If you are going gluten-free or just hosting some gluten-free friends, you might be wondering: is sourdough bread gluten free? Can I eat it and can I serve it to my GF friends?
In it, they discuss the history of wheat and bread and the changes to both over time.
One key point they made is that traditional bread is healthier and simpler than modern bread. For example, traditional sourdough has 3 ingredients whereas most store-bought white-bread has around 30 ingredients.
They suggest that traditional methods of making bread, which is basically sourdough bread, might not cause as much digestive stress to people who can't eat gluten. Notice, they did not say Celiacs!
And there is another study that showed traditional lactobacilli fermented sourdough did not cause a reaction in celiac patients, though this is a small study and needs to be further investigated before celiacs start eating sourdough.
Sourdough and Gluten-Intolerance
There are hundreds of people with a gluten intolerance, and we aren’t quite sure why. We do know the number experiencing gluten sensitivity increased over the last 50 years and now 1 in 200 people have issues with gluten.
There are several theories on the reason gluten intolerance increased, including:
- overuse of antibiotics negatively impacting the microbiome
- increased use of gluten and decreased fermentation in processed foods
- antibacterials including antibiotics and antibacterial soaps and lotions and
- modified grains that now have increased levels of gluten
Making sourdough bread in the traditional way would allow for the grains to be fermented. That breaks down the bran so it is easier for your stomach to digest nutrients from that grain.
The bran is where the protein lives. Without fermentation, we would not be able to absorb and use that protein. So, sourdough bread could potentially help alleviate some signs of non-celiac gluten intolerance, at least according to the makers of Cooked.
While the answer to "is sourdough bread gluten free?" is no, it still might be better for those with gluten sensitivity that modern bread.
Why might traditional sourdoughs be better for us than modern wheat bread?
The way we make and consume bread and the way we grow gluten has changed incredibly over the last few decades.
There is speculation (but no convincing research as of yet) that these changes may be responsible for the large number of people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Some of the changes to bread and wheat that could cause increased gluten-sensitivity:
The transition to making bread quicker
- Traditional bread making required long fermentation without added leveners such as yeast or baking soda or powder. This longer fermentation broke down the what bran into more digestible and bio-available nutrients.
- Traditionally one did not add yeast, so the bread used naturally present lactobacilli similar to lacto-fermented vegetables.
- Industrialized bread uses yeast for rapid fermentation which reduces the nutrients and causes other potential problems. The use of bakers yeast dates back to less than 150 years.
- In addition to faster baking times, we want longer shelf stabilization. This lead to additional ingredients and preservatives in our bread.
Transition of wheat
- Higher concentrations of gluten protein glia-α9 in today's modern wheat, which is a dwarf-wheat with shorter stems, higher yields and lower concentration of nutrients link zinc.
- Mainstream wheat farms use glyphosate which can harm our microbiome which could play a role in digesting gluten proteins as celiac patients have unique gut microbiota.
- GMO modern wheat along with advanced milling practices means there is a lower bio-diversity and higher gluten content in most wheat we eat
Is Gluten Free Sourdough Bread good for Celiacs?
For celiacs, Gluten Free sourdough bread made in the traditional methods are still better than regular Gluten free bread, for the same reasons listed above.
Regardless of gluten content, grains need to be fermented to make the nutrients bio-available and reduce inflammation. Natural fermentation is better than yeast fermentation and traditional bread has fewer ingredients.
However, don’t go eating regular sourdough. It isn’t inherently gluten free! And more research needs to be done.
So is Sourdough bread gluten free?
Only if it is specially made with gluten free flours and labeled gluten free.
I've found a few brands that sell gluten free sourdough, but the best way to have sourdough is fresh baked.
I'd recommend making your own from home with a homemade gluten free sourdough starter, because that is where the true health benefits are. Allow natural fermentation to break down the grains into digestible proteins.
Let me know in the comments if you're interested in learning how to make sourdough from scratch and I'll post a recipe! 🙂
Otherwise, find a gluten free bakery, or an awesome gluten free friend whose also a baker.