Cultured Foods on the GAPS Diet


My husband has recently been battling some fairly serious health problems. He’s not exactly on his death bed, but it’s not just some passing virus either. Whenever someone in the family falls ill, I always fall back on something called the GAPS diet.

The GAPS diet is just one of many elimination diets designed help your body in a time of crisis. I like it simply because it takes your eating habits back to basics so you can identify what, if any, foods might be exacerbating or even causing the health crisis at hand.

One of the backbones of the full GAPS diet is probiotic-rich cultured foods. These are taken in stages, from easiest to digest to ones that could contain a possible allergen such as dairy or soured grains.

Today I thought I’d share with you these stages and how we use cultured foods in a time of illness.

One thing I discovered is that different cultured foods are more easily taken by one who needs healing than others. Whether it is a food sensitivity or the need to avoid tough-to-digest fibers, taking these foods incrementally and observing your reaction to them is most useful.

1. Cultured Vegetable Juice

I give my husband this from a batch of lacto-fermented brine pickles. Early on just a spoonful does it. When he started to show signs of improvement, I began giving him an ounce or two at a time, or however much he could handle.

2. Cultured Vegetables

Once he is eating more, showing more of an appetite, I began giving him the cultured vegetables as they are. The raw fibers can be harder on the digestive system when the body is really struggling, but a few days into the GAPS diet he was ready for some crunchy fermented vegetables along with his broth and meats and vegetables.

3. Long-Fermented Dairy Products

Yogurt and kefir are introduced very slowly, to be sure there is no reaction to dairy. It is also very important to culture these for a longer period in order for much of the lactose to be consumed by the culture. Once he shows signs that dairy is not a problem, more of the kefir and yogurt can be introduced.

4. Sugar-Containing Beverages and Sourdough

Once his health is more stable and we have identified any foods that he may be sensitive to, we can reintroduce some favorite cultured foods like water kefir, kombucha, and sourdough. Again, it is important to do this slowly and in isolation so that any reaction can be easily discerned.

Whether you desire to do a full healing protocol, or just enjoy the benefits and flavors of fermented foods, I found it helpful to understand the levels of ease of digestion of all of the cultured foods.

Over the years we have eaten these foods because they are delicious, but also because they are beneficial to our health. I’m guessing many who love cultured foods are in the same boat.


Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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