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Is sourdough gluten free

Is sourdough gluten free


Is sourdough gluten free gluten-free, find out if you can eat sourdough bread if you have coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity

Humans have eaten sourdough since the ancient Egyptians were grinding grains and leavening bread thousands of years ago. But as a child most of us would of grown up on highly processed white bread so soft it practically made chewing unnecessary.

As a growing number of world population can no longer digest the commercially processed stuff, we have had to look at and resort to less processed forms of bread an there is probably no better than a sourdough for many reasons.

What makes a Sourdough

In a sourdough starter there are two main microbial groups – lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. ‘In my opinion lactic acid bacteria are those which promote a number of advantages for sourdough’ says Marco, ‘Yeasts are important for increasing the volume, for producing carbon dioxide and some other compounds. But the most important group is that of lactic acid bacteria.’ In each gram of sourdough there are almost 109 lactic acid bacteria and 107 yeast cells. Marco tells me that the numbers of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts are the first signature of sourdough. ‘You cannot have a sourdough if the lactic acid bacteria don’t reach the number of 109, 108, or at least 107’ he says. The presence of lactic acid bacteria in these numbers is necessary for sourdough fermentation.



The second signature that Marco looks for in sourdough is the ratio of lactic acid bacteria to yeast. There are approximately 100 lactic acid bacteria cells to 1 yeast in sourdough. ‘The ratio between these two microbial groups is stable and is a signature of the sourdough fermentation’ he says. The ratio is an important characteristic of sourdough, and Marco explains that if you add baker’s yeast to a dough mixture, even if it contains some sourdough starter, the number of yeast cells increases relative to the bacteria, and you no longer have a sourdough bread.



Flavour is the third signature of sourdough. The tangy flavour associated with good sourdough bread is a consequence of the end products of the fermentation involving lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria in a sourdough starter produce both lactic acid and acetic acid. Marco tells me that the ratio between acetic and lactic acid must be kept low, to around four parts acetic acid to one part lactic acid. ‘If the ratio is increasing, up to 10, up to 20, the smell, the taste of the sourdough is not good’ he says. Marco calls this ratio the ‘quotient of fermentation’. I asked him if this ratio would be achieved with a long, slow fermentation. He agreed, saying that a fermentation of four to six hours was enough to produce the required ratio, but went on to explain that the length of fermentation is not the most important aspect. What the sourdough fermentation really needs is the right type of lactic acid bacteria.



It’s certainly interesting to know that sourdough can be defined microbiologically. How this could be translated practically into validating commercially produced sourdough, if there ever was to be a designation, is another matter.

The fermentation process that gives the bread its distinctive sour taste also makes it more gut-friendly. Millions of people are suffering from digestive malaise, and if you’re sensitive to foods containing gluten or have irritable bowel syndrome, sourdough bacteria’s ability to break down flour has never been more important, says Vanessa Kimbell, who’s been baking since she was 11 and runs The Sourdough Schoolin the UK.

“The same microbes that are in the soil are the same microbes that are in that pot of sourdough starter, which are the same microbes that are in our gut,” Kimbell says.

I have endometriosis, an inflammatory condition that not only affects my reproductive organs but also takes a toll on my digestive tract. So when I eat certain foods—like quickly leavened bread—my stomach suffers.

I switched to sourdough when a gastroenterologist suggested I try to ease my constant abdominal cramping and bloating with the low-FODMAP diet. Researchers at Monash University in Australia designed the six-to-eight week elimination plan to ease symptoms for those with irritable bowel syndrome, but research shows it might help those with endometriosis as well.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—poorly absorbed sugars and fibers found in certain grains, fruits, and vegetables, along with some dairy products and artificial sweeteners. When these carbohydrates—like those found in wheat—are fermented by bacteria, they produce gas and attract water when they pass through the gut, causing the bowel to stretch, says Jane Varney, senior research dietitian at Monash University.

If you have a normal gut, this stretching and expanding isn’t a problem. But those with IBS sometimes have visceral hypersensitivity, Varney says. Simply put, if you have a sensitive gut, this extra water and gas can cause you more pain than your digestively blessed friend who just ate the same whole wheatsandwich.

What makes sourdough easier to digest?

The wild yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter break down some of the carbohydrates and proteins found in flour, says Kate Scarlata, a Boston-based dietitian and author of The Low-FODMAP Diet book. When bread is made with fast-rising yeast, the bacteria don’t have time to do any pre-digesting.

“When you add baker’s yeast, that speeds the process of the rising of the bread, and it doesn’t give the fermenting event enough time to really happen,” Scarlata says. “It should be a 12-hour-plus process for best digestibility.”

The process also breaks down a carbohydrate found in wheat called fructan. “We know from our research that in a large proportion of people it’s the fructans in foods that they’re sensitive to as opposed to the gluten,” Varney says. When you limit foods containing gluten, you also limit exposure to fructans, which will help symptoms in those people.

What are the health benefits of sourdough?

Bacteria are often considered germs or disease agents, says Anne Madden, a researcher with the Sourdough Project at North Carolina State University’s Rob Dunn Lab. But often bacteria ward off other, harmful bacteria and help make some food more nutritious.

“Unlike standard yeast bread, sourdough has a community inside of it,” Madden says.

The process also increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the bread. As the dough ferments, it produces enzymes that break down phytic acid. Phytic acid can lead to gas production in those with IBS and can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, according to Kimbell in her new book The Sourdough School.

Basically, you poop out all the good stuff.

Last, if you’re trying to control your blood sugar, sourdough is a better option than fast-fermented breads. Research shows sourdough has higher levels of resistant starch than other breads, especially when whole grains are used. This means blood sugar levels spike less because it takes the body longer to digest the carbohydrates.

The Gluten Free Mumma

Hi, My name is Jody aka The Gluten Free Mumma. Welcome to The Gluten Gluten Free Mumma! To some it’s a choice, others don’t have that luxury. No matter your reasons, going gluten-free can be tough. The Gluten Free Mumma is a toolbox, a network, an ally, a bible, a friend, a source of entertainment and a lifesaver. Created and managed by a coeliac who’s been there, done that and knows what you’re going through; The Gluten Free Mumma delivers a down to earth family orientated view with yummy recipes, honest reviews. My goal is simple, EDUCATE. I want to make it easy to make family friendly meals that the whole family loves, be able to eat at a restaurant and not be sick and have a platform to share reviews good and bad so we can all enjoy Gluten Free food as it should be.

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  1. Cheryl McInnes July 8, 2018

    Interesting article on whether sourdough is GF or not. But you don’t actually (clearly) answer that question as far as I can read. I have read on other sites that it is NOT GF for people with CD, although people with a wheat intolerance can eat it. I was interested to read whether or not your view was different, but I cant see a definitive answer on it.


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