GAPS for Beginners Series: Dairy

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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12 Responses to GAPS for Beginners Series: Dairy

  1. Haavard Krislok says:
    Hi I was reading your article about dairy and gaps and I was just wondering: Here in Norway they sell a lot of products who is claimed to be "lactose free". If this is the case, will theese be GAPS safe? The products are milk, yoghurt and more. Link: I translated the page for you as I assume you don't know norwegian:) Tnx! Regards Haavard
    • Meghan says:
      Hi Haarvard, You're right, I don't speak Norwegian. :) As for your question, I'm afraid I don't have any experience with these types of products and am not sure whether they would be safe on GAPS. I guess it would depend on how they're produced. You might do some more research or consider posting your question on the GAPShelp yahoo group. There are many knowledgeable people in the group and they may be able to help you out. Sorry to not have an answer for you! If you do happen to come to any conclusions, I'd love to hear them. If safe, it sounds like these types of products could be good options for traveling or other times when you can't make your own dairy products.
  2. Katrina D says:
    Very helpful. Thanks for the info!
  3. lauren says:
    Great wrap up and explanation on dairy. This is really helpful....I think I will include this on my site for dairy info. for gapsters...its really clear and helpful! thanks!
  4. Lydia says:
    I wanted to add something that I think is important to note based on what I read in the second edition. Dr. McBride does makes some exceptions for adding in specifically raw milk once a good deal of healing has taken place. Also, when referring to organic milk products, I seem to recall that they can be pasteurized (even though it's not idea) but that they absolutely should not be ultra pasteurized, since this completely destroys the enzymes that are needed to aid digestion. Ultra pasteurized dairy can not even support culturing (for yogurt, kefir, etc.) This is an important distinction because the majority of organic milk products in the U.S. are ultra pasteurized.
  5. Hi there, Do you know if Quark from pastured milk cows is GAPS legal? Thanks!!
  6. gee says:
    Is feta allowed? I hear so many mixed answers, but most say no cow-milk cheese that isn't veeeeery aged. I found a sheep's milk feta but haven't a clue the lactose content or how long it was aged...but I'd love some feta. Also, are there other mild melty cheeses to use, like one would use in pizza and spaghetti and all those foods we can't have? Like a mozzarella-esque cheese but GAPS legal? Thanks :)
    • Feta is not allowed. Well, cows milk feta isn't allowed. I've never used sheep's cheese so I'm not sure how that differs. I've found that certain cheddars work well in place of mozzarella. Right now we buy this Rumiano medium cheddar. I get it at Costco so it's actually affordable. :)
    • Beez says:
      Its a little misleading to say feta isnt allowed under GAPS i think. Since the GAPS diet is based off the SCD diet, and while Feta cheese is considered illegal under the SCD diet, however under the SCD diet Feta cheese is allowed in small amounts after 6 months of improvement, I *think* it *should* be allowed under GAPS. You can find this info out for yourself on not just feta but many food items, just google 'is (blank) scd legal'. Just about anything allowed or disallowed under SCD applies to GAPS. I know there are some exceptions like cocoa. Cocoa is not allowed under the SCD diet but is allowed under the GAPS diet after some healing.
    • Sarah says:
      Shredded Gouda is great on pizza!
  7. Beez says:
    Also, provolone and monteray jack cheeses are good melting cheeses, and somewhat acceptable substitute for mozerella given the alternatives, but monteray jack's use is limited to being used occasionally.

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