This isn’t a straightforward answer. Potentially yes, and recent advancements in microbiome research means that we have begun to identify key markers of healthy gut microbiome function, and science is beginning to provide potential paths toward rationally engineering the functional output of the gut ecosystem to promote human health. We are very much in the early days of undersrtading sourdough and how it can specifically nourish the microbes in our gut. Some early research on the impact of sourdough on the gut microbiome of rats is promising showing positive changes, but human studies on sourdough and the gut microbiome are sparse, and badly designed, with dietary interventions that are too short and miss out key data.
Why we have done our own research in Sourdough and the Gut Microbiome
I’ve been teaching for two decades and I needed to better understand why my students would report feeling better when they changed the bread that they ate and the way the ate their bread. Although we can look at how the gut microbiome can be manipulated to promote human wellness, isolating one component from all the other food that we eat is not research that was not applicable in the real world, because humans are not lab rats. I began my research in 2015 and to date has been in directly interventions monitoring gut microbial taxonomic and metagenomic profiles using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, following The Sourdough School bread protocol, and it we have had some extraordinarily results. I am still working on publishing the results, so watch this space, but I use the case studies as the core of our teaching on the syllabus for the Nutrition and Digestibility of Bread Diploma.
So what do we know about sourdough and nourishing the gut microbiome?
Whilst I very much hope we will push research forward and understand the impact of specific strains of Lactic acid Bacteria (LAB) with specific grain on the microbes in our gut. I look forward to the day that research confirms my theory that sourdough LAB strains have a postbiotic impact on elicit a positive response in the gut, there are somethings that I can say for sure. In the very first instance, making your own sourdough is going to remove some of the things that damage your gut, including industrial white bread, made with refined white flour that damages health. Bread made with refined white flour denies nourishment to your gut microbiome, and we know that a diet low in fibre is a contributing factor in the development of non-communicable diseases. Through making or buying sourdough (provided you know it is real sourdough), you can also avoid damaging fats such as trans fats and emulsifiers that have been linked to damaging the intestinal wall.
Our bread protocol
- Increase fibre – we teach you how to gradually increase the amount of wholegrain flour in your loaves so that you can include more fibre in your diet to nourish your gut microbiome.
- Increase diversity – we include a diversity score in our recipes on The Sourdough Club and teach you how to bake with our Botanical Blends, which involve milling the meadow and dramatically increasing the number of ingredients you are consuming with every bite of bread.
- Ferment – we encourage long, slow fermentation of bread so that your body can access more of the nutrients within the loaf. As well as increasing bioavailability, the fermentation reduces the gluten load for better digestibility, and increases resistant starch, which controls blood sugar response.
- Increase levels of antioxidants – baking sourdough with our Botanical Blends not only boosts the level of antioxidants within the loaf, but also increases their bioavailability.
- Increase probiotics in your bakes – we teach a number of ways to include more probiotics in your bakes and in your diet, which can help support stress resilience and mood.
- Reduce refined sugar – refined sugar has been linked to inflammation in the body, so our recipes include as little sugar as possible and as natural as possible where required.
- Make lifestyle changes that support the body as a whole – the gut-brain axis is an ever-growing area of research, so we base our recipes around not only nourishing the body but also the mind. Mindful baking and mindful eating are key to our approach at the School, and the process of making of sourdough bread can help to reduce stress.
In essence, the way we teach people to make and eat bread at the School nourishes the gut by ensuring that this sourdough can become the most nutritious prebiotic possible. We also encourage the support of the gut by eating sourdough symbiotically with a wide range of colourful fruits and vegetables (eating the rainbow), as well as with live probiotics with proven health benefits that help improve the function of the gut and contribute to reducing inflammation. So, it’s not just how you make your sourdough but also how you eat your sourdough that contributes to its overall effectiveness at supporting the gut microbiome.
If you would like to learn how to make sourdough for supporting the gut microbiome, join The Sourdough Club
Or request a course prospectus for The Nutrition and Digestibility of Bread Diploma & Baking Certificates.