5 Dairy Free Ways to Get Your Gut Bacteria Back in Balance

One of my favorite parts of having The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD is that I get to connect with you.

Lately I’ve had lots of questions about whether or not it’s OK to skip the yogurt on the SCD diet. More and more IBD gals are finding that dairy just doesn’t work for them in the form of the SCD yogurt, but they know just how important all the bacterial benefits of the yogurt are.

So the question I’m getting is, “Karyn, is there a way I can get bacterial benefits even if I don’t do the fermented homemade yogurt?”

And the answer is a resounding, “Yes, absolutely.

There are other ways to get your beneficial bacteria, those gut bugs, other than the traditional fermented yogurt.

Three Things You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • 4 never changing gut bacteria balancing guidelines
  • 5 non-dairy options that work to help balance the bacteria in your gut
  • How to decide which non-dairy bacterial balancing option is best for the stage you‘re at on your gut healing journey

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Mentioned in This Episode:

From the Desk of Gut Love: Tomatoes: Yes or No?

From the Desk of Gut Love: Which Nut Butter Should I Choose?

SCD Yogurt Recipe Collection with FAQ

Visbiome Probiotic

Episode Resources:

Kefir Grains

How to Make Water Kefir

Kefir and SCD

The Kefir Guru Shares His Wisdom

Dairy Free Fermentation: Fermenting Without Whey

Fermentation Supplies

Fannetastic Food

Connect With Karyn:

Karyn on Facebook

Schedule Your FREE 30-Minute IBD Consult

Episode Transcript:


Before we get down to gut healing business, I want to tell you that this episode is brought to you by my new Crohn’s and colitis article series, From the Desk of Gut Love. This is a brand new endeavor for our Gut Love Community and it’s my way of taking what we’re doing here on the podcast, exploring all our gut healing options and lifting up moms with IBD in ways that are lacking from what we typically get from our doctors, but taking the spirit of the show into a new format—the written word—with lots more helpful information and lots of gut healing recipes.

The recipe part will be a huge piece. It’s something I always wanted to share with you, but it’s tough to do that through this podcast medium. Over the years of eating for my IBD, I’ve created and cultivated gajillons of recipes and this article series will be a great way for me to share them with you. Plus, I’ll also be highlighting well-known gut healing recipe developers there as well.

From the Desk of Gut Love Articles is 100% IBD centered—for example, this week’s topic is how to find the gut healthiest nut butters in a sea of grocery store options and included in the article are two gut healing and delish nut butter recipes I know you are going to love.

So, it’s real world IBD question we all have, mixed with recipes galore! Something for everyone in a format you can digest when it’s convenient for you.

Articles will come out every other week and if you want to know when they are released for all the eye opening, gut healing info as well as for the gut healing recipes, you’ve got to be a Gut Love Community Member. That’s where you’ll hear about every new article first.

So far in the series, two articles have been released. The first one is titled “Tomatoes: Yes or No.” Tomatoes are a big topic of conversation for those of us with C + C and this article will help you decide if tomatoes are something you can include in your diet. The answer might surprise you if you thought tomatoes were a “no” for you before, and it features a raw and cooked version of my Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes. I already mentioned the second article that just came out. It’s titled “Which Nut Butter Should I Choose?” This one is action-packed with everything you could ever want to know about the healthiest nut butters for you and of course it also has nut butter gut healing recipes for you to check out.

If you want to see what the series is all about and decide if this is a format you like as an additional IBD resource, you can check out Tomatoes: Yes or No? at KarynHaley.com/tomatoes and the latest nut butter article is at KarynHaley.com/nutbutter.

I’ll leave these links in the show notes at karynhaley.com/79 but I wanted you to have the direct link as well.

If you like getting your IBD information when it’s convenient for you, reading it when you’re in line at the school pick up, in the doctor’s office, or even on the toilet, and if you like adding gut healing recipes to your stash, From the Desk of Gut Love Articles is for you. And remember, if you join us in the Gut Love Community and you’ll never miss when a new article comes out. There’s a link to join right in each article.

On with the show.


Hey dear one, how are you feeling today? It’s Karyn Haley with you and I hope you are doing well, but if not, know that I’m sending you love and light and good gut health vibes today and always. I’ve got my aromatherapy candle next to me. It’s called Stress Relief and it’s got eucalyptus and spearmint in it. It’s definitely giving me some stress relief that I deeply need today.

