Almost two decades ago I had a revelation. No longer could I rely on any individual to solve all my health problems even if it was a medical professional. Although I have a lot of respect for what they do, I realized that they are very limited since they only get two weeks of nutrition in medical school. That's simply not enough information and since we need to eat and drink to survive, and so do our cells, I wanted to know how our cells ingest nutrients, fluids, proteins, and other molecules to make the body we call home.
When my daughter had massive food allergies and leaky gut, I went to several doctors who thought we might try and take out her gallbladder but they weren't sure it would actually help. Instead, I came to the conclusion that since the cells of the body are made up of the food we eat then there had to be a correlation and by golly, I was going to figure out something better than surgery. That started me on a journey that transformed not only her life but mine and now thousands of others. Along this journey I learned about the trillions of microbes that call us home and they have been my best teacher and constant companion. I have spent the last twenty years eating, learning, and making food teeming with probiotics, and oh my! The wisdom they have imparted has been transformative and pure joy.
Now I am more aware than ever that health starts with the fuel you provide your body, exercise, mental health, and also the number of bugs (microbes) in your gut.
Yes, it took some changing and some days were tougher than others; but when I faced discomfort head-on, I experienced the most growth. This has happened to me over and over and I'm so thankful for the pain that made me grow. It's been life-changing.
Here is a list of my favorite cultured foods and a few others that have been a part of my life for the last twenty years. Change is inevitable, so let's make it life-changing, okay?
My Favorite Cultured Foods
This was the first cultured food I tried and I think it's the easiest to make and it also has the most probiotics. Kefir helped me with my high blood pressure and blood sugars. It also helped my mood. When I'm super stressed, two to three cups of kefir, spread throughout the day, will calm me down and chill me out. Kefir contains many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes - calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins B, B2, B3, B6, B12, Folic Acid, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Two cups of kefir will contain all the B12 you need in a day. Kefir has lots of amino acids. Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir and is known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. 
It is hands-down the cultured food I consume the most. I have had the most success stories from this amazing food and its many benefits continue to surprise me. Check out Rosy's amazing story with milk kefir.
Today I would like to share with you about milk kefir and how it has changed my life. From my personal experience, I hope to reach out and help others as well.
My long battle has always been dealing with constipation since my childhood days and it just got worse over time and with age. I have tried several types of laxatives, been to doctors, and tried all the remedies possible but nothing really helped. My nails started to become brittle; my skin became very dry (especially at the knuckles which was painful) and I got severe reflux due to this issue with constipation.
After the new year of 2020, I realized that I was losing the sensation to poop. I was afraid and desperately looking for something that would help me in the long term with no side effects and heal me from the inside out.
I did extensive research for solutions then came across this probiotic called “milk kefir” which is filled with good bacteria and yeast. After trying this miracle drink, it has been helping and healing me. It has helped many people that I know, with different types/kinds of gut issues as well.
It has been more than a year now since I started having milk kefir daily. My skin has almost healed, my nails are back to normal, and my hair has a much softer texture and is not falling out like before. Finally, I can go to the bathroom every day without any medication, no more reflux, bloating, and swelling and yes, I have lost about 3kg.
My daughter’s hemoglobin has always been on the low side and now she’s fine as well. My whole family drinks milk kefir every day. This healthy drink has become a part of our daily routine.
I hope my message will be helpful to many people who may be suffering from gut issues.
HEALTHY GUT = HAPPY LIFE ☺️
This special probiotic tea was the second cultured food I tried and it was a life-changer. It has a special probiotic yeast that cannot be killed by antibiotics and is one of the drinks I consume regularly for many reasons. Kombucha helped me replace the addictive quality of diet pop and highly processed foods. Nothing else worked to detox me from those addictive chemicals that kept me craving these foods and harming the cells of my body. It was kombucha that assisted my liver in detoxing me and allowing me to crave healthy foods and drinks.
