Introducing Dairy

For people that tolerate it, GAPS allows lactose-free dairy (homemade yogurt or kefir fermented at least 24 hours, certain cheeses, etc). At the beginning of GAPS, however, one also removes casein (milk’s protein). This is because for most people with a compromised gut, casein is also too difficult to process.

We have received varying instructions regarding the introduction of dairy. Below is my current understanding of the GAPS approach.

Doing the Intro?

If one is doing the intro progression, healing is more quickly established than otherwise, thus dairy can be added earlier. In this case, one would start using ghee from Stage 3 of the intro. After six weeks of no other dairy, she would try a teaspoon of GAPS whey, yogurt or kefir, and slowly and methodically work up from there (and on to other GAPS-friendly dairy products) at her own pace.

Update: Dr Natasha now supports the use of whey, yogurt, etc, in intro for people struggling with chronic and persistent diarrhea or constipation. While I personally still like to see dairy out for at least six weeks before its reintroduction, if one wishes to test in their body Dr Natasha’s new position for dairy’s inclusion in early intro, my recommendation is to keep dairy out for at least two weeks, preferably starting Day 1 of intro, before reintroducing any form of it. (Two weeks is a standard period of elimination for intolerance/allergy testing.) While this elimination period can be done any time, again for most people it is most effective done starting with Day 1 of intro.

Skipping the Intro?

If one is skipping the introductory progression, the body will require much more time to heal. In this case, one eliminates all dairy (except ghee) for six months then tries GAPS yogurt or kefir (starting with a teaspoon or less), and some months later, butter, and six months later again, lactose-free cheeses.

Why does the intro mention yogurt and kefir?

Some people methodically tested their dairy reaction pre-intro. That is, they eliminated it for at least six weeks, reintroduced it properly and noted no problems. These people are able to use yogurt or kefir in the intro. Most of us did not properly test dairy previous to intro and thus cannot use it until later.

Best Dairy

Clean raw dairy, full of enzymes, is more easily tolerated, and more health-giving than pasteurized. Pasteurized will do, though.

Dairy that is free of pesticides and antibiotics (organic) can also make all the difference to one’s tolerance.

Goat milk (whether raw or pasteurized) is more easily tolerated by many, especially children with autistic traits. The casein in goat milk seems to be more easily assimilated by the body than the casein in cow’s milk is. If possible, try products made from goat’s milk first.

All dairy must be pure: No extra ingredients, thickeners, etc. (Salt in butter is okay, but unsalted is preferable.)

17 Replies to “Introducing Dairy”

  1. Hi
    I purchased NCM’s most recent books. I didnt read in that edition that there should be a 6 week abstaining from dairy to test for sensitivity to dairy.
    Did I misunderstand it? It seems to say just put the dairy on your inner wrist overnight. We didnt abstain at all before.
    Does this mean our tests results were inaccurate do you think?
    Or is the book update a change from the previous method?
    We drink/use raw milk only. We have been using homemade raw milk kefir and whey for a year now.
    Also in this book, NCM encourages one to start stage one for the Intro diet with whey if you are not sensitive.

    What do you think about this?

    I have another dairy question….My 27 yo daughter just gave birth to her third child and is doing GAPS under Dr. Cowan. What are your thoughts on her being totally off dairy as she is nursing this newborn? She does get Calcium from the bone broths and A and D from Cod liver oil.


    • Hi Meredith,

      I’m sorry that I can’t answer questions about Dr Natasha’s presentations, only because I am not her. Certainly I support the information presented by Dr Natasha and when she says now that many folks can start early in intro with whey, that is the case. Folks can try that and if they are sensitive to it (as Dr Natasha says some are), they can follow the more careful steps of complete abstinence from all dairy for six weeks, then progress from there.

      It is fine to be off dairy while feeding a newborn. (ie. Ingesting dairy does not help us create milk.) For all other information regarding GAPS while pregnant or nursing, please see:

      Thanks so much for your question: It lets me know to update this particular page to include the new instruction around whey.

      All my best,

  2. I have dairy goats and make raw cheese every day. soft spreadable cheese and feta. Can you use these cheeses on GAPS and can you use the whey from these cheeses?

    • Hi Donna,

      Only aged/fermented cheeses are approved for GAPS.

      For the list of approved/not approved foods, please see the food list. For info on why a given food might or might not be included on GAPS, please see this post.

