Gut Health Gurus Blog

Unlock the Secrets to Wellness: A Comprehensive Look at Collagen, Kefir Making, and the Microbiome

Unlock the Secrets to Wellness
Marine Collagen

After a 6 month lockdown in Melbourne Australia, Kriben Govender moved to Bali to improve his mental health. He now runs his company, Nourishme Organics, from Melbourne Australia, and Bali Indonesia. In this conversation with Steve Stavs from Made to Thrive, Kriben shares how kefir can improve immune function, the latest research on Kefir, why you should make your own vs buying it in the store, the types of milk you can use to make it, and some considerations when changing kefir grains. He also gets into deuterium-depleted water, a breakdown of different types of collagen, and his daily routine for optimised health! Read on to learn about these topics and more.

Kefir’s Ability to Help Improve Immune Function

In a recent study, it was shown that there are benefits to using kefir to mitigate the risks of viral infections (including CV19). This specifically has to do with the ACE2 receptor and it’s now very clear that kefir may have some benefits to blocking the viral adhesion to the cells by having an impact on the ACE2 receptor. The way it works with viral particles attacking a cell is that it has to bind to the ACE2 receptor and there are a couple of things that can mitigate that, kefir being one of those. There are a whole host of natural medicines that we can use as well but kefir and vitamin D are the biggest ones that are going to block that ACE2 receptor. Kefir is more about preventing viral and bacterial infections as opposed to treating them. Kefir is so rich in different types of probiotics like lactobacillus and a whole host of other beneficial organisms.

From a natural treatment perspective, there are things like cinchona extract, which is high in quinine (which has a similar compound that has been used for malaria compared to other pharmaceutical products.) It's a zinc ionophore so it helps the zinc help get into the cell and block the viral replication pathway. So quinine extract combined with zinc is great. Another is quercetin; not many people know one of the richest food sources of quercetin is capers. So include some in your diet to boost your quercetin. Another great one is black seed oil. It’s rich in different types of compounds and polyphenols. There are great studies behind it when dealing with bronchial and viral infections.

From my perspective, it's all about prevention. Keeping yourself healthy and fit, making sure you’re not in the category where you are developing diabetes or metabolic disease because this is where your risk profile increases. If you put in the work now and make sure that you're:

  • Eating clean natural healthy foods
  • Getting exercise
  • Getting out in the sun
  • Getting your vitamin D (with K2)
  • Getting your circadian rhythm right
  • Adopting fasting methodologies

Then it will set you up so you’re not in the high-risk category. And if you pick up a viral infection, your body can deal with it easily because it’s not fighting other diseased states at the same time. 

The Importance of At-Home Kefir Making

Growing your grains and making your kefir (use this kit!) might seem intimidating but it’s easier than you think! The main problem with store-bought kefir is that it’s inauthentic. The alcohol content that’s produced in fermentation is restricted when it comes to a legislative perspective. When it gets to a certain percentage (usually 0.5 depending on the country you live in), you have to get a liquor license. Not many people can get over that hurdle in their area.

The other problem with store-bought kefir is that it’s so much easier and cheaper just to get a stock standard “kefir” starter culture or a yoghurt starter culture and call it kefir. So when you’re buying a product from the store you’re just buying the hype. Instead, the kefir you make at home is the real stuff that was made for thousands of years, originally in the Caucasus mountains. The benefits of that product come from the bacteria and all of the individual peptides which exert a medicinal benefit on the person that is consuming it. And when you’re buying the product, you might be getting a handful of yoghurt-type bacteria and maybe one or two kefir strains, but you’re missing out on all the:

  • Peptides, 
  • Postbiotics,
  • Vitamins, 
  • A plethora of different bacteria

In authentic kefir, there are a trillion organisms per serving and up to 100 different types of probiotic organisms. But if store-bought is your only option, there are still benefits to that. Most of these products are natural, they don’t contain additives, and they are a gateway into the world of fermentation. If you want the full benefits of kefir it all starts with making it at home, getting it from a friend that makes it, or finding a reputable company. But you can pick your adventure.



How to Test If a Store-Bought Product is Beneficial?

The easiest way to tell if store-bought is beneficial is by looking at the label. If you look at the organisms on the label, the two most prolific kefir organisms are going to be lactobacillus kefiranofaciens and lactobacillus kefiri. If you see those then you know that’s a good starting sign that it has two of the major kefir organisms. But if you read the label and it has a generic lactobacillus, streptococcus thermophilus, or a bifidobacteria strain then you’re just talking a yoghurt culture. Look for the kefir in the name of the strain name and even better if it's on the label “made with real kefir grains”. This means it will have the full gamut of kefir organisms. 