One of my favorite parts of having a podcast is getting to connect with you. I love hearing your courageous stories, and love getting your questions. You know I don’t always have the answer, but when it comes to Crohn’s and colitis, I’m like a basset hound, nose to the ground, researching, tracking information down and I won’t stop until I find answers for you, so keep your thoughts and ideas coming my way.

Lately I’ve had lots of questions about whether or not it’s OK to skip the yogurt on the SCD diet. More and more C + Cer’s are finding that dairy just doesn’t work for them in the form of the SCD yogurt, but they know just how important all the bacterial benefits of the yogurt are. So the question I’m getting is, “Karyn, is there a way I can get bacterial benefits even if I don’t do the fermented homemade yogurt.”

And the answer is a resounding, “Yes, absolutely. There are other ways to get your beneficial bacteria, those gut bugs, other than the traditional fermented yogurt.

Now, before we get into what those ways are, I want to say just a few important reminders about these gut bugs, the beneficial bacteria. You may know this already, but it’s always a good reminder and if you’re new to this world of filling your body with beneficial bacteria, it will give you a better understanding of the how’s and why’s of gut bacteria.


#1 You don’t need to be on SCD to benefit from good bacteria.

  • This isn’t just an SCD conversation. This is a conversation all of us with C + C need to be having.
  • Most people with gut challenges will benefit from some form of fermented foods, supplements, yogurt, etc… some form of good bacteria
  • And if you’re saying, “Well I’m that girl who doesn’t benefit!” I hear what you are saying. Some people, especially IBDer’s can really struggle introducing beneficial bacteria. It can really whack out your system at first. And there’s a myriad of reasons why this might happen. Undiagnosed infections, severe dysbiosis, food sensitivities, hormonal challenges… too many causes to mention. Just know it is completely normal to struggle with the introduction of beneficial bacteria, and this is why, when you incorporate bacterial balancing food and supplements, it’s good to work with someone who knows about the nuances of the microbiome so they can help you figure out the best way forward for you.
  • Even if you initially struggle, with proper care, I truly believe it can work out for you so don’t give up, just get help.

#2 Even if you are sensitive to dairy, you may still tolerate SCD style yogurt (24-hour fermented yogurt).

  • Many people skip the yogurt initially because they know they don’t tolerate cow’s milk.
  • And it’s OK to skip it for whatever reason—the fact that dairy can be inflammatory, the fact it’s not 100% lactose free, the fact that you just don’t like yogurt….
  • But here’s the thing about SCD type yogurt. It is virtually lactose free, so even if you don’t tolerate straight cow’s milk, you may tolerate this type of yogurt. Some even try it with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk (both dairy options) and tolerate it just fine. There’s lots of options here.
  • The fermentation process of 24-yogurt (unlike the 8-hour of most yogurts at the grocery store) allows it to add in the beneficial bacteria while at the same time, eat away at the milk sugar (the lactose) so by the time it’s done, most of the lactose is gone.
  • Now it’s important for me to mention here that there are two parts of dairy that tend to be a problem for us—lactose (the milk sugar) and casein (a protein found in milk). Like I said, the lactose is virtually nil, but the casein is still present. So, staying away from all dairy yogurt absolutely makes sense if you are sensitive to casein, but if it’s lactose you’re worried about, you may still want to give it a try.
  • Of course, like we are going to talk about today, there’s other non-dairy ways to get your gut bugs so, no sweat, but I just wanted to throw that out there to make sure you are staying away from the traditional yogurt for the right reasons.

#3 The non-dairy method you choose should be based on your symptoms because some work better for some symptoms than others.

  • As we talk about the non-dairy methods today, I’ll be sharing with you who they tend to work best for with regard to if diarrhea is your chief complaint vs constipation, also some are better for those in remission vs in a flare up.
  • I’ll give you all the details so you can decide with is best for you.

#4 Whatever method of fermented (bacterial balancing) you choose, always, always, always start low and slow.

  • Bacterial balancing is like walking on a tight rope. It’s tricky business.
  • I’ve seen so many fail on this path or give up too easily because they just didn’t go slow enough
  • We are not like everyone else who takes probiotic supplements or eats fermented foods so we can’t base our experience on what theirs is like. Our guts are more sensitive and have more dysbiosis so when you introduce any of the non-dairy options I mention today, go slow, slow, slow. Like tortoise slow.
  • I can’t stress this enough. I have clients who start with just a tiny drop on their tongue and stay there until they are ready to progress. It can be done, but don’t rush it.

