Explaining the Invisible Battle: How to Talk About IBD with Your Co-Workers, Friends, & Family

So Your Doctor Recommended Yogurt for Your IBD Let’s separate the facts from the fiction.

You’ve likely found yourself sitting in your GI doc's office, chatting about your IBD treatment plan, and if your provider is even semi-knowledgeable about the link between Crohn’s, colitis, and nutrition or they know anything about the microbiome, chances are they've thrown the yogurt recommendation your way. “Yogurt is a great way to get your probiotics in. You don’t need fancy pills. Just head to the grocery store and buy some yogurt.” 

It's like a rite of passage for all of us with gut disorders, right?

They're all about this simple addition to help with Crohn's or colitis. And sure, this idea makes sense on paper. Yogurt's got probiotics, those friendly bacteria that supposedly balance out your gut flora to help ease your IBD symptoms. Plus, its fermentation process breaks down some of the lactose, making it easier on the tummy. And let's not forget about the nutrients packed into every spoonful—calcium, B12, protein, you name it. To the semi-trained eye whose focus is more on medication and procedures and not on the latest in nutrition science, store bought yogurt is a one-stop-shop for gut health. 

That’s what your doctor says, anyway.

But here's the thing—when you're dealing with major gut struggles like the monster that is IBD, nothing's ever as straightforward as it seems. In this article, we're diving deep into the yogurt dilemma: Why it's recommended, where it falls short, and what other options are actually better if you want to make life transforming strides for your G.I. tract and overall health.

Sure, adding yogurt to your daily routine sounds like a breeze, especially when your doc makes it sound like the ultimate gut savior. But as IBD warriors, we know better than anyone that managing our condition is no walk in the park. While yogurt does have its perks, we've got to take a closer look at what's lurking in those store bought tubs.

Spoiler alert: it's not always pretty. 

Sugar bombs, preservatives, artificial stuff—yep, they're all in there, wreaking havoc on our inflammation levels and in many cases, creating more harm than good for the critters taking up residence in our digestive system. 

And don't even get me started on lactose. For many of us, eating foods with any amount of lactose is like adding fuel to the fire. So, as we navigate this wild ride called gut healing, let's keep our eyes peeled for options that not only sound good on paper, but ones that really  work for our bodies. And when we figure out what works best for us, then we can be the one to head to our doctor’s office and say, as an actual patient with IBD, not just a number or a research statistic, this is what actually works to get my gut bugs in order. Please, pass this on to other patients to truly help and empower us all to heal.

Stick around as we uncover the truth about grocery store yogurt and explore some alternative strategies for giving our gut the love it deserves.

Why Commercial Yogurt Isn't the Gut Health Hero You’re Taught it Is

Commercial yogurt may have been touted as a go-to gut health remedy, but for those of us with Crohn's and colitis, it's essential to scrutinize the quality and composition of these products before rushing to the grocery store. Here are five compelling reasons to give your doctor's yogurt recommendation a second thought:

  1. Short Fermentation Time: Commercial yogurts are typically fermented for only about 8 hours, resulting in lower probiotic content and higher lactose levels. This shorter fermentation period can exacerbate symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, achy joints, headaches, brain fog, etc… making commercial yogurt less suitable for gut health management.
  2. Ingredients You Don’t Need: Many commercial yogurts contain additives, preservatives, and thickeners like gelatin and starches, which may irritate the gut lining and worsen not just our G.I. symptoms, but also cause problems for our skin (rashes, rosacea, eczema) and even our neurological system (brain fog, headache, lethargy). These unnecessary ingredients detract from the potential health benefits of yogurt and may trigger more inflammation and whole body discomfort.
  3. High Sugar Content: Added sugars in commercial yogurts can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota, promoting the growth of unhealthy bacteria and increasing inflammation– basically increasing the problems you’re trying to get rid of, not decreasing them. For those with IBD, minimizing sugar intake is crucial for managing symptoms effectively, making commercial yogurts with added sugars (sometimes more than a can of soda) a less-than-ideal choice.
  4. Inflammatory Nature of Dairy-Based Yogurts: Dairy products, including many commercial yogurts, contain proteins like casein and whey, which may irritate the gut lining and provoke an immune response for IBDer’s. This inflammatory response can worsen symptoms, highlighting the need for alternatives to dairy-based yogurts for those dealing with gut challenges and sensitivities to dairy products.
  5. Lack of Individual Tailoring: Commercial yogurt options lack individual tailoring to meet the specific dietary needs and tolerances of those with IBD. While some may tolerate plain commercial yogurt, others may require non-dairy alternatives or yogurts with longer fermentation times to reduce lactose content and increase beneficial bacteria. Personalized nutrition is essential for effectively managing IBD, and commercial yogurts you buy at the grocery store often fall short of meeting these personalized needs.