After looking at the label, it's a matter of getting in touch with the manufacturer. Send them an email or call saying “Hey, is this made with real kefir grains or is this a commercially available starter culture?” A lot of companies are tricky, there will just be a yoghurt culture in there and they call it kefir. They can do that because it’s an early product and there's no legislation to protect the consumer yet. At the moment the easiest thing is to look for something made with real kefir grains. 

But if you want the real thing, it’s so easy and cost-effective to make kefir yourself. Once you get your grains you have them for life. You can use that one culture over and over again, only having to pay for milk. From an economic standpoint, you can go to the store and buy it or make it yourself for a fraction of the cost. With the people in our community, their kefir grains start to become like a pet. They take care of it like they would a dog or cat. They talk to it and put their love, intention, and gratitude into the grains. In my household, that's what kefir means to me. It's the ritual I’ve been following for so many years.  

You have a personal story with it of having depression and then starting something that helped change it significantly. After you found kefir, you found out about the good foods, bad foods, the environment, the light, and the circadian rhythm, but kefir was something that moved the needle for you most. So that's possibly why you look at it with intention. You made a business out of it, you’ve changed people's lives, and there's momentum that moves forward when you keep changing lives - Steve

The Types of Milk That Can Be Used for Kefir

If you can source good quality raw milk then that's the ultimate. Raw goat's milk is the best and most traditional type of kefir you can make. When it comes to pasteurised milk, you do change the proteins and structures of it BUT when you ferment it, the proteins get broken down into peptides so it’s not detrimental. With raw milk, there is a risk of food poisoning and with pasteurised you have a change in the protein structure and it can be a bit more inflammatory. But fermenting it will mitigate most of those risks.  

  • For pasteurised dairy milk kefir, make sure you get milk from an A2-type cow. This a nice soft protein to digest and it will produce the best kefir. If you aren’t sure if something is A2 milk, then ask the farmer if it’s from a “jersey cow”. 
  • For plant-based milk you can use coconut milk, soy milk, or oat milk. They will all produce a milk kefir, they just won’t have the same peptides because you’re not starting with the same protein mix. When you’re using plant-based milk, you have to add some form of sugar substrate (I recommend a preservative-free dried fig or date). That will give it some food to grow and thrive. Out of all the alternative milk, soy milk produces the best type of kefir. This is because the protein content is higher than the other two.  

Again, pick your adventure. If you want to go plant-based this is a good alternative to still get the benefits. And if you’re not worried about the vegan or vegetarian conversation then the most researched type of kefir with all the science behind it will be the dairy milk.

Considerations When Changing Grains

If you’re thinking of changing grains it’s a double-edged sword. Ultimately from a microbial diversity perspective, it’s a great idea. You can share your grains with your friend and mix up the culture to have a bit more diversity in your kefir. But on the other hand, it takes a long time to get the taste profile and the organoleptic qualities (the taste, smell, and thickness) to find something you love. I love my kefir the way it is and I don't wanna mess with it. If I change it up a little bit it might ferment too quickly, produce a smelly kefir, or end up too thin. When you find something that works you say “thank god I got it right.” The same with water kefir, you find the fizziness you like and if you mess with your grains it may change this. From a diversity perspective, a great idea, but from a practical application probably not. But you can always trade kefir with friends so you don’t have to mess with your grains so you have more diversity. With fermented foods diversity is the key. 

Organic Dairy 

How Important Is It to Use Organic Dairy?

It's incredibly important to use organic because there are standards for antibiotic usage, additives, and hormones. There are all of these additives that are used in conventional dairy. If you look at the price difference, organic is much more expensive because it’s more difficult to make and you don’t get the same level of yield. I think that if you can afford organic, choose it.  

The main thing to be careful with in non organic dairy is seed oils. Omega 6’s are toxic and poisonous products. I always steer people towards natural types of fats not processed fats. Things like canola, sunflower, and soybean (the worst of them) are highly inflammatory. Soybean oil is used in a lot of processed food and fast food products. You’re much better off going for natural fats and oils. As far as fats to use in your daily life, I use:  

It's an individual conversation but they are good for most people. If I work with a client that has an impaired gut and cannot handle certain fats then that’s a different conversation but holistically speaking, I can say that those processed vegetable fats are an absolute poison. There is no place for those products in anyone's diet. 

The Difference Between Marine, Bovine, Kangaroo, and Donkey Collagen

Different collagens have different peptides and illicit different benefits. There are so many different types of collagen strands. If you think of the protein as the long chain molecule and then you chop up that protein you get the smaller strands of peptides if you go smaller you get amino acids. Here is a breakdown of the different collagens and their benefits. 

