After reading some of the recent findings about the “horrors” of wheat and doing two posts on the subject (What You Should Know About Wheat and MORE You Should Know About Wheat), I decided to make a concerted effort to eliminate breads and other items containing wheat (and gluten) from my diet as much as possible. But I have to say I’ve often felt deprived (which can sometimes lead to feeling depraved :-)), so I got really excited when I read some articles the other day about how eating sourdough, when prepared the “good ole fashioned way,” may be a way to occasionally have my cake/bread and eat it, too. I used to live in CA, a couple of hours from San Francisco, an area well-known for its sourdough bread, and got spoiled. I didn’t realize how good it was and how nice it was to have authentic sourdough readily available until I moved back east and tried to find something comparable. Things have gotten a little better here with the rise (no pun intended) of artisan bakeries in the area, but I’ve yet to find something that compares.
Traditional Sourdough May Be An Answer To Your Bread Woes
(Carolanne Wright for NaturalNews) Jack Bezian of Bezian’s Bakery in Santa Monica, California, has an eye-catching sign behind his loaves of bread, stating: “Roman soldiers had only sourdough bread to get protein.” But this is only part of the story. For those who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, Jack’s naturally fermented bread is surprisingly easy to digest. Interestingly, several studies have also found true sourdough to be well tolerated by individuals sensitive to gluten.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming the protein in wheat, barley and rye – otherwise known as gluten. If a celiac ingests this protein, the immune system mistakenly attacks the villi in the small intestine, causing a cascade of health issues, including leaky gut syndrome, malnutrition, lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, neurological disorders and cancer.
Under normal circumstances, it’s necessary for individuals with a gluten sensitivity to completely eliminate the troublesome offender from their diet. However, two small studies involving sourdough bread give hope to the millions who believe they need to swear off gluten containing grains forever.
A European study of 17 celiac patients who consumed sourdough bread had an intriguing outcome. When the volunteers ingested a specialized sourdough containing lactobacilli culture, none of the participants exhibited any negative effects of intestinal permeability. The bread was made with 30 percent wheat flour and a combination of oat, millet and buckwheat flours. The researchers concluded, “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.”
Similarly, another study found that “individuals with celiac disease who ate specially prepared sourdough wheat bread over the course of 60 days experienced no ill effects,” writes Tasha Gerken in “Celiacs Can Say Yes to Sourdough Bread.” Read more about the testing protocol here.
Research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology offers a possible explanation. Scientists discovered that, when wheat bread is thoroughly fermented, gluten content drops from approximately 75,000 ppm to 12 – a level technically considered gluten-free.
Not all bread is created equal
The key is a long fermentation process – up to a month with bakers like Jack Bezian. When bread is leavened naturally with lactobacilli, it transforms wheat flour into a nutrient-rich edible which is abundant in vitamins B, C and E, bio-available protein, fatty acids and minerals. With true sourdough, bone and tooth destroying phytates are minimized as well.
In the post “Top 10 Reasons to Eat Real Sourdough Bread, Even if You’re Gluten Intolerant” (re-posted below) Jack relates a story about how a celiac customer tried his traditional sourdough bread and discovered he could eat it without any adverse reactions.
Jack believes it’s important to knead the bread thoroughly and allow it to ferment for a lengthy stretch of time. There are no shortcuts here, but if you have an issue with gluten and miss the joy of bread, a true sourdough may be the answer.
The other day I went to the farmer’s market in Santa Monica and spent some time talking to Jack Bezian of Bezian’s Bakery, the home of Los Angeles Sourdough. I say “spent some time” which makes it sound like twenty minutes or so, but the truth is I must have talked to him for a a couple of hours.
The man is a font of fascinating information about health, nutrition, probiotics, gluten intolerance, and fermented foods. He’s been baking traditional sourdough bread since 1966. I’m not talking about the fake stuff you find in grocery stores — this is bread made from a living sourdough starter.
Most modern bread is made with baker’s yeast. Sourdough starter is the traditional way of making bread. It’s how everyone used to make bread before they had commercial baker’s yeast. There are many advantages to eating naturally fermented bread instead of modern bread made with yeast.
Let me share with you some of the things baker Jack Bezian teaches about real, traditionally prepared, naturally fermented sourdough bread — and why it’s so much healthier for us than yeast bread.
First of all, the real sourdough they bake at Bezian’s Bakery is probiotic, like kefir or yogurt,containing multiple strains of beneficial microflora. Bezian’s Bakery has a very slow process of baking which allows the bread to ferment for several days up to a month. This helps to promote the growth of more probiotic organisms.
These probiotic microorganisms:
1. Digest and assimilate (properly absorb) the foods you eat. Without adequate beneficial microflora in your gut, you can’t absorb nutrients in the foods you are eating.
