If you’re gluten sensitive or have given up bread because of what it does to your waistline, you might want to read on. There’s good news for those of us who love bread but don’t love how it makes us feel or what it does to us: sourdough! (That would be real, non-GMO, non-glyphosate sourdough!)

While many people are indeed gluten intolerant or sensitive, research shows that “…eighty-six percent of Americans who think they’re gluten-intolerant aren’t.” 1It seems the real culprit is how we have been baking bread; the invention of quick-rise yeast replaced the way we’d baked bread since the beginning. While the sourdough process might be more labor intensive the end result is much easier for us to digest.

“Before commercial yeast, or ‘baker’s yeast,’ was popularized in the 1960s, we made bread with a sourdough starter. It’s a mix of fermented grain and water that collects the wild yeast that lives all around us in the air, on our bodies, and in the flour itself.

The complex, symbiotic ecosystem of a sourdough starter works to leaven, flavor and build the structure of the dough. The slow fermentation process invites a magical combination of wild yeast, bacteria and enzymes, and  lactobacillus (the same bacteria in yogurt) releases lactic acid to create the sour flavor that sourdough is known for. The enzymes unlock minerals in the wheat otherwise unavailable to us. The yeast, which feeds on complex starches, releases CO2 as a byproduct. And gluten, demonized as it may be, traps that CO2 and creates the rise and texture of the loaf.”2


What is it that makes sourdough easier to digest?

Sourdough uses a trick to help us digest gluten. “It utilizes natural fermentation, a process that attracts wild yeast and bacteria that, with time, digest complex starches in the dough to produce a byproduct that makes the dough rise. The longer the dough ferments, the more the gluten is broken down for us.” The process is called hydrolysis.

While a landmark Italian study from 2011 found that people with celiac disease who ate fully hydrolyzed wheat (like that in sourdough) for 60 days experienced no ill effects, that particular study isn’t enough to draw a broad conclusion. Make sure to chat with your doctor before you start consuming sourdough.


But the research is intriguing and it’s likely that people with minor digestive issues or non-celiac gluten sensitivities will almost certainly find relief with properly made sourdough. But be careful: Many breads at the grocery store labeled “sourdough” have a sour flavor added, but are leavened with commercial yeast. 3

Here’s how to make a sourdough starter at home:

(Careful, the amazing French teacher in this video uses some colorful language!)

Sources and References

  1. The Huffington Post, June 18, 2018.
  2. The Huffington Post, June 18, 2018.
  3. The Huffington Post, June 18, 2018.