Gut Health Microbes

What exactly is gut health and why does it matter?

 What exactly is gut health?


Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health, immunity, and more. (

The community of microbes that live in your gut are called your microbiota.

The opposite of gut health is called Gut dysbiosis and is an imbalance of these gut microbiota.


What can affect gut health?


There are thousands of articles written about the relationship between diet and gut health, and while this is a slight oversimplification there tends to be agreement that a healthy diet which does not contain processed foods or refined sugars is the way to go. 

What we eat, especially foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods, affects our gut environment and increases our risk of diseases. Ultra-processed foods contain substances extracted from food (such as sugar and starch), added from food constituents (hydrogenated fats), or made in a laboratory (flavor enhancers, food colourings)



Managing stress is important for many aspects of health, including gut health. Animal have suggested that psychological stressors can disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines, even if the stress is only short-lived. (Galley JD, Nelson MC, Yu Z, et al. Exposure to a social stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota. BMC Microbiol. 2014;14:189. Published 2014 Jul 15. doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-189)


Overuse of antibiotics

Although it is often necessary to take antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, overuse is a significant public health concern that can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are also damaging to the gut microbiota and immunity, with some research reporting that even 6 months after their use, the gut still lacks several species of beneficial bacteria. (Palleja, A., Mikkelsen, K.H., Forslund, S.K. et al. Recovery of gut microbiota of healthy adults following antibiotic exposure. Nat Microbiol 3, 1255–1265 (2018).
Can gut health affect anxiety or can gut heath lead to depression?

Two leading medical researchers (who happen to be Irish based in University College Cork) have done much work on the association between gut health and mental health, in fact they have come up with a new word to name the microbes that can improve your mood psychoboitoics. These microbes are major players in the gut-brain axis: the communication between your gut and your mind. If you are interested in this topic I would highly recommend a book The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food, and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection by John F. Cryan, Scott C. Anderson, and Ted Dina.


I will post future blogs with some of the insights from the book, which are fascinating. If you are interested in how a healthy gut can drive psychological well-being, improve your mood, and combat an array of diseases including depression, anxiety, obesity and heart disease this book is for you.


Are gut health tests worth it?

Patients are often told “Its all in your mind” because there is a limit to what doctors can test for. But the reality being revealed by pyschobiotic research is that many issues we think of as purely mental are actually directly related to gut dysbiosis. ( John F. Cryan, Scott C. Anderson, and Ted Dina )

Unfortunately there are still very few tools to prove the health of your microbiota, so it can be difficult to analyze the health of your microbiota, therefore it’s hard to proove that something real is at work and that it’s not just your imagination. Recent work done at the University of California, San Diego, has shown that a computer can discriminate healthy from dysbiotic guts, so help may soon be on the way. (M. Yazdani, B. C. Taylor, J. W. Debelius, W. Li, R. Knight and L. Smarr, "Using machine learning to identify major shifts in human gut microbiome protein family abundance in disease," 2016 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (Big Data), Washington, DC, 2016)

But for now understanding the importance of a healthy gut and how it can be responsible for our physical and mental well-being is crucial.

September 05, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

What is all the fuss about A2 milk? Does Sheep’s Milk Contain A2 protein?

A1 milk has A1 type of protein (casein) and A2 milk has A2 type of protein (casein). This is important because the way the milk is broken down and metabolised in the system is different. Due to the difference in availability of different types of milk, A1 milk is relatively cheaper and easier to find than A2 milk.

Sheep’s milk contains much less or no A1 beta-casein; instead, it mostly contains the more easily digestible A2 beta-casein, which is a big part of the reason some people say its healthier. 

Several studies have reported that cow’s milk with a dominant or singular A2-

milk may be healthier than A1 -milk. These studies are based on digestion

 of A1milk which lead  to release  β -casomorphin-  7  (BCM-7).  Subsequently

increase inflammation, Type-1-diabetes, heart  disease,  autism,  gastrointestinal  discomfort  and  other  disease  in  the  consumer. ( Source: A1- and A2 -Milk and Their  Effect on Human Health )

If you want to avoid A1- milk you can still have a dairy based diet and consume  sheep’s milk products.

