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Can Sourdough Change the Gluten-Free Diet?

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About ten years ago I went to a class on “How to Make Sourdough Bread.” My daughter had gluten intolerance and we found that she could eat sprouted bread without the side effects created by regular bread. I had heard that sourdough bread achieved similar results to the sprouted bread, and I wanted to try it. What I learned shocked me. The man teaching the class explained that the process of making sourdough was an ancient art and one that had many benefits that we are unaware of today. Why do so many of us struggle with gluten today? There are all kinds of books and websites dedicated to gluten-free living, and rightfully so, because the bread we have today is very different from the bread we ate for hundreds of years. But why is gluten intolerance an epidemic in this day and age? What has changed?

"Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack.  We give it orders which make no sense."Henry Miller

History Of Bread

Before the 1950’s, most bread bakeries ran two shifts of workers because the dough was fermented throughout the night with a long and slow process using a culture that contained the lactobacillus bacteria. This slow process was necessary for bread to be properly digested. In the process of making sourdough bread, the bran in the flour is broken down during the long rising time, releasing nutrients into the dough. Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented or sprouted (to learn more about sprouted bread click here) is it healthy for human consumption.  When not, it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. The phytic acid in grain needs to be 90% neutralized in order for the minerals to be absorbed by the human body. When you naturally ferment or sprout bread, you eliminate all phytic acid. About 90% of the phytic acid remains in bread made with instant yeasts unless it is sprouted bread.

New methods harm the gut


In their efforts to increase profits and speed up the bread making process, bakers began using new techniques that took only three hours to make a loaf of bread - and now can even take only one hour. They used the new instant yeasts which made the old way of making bread (using cultures and fermentation that not only help to preserve food but also increase the nutrients available for our bodies) unnecessary.

During the making of sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars, and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during rising. These enzymes are not lost while baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust. This fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, also allows for a bread that is lower on the glycemic index, thus making it better for those with blood sugar issues. The fermentation also helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract resulting in proper assimilation and elimination.

Chemicals sprayed on wheat

There is a common process that is happening to our wheat before harvesting. According to farmers who grow wheat, applying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) just prior to harvest is commonplace among farmers who grow wheat crops. The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture results in Roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. This allows the Farmers to harvest their wheat earlier since the wheat plant will be killed off by the roundup. These changes in our bread have had devastating effects on our gut. I believe that along with the chemicals, soil depletion, and the loss of fermentation and probiotic foods that heal and protect our bodies, our diets are wreaking havoc on our guts. This, in turn, is causing a rise in all kinds of food allergies. Our diets are a dim reflection of the nutrient-dense whole foods we used to eat years ago. Pharmaceuticals are the norm and not the exception, and food allergies and gut issues are rampant along with a host of other health issues. The average consumer is unaware of these changes in our food supply and then labels gluten and bread as the enemy when they don't realize the culprit is the dramatic changes in the actual process of making bread today.

Gluten Intolerance And Sourdough

Easy KefirIt was my daughter Maci's inability to digest wheat that started me on a journey learning about foods that were transformed when they were sprouted or made with sourdough. People who came to my classes and website were experiencing the same results when eating bread that was made with sourdough cultures or sprouted. Even those who were gluten intolerant seemed to do really well. Now, not everybody who is gluten intolerant can handle it right away. They need to heal their guts first with cultured foods on a regular basis or try Einkorn sourdough which is missing the protein that is hard for those with difficulty handling gluten. After this occurs, I have seen so many people thrive when eating bread as long as these breads were fermented or sprouted.

Ferment it for 7 hours or longer


Sourdough bread is transformed when it is fermented for 7 hours or longer. Then it is not only easily digested, but can often be handled by those who are gluten intolerant. Here is a recipe to make overnight sourdough bread. It is the best one for beginners and the one I think tastes the best. Well . . . that's not entirely true. I love so many, but this one has a great flavor and is easy. I have devised a slower, longer fermentation method that is even more effective for those who have severe gluten problems.

