I recommend Kefir (pronounced Kuh-FEAR) as the probiotics (healthy germs) in Kefir prevent or remedy the immune problem causing atopic eczema or dermatitis, as well as other atopic conditions like asthma. When susceptible mothers (they or their partners had severe eczema) take these probiotics before the baby is born, and wean the baby onto the probiotic, it prevents eczema in their children.  The prevention effect continues for years, even if the children stop taking probiotics after age 6 years. It seems Lactobacillus Rhamnosus is one of the key probiotics, or healthy germs (plentiful in Kefir). Wickens, Stanley and other researchers from New Zealand have now published two landmark studies proving just this, reducing eczema to just 4.5% by age 4-6, and allergies to 7.5%, in those high risk children taking L. Rhamnosus probiotic. There may be several other healthy bacteria which are important in preventing or curing eczema, but we don’t know which ones for sure. Kefir contains far more healthy bacteria than any live yoghurt or probiotic capsule, probably around fifty healthy species of bacteria and yeasts. My suspicion is that if children are given kefir – mixed with a spoon of sugar or fruit pureé to taste, the effect would be greater than with a single strain probiotic. We know for example that adding a healthy version of Strep to the probiotic mix (Strep thermophilus is in kefir) one can prevent or treat glue ear.

Population studies show that countries where kefir is taken traditionally by a majority of the population, such as in Eastern Europe, the incidence of atopic eczema is less than 1%, while in the UK and USA it is 12-15%. Despite this having been discovered and published over 100 years ago by a Russian doctor working at the Pasteur Institute (Élie Metchnikoff, who won the Nobel prize for Medicine in 1908), it seems that the message has not been picked up much in the UK. However, devotees of home made Kefir anecdotally report many health benefits including protection from a variety of infections. We do know that kefir is much easier to digest than whole milk, and is implicated in a great reduction in various allergies.


You can easily purchase Kefir in supermarkets such as Waitrose, or make your own kefir, with kefir grains (the live culture), fresh A2 milk, a Mason jar (glass jar), rubber band, cotton cloth top, sieve and a bowl. It takes 24 hours to make, and once you have a starter batch of the kefir grains, this will stay alive and make every subsequent batch. The only cost is the milk, and 10-20 minutes of your time each day or two. Or you can make enough for a week, just once or twice a week. It is very easy to make. Supermarket Kefir is usually sweetened with around 1 spoon sugar to 150ml of liquid. When making your own, avoid using semi-skimmed milk. It is thicker and tastier with whole milk, and one can even add a spoon of cream or Greek yoghurt to make it thicker, and 1-2 spoons of sugar which younger children will prefer. It is perfectly safe for young children to drink 100ml a day. A double ferment will make it more tangy and very slightly effervescent (and stronger) so if you are taking a course of antibiotics, you may wish to do a double ferment as explained in the you tube clips.

You will need kefir grain to start; this can be obtained from a health shop or Amazon; I recommend buying 25-30g if wanting to make a litre at a time, as 5g will only make 140ml:


Kefir contains around 150-500 billion healthy bacteria per cup, generally more than found in any probiotic capsule, and a greater range of healthy bacteria than found in live yoghurt. It also contains essential calcium, proteins, potassium, magnesium, other minerals and vitamins. There are generally around 50 strains of healthy bacteria and yeasts found in kefir compared with the two to four commonly found in live yoghurts and the small bottles of probiotic drinks such as Actimel. Kefir is started with milk kefir grains; slightly confusing as these are not grains, but look like bits of crumbly cheese or bits of cauliflower. You can see what kefir grains look like in these you tube videos.

For simplicity I have found several you tube video demonstrations. I have tried to pick videos which I found to be simple and straight-forward.

Katrine Rudolph from Denmark, shows you how to make kefir, with whole milk from her farm, containing a high cream content. She also shows how to do a second ferment and then from the kefir, how to blend it to make a smooth live yoghurt drink or a thicker Greek style live yoghurt.


Dave White shows you simply that even with a stainless steel strainer, you can still make kefir. Many people stress that a plastic strainer is important, as the kefir is slightly acidic and may react with various metals, but if a stainless steel strainer is washed after use it works fine.


Jim Dooley makes kefir, and talks about why kefir is so good for the immune system. First ferment and second fermentation for thicker yoghurt. His video does talk about the many benefits, and he stresses using goats’ or sheeps’ milk- these are A2 sources. Personally I prefer any A2 milk, and this can be from Jersey and Guernsey cows’ milk, and from various Alpine European breeds.


Once you have purchased kefir, or made it yourself (for the same cost as the milk), you may find that your children prefer it sweetened with either blended fruit in a smoothie, or with a teaspoon of honey or sugar, or with something nutty like a spoon of hazelnut spread. If you leave it for a second ferment sealed for six hours it will subsequently thicken in the fridge. You can make a salad dressing with it, adding mayonnaise, lemon juice and olive oil, or add it to soup, or make bread or scones with it, where it replaces the yeast and water.

Reference, and pictures: Abby Quillen’s counter top culture blog.