Milk Kefir Granules

Kefir 101

The Superorganism

We are less human than we think we are. The human body has 10 trillion cells, but there is 10 times that amount, 100 trillion cells that belong to the bacteria that inhabit our digestive tract from mouth to colon (1).

“As it turns out, 90% of the cells in our body are microbial – making us more microbe than mammal – a supraorganism, thus making the human body best viewed as an ecosystem.” (2)

As a superorganism we cannot function without the microbial life inside us, and they cannot function without us.


CREDIT: Mondolithic Studios – The Superorganism

This collection of bacteria is so important to our existence that is it often referred to as another organ, on the level of the brain or heart (3).

As a quick aside, the gut, and its collection of microbiota is also referred to as the second brain. Many features we associate with the brain are also present, or derived entirely in the gut, such as the production of serotonin, the feel good chemical.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial microbes, usually bacteria and yeast, but may also include parasites, such as hookworms, and whipworms. As science discovers beneficial species of fungi, and viruses, those too will be thought of as probiotics (4). Research is still early in this field, and new discoveries are on the horizon.

These probiotic microbes live in the human digestive tract from mouth to colon to feed off the food we eat. They are symbiotic, providing us with health benefits as we feed them. Those health benefits include

  • Calming gut inflammation
  • Providing digestive enzymes
  • Modifying immune system behavior
  • Changing genetic expression (10)
  • Combating pathogens

Those with IBD are likely to have what’s known as gut dysbiosis (5, 6), which is an imbalance of healthy gut ecology of microbes. My Crohn’s disease symptoms are drastically reduced with high doses of probiotics, which makes a lot of sense because before I was diagnosed my gut ecology was ravaged by antibiotic use to treat my acne, pharmaceutical drugs like Accutane, and a diet full of highly processed sugar, and carbohydrates.

Anyone with IBD, and even people who don’t have any noticeable gastrointestinal condition can benefit from taking probiotics on a daily basis. We all know vegetables are healthy. Probiotics are no different, and everyone can benefit.

Where to get the best source of probiotics

Probiotics are hot right now, with TV commercials, scientific studies, and whole sections in food, and health stores dedicated to products that contain probiotics. There are numerous ways to obtain them:

  • Your local food and health stores
  • Online sellers
  • Friends or groups of people who share their fermented food and cultures with you

Probiotics can come in several different forms:

  • Capsules
  • Powders
  • Drinks
  • Food
  • Culture kits for making your own

I started out by buying probiotics in capsule form from online sellers. Additionally, when I started I made my own yogurt at home using a starter culture kit I bought online. I have written in the past how to make homemade yogurt. (7)

Buying the milk and starter culture nearly every week wasn’t necessarily expensive, but it was an added cost that I would learn years later wasn’t necessary.

Treating IBD can be very expensive with hospital stays, drugs, supplements, and food. One way to save costs is to use a culture of microbes called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that grows in perpetuity as long as you feed it the food they need.

Think of it like taking care of a plant. Take care of it, and it will give you all sorts of rewards without much hassle. In this case, the reward is improved digestion, and overall health.

Kefir: a probiotic elixir?

Kefir (pronounced keh-fear) is one such solution, and I believe it is the least expensive, but paradoxically most effective probiotic treatment I have used for my IBD. According to Dom’s Kefir website,

“The word kefir is said to be derived from the Turkish word keif, which loosely translates to good feeling or feel good. This is quite likely because drinking kefir is renowned to increase a sense of well-being.” (8)

Milk Kefir Granules

CREDIT: – Milk Kefir Granules

Kefir is a beverage full of probiotics from bacteria, and yeast that feed off of the lactose sugar in milk and in turn create vitamins, and enzymes. It has been touted as having a wide variety of healing properties, especially for those with gut conditions because of the diverse and potent amount of probiotics, vitamins, and enzymes it contains.

True kefir is made by a symbiotic culture of lactic acid producing bacteria, vinegar producing bacteria and yeasts, all originating from a colony contained in kefir granules or more commonly called a kefir grains. Kefir grains have no relation to cereal grains, therefore “granules” is more appropriate, yet rarely used term. The granules can look a lot like bits of cauliflower, but more translucent.

The beautiful thing about kefir granules are that they grow as long as you put them into milk so that the microbes feed off the lactose milk sugar. By doing this, you are producing your own probiotics that will last you a lifetime. After you obtain or purchase a kefir granule, if you take good care of it, you’ll never have to buy another probiotic again!

