taste), so that might be something you may want to look into:

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/benefit-of-dates-for-colon-health/

This is with the perspective toward gut health benefit, microbiome and colon - but I think there may be other benefits which are more important to you. Anyway, just another option.

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And thanks again to Tom for suggesting dates.

I've made a couple of batches of water kefir using 2/3 unprocessed sugar and 1/3 powdered dates.

First, my water kefir grains seem to love the mix, as they are growing like crazy (I have to eat them, so as not to waste them).

Second, the resulting kefir is noticeably tastier (yeastier?) and milder. This will be my new recipe :)

Does anyone have a source for the caloric/nutritional values of kefir grains?

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On 12/22/2019 at 8:17 PM, Ron Put said:

Water kefir has fewer, less diverse organisms than milk kefir (10-15 vs 30-50 by most accounts), but it is also non-dairy and has far fewer calories -- depending on the time allowed for fermentation, 20-30 or less calories per 500ml.

But the sheer numerosity of organisms, called 'bacterial load', may well be the reason for its effectiveness.

After ruminating on the issue, and considering how deleterious bacteria may poison us through oral ingestion, most probably the number of them, bacterial load, is correlated to how many go through the digestive system, besides being protected by food matrix, lower than usual acidity and so on...

So, if bacterial load is what allows enough probiotics to survive the hostile environment, then water kefir is much less beneficial than milk kefir. Unless maybe drunk in large amounts.

On the other side, water kefir most probably does not cause a significant secretion of gastric juices and acidity, so it may be better than milk kefir. These are just thoughts, without searching any hard evidence on the topic.

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Water kefir seems to have a higher bacterial load than yoghurt or kombucha, for example. So it's pretty potent, even if milk kefir is even more so.

For me, water kefir is tasty (particlularly with the date powder) and given that it has much less calories than milk kefir, I am happy drinking about a liter, sometimes a liter and a half a day :)

Here is one mention of bacteria and yeasts found in water kefir:

COMPOSITION OF WATER KEFIR GRAINS: BACTERIA & YEASTS

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This is a comprehensive analysis which finds that water kefir's bacterial population is dominated by Zymomonas, an ethanol-producing bacterium.

Sequence-based analysis of the microbial composition of water kefir from multiple sources

"In conclusion, we have established that the bacterial population of a number of water kefirs analysed through high-throughput sequencing consists of a dominant population of Zymomonas with lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc), acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter and Gluconacetobacter) and Bifidobacteriaceae being detected in descending proportions. While dextran-producing lactic acid bacteria are not the dominant bacteria, it would seem that the possibility exists for the modulation of the microbiology of water kefir through the introduction of nonindigenous lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to facilitate its use as a nondairy-based system for the delivery of probiotics. Our results revealed that the yeast component of the water kefir samples was comprised of several species previously associated with water kefir, but notably a number of species not traditionally associated with water kefir, including Dekkera, Zygosaccharomyces and Meyerozyma were also identified."
 


And here is a different take:

The microbial diversity of water kefir

"The microbial diversity of water kefir, made from a mixture of water, dried figs, a slice of lemon and sucrose was studied. The microbial consortia residing in the granules of three water kefirs of different origins were analyzed. A collection of 453 bacterial isolates was obtained on different selective/differential media. Bacterial isolates were grouped with randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)-PCR analyses. One representative of each RAPD genotype was identified by comparative 16S rDNA gene sequencing. The predominant genus in water kefirs I and II was Lactobacillus, which accounted for 82.1% in water kefir I and 72.1% in water kefir II of the bacterial isolates. The most abundant species in water kefirs I and II were Lactobacillus hordei and Lb. nagelii followed by considerably lower numbers of Lb. casei. Other lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were identified as Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lc. citreum in all three water kefirs. The most abundant species in water kefir III was Lc. mesenteroides (28%) and Lc. citreum (24.3%). A total of 57 LAB belonging to the species of Lb. casei, Lb. hordei, Lb. nagelii, Lb. hilgardii and Lc. mesenteroides were able to produce exopolysacchrides from sucrose. Non LABs were identified as Acetobacter fabarum and Ac. orientalis. The Acetobacter species were more prevalent in consortium III. Cluster analyses of RAPD-PCR patterns revealed an interspecies diversity among the Lactobacillus and Acetobacter strains. Aditionally, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lachancea fermentati, Hanseniaospora valbyensis and Zygotorulaspora florentina were isolated and identified by comparison of partial 26S rDNA sequences and FTIR spectroscopy."

Edited by Ron Put

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Drinking kefir may prompt brain-gut communication to lower blood pressure

 

After nine weeks of kefir supplementation, the treated rats had lower levels of endotoxins (toxic substances associated with disruption in the cells), lower blood pressure and improved intestinal permeability when compared with the untreated group. Healthy intestines allow some substances to pass through, but generally act as a barrier to keep out harmful bacteria and other potentially dangerous substances. In addition, kefir supplementation restored the natural balance of four different bacteria in the gut and of an enzyme in the brain essential for normal nervous system function, suggesting that the nervous and digestive systems work together to reduce hypertension.

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Another potential kefir benefit, which makes me feel a bit better about the potential fructose content of water kefir:

Kefir peptides prevent high-fructose corn syrup-induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a murine model by modulation of inflammation and the JAK2 signaling pathway
 

An animal model of 30% high-fructose-induced NAFLD in C57BL/6J mice was established. The experiment is divided into the following six groups: (1) normal: H2O drinking water; (2) mock: H2O+30% fructose; (3) KL: low-dose kefir peptides (50 mg kg−1)+30% fructose; (4) KM: medium-dose kefir peptides (100 mg kg−1)+30% fructose; (5) KH: high-dose kefir peptides (150 mg kg−1)+30% fructose; and (6) CFM: commercial fermented milk (100 mg kg−1)+30% fructose. The results show that kefir peptides improve fatty liver syndrome by decreasing body weight, serum alanine aminotransferase, triglycerides, insulin and hepatic triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids as well as the inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β) that had been elevated in fructose-induced NAFLD mice. In addition, kefir peptides markedly increased phosphorylation of AMPK to downregulate its targeted enzymes, ACC (acetyl-CoA carboxylase) and SREBP-1c (sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1), and inhibited de novo lipogenesis. Furthermore, kefir peptides activated JAK2 to stimulate STAT3 phosphorylation, which can translocate to the nucleus, and upregulated several genes, including the CPT1 (carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1) involved in fatty acid oxidation.

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