Sourdough Bread and IBS

Sourdough bread
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Have you gone gluten-free for your IBS? Do you miss eating bread? If so, you may want to try sourdough bread. Let's take a look at what is special about sourdough bread and how it might be a nice option for you.

What Is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough bread is a type of bread made through a traditional baking technique of using a sourdough starter. This is in contrast to other types of bread which use commercial yeast to make the dough rise.

The sourdough starter is composed of wild yeasts and bacteria - predominantly lactobacilli bacteria - along with flour and water. This preparation results in a natural fermentation process that not only creates gases that cause the bread to rise, but gives the bread its unique texture and flavor.

Why Might It Be Okay for IBS?

The first time I heard of sourdough bread as being an IBS-friendly food was in Heather Van Vorous' classic cookbook, Eating for IBS. Since the publication of that book, some science has come along that backs up her recommendation.

The low-FODMAP diet researchers from Monash University have found that the fermentation process that occurs during the creation of a traditionally prepared sourdough reduces the levels of the FODMAP fructan. Fructans are a carbohydrate which can cause IBS symptoms for some people. It is theorized that the fructans are acted upon by the yeasts in the sourdough starter.

The Monash University Low-FODMAP Diet app identifies two slices of spelt sourdough bread and one slice of oat sourdough bread as being low in FODMAPs. Unfortunately, it seems as if the fermentation process is not enough to knock out the FODMAPs from sourdough breads prepared with wheat or rye.

When Is Sourdough Bread Not Okay for IBS?

Even with their lower FODMAP levels, there are circumstances in which sourdough bread would not be appropriate for a person who has IBS:

  • You have celiac disease: Spelt is a wheat product, and many oats are cross-contaminated with wheat and therefore should be avoided.​
  • The sourdough is not prepared traditionally: Many supermarket brands of sourdough are prepared with commercial yeast and therefore have not been through the entire fermentation process that is necessary for lowering fructan levels.​
  • You feel better on a grain-free diet: Some people find that their digestive and overall health is enhanced when they do not consume any type of grain.​
  • You try adding sourdough bread and your symptoms worsen: Every body is a different body. Although the science may suggest that sourdough bread will not worsen IBS symptoms, this does not mean that there are not some other elements within the bread that cause a reactivity for you.

Sources:

"Frequently Asked Low FODMAP Diet Questions" Monash University Website Accessed September 15, 2015.

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