To be an effective probiotic it must survive its passage to the colon. This means it needs to survive at the body temperature of 98 degrees and be resistant to stomach and bile acids, and then survive the complex and diverse microbial world of the intestinal tract. S. boulardii does this and more, and it's resistant to antibiotics, heat, and stomach acids. It has been used in hospitals to help with acute diarrhea in children and adults, offering support for Clostridium difficile (C. diff), bowel disorders, AIDS patients, children with autism, and inflammatory bowel disease. If you need to take an antibiotic, it's a powerful probiotic to take since it's resistant to antibiotics and it will be helpful if you find yourself with Candida overgrowth.
Kombucha is packed with glucosamine which helps prevent joint damage by supporting the preservation of collagen. It does this by increasing hyaluronic acid, which is important for the lubrication of your joints. When joints are better able to move, the collagen isn’t worn down as much. I’ve heard a lot of people express how kombucha helps them with joint pain and is effective in relieving painful swelling.
Chris Johnston's journey with cultured foods
In 2010, I had just started my blog and Facebook page, and the second person to post on my page was a man named Chris asking me How to Make Kombucha. He was a friend of my older kids and what I didn't know at the time was Chris had just been diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He was young and had a new family and needed help. Fast forward many years later and Chris is ten years + cancer-free, has four kids, and we work together remotely every day. He is now my web manager and the person most responsible for the way my site looks, runs, and a million other things.
He did undertake chemotherapy but also added tons of cultured foods to his diet, including lots of kombucha, and his wife has been diligent in helping him have a probiotic diet.
Years later, I discovered just how important it was that Chris added cultured probiotic foods to his diet, as it is the number of gut microbes you have that help repair your gut after chemotherapy. It's a big deal to care for your microbes. Check out this article for more info.
These are some of my most used food-like-medicines in my refrigerator. I have so many jars it's kind of ridiculous. The superstar bacteria in cultured vegetables is called Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum). It is extremely hardy, survives stomach acid with ease, and can make the full trip from your mouth – to intestines – to colon to colonize you in a powerful way. L. plantarum is a welcome guest that works mightily for you by fiercely attacking pathogenic (bad) bacteria in our bodies. It will strengthen your good bacteria by killing the bad guys, and then helps your own good bacteria grow stronger, and helps it to be more resistant to future invasions of pathogens. It's important to note that this is a transient bacteria which means it will only last a few days in the body so it's important to have it often.
L. plantarum is pretty powerful and can even knock out food poisoning [3,4](as I myself have witnessed). It has been studied and found successful in the inhibition of food poisoning and pathogenic bacteria, and it is being studied for use in improving the microbiological safety of foods. It's also superior for any kind of stomach distress. I've seen this again and again and received so many emails of stories telling me how effective it was in stopping vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea with just a spoonful of the brine or vegetables. Try it and it will make you a believer, too. Nothing works better for stomach distress.
7 More of My Favorites
It was my daughter Maci's inability to digest wheat that started me on a journey learning about fermentation. Our bread was transformed when made with a sourdough culture. Sourdough bread is hands-down my most satisfying food to make. It is glorious to take a loaf from the oven and know that it will nourish my family. The fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, also allows for a bread that is lower on the glycemic index, thus making it better for those with blood sugar issues. The fermentation also helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract resulting in proper assimilation and elimination. It is also one of the most delicious cultured foods.
There are two ways to make kefir soda, which is a slightly different process than making water kefir using water kefir crystals. The difference is in the culture you use. Kefir soda can be made using either kefir powder packages (we recommend this one by Cultures for Health) or using kefir whey from milk kefir. It's so delicious and so easy to make. Once you make your first bottle, the next one only takes less than a day. I made dozens of bottles on one package culture and I love it, especially in the summertime.
Miso is a salty paste made from fermented beans (usually soybeans) but it can be made with chickpeas or other beans. I like to buy my miso at stores since it takes at least 3 months to make. Miso gets better with age and won't turn rancid or spoil. I keep mine in the refrigerator and it seems to get better tasting the longer I have it. Some miso can even be over ten years old!
Miso has many benefits such as lowering blood pressure and keeping your arteries clean. Miso may offer protection from many types of cancer and even radiation poisoning. Miso also promotes brain health. If you would like to read more about this and get some good recipes, check out this article.