OK, with that said, let’s dive in with:


#1 Non-Dairy Yogurt

We’ll start with the way that is most similar to your 24-hour fermented yogurt method and work our way out from there so #1 is non-dairy yogurt. 5-10 years ago no one was talking about non-dairy yogurt—we heard about yogurt with all its beneficial bacteria, but it was made from dairy options like cows, sheep, or goats. Today, almond milk and coconut milk and soy milk yogurts is everywhere. Now, I don’t recommend those store bought options for most because they just haven’t had the long fermentation time and the added ingredients are usually crap, and don’t get me started on the reasons why I’m not a fan of soy yogurt (that’s a topic for another episode) but you can make your own non-dairy yogurt using nut milks at home. The process is very similar to how you make homemade dairy milk. And if you’ve never done it before, it’s quick to pick up and relatively simple actually.

Personally, when we’re talking non-dairy yogurt as your beneficial gut bacteria option, I’ve had the most success with coconut milk yogurt. Almond and cashew milk yogurt are more delicate and I just don’t have the patience for them, but go for it with whatever way works for you.

If you’re interested in trying out homemade coconut milk yogurt as your non-dairy beneficial bacteria, I’ve got you covered with my SCD yogurt recipe collection. If you go to karynhaley.com/yogurt you can download the recipes and coconut milk yogurt is featured there with your step-by-step guide to make it in your own home in a yogurt maker as well as in an instant pot. It’s also got a fabulous FAQ section to answer all your yogurt making questions as you get started. I’ll leave a link in the show notes if you prefer to get it there, if you’re driving or can’t write the link down, but you can also get it at karynhaley.com/yogurt.

OK so that’s non-dairy gut balancing bacteria idea #1. This one works best if your main symptom is diarrhea or if you go back and forth between diarrhea and constipation. It can be used in remission to keep the gut bugs balanced and happy or during a flare up to quiet the gut dysbiosis. Just remember, this is not a “let’s go crazy” with 2 cups a day to start thing. It’s a low and slow process, especially if you are in a flare-up or having gastro symptoms.

#2 A Probiotic Supplement

#2 on our list of non-dairy bacterial gut balancers is taking a probiotic. This is a pretty easy option. No yogurt to make, a lot of times found in capsule form. So it’s really your easiet and most convenient option. The only challenge with getting your gut bugs with probiotics is that the selection is so vast, most of it crap, that it’s easy to get taken advantage of with a worthless product that’s doing you no good.

Now there are different types of probiotics, there’s the spore type, there’s another type called saccharomyces boulardii, but today we are going to focus on the most widely used type—the lacto bifido strains of probiotic.

For Lacto Bifido Probiotics:

  • Always look at the added ingredients—so much filler and junk in many brands. And also, look for dairy. There are some brands that have dairy as an ingredient, completely defeating your desire to be non-dairy here.
  • Buy from companies who participate in random batch test testing, buy pharmaceutical grade probiotics. Usually the best places to buy these is online.
  • Buy a multi-strain probiotic. Yes, this goes directly against SCD protocol and in full disclosure, I took SCD legal probiotics only for my first 2 years on the diet, but the research is pretty clear now, mulit-strain are best for gut dysbiosis. Even cooler, are specifically targeted strains of probiotics for your symptoms, for your IBD and other ailments, but if you’re just getting started, buy one with a wide variety of bacterial strains—again unless you are following SCD to a T which I completely get. And then it’s acidophilus bacteria for you all the way.
  • When it comes to IBD and probiotics, go big or go home. Most store bought probiotics contain 1, 2, or 3 billion CFU (colony forming units) of bacteria. There haven’t been many studies on probiotics specifically for IBD, but those studies that have been conducted usually recommend probiotics like Visbiome—ones with very high CFU’s like 112 billion, 450 billion, and even 900 billion CFU’s. Big difference from that drug store brand, huh? Now, not everyone needs to be that high, but in general, and remember everyone is an individual here so check with your doctor on this first, it’s a good idea to start in low CFU range and bump up slowly and go as high as you need to, to find symptom relief. And that could get high up there, into the Visbiome range. One last thing I want to metion about Visbiome is that it specifically comes in capsule form and sachet powder packets. I really like the sachets for IBDer’s  because we can mix them with water or unsweetened applesauce for better absorption.

There’s a lot of debate about whether getting your bacterial strains in probiotic form is worth it since stomach acid may kill the bacteria. Since it’s not food grade, it doesn’t work. There’s also debate on storing it in the frig vs brands that say store at room temp and take with food or take without food. The bottom line for me is, if it helps go for it.  I take a probiotic and I eat probiotic rich foods. Both help in different ways so I do both.