July 09, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

The Science Behind The Benefits Of Sheep’s Milk

Because we are asked so often, why is sheep’s milk good for you? Or what are the benefits of sheep’s milk? Or the more direct of people ask what’s so good about sheep’s milk? We thought it might be useful to give a brief introduction here to some of the more recent scientific studies which look at the benefits of sheep’s milk and of yogurts. Because these are all from published scientific sources, they can be heavy on the scientific lingo, but we have summarised the gist of each, giving you a link to the research papers so you can explore them further and find out more about the benefits of sheep’s milk and sheep’s milk yogurt if you wish.

Note Ovine = sheep.

Sheeps milk Science


Recent research indicates that dairy products may be neutral or even beneficial for cardiovascular health. Further evidence indicates that fermented dairy products may be more beneficial for health than non-fermentable dairy products especially against a number of cardiometabolic risk factors such as, hypertension, cholesterol levels and impaired glucose intolerance. Yogurt consumption is associated with numerous health benefits, including preventing type II diabetes mellitus, obesity metabolic syndrome and CVD. Bovine milk accounts for 85% of total milk consumption, however ovine milk alternatives provide a superior nutritional alternative. Ovine milk owes its nutritional superiority , due to the higher levels of protein, lipids and minerals and vitamins essential to human health The most predominant fatty acid in ewes milk are oleic acid (18:1)  palmitic acid (16:1) and myristic acid (14:0). Diets high in oleic acid decrease low density lipo (LDL) protein cholesterol levels, whereas high density lipo protein HDL cholesterol levels are not significantly affected.  Ovine dairy products also possess potent antithrombotic properties that are indicated in several physiological processes and are beneficial for health.


Consuming fermented foods has been reported to result in improvements in a range of health parameters. These positive effects can be exerted by a combination of the live microorganisms that the fermented foods contain, as well as the bioactive components released into the foods as by-products of the fermentation process. In many instances, and particularly in dairy fermented foods, the microorganisms involved in the fermentation process belong to the lactic acid group of bacteria (LAB).

Sheep’s yogurt is a fermented dairy product

Note: Velvet Cloud yogurt contains live Lactic Acid Bacterial


Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Scientists from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute and the Crown Research Institute AgResearch ran the clinical trial.


Sheep’s Milk 1 litre


Sheep milk has a high nutritional value and high concentrations of proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, as compared to the milks of other domestic species. The physicochemical and nutritional characteristics of sheep milk can be advantageous for the manufacture of products containing prebiotic ingredients and/or probiotic bacteria, which are major categories in the functional food market.  January 2017

June 07, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Tzatziki Recipe

There are so many reasons to make Tzatziki now.  Its so easy to make, goes with all sorts of meat, as a dip with anything, with a salad or on some warm sourdough bread.  Tzatziki or Cacik as it is also called, is a type of Turkish dip or meze served widely in the Mediterranean and Middle East because it works so well with spicy food. It is basically a cold yogurt dish with chopped-up cucumber or other vegetables.

When you do a search for Tzatziki recipes one of the most commonly searched recipes is Slimming World Tzatziki recipes, which I cant imagine taste that good, because they recommend fat free Greek yogurt and say that the Tzatziki is syn free!

Our sheep’s milk yogurt, unlike today’s Greek yogurt (which is now made from cow’s milk) has nothing added or nothing strained away. So Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt has undergone no processing, but it is is still high in protein (5.3 g / 100g), so it is officially a high protein yogurt, and it makes the most wonderful creamy Tzatziki.  I got the idea for this blog post from the well known nutritionist Gaye Godkin . Gaye recommends Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt to many of her clients. She herself says she is cow dairy intolerant but eats Velvet Cloud every day, these are her words not ours “The great news is…if you cannot tolerate dairy from cow and goat, chances are you’ll be fine with this sheep’s product. I haven’t eaten cow’s or goats produce for over 30 years, but I can tolerate this. This product is the only yogurt that is not homogenised. IT CONTAINS ONLY SHEEP’S MILK AND LIVE CULTURES. No other yogurt in Ireland is like it.”

Gaye Godkin’s Tzatziki Recipe With Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk Yogurt

Gaye’s Sheep’s Yogurt Tzatziki Recipe

1 Pot of Velvet Cloud, 1 peeled and grated cucumber leave to rest then squeeze the water out of it before mixing with the yogurt add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper and an optional 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Sheep's Milk Yogurt Tzatziki
Homemade sheep’s yogurt tzatziki

The Flanagan Family’s Sheep’s Yogurt Tzatziki Recipe

We do as above but add two cloves of crushed garlic, and if we are serving with fish we also add chopped dill or the finely tops of fennel.

