As a baker, I have heard it all. It seems that everybody loves bread, but so many people have given up on ever enjoying it again due to the awful side effects of eating bread. Bloating, gut issues, and skin rashes are all really common reactions to eating processed bread. Some scientists estimate that around 18 million Americans are gluten intolerant and are better off not eating bread.
However, humans used to eat bread all the time. In fact, many anthropologists agree that the need to cultivate, process, and bake with wheat is the reason early humans moved from nomads to living in small villages, eventually creating societies. So, how is the one thing that arguably makes us the humans we are today something that so many of us can no longer tolerate? Why does it seem like gluten intolerance is just the latest fad? The answer is, unsurprisingly, in the history of how we process and eat our bread.
Long before we had instant commercial yeast and baking soda, the only way to leaven dough was with a sourdough starter. A sourdough starter is a bacterial culture, composed of lactobacilli, which naturally exists and grows on wheat. When wheat flour is combined with flour and left to sit for a long time, the lactobacilli thrive, digesting the carbohydrates and creating a gas. This gas, simply put, creates the air that gives bread its delicious airy texture. Prior to the early 1900s, cakes, pastries, breads, and basically any baked good were made with sourdough starter.
And, fun fact, not everything baked with sourdough starter tastes sour. That's an intentional flavor in a traditional loaf, caused by feeding and fermenting at specific temperatures for set amounts of time.
The new leavens -- namely, instant dry yeast, baking soda, and baking powder, are all processed and quick ways to get breads to rise. When combined with ultra-processed flours, full of dough conditioners and preservatives, the possible irritants skyrocket. Real sourdough is only 3 ingredients: flour, water, and salt. It's made just as it was made as far back as Ancient Egypt, and probably even longer.
Sourdough is the key to making your bread edible, no matter your gut issues.
What does sourdough starter do, then?
This is where the magic happens! The bacteria in sourdough starter are really part of a perfect biome. The lactobacilli digest the carbohydrates in the flour, and create a byproduct besides the gas that causes bread to rise -- acetic acid. This acid breaks down and actually digests the protein found in wheat flour: GLUTEN! This sworn enemy of so many people is actually a rich and important protein in the human diet. It's one of the reasons humans used to be able to live on bread alone during famines.
The acetic acid does some of the digesting of the gluten before the bread is baked. This chemical reaction breaks down some of the irritants that gluten has and makes it much easier on your gut when you chow down on your perfect loaf of sourdough.
I have dozens of clients who are celiac, gluten intolerant, or have issues with digestion, and all of them say that my bread is the first bread that they have been able to enjoy in their lives. The key is that my sourdough always spends at least 24 hours fermenting; the lactobacilli spend 24 hours chowing down on carbohydrates and pre-digesting gluten for us so that we can just go ahead and enjoy the bread!
Change your Bread, Change your Life!
You have to try it for yourself to feel the magic of sourdough. If you live in Las Cruces, you can order a loaf for pickup on Tuesdays or Fridays, or catch Rise at a popup in town. If you aren't local, or just want to start making your own delicious sourdough, you can join the Sourdough Mentorship Program and get my hands-on help with your sourdough baking journey.
The choice is yours: avoid good bread and eat dense and unsavory
gluten free bread, or join the sourdough club and watch your life and relationship with bread change forever.
Disclaimer: please consult with a doctor before making any dietary changes that go against medical advice. I am not a dietician, allergist, or gastroenterologist. You can find more information about sourdough for gluten free people here.