The Gut Health Superhero
Updated: May 31
I've always been a great supporter of raw green tripe for gut health because after my Dane spent the first year of his life with an upset tummy no matter what kibble we tried (previous to him going onto a fresh diet). We introduced raw green tripe and it was an overnight improvement, however law makers have made it near impossible to obtain green tripe untreated in Australia, the most common form of treatment is washing it in 60 degrees water which effectively kills off the Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacteria, one of the bacterial ‘good guys’ so this isn't goign to cut the mustard...
Along came Kefir, a fermented milk product that I could make at home and if I, one of the most undomesticated people on the planet can do it, you can too! Kefir is a traditional dairy product with multiple probiotic characteristics derived from its associated microorganisms, including more than 50 species of lactic acid bacteria and yeast (1). It's referred to as having probiotic 'chacteristics' but technically isn't a pro-biotic. I recently heard it explained in this way...imaging the probiotics as the gardeners and the Kefir as the fertliser. (scroll to the bottom of this blog for the science on that) A good friend had been using Kefir for a long time and gave me some Kefir grains that I would need to get the ball rolling. If you don't have a friend who can give you Kefir grains you can buy starter kits online or from your local health food shop. Apart from obtaining Kefir grains, the only other thing you will need is milk, the preference is Raw Goats Milk if you can get it but if not opt for for another milk source - the higher the quality of the milk, the happier your Kefir Grains will be - always use Full Cream Milk and opt for A2 for sensitive bellies. A dollop of cream in a batch every now and then will make those grains happy. You'll need some glass jars, 1 for developing your Kefir and 1 for storing it in the fridge. You may like to make more than one batch at a time and if that's the case you'll need more containers. There is debate in the Kefir community about using metal bowls, spoons and sieves as they believe it affects the Kefir - the great news is, it does not but it is suggested that you don't leave the Kefir Grains sitting in metal for long periods of time. Now, like anything you start off with a small amount and then build up especially when feeding raw goats milk Kefir as it seems to be more potent. The Kefir grains remove most of the lactose from the milk so you shouldn't have any digestive issues with it in that regard. The general guidelines are as follows:
Small dogs or cats: 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon
Medium size dogs: 1-2 tablespoons
Large dogs: 2-3 tablespoons, for very large dogs i.e. Rotti's, you can build up to 1/2 a cup.
Giant Dogs: Up to 1 cup a day
The general gist To make the perfect gut health superhero, you'll want to to do the 2 step process which includes a 2nd fermentation vs the 1 step process as outlined in the video below. The 2nd fermentation period is to increase bacterial content, reduced lactose content, or simply for the improvement in flavour. How to video We've made an in-depth video for you on each step of the process, click here.
Can you Superboost Kefir? Yes! You can add 1 teapsoon of colostrum powder per 250g of Milk when fermenting, you'll also find, this gives you a lovely texture to your Kefir. In addition, you can blend berries/fruit in at the end of the 2nd ferment too if you don't choose to add them at the start of the 2nd ferment. Going on hoilday? Pop your grains in a new jar with fresh milk and leave in your fridge whilst you're away, they'll be fine there for a few weeks. If you're going away longer than 3 weeks then you can freeze your grains. Texture & Thickness This changes all the time depending on milk used and the environment. The quality of your milk will be a big player. Opt for Full Cream, high quality milk and use raw where possible. Can you kill them? Yes, you can starve them to death. They need fresh milk to eat so if you're gone for longer than a few weeks they may run out of nutrients. A plump kefir grain is a healthy one. The smell It's not meant to smell pretty, it should smell a little sour and taste that way too. Seperation If your jar looks like it has liquid on the bottom and white kefir at the top, it has seperated. It's ok, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just over fermented and this can happen in warmer conditions. Just give it a shake and when you have finished your final 2nd ferment, you can use an electric stick mixer to make it all smooth again. Over-fermenting can cause your grains stress so try and avoid it where possible. Your grains will prefer to be in temps of 19-24 degree celius. Excess Grains You only need 3 tablespoons of Kefir grains (some people don't even use a tablespoon), excess will make it ferment faster. Give your excess to friends, put them in a smoothie, freeze them or give them to the dogs.
How much fat is in Kefir? The fat content of kefir may range from 0.5 to 3.0 percent, with solids not from fat from8.0 to 11.0 percent (Kosikowski, et. al., 1999). The fat content will vary depending onthe original fat content of the milk used (whole vs. skim, bovine vs. caprine) as well asthe storage time of the finished kefir. In a study involving the physiochemical analysis ofmilk, Irigoyen, et. al. (2005) found that the fat content of the finished kefir did not differsignificantly from the fat content of the milk that the kefir was made from.
What type of milk is best? Whilst you can use any milk, Goats milk is considered best, especally in raw form. If you can't access Goats milk, organic milk from the Supermarket would be the next best thing and then if you can only afford the cheap stuff well then that's fine as well but the wuality of your final product will be relevant to the quality of milk you use. "The type of milk originally used in the production of fermented foods was determined by the type of milk producing mammal that was nearest to a group of people or the indigenous species that was domesticated in the region. Goat milk contains approximately 4.5% lipids, with the highest amount being medium chain-lengthtriglycerides and short chain fatty acids (Chen, et. al., 2004). Because of the higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids, goat milk fat is thought to have marked benefits in human nutrition such as in the treatment of many malabsorption symptom sassociated with intestinal resection, premature infant feeding, gallstones, etc. (Babayan,1981 and Haenlein, 1992); however, for the most part, these properties have been greatly unexplored. These short and medium chain fatty acids, including hexanoic, octanoic andnonanoic variants, are the primary contributors to the characteristic goat flavor (Rahmat,et. al., 1996)."
Is Kefir a Probiotic? Narelle Cooke, Scientist and Clinical Naturopath answers this question well... "The confusion all comes down to formal definitions. The World Health Organisation define probiotics as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (FAO/WHO 2001).
The panel discussed whether certain microbial products fit under the framework of ‘probiotic’: "'Live cultures’, traditionally associated with fermented foods, were determined to be outside the framework of probiotic if they were undefined and if there were no proven health benefits associated with them. Traditional fermented foods are certainly components of a healthy diet, and the microbes associated with them may impart health benefits. But there must be a convincing level of evidence to support their health effects to be considered ‘probiotics’. Note that the yogurt starter bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are considered to be probiotics due to the evidence that they help alleviate symptoms of lactose maldigestion."
Consequently, several countries have determined that the word 'probiotic' can no longer be used on foods due to a lack of high quality evidence in support of specific health benefits for the bacterial strains in them. I think people get confused thinking that all bacteria are probiotics - but they are only 'probiotics' if they meet the formal definition.
So Kefir still contains bacteria and yeast that support the health of our dogs - so definitely keep giving ". --- References (1) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030219301961?fbclid=IwAR2I6GjRyheLgzUNP_tqnrQm3xr1bp6ZEuT_d_TxGUJkFoUarRpQ7GRE9fI#cekeyws10