Rethinking Your Doctor's Orders: Fermented Foods for Gut Health

Increase Microbial Activity: During fermentation, beneficial bacteria (primarily lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) or yeasts consume sugars and starches in the food, producing lactic acid, alcohol, or acetic acid. This lowers the pH of the food, preventing harmful bacteria from growing.

Proliferate Good Bacteria: The proliferation of these beneficial bacteria increases the probiotic content of the food, which, when consumed, adds to the diversity and health of the gut microbiome.

Produce Beneficial Compounds: Fermentation produces various compounds, including SCFAs (short chain fatty acids), peptides, and vitamins, which can nourish gut cells, reduce inflammation, and support overall gut health.

Reduce Antinutrients: Fermentation can also reduce antinutrients (like phytates) that bind minerals and prevent their absorption, thereby enhancing the nutritional profile of the food.

Enhance Digestibility: The breakdown of complex food components (such as lactose in milk) during fermentation makes the food easier to digest, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with compromised gut function like those with IBD.

With general fermentation benefits like these, the right kinds of fermented foods, tailor-made for where you're at on your IBD healing journey, you'll also see your IBD begin to thrive. Some of the IBD benefits when you eat the right type of fermented food include:

  • A Healthier Microbiome: The bacterial makeup of fermented foods can help restore the balance of gut flora, which is often disrupted in IBDer’s
  • Improved Digestive Health: The probiotics in some fermented foods can enhance digestion by breaking down food components more efficiently, reducing the symptoms associated with IBD like the all too common bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements.
  • A Strengthened Gut Barrier: Fermentation produces substances like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are pivotal in strengthening our gut barrier. A stronger gut barrier reduces the risk of pathogens entering our bloodstream. When we reduce pathogens, we lower our inflammation levels– that’s a BIG IBD win.
  • Immune System Modulation: The gut microbiome plays a critical role in the immune system. Fermented foods have the power to help modulate our immune response, reducing immune system overreactions.
  • Increased Nutrient Absorption: Fermentation can increase the bioavailability of nutrients in food, making it easier for the body to absorb essential vitamins and minerals, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with IBD who may struggle with nutrient absorption due to intestinal inflammation.

With All of These Benefits, Fermented Yogurt Has to Be the Answer, Right?

Not so fast, dear one. While fermented food as a whole is a great thing for improving digestive health in most individuals, not all fermented foods are the best option for an IBD belly.  For example if you are in a horrible flare-up— 5 or more trips to the bathroom per day, unbelievable belly achiness, smelly gas, bloating after you eat, unimaginable fatigue— normal life for an IBD’er in a flare-up, the last thing I would recommend is lacto-fermented veggies, sauerkraut or store bought yogurt.

The high residue fiber of fermented foods like sauerkraut and raw lacto-fermented veggies are just too powerful to soothe and heal your gut. And the store bought yogurt option, while smooth and creamy going down, may contain so much sugar, additives, preservatives, and lactose to provide any relief whatsoever.

We must meet our belly where it’s at.

Our ultimate goal is to eventually heal and seal our gut so we can move on to healthy fermented foods like  sauerkraut and lacto-fermented veggies– they rock to keep an IBD belly in remission), but the path to gut repair, restoration, and rejuvenation and finding long term remission is a whole different story. 

When it comes to the absolute best fermented food for an unhappy IBD belly, you can’t beat 24-hour fermented yogurt (dairy or nondairy depending on your food sensitivities and tolerances).

Unlocking Gut Healing: The Power of 24-hour Fermented Yogurt

Transitioning to homemade 24-hour fermented yogurt, instead of flocking to the grocery store on your doctor’s recommendation, can be a game-changer, especially for those navigating the complex nature of IBD. Here's why this yogurt variation stands out as the ultimate gut repair solution:

  • Gentle on the Gut: Give me the probiotic goodness without the harshness of other gut healing ferments. The longer fermentation process of a 24-hour homemade yogurt works its magic, breaking down lactose into lactic acid. Translation? Less stress on your sensitive digestive system and more healing, soothing, love for a belly on fire. It's like giving your whole digestive system a big, comforting hug during a nasty flare-up.
  • High Probiotic Power: Say hello to your new gut BFF! Thanks to that extended fermentation time in 24-hour fermented yogurt, this belly soothing concoction is bursting at the seams with beneficial bacteria. These little critters are like the superheroes of your microbiome, swooping in to save the day by calming inflammation and restoring balance down below.
  • Lactose-Light: IBDer’s can wave goodbye to FODMAP woes! Because this yogurt is virtually lactose-free, you can bid adieu to all that discomfort that often comes with store bought dairy. No more belly rumbles or cramps—just smooth sailing all the way.
  • Smooth and Soothing: Ahh, the creamy goodness of 24-hour fermented yogurt. After trying 24-hour fermented yogurt for the first time, many of my clients comment on how soothing and comforting this gut healing food is. No harsh textures here—just pure, velvety comfort.

