filly’s blog – eat strong – belly-brain & water kefir
There’s a brain in my belly!
Yes, you read right. My intestines are intelligent.
That is cool. I think that’s rather delicious. Mmmm…I feel like eating a nice warm spicy bowl of pumpkin soup. That would make me very happy indeed.
Ok. I shall stop my ramblings. I’ll get to the point. Did you know our bellies are filled with millions of neurons, just like the ones found inside our head-brains? The network of neurons in the lining of the gut is such a massive intricate fabric of intelligent magic that some have labelled the gut the “second-brain.” Our “second-brain” plays a key role in our bodies’ health and in certain diseases. This second brain in our innards is also connected to the one in our skull, and determines our mood and mental state. Ever had “butterflies” in your stomach? Or a squirming sensation when you’ve been anxious or upset? Ever had a “gut feeling”? These emotions are not only triggered in our head-brain, but also in our gut-brain. So to have a healthy, functioning mind, you need a healthy, functioning gut – and vice versa (i.e. feeling stressed and moody, chances are you’re impairing your gut – or the other way round).
In regards to physical performance (and good health in general), even if you’re training smartly, eating your macros and getting enough sleep, your efforts may be sabotaged by poor gut health. You may end up with impaired immune and nervous systems and hormonal dysfunctions, which makes it impossible to push yourself to new levels of performance.
Crazy, hey, to think that we have a brain bubbling away, affecting our health and our physical abilities, triggering our emotions and our mood, in that messy place that mooshes all our food. I’d like to shrink to pip and slide down my esophagus just to check it all out!
MORAL OF THIS RATHER CRYPTIC STORY:
Move strong eat strong readers, take care of your guts. They’re rather sensitive creatures and need the utmost tender loving care. You wouldn’t sprinkle your head-brains with sugar, or smear it with trans-fats, now, would you? Show some respect to your belly-brains, too, please.
Unless you’ve consumed a perfect diet of high-quality anti-inflammatory whole foods all your life, chances are your belly-brain is feeling a tad under the weather. Now is the time to restore your gastrointestinal tract to new health.
First, you need to cut out the crap – all the nasty, toxic, stressing stuff. That means caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, bad fats, and any other food that doesn’t “sit right” for you down there (gluten and dairy causes irritation for many). Next it’s time to heal your damaged intestinal lining by consuming an unprocessed diet full of healing nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and Vitamins A, C and E. Then you want to restore your belly-brain’s bacterial flora by consuming good bacteria in the form of probiotics. Probiotics are fermented foods (such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut), which help maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract and help fight illness and disease.
Probiotic: Water Kefir
I make sure my family – that’s me and Mr BigDog and little cute-as-can-be Poppy – consumes a selection of probiotic foods everyday to ensure our guts stay healthy and strong. Just imagine:
Our belly-brains brimming with a vibrant array of bacterial flora! It’s like having Floriade every day in our guts all year round. I shall press a finger inside my belly and pull out a bunch of flora for you to place inside a vase on your kitchen table. Oh what a sight!
I plan to post about the different probiotics that we regularly consume. But first, let me introduce my friends to you:
These are my kefir (keh-FEAR) grains – the one to the left is Sasha, the one to the right is Jimmy. Ha! Just kidding. I haven’t really given them names. But I very well should. Because they’re kind little kritters that give lovin’ to my belly-brain. And don’t they just look like brains themselves?
Kefir grains are not actually grains at all. They are live active cultures consisting of yeast and good bacteria, which, when left to ferment in filtered sugar water, produce a yummo probiotic beverage. There are SO MANY health benefits packed in a glass of this goodness. The kefir grains eat away at and metabolise the sugar in the water, turning it into beneficial acids, B vitamins, food enzymes and more healthy bacteria.
BUT I THOUGHT YOU SAID TO CUT OUT SUGAR? WHAT THE HECK?
Uh hum. Yes. Yes. I do believe I did. But the groovy thing about water kefir is that during the fermentation process the sugar content is dramatically reduced. A glass of water kefir has roughly the same sugar content to that of a sour green apple. The end result is slightly sweet, but with a fermented touch.
How To Make Water Kefir
To make water kefir, you need kefir grains (obvious, I know!). The beauty about kefir grains is that, when properly cared for, they will grow, and grow, and grow…literally forever! My friend Scarlett gave me some of hers when her batch was getting a tad out-of-control, and in turn, I’ve given my brain-like friends away as well. Sharing is caring, people. You can also purchase the kefir grains online. But that’s not as fun.
- 2 tbsp water kefir grains
- ¼ cup sugar (organic, unprocessed sugar such as rapadura or cane sugar is best. But you can also use white sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, etc)
- 1 litre filtered water (or cooled boiled water)
- Place kefir grains in a 1 litre mason jar.
- Dissolve sugar in a small cup of boiling water.
- Once sugar is dissolved and cooled, add the sugar water to the kefir grains and fill the jar up with the filtered water.
- Cover the jar with a cloth or cheesecloth to keep the bugs out. (I forgot to do this once and came back to the kitchen to find an army of ants had kamikazed in my water kefir! I can’t stand wastage. I may or may not have scooped them out and served the water kefir to Chris…shhh…don’t tell him.)
- Leave the jar on the counter for two to three days (if it’s particularly cold, I have to leave mine on the counter for longer). The longer you leave it, the more the sugar ferments out. I have a sip each day until the water is only slightly sweet and fermenty tasting. I don’t think it’s worth doing it for only 12 hours (like some recipes suggest), as the beverage would be still quite high in sugar. Let it ferment, baby. Let it ferment.
- When the water kefir is ready, strain the water out using a plastic strainer (don’t use metal as this kills the kefir grains – and you don’t want their deaths smeared on your hands!).
- Store the fermented water kefir in your fridge and drink a small glass a day. Consume within a week. (Ours doesn’t last long as BigDog guzzles it down – sometimes even before Poppy and I can benefit from its goodness. Oh, the joys of living with a caveman).
If you want to continue brewing, restart the process. Otherwise you can store your kefir grains in sugar water (unfermented) in the fridge for later use.
There are lots of variations of kefir. Some fancy people carbonate or add fruit to their kefir to give it a fizzy, fruity taste. You can also purchase milk kefir grains and use milk or coconut milk to make kefir. Want to know more about water kefir? Go here.
However you do it, kefir is an excellent addition to your diet and your belly-brains will thank you very muchly.
My kefir grain crop is alive and thriving. So if any one wants some healthful probiotic action, I’ve got a few tablespoons spare of kefir grains to give away. Make a comment and let me know if you so wish!