      All my best,

  3. Hi,
    I have been on the intro diet for 4 weeks now. I would like to reintroduce dairy, but it was a food group that I tended to rely on b4 GAPS. I love raw milk, yogurt, raw cheddar. I have made a lot of veggie ferments with whey in the past 9 months, or so. I have tried to reintroduce whey, sour cream, and fermented veggie juice, and fermented veggies (fermented with whey) probably within the 1st and 2nd week. I think I tried to go too fast. Do I need to start the six week time from the last I had these foods? Is the whey in the ferments considered “dairy”? Should I only use ferments made with salt for now? Is the soft cheese left from straining the whey from soured milk not ok for GAPS? I’m confused by the last question. I am struggling with constipation. Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks for all the helpful info!

    • Hi Jen,

      I’m not absolutely certain of some of what you’re saying, but I’m going to give this my best go…

      It sounds like you’ve been on Intro for four weeks, that you’ve been free of dairy for some of that time, but also that you introduced dairy within the first or second weeks of Intro. Not being sure of your situation, here is what I can say:

      That does sound like a lot of introductions -and a lot of probiotic sources- for the first two weeks. I recommend going a lot slower with both new introductions in general and with probiotic sources. (Please see the Intro and Probiotics sections of your GAPS Guide book.)

      Four weeks without dairy is long enough for most people.

      There are so many options and opinions about approaching dairy on GAPS, and you can use your intuition to choose from them. Generally, I recommend a person have some weeks free of all dairy and dairy products -including whey. However, if you’ve had only whey for four weeks and your body/mind seems to be improving even with the whey included, I would proceed at this point with introducing yogurt. Whatever approach to eliminating then reintroducing dairy you choose to do, try to not get too reliant on dairy again; ensure lots of meats, fats from inside animals; eggs; etc.

      You mentioned soured milk – Please be aware that we use fermented dairy, but not soured dairy. These are different from each other. Do feel free to use any part of fermented dairy.

      In terms of dairy in relation to constipation, focus on high-fat dairy such as butter, sour cream, etc. Limit the high-protein dairies (kefir, yogurt, cheese) until this resolves. The epsom salt baths and/or magnesium supplementation can be very helpful with this in the meantime.

      All my best,

      • Hi Baden,
        Thanks for your reply. I’m wondering what the difference between soured dairy and fermented dairy is? This is the process I have used for most of my whey. I put a jar of raw milk in the oven with the light on part of the time. The temp is usually 70-90? degrees F. After about 3 days, it separates into whey and soft cheese. I then strain it through a towel and use the 2 separate products. I have made and used many vegie ferments with this type of whey over the past 9 months, or so. Is this process unsafe? I think raw milk is pretty flexible to work with. Pasteurized is not! I have Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, and highly recommend it. Lots of education and good recipes.
        I am also wondering about the bone broth. I like to cook mine at least 36-48 hours. Is that too long? I think you get more nutrients, the longer you cook them. Also, my aunt had a concern that bones store heavy metals? Have you heard anything like that, and if so, are the metals released in the broth? I was tested for metals last year in May and I had a high uranium level, some tungsten, and just a little high mercury. I can’t afford to be retested right now, but should I use less bone broths to avoid causing more metals problems? I am having trouble affording meat, at least good quality meat. I would prefer grain-free (because of soy) but it can be very expensive. I love eggs, and have reintroduced them, but also wonder if I am reacting to them a bit. It is hard to know if symptoms (increased heart rate and pounding heart beat, which I had b4 starting Gaps) are related to die-off, or a reaction, or my hormone imbalance. I can’t afford to see a dr. right now, either.
        I also wonder about the safety of eating all the soft tissues off the bones? I have heard that mad cow disease can be in the nervous tissue of infected animals. Is the soft tissue partly nervous tissue? I think the cows here in Montana are pretty safe, but I can’t guarantee it.
        Hope my questions aren’t too confusing. Thanks for all your help!

        • Hi Jen,

          Yes, the work and recommendations of the WAPF are great! And I’m a HUGE fan of raw milk.

          This noted, GAPS’ recommendations are unique to GAPS and quite specific; for maximum success, it’s important to become familiar with them before starting your healing journey. Soured dairy is that left out. It can indeed be fine for some diets, but in GAPS, all dairy is fermented at specific temperatures for specific periods of time. This reduces or eliminates lactose, develops a strong probiotic count, etc. Please see your GAPS resources for details on what is used in GAPS.

          It’s safe to assume that all of us needing GAPS are high in metals. For most people, there’s no need to test or re-test.