Marine collagen: This is very effective for your skin and beauty 

Bovine collagen: This helps with gut issues including leaky gut. Bovine collagen has type 1 and type 3 peptides. You can read about the differences between Bovine and Marine Collagen more in-depth here 

Kangaroo collagen: This is a revolutionary product and we were one of the first companies to carry it. It has anti-blood clotting abilities and people struggling with different medications could use kangaroo collagen. It’s also very effective when it comes to erectile dysfunction, read more about that here

Donkey collagen: This also has some benefits when it comes to blood health but specifically when it comes to menstrual issues and aenemia. It’s in the Chinese pharmacopeia (Ejiao) and has been used for thousands of years. People love it so much that they have been close to eradicating their donkey population in China. But fortunately now in Australia, there are a lot of feral donkeys so now there are value in them and people use the pieces that were previously thrown away. There are many anti-aging benefits as well.

Donkey collagen

Latest Research on The Microbiome 

In terms of the microbiome, the hottest areas of the microbiome are prebiotics. At the beginning of the research, probiotics were key. We are now realising that more powerful tools lie in the prebiotic & post-biotic space. When I work with a client, I look at their stool profile and see deficiencies or excesses in the microbiome. Typically the first thing I'm going to do is use some form of prebiotic. That will bolster up organisms that are lacking like short-chained fatty acid-producing organisms. Then the prebiotics leads to postbiotics. These are the compounds that bacteria produce. I mentioned short-chained fatty acids which is a perfect example of postbiotics. This is the fuel source for the gut colonocytes so they use this as fuel. 

When people have issues with not getting enough fibre or diversity in their diet, they’re very deficient in these short-chain fatty acids. This is leading to things like leaky gut and gut impairment. And now we’re discovering so many different prebiotics. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG) is my go-to because it doesn’t create much gas and bloating. But fos inulin is another great option.  

Scientists are now discovering the importance of polyphenols. About 80% of polyphenols cannot be digested by you, they have to go to the gut and be digested in the large intestine or the colon by the microbiome. A lot of the benefits are coming from polyphenols. So a perfect example is a pomegranate, strawberry, or raspberry - they are all very rich in polyphenols. But what creates the benefits is that the polyphenols that are in those fruits are broken down into fulvic acids, which are where the benefits are coming from. 

The microbiome is becoming extremely nuanced because one person might have the right type of bacteria to do that conversion and another may not. So if I see on a stool sample that they have the bacteria to do that conversion, I’m going to tell them to eat more polyphenols. We can even look at nuances of something like types of bacteria that can break down the soy isoflavones. So if you have the right type of bacteria, you’re going to do pretty well with soy, and if someone doesn't have that they aren’t going to get the same benefits from soy. There are so many different nuances when it comes to stool samples.

Kriben's Daily Routine

The first thing I do is brush my teeth out in the sun in the backyard with very minimal clothes. Getting sunlight straight into my eyes is the first important thing to set my circadian rhythm. then the next thing I do is a 20-minute meditation to start the day calm and focused. When I'm meditating, all the things flood to the surface and then I go back to being as empty as possible. I have a sauna in my villa and I’ll do a 15-minute session with my wife. Then I’ll have a cold shower and do rebounding. My breakfast consists of kefir with a bit of fruit and the amazing honey we have in Bali. I try to incorporate fermented foods in every meal. At lunch or dinner, it might be miso, sauerkraut, or kimchi. 

How to Take Care of Your Milk Kefir

The most important thing with kefir is consistency, keeping it fed and at room temperature. As soon as you take a bit of a break you put it in the fridge then it becomes sluggish and the mixture of bacteria shifts and it will be hard to get it back to its original potency. The key is to get into a routine and set up your morning but at some point allocate some time to do the straining it's pretty fast. If you use a kefiriko it's faster because you have the strainer in the lid. But if you don’t have one, it's just as easy as getting a kitchen strainer put the kefir in, use your fingers to push the kefir out and take the grains, and put them into a clean jar, top up with milk cover it restart and repeat this process every 24-48 hours. The grains stay optimised by always staying outside of the refrigerator.  

It depends on your climate, but you’re probably going to produce kefir every 24 hours. It's just a teaspoon of grains and 250 ml of milk (so you’re going to produce roughly 250 ml of kefir). Strain it out and the kefir grains will be left in the strainer so then you take the grains back out 250 ml of milk back in. It's a simple process that you have to do every day, but for some people, it starts to become a meditation. 

Deuterium-Depleted Water

You can use deuterium depleted water for many things. We partner with Preventa and they are the leading manufacturer of it. If you’re not well, you can start with 80 PPM but if you’re in dire straights in this cases then you can use 25 PPM. For general health, anywhere between 120-140 is a good place. If you’re interested, you can learn more about deuterium-depleted water in this episode with Dr. Gabor Somlyai or this episode with Dr. Laszlo Boros.Low D- Deuterium Depleted Water

There are many things that you can do to help improve your overall wellness. Remember to make your own kefir when possible, ask questions to manufacturers & farmers when needed, choose the collagen that is right for your health goals, and take care of your health and wellness overall using the tips provided. Make sure to have a daily routine for health optimisation and share this with a friend that would also benefit from this information!

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