2. Are necessary in order to maintain a healthy intestinal tract.
3. Contain uniquely balanced proteins, fatty acids, cellulose, minerals, and innumerable other nutrients our bodies need.
4. Provide vitamins B1 through B6 from lactobacillus and B12 vitamins from wild yeast. Wild yeast multiplies aerobically. This is because they have oxygen in them (not free radical oxygen ions) that feed your blood cells and not cancer cells. Most plant proteins including grains, seeds, cereals, beans, nuts, and some grasses form gluten. However, sourdough microflora has all the amino acids available, without the protein that forms gluten.
5. Depletes damaged starch in bread, thus diabetic people should not get insulin shock. It is a misconception that whole wheat is better than white flour for diabetics (the Glycemic difference is only 1%).
6. Produce acids, which will break down and remove some of the glutens from the bread. Acids do not allow mold and most bad bacterial growth. Alkaline with high pH allows mold growth and toxins. Mold ferments at a higher pH, allowing bad bacterial growth and the secretion of toxins. The absence of acids is abnormal, even animals have acid stomachs to kill bad bacteria.
7. Offset the effects of phytic acid, which robs your body of precious minerals.
According to Wikipedia:
Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains. In-home food preparation techniques can reduce the phytic acid in all of these foods. Simply cooking the food will reduce the phytic acid to some degree. More effective methods are soaking in an acid medium, lactic acid fermentation, and sprouting.
Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake, such as those in developing countries. It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, which is basic, causing the condition known as pellagra. In this way, it is an anti-nutrient. For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially young children and those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable.
“Probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora as well, are an important source of the enzyme phytase which catalyses the release of phosphate from phytate and hydrolyses the complexes formed by phytate and metal ions or other cations, rendering them more soluble ultimately improving and facilitating their intestinal absorption
8. Dissolve proteins by producing protein enzymes, thus loosening multiple peptide bonds so that you can absorb more amino acids into your body. They dissolve four gluten-forming proteins: albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutalin. They also produce alcohol that dissolves the most stubborn water insoluble protein bonds. These bonds are the reason why so many people have gluten intolerance.
9. Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria by: (1) creating a more acidic environment (2) producing anti-bacterial agents, and (3) absorbing all the B vitamins from their surroundings leaving none for the harmful bacteria.
10. Have most everything needed for optimum nutritional absorption. To absorb calcium, you need magnesium. To absorb magnesium, you need vitamin E, C, etc. Most of these are in the sourdough microorganisms, thus providing optimum absorption.
Here’s the most exciting part: I took this bread home and gave some to my daughter, Kate. Kate normally cannot eat wheat bread, even sprouted bread. But she could eat this bread! She had no reaction like she normally does with wheat bread. Words cannot express how happy this makes me. Now I can make her sandwiches!
Jack told me that their ultra-slow method of making sourdough bread (fermenting it for several days and up to a month) is what breaks it down to the point that gluten intolerant people can eat it.
He told me the story of one of his customers, a celiac. The guy could not eat any bread whatsoever — but when he tried it, he found that he could eat Jack’s bread.
Then he tried making sourdough bread at home. He found that he could eat his own bread that he made, but not his wife’s. He couldn’t understand this — since they were using the same starter, the same flour, the same water. It turns out that the wife was not kneading her bread as long — and this was what made it impossible for the celiac to eat.
So clearly, not all sourdough bread is the same, and the fermentation time and process does matter.
Of course I have to also mention that this bread is wildly delicious. Some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten award-winning baguettes in Paris. Jack’s bread is just as good.
I wish I could tell you that Jack ships his bread all over the country but sadly, I don’t think he does. If you live in Los Angeles, you can get his bread at the following farmer’s markets: Santa Monica (Wednesday market only — he’s not there on Saturdays), Pasadena (Saturdays) and Hollywood (Sundays).
You can try making your own sourdough at home.
I also recommend using sprouted flour. I’m not sure about this but I think if you start with sprouted flour (instead of regular flour) and ferment it with a sourdough culture, you might not have to ferment it as long, since you’re already starting with sprouted flour. For sources of sprouted flour, visit the marketplace.
Don’t forget to visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more stories about real food.
PERSONAL NOTE: I read many of the comments left on Bezian’s site about his breads and for the first time ever am envious of people living in the LA area. Would be great to have easy access to his sourdough. Too bad I am now on the other side of the country, but this article has inspired me to renew by hunt for a source of authentic sourdough in my neck of the woods. Wish me luck!
FYI, if you would like to know more about gluten and have a better understanding of how it can affect your body and health, then you’ll be happy to learn that Dr. Tom O’Bryan has organized The Gluten Tele-summit, which will feature 29 of the world’s leading experts on the subject. The event is free and will run Nov. 11th – 17th and you can sign up here. When you register you will receive access to a video titled The 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Gluten that will give you a small taste of what you will learn during the summit.
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.