May 03, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

The Questions People Have Been Asking About Sheep’s Milk Online

I have been doing a lot of research on how to get the word out about the fact that you  can now buy our sheep’s milk yogurt on line, I’ve come across some cool tools that tell you what questions people have been searching for online around sheep’s milk so I am going to answer some of them here.

Is sheep’s milk lactose free ?  / Does sheep milk have lactose ?/ Sheep’s Milk and Lactose Intolerance

No sheep’s milk is not lactose free it is still a dairy product, but it has a different make up to cow’s milk. For example it has a different protein structure and it has a different proportion of polar lipids compared to cows milk. Sheep’s milk is also naturally homogenised which means the fat globules are not mechanically broken up before it is sold, which would be norm for commercially available cows milk which is homogenised (processed to mechanically break up the fat) before it goes on sale. Sheep milk also contain a higher quantity of medium/short chain saturated fatty acids and it is believed that this leads to higher lactose absorption which may be of benefit for those who are lactose intolerant.

Does Sheep’s Milk Have Casein?

Yes, there is casein in sheep milk, but not in the same form as cow milkSheep dairy contain much less or no A1 beta-casein; instead, they mostly contain the more easily digestible A2 beta-casein, which is a big part of the reason some people say its healthier.

Is sheep’s milk dairy?

See the answer to the above two. Yes, it is dairy but a different delicious dairy alternative. Unlike other dairy alternatives it doesn’t have  long list of ingredients, hasn’t been processed and our Irish sheep’s milk yogurt has a low carbon footprint than the alternatives like almond, soy or coconut which are not grown in Ireland.

Where to buy milk/ Sheep’s milk near me/ Sheep’s Milk For Sale/Sheep’s Milk To Buy

The good news is you can buy our Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt here on line, or there is a complete list of stockists also on our website, and we will have our sheep’s milk cheese coming soon.

What Does Sheep’s Milk Taste Like ?

Because of the make up of sheep’s milk it has a mild slightly naturally sweet creamy taste. It in NO WAY tastes or smells like sheep!!


Who Drinks Sheep’s Milk

I can’t give you a statistically accurate answer to this one, but I can only tell you who the customers for Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk yogurt are. The majority of consumers who are buying our sheep’s milk yogurt tell us they feel they are sensitive to cow dairy.  They may just not like cow dairy, or in more cases they feel they are, or they have been diagnosed with some sort of inflammation. For example many of our customers tell us they have IBS, or they have a digestive issue, or they are recovering from some sort of illness or been on a course of antibiotics.  We also have consumers who love to cook and have seen Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt on the menus of restaurants around Ireland, these people usually have a love of natural products, and are particularly keen to source products from small local artisan producers, where they know exactly who and where the food comes from.

sour cream in glass, mayonnaise, yogurt, isolated on white background, clipping path, full depth of field

Sheep’s Milk Versus Cow’s Milk

Sheep milk presents an attractive nutritional and health-promoting food source due to its high- mineral and -protein contents compared to milk from other lactating species such as cow and goat. The macrominerals Ca, P, Na, and Mg are reported to be present in sheep milk at much higher levels compared to cow and goat milks. In particular, sheep milk contains approximately 36% more calcium than cow milk and 31% more than goat milk. ( Jade Chia, … Alaa El-Din A. Bekhit, in Nutrients in Dairy and their Implications on Health and Disease, 2017)

April 16, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

How To Use Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk Yogurt

  • As a replacement for crème fraiche, buttermilk, cream, mayonnaise, salad dressings
  • In curries/stews/casseroles or as a side with these
  • With fish
  • With fresh seasonal fruits and berries
  • On its own, or with a drizzle of honey
  • A big healthy blob on soup
  • In smoothies
  • With homemade granola or porridge
  • Lamb/ game marinades
  • Side dips – with or without garlic, mint, lemon, dill, sumac
  • Tzatziki
  • To make Labneh
  • Makes an amazing porridge oat bread
Homemade greek tzatziki made with Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt
April 03, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan
What Foods To Eat More Of During the Corona Virus Pandemic ?

What Foods To Eat More Of During the Corona Virus Pandemic ?

During this pandemic we are all supposed to try to increase our consumption of foods like Fruit and Veg and foods containing LIVE cultures such as (yogurts, kombuchas, and kefirs).

Velvet Cloud contains the 4 live cultures

It is a completely natural product with NOTHING added and NOTHING stained away and is suitable for many who may find they are sensitive to cow dairy.

