Can Celiacs Eat True Sourdough Bread?

An interesting article that adds to the debate about true sourdough (bread started with selected Lactobacilli) and whether people with Celiacs can tolerate it.

True sourdough bread does not contain bakers yeast and instead utilizes a lactobacilli based starter culture. True sourdough bread is also baked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time which protects the integrity of the cereal grains and preserves the nutritional value.  Not only is the nutritional value maintained, but anti-nutrients such as phytic acid are eliminated and gluten, that very difficult to digest plant protein, is broken down.

When baker’s yeast was first introduced as an alternative to sourdough starters in 1668 in France, it was strongly rejected because scientists at the time already knew that it would negatively impact people’s health. 

While yeast is used almost universally for baking breads anymore, the skyrocketing cases of gluten intolerance and celiac disease are causing many to look backwards at how nonindustrialized peoples consumed gluten containing breads with no digestive difficulty.

One study that examined how celiacs tolerate true sourdough bread was conducted in Europe.  17 people suffering from celiac disease were given 2 grams of gluten containing bread risen with either baker’s yeast or a normal lactobacilli culture.   13 of the 17 showed negative changes in intestinal permeability consistent with celiac disease.  4 people did not show any negative changes.

Then, the 17 study participants were given true sourdough bread risen with a special lactobacilli culture able to hydrolyze the 33-mer peptide which is the primary amino acid building block that causes an immune response in people with celiac disease.  None showed any negative changes in their intestinal permeability after consuming the bread which was made up of 30% wheat flour and a mix of oat, millet, and buckwheat flours.

The researchers’ conclusions were summarized as follows:

These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans.

What I find interesting about the study is that even when the people who consumed the gluten containing bread risen with either baker’s yeast or a normal lactobacilli culture, 4 did not show any negative changes to their baseline values of intestinal permeability.   Did these 4 consume bread raised with a normal lactobacilli culture?  If so, perhaps even a normal sourdough culture would be sufficient for many celiacs to consume.

Certainly, most with simple gluten intolerance would find true sourdough bread to be easily consumed with no digestive distress.

Clearly, more study on this needs to be done, but the results are incredibly promising.

It seems that the noblemen in the court of Louis XIV of France back in 1668 had it right all along.  Abandoning the traditional methods of bread preparation in favor of baker’s yeast would have disastrous effects on people’s health.  Little did they know that their wisdom several centuries later would be termed “novel” by scientists in the biotechnology industry!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist