*Please note this post was originally published in January 2008

I was reading an article in the Mail on Sunday and it talked about how beneficial those little yoghurt drinks are. The bacteria in the drink set about colonizing the gut and as they grow fast, they soon start taking over the bad bacteria to bring harmony to your gut… simple eh?

The article suggests that in the future, probiotics could be used to combat diseases such as colon cancer and diabetes. They also worked out that probiotic drinks cost around £10 per week for a family of four. So at £520 a year, its not exactly a cheap option.

Now I have always thought that using a healthy approach in our diet would help keep us safe from a lot of the diseases out there so for a few years I’ve been drinking a product called kefir. Kefir is a living cluster of good bacteria. It contains billions more beneficial bacteria than the probiotic drinks and far more different strains so we have more chance of getting all the health benefits available from these sorts of drinks.

Once kefir starts to colonize your gut with friendly bacteria, it then starts helping to digest the food you eat, turning it into a substance much easier for your body to cope with and expel. It is claimed that kefir is like a mini vacuum cleaner for your gut. Getting rid of all the bad bacteria and even ‘grabbing’ debris and bad bacteria whilst travelling through your colon on the way out of your system.

If you look around the web you will find hundreds of websites telling you of the health benefits related to kefir drinking. I studied it in detail before taking the plunge and actually drinking it. I stay clear of the websites that are trying to sell products from kefir. There seems to be a lot of studies through university’s that rate the benefits of kefir as real and genuine so its definitely worth taking a bit of time to read up on it….

Kefir isn’t pretty to look at. Think of it as a little spongy cauliflower. Its very white and a whole one fits on a teaspoon. Its a living organism and the most amazing thing is that it has babies! Every so often you will see the shape of the kefir grains starting to change until one morning when you strain it out… and you will find a tiny little kefir grain ready to grow and start its own little colony! You can keep the baby grains with the mother until its big enough to give to a friend so they can enjoy the benefits too. You can also freeze some grains in case catastrophe strikes and you lose your grains.

on to the taste… hmmm its like a slightly sparkly thin yoghurt. Its not lumpy or anything, just smooth. I’m not overly excited by the taste so I add a bit of strawberry crush to mine. I’ve also added a mashed up banana and this combination kept me full to way past lunchtime…. worth thinking about if you are on a diet?

So now you are thinking ok where do I buy kefir? Don’t buy it… it should be given away! Ask on your local freecycle. That’s where I originally got mine from. Once you have your grains its simply a case of popping them into a glass of milk and leaving them overnight. I repeat this process the next day and so on. I strain the grains into the new glass and pop the ‘inoculated milk’ into the fridge for an hour to chill, then drink it down.

I find that as a breakfast drink, when added to fruit it is very filling. But the main thing I noticed with drinking kefir on a daily basis is its colon cleansing ability! Within an hour of drinking kefir I would be on the toilet, maybe this is something worth considering if you have constipation problems?