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Get SCD Cheese Right. It is Loaded with Nutrients & Bacteria!

SUMMARY:  Hey… listen up! You want to get SCD Cheese right because it is loaded with Nutrients & Beneficial Bacteria!  ALL healing diets (SCD, GAPS, PALEO,  AIP, FODMAP…) eliminate lactose because most inflamed guts can not digest lactose!  Actually, the lactase enzyme in our gut (which breaks down lactose) is the last to return to normal after the gut has healed (see page 25, Breaking the Vicious Cycle (BTVC), Edition 13, 2010).   Further, certain diseases (like 65% of autism have a lactase deficiency) are associated with lactose intolerance, and some diseases (like IBS which afffects ten to fifteen percent of the population) may have an intolerance to the quantity of lactose consumed in the diet. For IBS  sufferers, 3 out of 4 are helped with the FODMAP  diet which figures out if foods we all digest poorly (which includes lactose) are even tolerated and if so, in what amount!  And the British Dietetic Association 2016 update for IBS recommends a trial period of a low lactose diet where sensitivity to milk is suspected and a lactose hydrogen breath test is not available or appropriate.  So many people are benefited by reducing or eliminating lactose in their diet!  This post explains how to do that deliciously using the SCD tenets, and it explains why eating lactose-free cheese is important (if you tolerate the casein protein) sharing 7 SCD cheese requirments to consider in selecting cheeses!  Bottom Line:  Everyone wants to get cheese right because it contains a whopping  10,000,000,000 or 10 billion MICROBES, and it seems they survive the gut transit ride and  beneficially impact your microbiome diversity + richness… all good immune boosting stuff!    

Here are 7 SCD cheese requirements to consider!

A general and easy rule of thumb for making sure the cheese you buy is lactose-free is to meet ALL of the SCD legal cheese tenets which are:  Purchase a block of cheese that is on the below GREAT listing of SCD legal cheeses (based on the BTVC book and BTVC website list of permitted cheeses)  and make sure the package says it is 1) aged at least 30 days  AND  2) contains only SCD legal ingredients.   Bottom line, READ labels!!!

#1 — SCD Cheeses must be aged at least 30 days to ensure they are  lactose-free!  The only exception is raw milk cheeses.

ALL healing diets (SCD, GAPS,PALEO,  AIP, FODMAP…) eliminate lactose because most inflamed guts can not digest lactose!   Actually, the lactase enzyme in our gut (which breaks down lactose) is the last to return to normal after the gut has healed (page 25, Breaking the Vicious Cycle (BTVC), Edition 13, 2010).  The BTVC  guidelines and website ensures that the cheese is lactose-free.  This is why healing diets such as SCD, GAPS and some PALEO camps, follow the BTVC book which permits certain cheeses IF they are aged at least 30 days and contain no SCD illegal ingredients. That fermentation time is long enough that the lactose (aka milk sugar) is totally broken down and consumed by the cheese microbes — by the way, they number as many as 10,000,000,000 or 10 billion!!!  

Realize that just because you may be lactose intolerant, you may not need to completely eliminate dairy products from diet as both yogurt and hard cheese are usually well tolerated.  Hard cheeses… that’s what the SCD legal cheeses are… lactose-free hard cheeses!  AND by the way, the SCD yogurt is always lactose-free!

#2 —Raw (unpasturized) cheeses automatically meet the SCD aging requirement!

You also should know that for cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) milk, the FDA requires it to be aged for a minimum of 60 days so that makes it  automatically lactose-free and SCD legal IF the cheese is on the BTVC book and BTVC website list of permitted cheeses, AND its ingredients are SCD legal!!!

#3 — Always purchase a solid cheese block and slice/shred it yourself to avoid illegal anti-clumping ingredients  contained in pre-sliced/shredded cheeses.  
#4 — Always read labels to ensure no SCD illegal ingredients.  
#5— Be wary of manufacturing processes if the ingredients are SCD legal but the package does not specify aging time.