I make kefir cheese constantly. It's crazy easy, filled with probiotics, and you can use it in a million different ways. I make kefir cheese in big and small batches and I want to show you how you can do it too. I use kefir cheese in place of any recipe that calls for cream cheese, sour cream, or yogurt. It's very versatile, and the length of time you strain it will determine how thick it becomes. Making kefir cheese is one of my favorite things to do with kefir—and it’s a great way to sneak kefir into the diets of picky eaters because it tastes much like cream cheese. If you're lactose intolerant, keep in mind that kefir cheese is 99% lactose free.
I love kefir, but yogurt is something I have often too. It's one of my favorite desserts. I top some yogurt with berries and I'm happy as a clam. So, what is the difference between kefir and yogurt? Which is better? Kefir is far superior with its many beneficial bacteria, but yogurt has its benefits too. I read once that yogurt is like wine and kefir is more like champagne. It has more pizzazz! To state it simply, yogurt felt like the first learning step in my cultured food life. Check out all the yogurts you can make. They all have many benefits and are easy to make.
Probiotic Cheeses — Chevre and Créme Fraîche
The rewards of making your own cheese are by far worth the effort, and it's easier than you may think. Cheese is loaded with vitamin K2 which has been referred to as the X factor by Dr. Weston Price. He has been called the “Isaac Newton of Nutrition.”
- Vitamin K2 has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent  and it also protects against leukemia and might even be used as a treatment for leukemia in the future. 
- Vitamin K2 may help protect us from heart disease by reducing calcium deposits in the arteries. Some studies have even shown it can reverse arterial calcification. 
- Vitamin K2 helps form strong bones and helps the skin stay healthy with the prevention of wrinkles, sagging skin, and varicose veins. Vitamin K2 is a necessity for vitamin A to do its job which is maintaining proper skin cell proliferation
I love making these cheeses and right before I started writing this I made a quart of Créme Fraîche! Check out how you can make them too!
Water kefir grains, or we call them kefir crystals, are unlike milk kefir grains as they thrive on sugars and not lactose. The special probiotic yeasts and beneficial bacteria in the water kefir crystals consume the sugar in the sugar water and they produce probiotics, new enzymes, vitamins, and help repopulate your gut flora. They are dairy-free and gluten-free despite being called "grains." They look slightly different from milk kefir grains and are translucent, while milk kefir grains are white.
Water kefir is different from the Kefir Soda recipes on my site. Kefir Soda is made with a powdered packet of a kefir starter or kefir whey which is from milk kefir and is not dairy-free. This recipe is made with water kefir crystals that can last indefinitely and it is fun to make!
.These are just a few of the many probiotic foods I make and love. I realize it may seem like a lot, but this really is how I live. I make cheeses more in the fall and winter. I drink kefir soda mostly in spring and summer. I make sourdough bread once or twice a week. I make kefir every day and I make veggies probably once every couple of months. They last a long time in the fridge. I always have kombucha brewing, and I buy miso since it takes so long to make. I make cheeses when I run out and need them for recipes, which is about twice a month. I've done this for so long it's just a habit now.
I'm not just spouting facts and studies and recipes. I've lived these experiences and I love to make these foods. My body demands it and I don't feel quite right without them. When you make these foods, just know that it is so much more beneficial than you can imagine. You will find billions of microbes in these foods that are just waiting to help you. They can only do this if you give them the A-Okay. Now, don't you think it's time? Check out the one that most interests you and start there. This is what I did, and slowly over time I couldn't resist trying all the others too. This has led to a life that is full and rich with recipes and microbes that have made all the difference in my health and oh the joy . . . it's been life-changing.
- The effect of kefir consumption on human immune system: a cytokine study
- J.Y. Dong et al., “Effect of Probiotic Fermented Milk on Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials,” British Journal of Nutrition 110, no. 7 (October 2013): 1188-1194: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823502
Listen To My Podcast
Almost two decades ago I had a revelation. No longer could I rely on any individual to solve all my health problems even if it was a medical professional. Although I have a lot of respect for what they do, I realized that they are very limited since they only get two weeks of nutrition in medical school. That's simply not enough information and since we need to eat and drink to survive, and so do our cells, I wanted to know how our cells ingest nutrients, fluids, proteins, and other molecules to make the body we call home. Tune in to find out my favorite cultured foods. It's been life-changing for me!