Try an Ancient Wheat

einkorn sourdough breadThose who are severely gluten intolerant might want to try an ancient wheat such as Einkorn flour. Einkorn wheat is the most ancient species of wheat. All wheat that we consume today is descended from Einkorn wheat which has about 14 chromosomes as compared to other wheats which have 28-42. This is important since some studies show that ancient wheat, with its fewer chromosomes, has lower levels of gliadins. Gliadins are proteins that can cause sensitivities in those who struggle with gluten. Einkorn does not contain this troublesome D genome, only the A genome, and most testing for gluten intolerance is based on the D genome. And while einkorn does contain gluten, it is a different type of gluten and allows for easier digestion and nutrient absorption. It is also delicious and one of my favorite sourdough breads that I make and eat each week.

You can find out more about Einkorn Sourdough Bread here:

Click here


I hope I can shed some light on this problem that is facing so many. As always, I want to share with you what has changed my life and so many others.

“The Most Powerful Story a Person Can Tell is the Story They Tell With Their Lives.”
Tom Shadyac

How to Make Sourdough Bread

If you would like to try your hand at making sourdough, check out the recipe.

Einkorn Sourdough Bread

If you would like to try your hand at making Einkorn sourdough, check out the recipe.

Donna's Sourdough Culture

If you need a sourdough culture, check out mine.

Listen To My Podcast


Our bread is made so differently than in years gone by, and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies. Understand the science of why this is, and how bacteria can change your bread into something healthy. Walk in the footsteps of those who made bread for thousands of years and called it the staff of life.

54 Responses to "Can Sourdough Change the Gluten-Free Diet?"
  1. Have you tried store bought sourdough bread? I was wondering how it compared, especially in fast food restarants, where eating can become bothersome at times.

  2. Have you tried store bought sourdough bread? I was wondering how it compared, especially in fast food restarants, where eating can become bothersome at times.

  3. Hi Donna,
    I would never suggest a Celiac person eat wheat bread, even if made with sourdough starter. Even if gluten intolerant people can tolerate the bread without getting sick, the gluten still causes damage to the GI tract and villi in the intestines. Recommending this to people who need to eat gluten free as a medical necessity is comparable to suggesting that a person with a peanut allergy can eat peanut oil because the process the oil goes through removes the oil from the peanut. Yes, you may not get sick from it, but you are still causing damage and inflammation in the body, as well as inhibiting vital nutrients from being absorbed into the intestines.

    • Judging by your comments, you clearly don’t understand fermented foods and how beneficial they are for EVERYONE. To say Donna is being irresponsible is only because you’re lacking in knowledge.

      • Hey Jodie 🙂

        I agree that fermented foods are super beneficial for everyone! However, I also agree with Kara (although I do not see where she called Donna irresponsible & I’ve read her comment twice). Everyone’s bodies are soooo different and, while I am thrilled Donna’s daughter has found relief, not everyone will react that way. The scary thing (and this is what Kara was saying), is that some folks may truly not “react” to the wheat, but that doesn’t mean the damage isn’t occurring inside their body. That’s just not a risk I can take for my family. Thankfully I don’t have to choose! I have had a gluten free sourdough starter bubbling happily away on my counter & “Phil” makes some super yummy crackers & pancakes! I’m excited to try a loaf of bread soon.

  4. Hi Donna,
    I would never suggest a Celiac person eat wheat bread, even if made with sourdough starter. Even if gluten intolerant people can tolerate the bread without getting sick, the gluten still causes damage to the GI tract and villi in the intestines. Recommending this to people who need to eat gluten free as a medical necessity is comparable to suggesting that a person with a peanut allergy can eat peanut oil because the process the oil goes through removes the oil from the peanut. Yes, you may not get sick from it, but you are still causing damage and inflammation in the body, as well as inhibiting vital nutrients from being absorbed into the intestines.

    • Judging by your comments, you clearly don’t understand fermented foods and how beneficial they are for EVERYONE. To say Donna is being irresponsible is only because you’re lacking in knowledge.

      • Hey Jodie 🙂

        I agree that fermented foods are super beneficial for everyone! However, I also agree with Kara (although I do not see where she called Donna irresponsible & I’ve read her comment twice). Everyone’s bodies are soooo different and, while I am thrilled Donna’s daughter has found relief, not everyone will react that way. The scary thing (and this is what Kara was saying), is that some folks may truly not “react” to the wheat, but that doesn’t mean the damage isn’t occurring inside their body. That’s just not a risk I can take for my family. Thankfully I don’t have to choose! I have had a gluten free sourdough starter bubbling happily away on my counter & “Phil” makes some super yummy crackers & pancakes! I’m excited to try a loaf of bread soon.