          Bone broth is a wonderfully healing food for many. In GAPS, a number of people react to it initially, thus I recommend people start with meat broth, simmering meat/bone for 1-3 hours, and testing bone broth later in one’s progression.

          We all hear a lot of things a lot of times. Different people thus end up wary of any one or more of: broth, eggs, meat, dairy, cruciferous vegetables, fruit, soft tissue, fish, oils, organ meats, etc. My recommendation is to select a program and give it a good go, as presented. I caution against getting caught up in the various schools of thought and subsequently removing GAPS foods (except those one specifically reacts to) from one’s GAPS program.

          Whether any given discomfort or experience is the result of imbalance, die-off, or intolerance is the million dollar question -most of the time, we can’t know for sure, unfortunately. As your progress through the program and your healing, you will gain an ever-increasing sense of what is true for your body.

          All my best,

          • Thanks Baden, for your help! I will press on. I have switched from BioKult probiotics to Garden of Life- Primal Defense Ultra. I think it may be less expensive and it has HSO’s. I also want a probiotic without Streptococcus thermophilus. Have you heard of Jordan Rubin and his diet? I find a lot of similarities with GAPS. I’m thankful for God’s provision of helpful health info! Thanks again! Take care, Jen

            • Hi Jen,


              Yes, I know of Jordan Rubin’s personal story of recovery and of his book/work -wonderful stuff indeed!

              All my best,

  4. Dear Baden,

    Thank you for a wonderful resource.

    I am on GAPS Intro Diet (week 5; stage three). Before starting GAPS I was prescribed an anthroposophical remedy (akin to homeopathy): tiny pills which contain minute traces of lactose and wheat starch as fillers, well below the threshold to be tagged as ”lactose and gluten free” in Sweden, i.e. supposedly suitable for people with partial lactose intolerance and celiac. I did benefit greatly from this remedy when taking it and so I wonder:

    Would you still recommend me to exclude it during my GAPS journey to optimize gut healing? (In my experience I am usually able to digest moderate amounts of lactose.) Trying to introduce it and look for any reactions is difficult as I have no proper baseline of health, but a rather bumpy ride even when my diet is stable. So I would love an informed advice here.


    Oskar, Sweden

      • Hi Baden,

        Thanks for your response. I actually read that post before posting (!), but I feel as if my case kind of falls between the cracks. I support the idea of excluding everything not required for life and limb, especially stuff with fillers; but I am slowly recovering from quite a severe adrenal exhaustion, so I can’t let go of some supplements (without problematic fillers, though), and benefitted greatly from this remedy (Neurodoron) until excluding it as I took on GAPS Intro a month ago.

        I don’t have a history of severe reactions to neither lactose nor wheat (in small amounts). Also, Dr. Natasha notes that traces of remaining lactose in, for example, homemade yoghurt for most people does not present a problem. I imagine that what she means with problematic fillers would rather be normal size tablets or capsules loaded with lactose, sorbitol, inulin, etc., which I always avoid anyway. The little pills I am pondering represent a borderline phenomenon in supplements, I gather.

        So it is hard to weigh the benefits against the risks. I can order a similar remedy in liquid form without fillers from an international manufacturer, but it is more costly than my prescribed pill, which I have at home, and my budget is indeed limited.

        So, that’s where I am; thus grateful for suggestions from more experienced GAPSers.

        • Hi,

          Upon considering all the points in that ‘Illegals/Supplements’ post, feel free to include any supplement you ultimately choose to. Whether a non-recommended item will help or hinder a person’s progress is very individual and generally determined only by trial and error. Many people do fine including a consciously selected supplement, including one which includes non-recommended fillers, etc. If you found you benefited greatly from this supplement, and felt its lack even after a month on Intro without it, your trial and error seems to indicate continuing it.

          All my best,

  5. I am confused. So, are you saying I can have Ghee in Stage 3 and then I shouldn’t have ti again for 6 weeks? I have been off all dairy for a year now.

    • Hi Shannon,

      Please see the Dairy section of GAPS Guide 2nd Edition for the clearest presentation of the dairy aspect.

      When to introduce dairy depends on several circumstances. If you have been off all dairy for a year, you can introduce ghee in Stage 3, then continue having it as often as you like from that point on. Other dairy will be introduced later. Again, exceptions and more details are discussed in the book, but for sure you can have ghee now and from every day forward (unless you notice an obvious adverse reaction to it).

      All my best,

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