I briefly mentioned dairy in my post about modifying your diet for GAPS. I think it deserves a bit more attention, however, since dairy can be a confusing part of the GAPS protocol. Unlike grains and starches, whether or not you can eat dairy depends on how it’s been produced – specifically whether or not it’s been fermented. To complicate matters further, that fermentation process must be competed for a set amount of time, depending on the type of dairy product in question.
The reason that only some dairy products are allowed on GAPS is because of lactose content. Since lactose is a disaccharide it must be avoided on GAPS. Milk, of course, is full of lactose. When milk is fermented to make yogurt, kefir, or cheese, however, the fermentation process consumes the lactose. How much lactose is removed depends on the culture and length of fermentation. Unfortunately this means that you can’t just pick up any fermented dairy product in the store.
GAPS-Legal Dairy Products
The following types of dairy are allowed on the GAPS diet:
Homemade yogurt: Yogurt that is fermented for 24 hours no longer contains lactose. Since store-bought yogurt is usually fermented for much less than 24 hours, yogurt must be homemade to be suitable for GAPS. If you can tolerate it, yogurt is a wonderful probiotic food to include in your diet.
Homemade kefir: The kefir fermentation process also consumes the lactose in milk. Like yogurt, kefir must be homemade because store-bought kefir is not fermented long enough to remove all of the lactose. Including kefir in your diet is another excellent way to consume plenty of probiotics.
Aged cheeses: Aging cheeses consumes lactose. All aged cheeses are GAPS-legal. We mostly stick to basic cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan here, but there are many other varieties to choose from.
Homemade sour cream: You can culture cream with a kefir or yogurt starter to make sour cream at home. Store-bought sour cream is not cultured long enough to remove all of the lactose.
Butter: Butter is the exception to the fermentation rule. The process of making butter from cream removes most of the lactose, so any type of pure butter is allowed on GAPS.
Ghee: Ghee is butter with the milk proteins removed, so it is also allowed on GAPS. You can buy ghee or make it yourself.
Dairy Products to Avoid:
On GAPS we need to avoid all unfermented dairy (with the exception of butter, of course.) So, no milk, fresh cheeses (like ricotta, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, etc.) or fresh cream.
Introduction of Dairy
When I started GAPS about seventeen months ago, the official recommendation was to drop all dairy (except ghee) for six weeks and then slowly reintroduce beginning with yogurt. Since then the second edition of the GAPS book has been released so I am not sure what the new dairy recommendations are.
If you’re just experimenting with GAPS and have never had issues with dairy, I personally think it would be okay to try leaving in all GAPS-legal dairy. Jesse has not given up dairy and he has been seeing healing. (Since he doesn’t have any major health problems, I’m not sure he would’ve tried GAPS if it meant having to give up his beloved cheese. :))
If you have digestive problems, or have had issues with dairy in the past, it’s probably worth taking it out for a while and then slowly reintroducing to make sure your body is okay with the allowed types.
A Note on Dairy Quality
I believe the official GAPS recommendation is that all of your dairy products should be organic. If you can’t exclusively afford organic dairy, I personally think it’s still worth including in your diet, especially in regards to yogurt and kefir as they contain valuable probiotics.
If, on the other hand, you can afford to spend extra money on your dairy products, I highly recommend upgrading to grass-fed dairy products. Grass-fed dairy contains a lot more nutrients than organic, conventionally-fed dairy.
What types of dairy do you eat? If you’re thinking of trying GAPS, what types will be hard to give up? Personally I miss mozzarella and store-bought sour cream. I’ve always hated drinking milk so that one is a non-issue for me.
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