  5. Hi Donna,
    I ordered your sourdough starter and I just have a question about making the bread. When I take the starter out to make bread should it be room temperature? When I received my starter, I fed it and allowed it to sit on the counter. It was bubbly after about 10 hours, so I put it in the frig. The next day I took some out to make bread. The dough didn’t rise very much, so I was wondering if I should have used it when it was warmer.
    Thanks,
    Meredith

    • You have to feed in and let it set on the counter for 8 to 10 hours then make bread with this. So yes it must be warm and fed for at least 8 hours before making bread.

  6. Hi Donna,
    I ordered your sourdough starter and I just have a question about making the bread. When I take the starter out to make bread should it be room temperature? When I received my starter, I fed it and allowed it to sit on the counter. It was bubbly after about 10 hours, so I put it in the frig. The next day I took some out to make bread. The dough didn’t rise very much, so I was wondering if I should have used it when it was warmer.
    Thanks,
    Meredith

    • You have to feed in and let it set on the counter for 8 to 10 hours then make bread with this. So yes it must be warm and fed for at least 8 hours before making bread.

  7. Hi Donna,
    I have been a celiac for several years and am very eager to try sourdough bread! I have a couple questions though. As a kid I used to love those Amish Friendship Bread recipes and from what you describe they sound like a sourdough bread. How can I best adapt this new information to the Amish Friendship Bread recipe? All the recipes I found call for active dry yeast for the starter… And would it be safe to use any flour, not just gluten free flour, for it? -Cate

  8. Hi Donna,
    I have been a celiac for several years and am very eager to try sourdough bread! I have a couple questions though. As a kid I used to love those Amish Friendship Bread recipes and from what you describe they sound like a sourdough bread. How can I best adapt this new information to the Amish Friendship Bread recipe? All the recipes I found call for active dry yeast for the starter… And would it be safe to use any flour, not just gluten free flour, for it? -Cate

  9. Just a quick question. I have been avoiding Gluten, although I don’t have any symptoms of intolerance. I found and did try a loaf of Olive Bread in my health food store. It is described on the label as a “slow rise” bread. Would that be the bread you are describing here? As a Holistic Health Coach, I work with people who sometimes have mood disorders, as well as some neurological problems. I notice when gluten (and some other selected foods that are inflammatory) is removed from their food choices, their symptoms improve. That is why I am now not eating gluten. Lovely website, and very user friendly btw!

  10. Just a quick question. I have been avoiding Gluten, although I don’t have any symptoms of intolerance. I found and did try a loaf of Olive Bread in my health food store. It is described on the label as a “slow rise” bread. Would that be the bread you are describing here? As a Holistic Health Coach, I work with people who sometimes have mood disorders, as well as some neurological problems. I notice when gluten (and some other selected foods that are inflammatory) is removed from their food choices, their symptoms improve. That is why I am now not eating gluten. Lovely website, and very user friendly btw!

  11. Hey Melanie- I just stumbled upon this site but I can answer your question. A few years ago I tried every technique under the sun to start my own culture. Failed every time and I just gave up. My neighbor gave me some of hers recently and it is a very mature, tasty, and virulent strain. My bread tastes and looks amazing every time. I would pay to not have to go through the headache of starting my own and waiting for it to mature properly! Also it is really cool to have history behind starter. Like getting plant cuttings from a friend:)

  12. Hey Melanie- I just stumbled upon this site but I can answer your question. A few years ago I tried every technique under the sun to start my own culture. Failed every time and I just gave up. My neighbor gave me some of hers recently and it is a very mature, tasty, and virulent strain. My bread tastes and looks amazing every time. I would pay to not have to go through the headache of starting my own and waiting for it to mature properly! Also it is really cool to have history behind starter. Like getting plant cuttings from a friend:)

  13. Thank you for all the great info Donna! I want to order a sour dough starter and kombucha scoby but you are out of kombucha starters. Should I wait to order so that you can send them together? Will the scoby be available soon?

  14. Thank you for all the great info Donna! I want to order a sour dough starter and kombucha scoby but you are out of kombucha starters. Should I wait to order so that you can send them together? Will the scoby be available soon?

  15. Having had Celiac for so many years without knowing it; makes me quite skeptical. If one doesn’t have primary symptoms to begin with, how would one know if it is a problem. Sounds risky.