Easy Does It: Whether you're eating it straight, serving it with a fruit compote, drizzling with a dash of honey, or blending it into a refreshing smoothie, 24-hour fermented yogurt is as versatile as they come. It plays nice with all sorts of dietary preferences and restrictions, making it a no-brainer addition to your daily routine.

Do it Like a Mom: The Boss Mom's Blueprint for Homemade Yogurt

Now that you know why 24-hour fermented yogurt is the best option for its gentle, yet effective gut healing probiotic power, let’s dive into how to seamlessly integrate the magic of this gut loving superfood into your bustling mom life. As moms with IBD, we're no strangers to multitasking, juggling, and finding creative solutions to life's challenges. 

Making homemade yogurt might seem daunting at first. I know it seemed that way for me. Way back when (probably some time in 2008), I remember trying to make yogurt at home for the first time. I sent the whole family out of the house so I could concentrate without distractions. But even after making my homemade yogurt the first time, I remember thinking, it’s that easy?

Why haven’t I been doing this my whole life? 

So fear not, because making 24-hour fermented yogurt is not as daunting as it sounds. I promise, we are going to tackle it with all the grace, resilience, and savvy of moms who've conquered the trenches of motherhood, and did it all while managing IBD at the same time.

So, let's roll up our sleeves, gather our kiddos (they're gonna love it), and explore some practical tips and tricks to incorporate this gut-healing magic elixir into our daily routines, because if anyone can do it like a boss mom, it's you.

Doing 24-Fermented Yogurt Like the Badass Boss Mom You Are:

  • At First, Go Slow: No matter which type of probiotic it is, pill or food form, we always want to add it in slowly. Adding in the gut healing probiotics of 24-hour fermented yogurt is a good thing, but it tends to set up an environment that crowds out the bad guys at the same time. To minimize the challenges this chain reaction is creating, we always go slow with yogurt. Start out with just a spoonful a day (some IBD gals even need to start with less than that and that’s perfectly fine). As long as you are moving forward at a snail's pace, you are where you're supposed to be.
  • Wait Until the Time is Right: Along with going slow, waiting until the time is right is also a baller IBD mom move. Some of my clients are ready for 24-hour fermented yogurt from Day 1 while others need a little bit of space before introducing fermented foods. For some, even the gentle, soothing 24-fermented yogurt is a struggle in the beginning stages of gut healing. If you’ve ever tried homemade yogurt before and felt awful after, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t for you, it just means a little more gut healing needs to take place before you fully commit. We are all at our own pace in the world of gut healing. Listening to your body intuitively will tell you all you need to know about when the time is right for 24-hour fermented yogurt.
  • Set a Yogurt-Making Schedule: Once you’ve made your first batch, you’ll want to establish a regular time each week to make yogurt, ensuring it becomes a consistent part of your routine and never leaving you without this gut-healing elixir.
  • Involve the Kids: Turn yogurt making into a fun activity for the whole family, teaching kids about healthy eating and fermentation while spending quality time together.
  • Keep it Simple and Sweet: Start with basic ingredients and recipes, embracing the learning curve and trusting that with practice, yogurt making will become second nature.
  • Embrace the Journey: Not every batch will be perfect, and that's okay! You might forget to shut the yogurt maker off (been there, done that) or you might get distracted and let the starter milk boil over on the stove (oh yeah, been there too). But each batch is a step toward healing and understanding what works best for your tastebuds and health needs. Embrace the little imperfections as part of your journey toward better gut health.
  • Lean on Your Community: Remember, you're not alone on this journey. Share tips, successes, and even the not-so-successful attempts with your community of fellow badass IBD warrior mom friends. I love hearing yogurt stories (good and bad). Sometimes, just knowing there's someone else out there who gets it can make all the difference.

Are You Ready To Make Your Own 24-Hour Fermented Yogurt? Transform Your Gut Health with Your Very Own Yogurt Recipe Collection

As we wrap this post up in a nice, tidy bow, I want to leave you with my most important message: you're stronger than you think. I know from first hand that living with IBD is no walk in the park, but guess what? You've already conquered so much, and mastering homemade yogurt is just another item to check off your B+ IBD badass mom list.

With the right tools in hand—like my Yogurt Recipe Collection—we can tackle this journey together with confidence.

So, let's dive in and harness the incredible healing power of homemade yogurt together. You can get your very own yogurt making recipes below— from dairy to non-dairy, made with a yogurt maker or an instant pot— I’ve got you covered!

And while it’s dubbed the "SCD" Yogurt Recipe Collection, rest assured, it's designed with all our gut healing journeys in mind—this yogurt is compliant with GAPS, Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo, and Low FODMAP diets. 

Grab your free 24-fermented yogurt making recipe resource now and let's kickstart this journey hand in hand, turning challenges into victories, one spoonful at a time.

Remember mama, you've got what it takes, and I'm here to cheer you on every step of the way. Let's rock this journey like the warrior moms we are—filled with love, strength, and a whole lot of homemade yogurt magic.

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