Bread that NourishesVanessa is known for her deeply passionate belief and understanding about the synergy between the fermentation of flour to make bread and gut microbial health. She believes that we need to re examine the way we bake bread, and mill flour, and has a core 7 principles of baking to nourish that runs throughout her approach. You will most often find her baking bread, or studying whilst the dough is proving. Vanessa’s commitment to her specialist subject sourdough and baking with wild yeast is absolute. It has been core to her work and life for over 30 years and her love of sourdough is, as ever, unwavering.
Apprenticeship in FranceIn 1992 returning to France, she worked in a restaurant in Paris for a summer and then as an apprentice baker in the Dordogne. Returning to the UK, Vanessa worked as a baker and chef in a hotel in Leicester whilst at university and completed a degree in Psychology of Human Communication. It was whilst finishing her degree in 1995 that she became poorly, and was given a strong dose of antibiotics called Metronidazole. It was one of a long list of antibiotics that destroyed her gut microbiome and to her utter dismay, she stopped being able to tolerate wheat. It made her ill and she had no option other than to stop being a baker, and so she gave up the thing she loved most.
She gave up the thing she loved most – bread and baking.For over 4 years she avoided all wheat until she returned to the bakery and was given a warm bread by her friend. Unable to resist Vanessa ate the bread and discovered at that moment that she could digest sourdough without issues. When she returned home she ate ordinary commercial bread and was poorly again. This was a pivotal moment and she set out to try and understand why. The doctors she spoke to didn’t have answers; neither did the nutritionists or bakers. She was told she had a leaky gut and so this set a new path – to understand the role of fermentation and how the long slow fermentation eased the digestion of bread.
Teaching The Doctors about Nutrition & Digestibility of Bread.Over twenty years on and Vanessa is internationally renowned for her passion and unique understanding of long slow fermentation. In many ways, she came full circle as she taught the nutrition and digestibility of bread course to doctors and health care practitioners – accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners. In 2009 she wrote her first book Prepped, her next book Food for Thought won the world book awards for the most ethical and sustainable book and her 3rd book The Sourdough School is a best seller and right on the subject – how to make nutritious and delicious sourdough. It was hailed as “the most important book of the year,” in 2019 by Waitrose Magazine. Her 4th book is to be published ion September 2020. Food for Thought, was also The Telegraph Book of the month and is published by Kyle Cathie
The missing piece of the puzzleIn 2016 as part of researching into the microbes in her sourdough starter, she discovered through tests by Tim Spector that she discovered that she had an extremely low microbial diversity. Overall the results showed a microbiome which was despite eating an incredibly rich diverse fibre-rich diet was disturbingly unhealthy, with less then 1% diversity, Vanessa’s gut microbial diversity was comparable, if not worse than those the of autistic children that had been measured. She was left with 69% Bacteroidetes and 29 (% Firmicutes – these two microbes are directly involved with obesityMEDICAL RECORDS Getting hold of her medical records, she asked Dr Alison Coleville to list the antibiotics she had taken in her lifetime. As she read the results she burst into tears. Over her lifetime she had had been prescribed a total of 57 Antibiotics, her first being administered when she was just 6 months old. Total antibiotic counts:
- Amoxicillin x 27
- Penicillin V x 11
- Erythromycin x 3
- Co-amoxiclav x 2
- Metronidazole x 1
- Cefalexin x 5
- Flucloxicillin x 5
- Doxycycline x 1
- Trimethoprim x 2