  16. Having had Celiac for so many years without knowing it; makes me quite skeptical. If one doesn’t have primary symptoms to begin with, how would one know if it is a problem. Sounds risky.

  17. it’s best to use rye flower for rye bread , I use dark rye . you can change your starter on the fly. just start using a different flour to feed it . a rye starter will become a all purpose white , or a bread flour starter if that is what you switch to, over a few feedings . and never start a sourdough starter with yeast . there is wild yeast in the air all around , just use a half cup of flour , and a lot less water. you don’t want it real wet . just enough to brake up the lumps . it gets a lot wetter after it sits a day . then toss half away, and add what you tossed with more flower and water . do this every day for a week . now you can put in one and a half cups of flour and more water with out tossing any away . let sit tell next day . add one or two cups of your starter to your bread recipe . then replenish your starter . if your not baking for a week or three . just replenish with one cup of starter and water mix on the dry side then put in fridge untell you feel like baking . take out of fridge toss a cup out , replenish let sit over night at room temp . bake next day . always save enough in fridge to get it started again.you can freeze it for a year or more if you want . in yogurt cup sizes .

  18. it’s best to use rye flower for rye bread , I use dark rye . you can change your starter on the fly. just start using a different flour to feed it . a rye starter will become a all purpose white , or a bread flour starter if that is what you switch to, over a few feedings . and never start a sourdough starter with yeast . there is wild yeast in the air all around , just use a half cup of flour , and a lot less water. you don’t want it real wet . just enough to brake up the lumps . it gets a lot wetter after it sits a day . then toss half away, and add what you tossed with more flower and water . do this every day for a week . now you can put in one and a half cups of flour and more water with out tossing any away . let sit tell next day . add one or two cups of your starter to your bread recipe . then replenish your starter . if your not baking for a week or three . just replenish with one cup of starter and water mix on the dry side then put in fridge untell you feel like baking . take out of fridge toss a cup out , replenish let sit over night at room temp . bake next day . always save enough in fridge to get it started again.you can freeze it for a year or more if you want . in yogurt cup sizes .

  19. Thanks for the interesting article. Here in Denmark we eat mainly sour-dough rye bread. the sour-dough is made over a 3 day period from yogurt. The bread takes a really long time the raise and when baked is very compact but tasts delicious.

  20. Thanks for the interesting article. Here in Denmark we eat mainly sour-dough rye bread. the sour-dough is made over a 3 day period from yogurt. The bread takes a really long time the raise and when baked is very compact but tasts delicious.

  21. Hi Donna,

    First off–Love your site! I have been contemplating getting into making sourdough. None of my family does well on “normal” wheat products, and we all have blood sugar issues. However, the expense of a grain mill has always been a stumbling block. I do have a Blendtec blender– I think I’ve seen you use one. Do you know if one of these high powered blenders would give me flour that would be good enough for sourdough? And also, regarding the slow refrigerator method, can the “kombucha sourdough starter” be used for this method.

  22. Hi Donna,

    First off–Love your site! I have been contemplating getting into making sourdough. None of my family does well on “normal” wheat products, and we all have blood sugar issues. However, the expense of a grain mill has always been a stumbling block. I do have a Blendtec blender– I think I’ve seen you use one. Do you know if one of these high powered blenders would give me flour that would be good enough for sourdough? And also, regarding the slow refrigerator method, can the “kombucha sourdough starter” be used for this method.

  23. By the way, aside from this – thanks for all the great tips! Thanks to your help and my favorite book on the topic I am now making my own fermented veggies, kefir and kombucha.

  24. By the way, aside from this – thanks for all the great tips! Thanks to your help and my favorite book on the topic I am now making my own fermented veggies, kefir and kombucha.

  25. Hi Donna, I don’t understand – why would anyone want or need to ORDER sourdough starter? Anyone can get their own starter going with good quality flour and water. I make sourdough rye all the time. It’s super easy! So why order a starter from another country??? You end up feeding it with your own flour anyway.
    Melanie

  26. Hi Donna, I don’t understand – why would anyone want or need to ORDER sourdough starter? Anyone can get their own starter going with good quality flour and water. I make sourdough rye all the time. It’s super easy! So why order a starter from another country??? You end up feeding it with your own flour anyway.
    Melanie

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