Sometimes a kefir granule will grow much larger than the others. In this case, my good friend Tara Rosas who has taught me a lot about kefir says to break them a part to increase their surface and diversity.

No culture of Kefir is exactly the same, but here is a good indication of which kinds of bacteria and yeasts you’ll be introducing to your body if you drink kefir. (9)

Kefir (~56 species)


Species Lactobacillus

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lb. brevis [Possibly now Lb. kefiri]
  • Lb. casei subsp. casei
  • Lb. casei subsp. rhamnosus
  • Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei
  • Lb. fermentum
  • Lb. cellobiosus
  • Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
  • Lb. delbrueckii subsp. lactis
  • Lb. fructivorans
  • Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis
  • Lb. hilgardii
  • Lb. helveticus
  • Lb. kefiri
  • Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum
  • Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens
  • Lb. parakefiri
  • Lb. plantarum

Species Streptococcus

  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • St. paracitrovorus ^

Species Lactococcus

  • Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
  • Lc. lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis
  • Lc. lactis subsp. Cremoris

Species Enterococcus

  • Enterococcus durans

Species Leuconostoc

  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
  • Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides
  • Leuc. dextranicum ^


  • Dekkera anomala t/ Brettanomyces anomalus a
  • Kluyveromyces marxianus t/ Candida kefyr a#
  • Pichia fermentans t/ C. firmetaria a
  • Yarrowia lipolytica t/ C. lipolytica a
  • Debaryomyces hansenii t/ C. famata a#
  • Deb. [Schwanniomyces] occidentalis
  • Issatchenkia orientalis t/ C. krusei a
  • Galactomyces geotrichum t/ Geotrichum candidum a
  • C. friedrichii
  • C. rancens
  • C. tenuis
  • C. humilis
  • C. inconspicua
  • C. maris
  • Cryptococcus humicolus
  • Kluyveromyces lactis var. lactis #
  • Kluyv. Bulgaricus
  • Kluyv. lodderae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae #
  • Sacc. subsp. torulopsis holmii
  • Sacc. pastorianus
  • Sacc. humaticus
  • Sacc. unisporus
  • Sacc. exiguus
  • Sacc. turicensis sp. nov
  • Torulaspora delbrueckii t
  • Zygosaccharomyces rouxii


  • Acetobacter aceti
  • Acetobacter rasens

saccharomyces cerevisiae

CREDIT: – Saccharomyces cerevisiae


  • t – Teleomorph. Sexual reproductive stage. Yeast form pseudo-mycelium as in Flowers of Kefir.
  • a – Anamorph. Asexual reproductive stage. Reproduce by budding or forming spores or cell splitting [fission].
  • # – Can utilize lactose or lactate.
  • ^ – Aroma forming.
  • subsp. – Sub specie type.
  • sp. – Specie type.
  • sp. nov. – New strain or new specie strain type.
  • biovar. – Biological variation strain type.
  • var. – Variety type.

Compare this with several very popular and high quality commercial probiotics. I have used both Natren, and Renew Life and can vouch they worked well for me, just not as well as kefir. I haven’t used VSL#3, but there are several studies showing it can be effective in people with ulcerative colitis.

Natren (3 species)

Species Lactobacillus

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (NAS)
  • Lb. bulgaricus (LB-51)

Species Bifidobacterium

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum (Malyoth)

VSL#3 (8 species)

Species Lactobacillus

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lb. bulgaricus
  • Lb. paracasei
  • Lb. plantarum

Species Bifidobacterium

  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bf. infantis
  • Bf. longum

Species Streptococcus

  • Streptococcus thermophiles

Renew Life (14 species)

Species Lactobacillus

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lb. casei
  • Lb. rhamnosus
  • Lb. plantarum
  • Lb. gasseri
  • Lb. paracasei
  • Lb. salivarius

Species Bifidobacterium

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bf. breve
  • Bf. infantis
  • Bf. lactis (A)
  • Bf. lactis (B)
  • Bf. lactis (C)
  • Bf. longum

Lactobacillus Acidophilus

CREDIT: – Lactobacillus Acidophilus

The commercial probiotics have much less diversity in bacteria species, and usually none of the beneficial yeast species. Because of this difference in microbial make up, kefir has been the most effective treatment for my Crohn’s disease.

I am still analyzing, and preparing the data from my kefir experiment, and will share it in the near future along with how to begin making your own. In the meantime…

Stay colonized,

Reid Kimball Signature