Even veteran SCD consumers can get SCD cheese wrong!  For an example of how easy it is to screw up cheese ingredients, I revised my last post, SCD Seasoned Almond Flour ‘Bread’ Crumbs and Veg Recipe, because the cheese I called out wasn’t SCD legal!  At the time, I recommended Organic Valley Unprocessed American Singles Colby-Style Cheese slices  with caution since I did not have a letter from  Organic Valley explaining processing.  WELL… I do now and it isn’t good!!!  Ends up, that cheese is not SCD legal after-all because it is “not aged at all and is packaged soon after production” (Organic Valley, dated Nov. 7, 2016).  So while the ingredients listed are SCD legal, the deal breaker is in the processing.  The lack of aging makes it not SCD legal because lactose (milk sugar) is not broken down in its cheese fermentation process 

Many use Organic Valley cheeses.  Organic Valley provided me a list of their cheeses meeting the SCD 30 days or longer aging requirement that would be SCD legal (but always double check the ingedients list):

  • Cheddar (sharp, raw or pasteurized):  8 months,
  • Cheddar (mild, raw or pasteurized):  60 days,
  • Parmesan:  10 months.

#6 — You should look at the Nutrition Facts label on  the cheese!  If there are 0 grams of sugar in the cheese — then the cheese is lactose-free or only contains a trace of lactose. 

#7 — There are some individuals that are intolerant to other components in dairy such as the protein CASEIN.  

lightbulb2Keep in mind that just because the cheese is lactose-free, that doesn’t mean all can eat it.

Lactose-free cheese will still have that casein protein.  It has been suggested that milk intolerance could in some cases be related to the ingestion of the protein A1 β-casein since during digestion of this casein protein, β-casomorphin 7 is released and that has known GI effects.  [see JianquinS et al 2016].  The authors of this paper, [Cozma-Petruţ et al 2017] noted that for IBS, further research studies are needed to elucidate the role of milk and dairy products in IBS [because other proteins beyond lactose, like casein, may be involved].  The long fermentation required for SCD cheeses helps break down the casein protein since the longer the cheese ferments, the stronger it’s aroma, and the more the casein is broken down!  You can also make the casein protein less inflammatory (use A2 instead of A1 milk, try unpasteurized raw milk cheese or even goat milk) but this post is not going into those details.  It is focusing on the lactose component.


Why you should consider reducing the lactose in your diet even if you are not on a healing diet.
lightbulb2Everyone can go a step further and choose from the many redic delic lactose-free cheeses available just to reduce lactose loads since lactose is a hard to digest food component for all and is a FODMAP, and ALL FODMAPs are cumulative!
That is what I do, choose lactose-free whenever painlessly possible, for my family members that eat lactose!  Really, no one cares if they are eating provolone instead of mozzarella!

If you are not on a healing diet that eliminates lactose, the Organic Valley Unprocessed American Singles Colby-Style Cheese slices are better then other products called:  American processed cheese slices, processed “cheese foods” and processed cheese products for the reasons stated by Organic Valley FAQ:

o     Processed “cheese products” and “cheese foods” are blends of various cheeses that are heated with one or more emulsifying agents such as monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium metaphosphate (sodium hexametaphosphate), sodium acid pyrophosphate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, calcium citrate, sodium tartrate, and sodium potassium tartrate.  I agree and you know that emulsifiers are gut microbiome killers causing the gut to look like IBD or metabolic syndrome, at least in mice for now!

o     Unprocessed Organic Valley American Singles are made from a block of mild, high-moisture, organic Colby-style cheese, which is simply sliced and packaged.


Good to know:  You eat a lot of microbes in cheese!

Each piece of cheese contains as many as 10,000,000,000 or 10 billion microbes!!!  They may increase your gut microbiome diversity and richness, a good thing, since cheese microbes make it through the digestive tract!  Of course, heating that bacterial loaded cheese will kill of the bacteria  so eat some of it cold!  It is creepy, but even dead bacteria seem to benefit the microbiome according to Dr. Rob Knight (a leading light in microbiome) in a Reddit I participated in!

  • Food preparation techniques such as heating or acid treatment can kill bacteria, however, these processes affect different bacteria to different degrees (spore-forming bacteria can survive heat treatment (Stringer, Webb & Peck, 2011).
  • When you look at differing diets, The USDA dietary meal plan provided the highest total microorganisms for the day probably because it included two meals (yogurt and cottage cheese) with non-heat treated fermented foods.  This likely resulted in the 3-fold higher total microbes in this meal plan compared to the AMERICAN and VEGAN diets.  Neither the AMERICAN nor the VEGAN dietary pattern meals contained fermented foods that were not heat treated as part of meal preparation.   You can learn more about the AVG NUMBERS AND KINDS OF MICROORGANISMS CONSUMED IN A DAY here.
  • Once inside the gastrointestinal tract, the low pH of the stomach, as well as bile salts also kill some bacteria, but not those that are acid and/or bile salt resistant. It is unknown what proportion of the microbes we eat make it through the hostile environment of the gastrointestinal tract. However, a recent study showed that food microbes consumed as part of fermented foods such as cheese did appear in the stool and were culturable (David et al., 2013).