#3 Sauerkraut

From non-dairy yogurt to supplementing with probiotics, we now move to one of my favorite ways to get non-dairy gut healthy bacteria in your body and that’s through sauerkraut—one of the world’s best fermented foods.

Now, I have to mention this because maybe you’re like I used to be. Maybe you’re thinking sauerkraut, oh yuck! It’s smelly and maybe your parents made you eat it, or maybe it just sounds gross. But I encourage you to take a second look, because sauerkraut, just like brussel sprouts are actually delish when you give them a second look as an adult.

Sauerkraut can be made at home with your own cabbage, but I prefer to buy mine. There’s just so many homemade things I do for my gut health, and I spend so much time in the kitchen, that if there’s something I can buy (which is a rarity for those of us on SCD), I will always buy it. But if you want to make your own, I say go for it! More power to you.

I have made my own at home before—a few times—and it was really much work at all. It’s just important to make sure mold isn’t growing in your cabbage as it ferments. You can always remove that part from the top, but it’s best to not have it there in the first place.

If you do choose to buy yours at the grocery store, it’s important to know that not all sauerkraut is created equal and not all sauerkraut has probiotics in it. So choose wisely.

Look for brands that say, “live cultures” or “probiotic” on the label. This will ensure you are getting the benefit you are looking for. Your sauerkraut should also be found in the refrigerator section of your grocery store, not on the canned food aisle—that’s dead giveaway that there’s not bacterial benefit. When you find your sauerkraut in the refrigerator section, look for a type that’s packaged in a glass jar or a bag—not in a can. It’s helpful to read the ingredients too to make sure sauerkraut is the first ingredient. It’s OK is spices and salt are in there as well, but vinegar is a no-no because it means the product has been pasteurized and preserved to increase its shelf life.

I really like Bubbies brand as well as Eden Foods for sauerkrauts in a jar. There’s another brand I buy occasionally called Farmhouse Culture. You’ll find that one in a bag.

The best way to take your sauerkraut is raw, and you don’t need a lot to get great benefit. Even just a couple spoonfuls a day is great. The reason you don’t want to heat it up is because heating kills off the beneficial bacteria and the whole reason you’re eating it in the first place.

Now, because the best way to eat sauerkraut is raw, and raw can be troublesome on an inflamed belly, I always recommend staying away from this option if you are in a flare-up. It likely won’t make the flare up worse, but it will make you feel worse with die off symptoms (which are just a toxin release in the body which results in symptoms of everything from brain fog to skin rashes to gut disturbances). Instead, stick with the non-dairy yogurt or probiotic supplement.

So, when is it a good idea to choose sauerkraut over non-dairy yogurt? This non-dairy probiotic option is great for those with constipation. It’s also a great option when a little bit of healing has taken place or you can also use sauerkraut to help you maintain gut balance in remission.

If you’re having a nasty flare and you are having lots of diarrhea and you still want to choose sauerkraut as your probiotic of choice, I highly encourage you to start with just the sauerkraut juice—maybe ½ tsp to start. Very small. You can even put it in a full glass of water to dilute it if you need to. Then slowly start working your way to lessening the water and increasing the juice until eventually you are ready for the real deal—the sauerkraut.

It can work, there is no one answer here. It’s about experimenting with all of the options I’m giving you today to help you decide which one is best for you.

#4 Kefir

We’ve come to #4 on our list of non-dairy bacterial balancing options and this one is kefir. Some call it kefir, I always say kefir so there you go. Same thing. If you’ve seen kefir in the grocery store, you’re probably seeing dairy kefir. Even if you are lucky enough to find a non-dairy option, I highly recommend you make it at home. Like the non-dairy yogurt options in the grocery store, it’s just not fermented long enough, it has added ingredients we don’t do well with, so it can make us feel really sick after consuming it. But, when kefir is made at home, you control everything that goes in and you make sure if ferments long enough.

Kefir is one of those non-dairy ferments that can be challenging due to the potency of the bacteria. The die off reaction can be much stronger, so if you really are in the throws of a flare, I would start with one of the earlier ideas I mentioned—preferably the yogurt or the probiotic supplements.

Your non-dairy kefir options are a kefir made from coconut water or even just water. You will need kefir grains to get started. Think of kefir grains as your starter. It’s a culture of bacteria and yeasts that help the coconut water or plain water ferment and grow beneficial bacteria.

One side note on kefir worth mentioning is that the coconut water kefir is not SCD legal since it contains coconut water made from the “young coconut.” Kind of like how we always want to choose the more mature or brown bananas on SCD because they contain less starch. The state of the food is just as important as the food itself.

