Fermented foods are the cornerstone of gut microbiome repair. Unfortunately, the yogurt you buy at the grocery store is mostly flash fermented. This means that it is only fermented for about 6-8 hours, which is not enough time to fully ferment out all the lactose sugars OR to provide a therapeutic amount of probiotics.
It takes at least 24 hours to fully ferment out lactose, which would make it compliant with a Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPS Diet, or my Rebuild Yourself method of the Gut Brain Axis Rebuilding Diet. This also creates a much higher probiotic load that has a more healing effect on our gut microbiome.
One option if you have limited time and energy is to buy store bought fermented dairy like yogurt, transfer it to a glass jar, cover it with a lid, and leave it out on your kitchen counter for 12-24 hours, because at that point you have cumulatively allowed it to ferment for at least 24 hours. Note that your house must be above 65 degrees F minimum for this to work. If your house is cold, you can also put it in the oven with the light on or on an upper shelf where it is warmer. You can also purchase a yogurt maker that will keep it an exact temperature.
The second, more preferred option, is to make your own. Generally speaking, home made yogurt and other ferments are going to be far more powerful than any probiotics you could ever buy from a supplement company.
Here is how you make your own yogurt, kefir, and sour cream!
First, make sure you start with a high quality product, whether it is milk or cream.
If you have access to raw dairy, this is a great option. You don’t actually have to use a starter culture- you can make a natural “clabber” with the wild bacteria that is already in the milk. Simply place your raw milk or cream in a glass jar on the counter and cover it. Leave it for 24 hours or until the milk or cream thickens. You can also add a starter or a small amount of pre made ferment to it, although all the strains will all compete with each other and you will get a more varied outcome with the final product. Note that your house must be warm enough for fermentation to happen properly- you can also put it in the oven with the light on or on an upper shelf where it is warmer which can help.
If you can’t find raw dairy, ideally you just want low heat pasteurized or regular pasteurized. Ultra pasteurization denatures the proteins and damages the nutrient content of the milk and cream. Full fat, non homogonized, organic, grass fed and/or pasture raised are all labels you want to look for as well if possible. I listed those in order of importance. Only get dairy without sweeteners, sugars, flavorings, preservatives or thickeners. Always just source the highest quality of dairy that you can! Animal from any animal is fine, this could be cow, sheep, goat, camel, water buffalo- whatever the highest quality you can find is. I also ideally like my clients who are really working on healing their gut to source A2 dairy, which is going to be lower lectin and easier to digest. This comes from all non cow animals (sheep, goat, camel, etc.) and also Jersey, Guernsey or Brown Swiss breeds of cows.
Once you source the best quality milk or cream that you can, you need to inoculate it. If you are using real kefir grains, you can just add it straight to the pasteurized milk or cream, as it is strong enough that it will eat any pathogens in the milk. However, if you have a yogurt starter, sour cream starter, or just a pre made ferment or commercial probiotics- you need to re pasteurize the milk to make sure that it is safe. Pasteurized dairy can accumulate pathogenic bacteria while sitting on the store shelf and you want to be sure to heat it enough to kill it before re inoculating it. You just need to heat dairy on the stove up to 160 – 180 degrees F to low heat pasteurize it which is all that is necessary.
The options you have to inoculate are: kefir grains, a commercial starter, a few spoonfuls or your previously made ferment, or commercial probiotic capsules.
If you have to re pasteurize the dairy, and you have gotten it very hot, you need to take it off the stove and let it cool until it is about 110 degrees F. This ensures that you will not kill any of the good bacteria you inoculate it with by getting them too hot. Then pour it into a glass mason jar (once it is the right temperature), and stir in your starter of whatever type. Leave it in a place that is warm enough, at least 65-70 degrees F, for at least 24 hours. The longer you let it go, the stronger and the more sour it will get.