I caught a glimpse of a headline while I was researching gluten sensitivity and FODMAP diets. It grabbed my attention because I'm gluten sensitive. I'd been living without bread for years knowing it was filled with gluten, the elusive enemy of those with sensitive stomachs. The headline that caught my eye happily reported that some gluten-sensitive people can safely consume sourdough bread. Could this be true? A way to finally enjoy a slice of toast with my poached eggs? I had to do my own research to be convinced of this life-changing news.
Traditional Sourdough Bread is Easier to Digest
I'm referring specifically to homemade sourdough made using the ancient process of fermentation. Traditional sourdough is made with an organic starter that contains yeast and bacteria rather than commercially produced yeast. The fermentation process takes days rather than hours. During this long fermentation process (called "proving"), the yeast and bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in the dough and start to break them down. The end result is a much more easily digested loaf of tangy sourdough bread.
Hold up! Don't run to the grocery store and stock up on sourdough bread just yet. Most commercial sourdough is made with quick-rising baker's yeast. Research shows that, while this method speeds up the bread-making process, it doesn't allow the fermentation time necessary for FODMAP breakdown. The longer fermentation time is key to creating a loaf that's easier on the tummy.
Spelt Flour has Lower Gluten Content
Spelt is an ancient species of wheat. It's nutritionally similar to modern wheat but research proves it contains less gluten. It also contains significantly less fructan, which is a FODMAP found in wheat. Fructan is often more destructive than gluten for those with sensitivities. Studies show that many people mistake gluten intolerance for fructan intolerance. We'll discuss that further in a separate post. Let's get back to the mouthwatering sourdough bread.
It's been proven that combining spelt flour, sourdough starter, and water with a long proving time creates a real loaf of bread that meets low FODMAP criteria. That's right. A team of researchers at Monash University, experts in FODMAPs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, regularly analyzes and certifies foods for FODMAP content. When analyzing various types of bread, their studies revealed that traditional sourdough bread made with spelt flour meets the criteria to be accepted as a low FODMAP food choice.
Again, resist zipping to the market for commercially baked sourdough bread. It's not the same and it doesn't qualify as a low FODMAP food. You're less likely to find a commercially baked loaf that's been fermented for three days and it's less common to find spelt on the ingredient list. Why not bake your own tasty loaf? Try our Low-FODMAP Spelt Sourdough Bread Recipe. It's easier than you think.
Sourdough Bread on a Guten-Sensitive Diet? It Depends
Can gluten-sensitives and IBS sufferers finally enjoy bread without repercussion? As I always say, the answer to every question is: It Depends.
If you have Celiac Disease, it's best to avoid gluten and work with a doctor on a healthy nutrition plan. While research is promising, it's too early to say sourdough fermentation alone can wholly eliminate gluten from wheat products used in bread making. In fact, current research proves sourdough fermentation does not eliminate enough gluten to be considered a Celiac safe food.
Are you gluten-sensitive? Your ability to enjoy traditional spelt sourdough bread depends on your level of sensitivity. I've discovered that an accumulation of gluten wreaks the most havoc for me. My joints are more flexible and I experience significantly less pain and inflammation when I keep gluten levels low. It's worth it to avoid foods like pasta, cake, and flour tortillas, but I miss bread every now and then. With this in mind, my research continues with hands-on bread baking. I'm tolerating sourdough bread fermented over a three-day period. That doesn't mean I'm indulging in sourdough bread every meal. My goal is to keep gluten levels low. In order to do this, I enjoy a warm slice of homemade sourdough toast with breakfast but otherwise avoid foods that contain gluten.
Can this age-old method of breadmaking be the answer for you? It Depends. Can you carve out time in your week to make homemade bread? It's easier than you think, once you get rolling. The only way to find out is to give it a try. Stay tuned for our real-world guide to making spelt sourdough bread so you can once again indulge in real bread.