Whether you choose coconut water and plain water kefir, as long as you have your kefir grains and a good recipe, it’s not that hard to make. It’s like any of these non-dairy fermented recipes we’re talking about today, once you have the recipe and you’ve practiced a time or two, you’ll have the formula for life.

I’ll leave links to my favorite kefir grains as well as link sto coconut water and water kefir in the show notes so you can get started experimenting with this bountiful bacterial beverage. Wow, how’s that for alliteration?

#5 Lacto-Fermented Veggies

The last non-dairy bacterial balancing idea we should talk about today is a more advanced method for when you’ve moved through all the previous non-dairy methods and you’re ready to kick bacterial balance and fermentation into high gear. And that last idea is lacto-fermented veggies. Pickles, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, garlic… honestly so many veggies can be lacto-fermented to give them more gut healing bacteria and more gut love for your body.

Because this type of veggies are raw and they pack a bacterial punch, it’s important to make sure you are ready before you dive in. But when you’re there my friend, definitely start experimenting at home here because again, it’s easy, it’s fun… so worth it for your continued gut health.

So you might be thinking, is this different than the fermented yogurt or the fermented sauerkraut we talked about earlier? Nope not at its core. The process is absolutely similar. Here, we’re just kicking it up a notch with veggies that aren’t as easy to digest so they are definitely best for when your gut has healed enough to really take in the health of these health foods.

With lacto fermented veggies, a lot of the recipes use whey as their fermentation starter. Well, if you know anything about whey, you know that it is not dairy free. Whey is the liquidy byproduct of milk, yogurt, cheese, etc… If you’ve ever bought commercial yogurt at the store and you opened the container to find a milky liquid floating at the top, that’s whey. Really healthy if you tolerate it, full of protein, but not dairy free.

But there are lacto-fermented veggie recipes that don’t use whey at all. Instead, they add completely dairy free salty brine to the veggies and over the course of a few days, the veggies grow beneficial bacteria just as they would if you used bacteria rich, but dairy friendly whey.

You see, all vegetables contain lactic acid bacteria. When we add brine to the veggies, we create a salty, acidic environment that’s strong enough to kill the bad bacteria but weak enough to keep the good. It’s so simple, yet so cool at the same time.

If you are dying to get stared with your salty brine and veggies to create some gut love in your belly, I’ve got you covered. I’ll leave you links in the show notes to my favorite lacto-fermented veggie recipe sites to help get you started.

OK my friend, how are you feeling now? Maybe before this episode you were thinking, I’ll never find some good quality non-dairy ways to feed my good bacteria bugs and make my gut healthy and strong. Or maybe you do consume fermented dairy, but you’re looking to branch out and try something new. At least now you know your best options for your gut healing and your gut health and how and when to use them. So, which do you think you’ll try? Let’s recap and I’ll remind you about your 5 non-dairy bacterial balancing options.


  • First there was non-dairy yogurt, great probiotic benefit, good for inflamed, achy, flare up bellies.
  • Then, there’s your probiotic supplements, but remember to go low and slow there. Good quality probiotic dosing for C + Cer’s can get high and we don’t want a die off reaction to set you back.
  • We also talked about my favorite fermented vegetable, sauerkraut. Delish and nutrish, especially if a little healing has taken place or your chief complaint is constipation.
  • After that, it was on to homemade kefir or kefir. Choose the coconut water or the plain water variety for a burst of non-dairy gut bacteria benefit. This is another one that’s best for further down the line after a bit of healing takes place because it really packs a bacteria punch.
  • Lastly, our most advanced non-dairy bacterial balancing maintenance comes from our lacto-fermented veggies. Cucumbers turning into delicious pickles, fermented carrots, and green beans… I don’t think there’s a veggie out there that you can’t ferment.


That’s a wrap my friend. A real quick reminder, if you want to check out my brand spakin’ new addition: From the Desk of Gut Love Article Series, you can go to either karynhaley.com/tomatoes or karynhaley.com/nutbutter, or hell check out both and see if it’s something valuable for you. Remember there’s recipes in each article and I won’t be offended if you just go for the recipes. I’m a sucker for a good recipe too!

There were lots of links mentioned today. The best place to catch them all is in the show notes at karynhaley.com/79 They will all lead you in the non-dairy bacterial balancing direction you want to go in.

Until we meet again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy gut healing journey.

Chat soon!

Episode Transcript:

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This podcast, video, and blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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