In light of the current difficult climate for many of our most loyal customers, who may be unable to visit their usual stockists, Velvet Cloud have an online delivery service direct to consumers homes. We will deliver 6 x 450g pots of our fresh sheep’s milk yogurt, made on our family farm, via courier for €30, shelf life at least 21 days. Currently customers can phone, email, send a direct message on social media or order on the shop here. a


Velvet Cloud LIVE PROBIOTIC Sheep’s Milk Natural Yogurt
Gluten Free, Digestion Friendly, Live Probiotic, Sheep’s Milk Yogurt
March 19, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

What does sheep’s milk taste like?

Another one of the very common questions we get asked. What does sheep’s milk taste like?  The answer is mild and creamy with a slightly natural sweet taste. We’ve observed that people think that sheep’s milk is going to taste a bit like goats milk or they are afraid that sheep’s milk might taste “sheepy” or taste like the smell of sheep. 100% of the time when we get people to taste our Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt or our sheep’s milk, they are always pleasantly surprised. The reason sheep’s milk tastes creamy and naturally sweet is because it is naturally homogenised, this means that the little fat globules in the sheep’s milk are so small that they float around naturally in the milk giving it that creamy taste. Because the fat molecules in cow’s milk are larger than those in sheep’s milk they don’t float around naturally but separate out of the milk and rise to the top. This is why when I was a child the cream of the milk would rise to the top of the milk bottles, and if you didn’t bring in the milk quickly after the milk man had left it on your door step, the birds would come and peck holes in the tops of the bottles to drink the cream. However now a days commercial cows milk is mechanically homogenised, in other words it is mechanically processed so the fat globules  are broken up and therefore don’t rise to the top of the milk, but with sheep’s milk we don’t have to do any processing because it is already naturally homogenised, giving you that lovely creamy taste “like milk used to taste” is a very common reaction we get when giving out tastings.

Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Milk Frozen 1 Litre
February 09, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan



Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Scientists from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute and the Crown Research Institute AgResearch ran the clinical trial.

The participants, 30 women who normally avoided drinking dairy, consumed 650 mL of either cow milk or sheep milk on two separate occasions. Afterwards, the women reported on their digestive comfort, appetite and liking, and provided breath and blood samples. During the trial neither the women nor the researchers knew who was drinking what at the time.

Study co-lead Dr Amber Milan, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute and researcher for AgResearch, says, “We already knew that sheep milk is different from cow milk. It has more nutrients per glass: more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. For example, sheep milk has almost twice the level of calcium and zinc, compared to cow milk.

“What our trial has shown is that New Zealand sheep milk is not just compositionally different to cows milk, but has inherent properties which means we digest it differently,” says Dr Milan.

“We have, for the first time, confirmed that the protein in sheep milk is more readily digested compared to cow milk. Sheep milk delivered more of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine than cow milk. Amino acids are building blocks for protein, and these kinds are important for forming muscle protein.

The higher total fat levels do not produce a higher spike in blood triglycerides, probably due to the different types of fat in sheep milk. Sheep milk delivered more of some so-called ‘good fats’ (medium-chain fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA) than cow milk.

January 22, 2020 — Aisling Flanagan

Alternative Uses For Sheep’s Milk Yogurt – Recipe Ideas

The renowned chef Jp McMahon is a great supporter of Irish artisan products and uses Velvet Cloud in all three of his restaurants. In today’s The Irish Times magazine (150619) he gives us a shout out and shares some great ideas for using yogurt. As well as the usual straight out of the pot or with granola he asks us to consider it as a summer sauce for fish.

Here at home we use Velvet Cloud all the time on the side with baked salmon or breaded haddock or as a clean but creamy salad dressing.

JP sometimes seasons it with rapeseed oil and sea-salt to match some grilled langoustines, or gently smoked to pair with some couscous as a tapa.

To smoke yogurt you can buy a small camp smoker online or just use smoked seal salt if your stuck !

Yogurt and herbs work well together, JP suggests adding some chopped fennel or dill and serving with grilled lamb chops. A diced cucumber will also give the sauce a refreshing zing.

Finally some frozen yogurt. 500g yogurt 100 ml whipped cream and 125g honey (our favourite is Sliabh Aughty Honey & Natural Irish Skincare). Fold all together & freeze, whisking the mixture every hour until its smooth & frozen (or use and ice-cream machine if you have one)

June 15, 2019 — Aisling Flanagan