Still… there are many unanswered questions for fermented cheese:

  1. What are the pre- and probiotic properties, if any, of the microorganisms in cheese?
  2. How do the microbes within cheese interact with the natural microbiota of the human gut and can cheese be used to assist in maintaining a healthy gut microbiota?

Here’s more interesting tidbits on those microbes in cheese! The PDF, Microbes Make the Cheese, A Report from the American Academy for Microbiology explains:  Cheese is created by orderly successions of microbial communities that produce compounds responsible for cheese flavor… Each piece of cheese contains as many as 10,000,000,000 or 10 billion microbes… The added starter cultures dominate the cheese microbiota, establishing conditions that select for the next microorganisms that will be capable of thriving in the changing cheese matrix. The starter culture changes the cheese microenvironment, affecting a variety of factors, including pH, redox potential, levels of organic acids such as lactate and acetate, and other nutrients. As some of the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) within the starter culture begin to die, the cells release enzymes that further break down milk proteins, mainly casein, to small peptides and amino acids. In fact, these dead starter culture cells and debris are an important food source for subsequent generations of microbes, referred to as non-starter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB). If the starter culture is not dying, then the cheese is not growing. Precisely which organisms will comprise the second and future microbial ecologies (this process is called microbial succession) will depend on conditions such as salt concentration and nutrients present, and which microorganisms are present (either intentionally added or contaminants) in the evolving cheese matrix...

  • The smell of a cheese depends on microbial and enzymatic activities changing the casein and fats in milk and also on the microbiota associated with a cheese variety further refining those aromas as the cheese ripens. In general, the more extensively the casein and milk fat are broken down, the stronger the aroma of the final cheese product… the distinctive aroma of Cheddar cheese is due to more than 500 different compounds produced by the microbes that are used in producing this cheese.
  • The occurrence of pathogens in cheese that cause disease in humans is very rare; some cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, English Cheddar, and Gruyère, that do not support the growth of pathogens if correctly manufactured. These cheeses are dry, acidic (low pH), and have a high salt content, all traits that inhibit pathogen growth.
  • The FDA has regulatory jurisdiction over cheese and stipulates that cheese be made in one of two ways: 1. Use milk that is pasteurized to FDA standards. 2. If made from raw (unpasteurized) milk, cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days at a temperature no less than 35°F.  Microbes Make the Cheese, A Report from the American Academy for Microbiology

In conclusion, if you are on a healing diet such as SCD, GAPS, UMass IBD-AID, or PALEO (some camps) and you tolerate casein,  eat the cheeses permitted in thBTVC book and BTVC website (which are naturally lactose-free) IF they are:

  1. Aged at least 30 days (so lactose-free) AND
  2. They contain only SCD legal ingredients.  

The real bonus for all:  

Seems cheese microbes survive the gut transit ride and beneficially impact your microbiome diversity + richness, all good immune boosting stuff!

Best in health thru awareness,

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Last updated: August 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm  is a general rewrite of the post for easier reading.  This update also added and clarified in the SUMMARY section: “the British Dietetic Association 2016 update for IBS recommends a trial period of a low lactose diet where sensitivity to milk is suspected and a lactose hydrogen breath test is not available or appropriate.  So many people are benefited by reducing or eliminating lactose in their diet!  This post explains how to do that deliciously using the SCD tenets, and it explains why eating lactose-free cheese is important (if you tolerate the casein protein) sharing 7 SCD cheese requirments to consider in selecting cheeses!”  This update also added in the casein section:  [see JianquinS] Effects of milk containing only A2 beta casein versus milk containing both A1 and A2 beta casein proteins on gastrointestinal physiology, symptoms of discomfort, and cognitive behavior of people with self-reported intolerance to traditional cows’ milk.   This update also added in the casein section: ” The authors of this paper, [Cozma-Petruţ et al 2017] noted that for IBS, further research studies are needed to elucidate the role of milk and dairy products in IBS [because other proteins beyond lactose, like casein, may be involved].” The  [Cozma-Petruţ et al 2017] paper is:  Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!

Prior update July 24, 2017 changed the title to “Get SCD Cheese Right. It is Loaded with Nutrients & Bacteria!” so as to better represent post content.  

Prior update Feb, 18, 2017 added clarification in Summary section “⇒ NOTE: the recipe has been revised accordingly!”

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