The Benefits of Gluten-Free Sourdough to Our Microbiome and Digestive Health
By Michelle Dwyer
As a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach and Nutrition Consultant, it makes me happy to see so much conversation these days about the importance of the microbiome and digestive health to our OVERALL health, vitality, and longevity. Those of us in the holistic nutrition world have been talking for decades about the role of gut health and its impact on our overall optimal well-being. We know the beneficial impact of a healthy gut in the proper absorption of nutrients, reducing chronic inflammation, sustaining balanced mental health, and supporting immune health.
And it’s great when it hits the mainstream!
So what’s the big deal about gut health, fermented foods (like Bread SRSLY sourdough), the microbiome and our health? Let’s dive in a bit!
What is the microbiome? The microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. that live in and on the human body. Each part of our body has its own unique microbiome, but today we’re going to focus on the gut microbiome.
The microbiome is quite complex and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of all of the benefits and interactions, but some areas that biology and health scientists are discovering include:
Digestion and Nutrient Absorption: A diverse and healthy gut microbiome aids in breaking down complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other substances that our bodies cannot digest on their own. This breakdown helps in the extraction of essential nutrients and energy from the food we eat. It’s not just about what we eat (which is really important, to be sure), but also how well our body can digest and absorb the nutrients. A robust microbiome is key.
Immune System Regulation and Protection: The gut is vital to regulating the immune system. Immune cells located in the gut constantly interact with the gut microbiota and help “train” and “educate” immune cells to distinguish between harmful and harmless substances (source). This process is crucial for preventing autoimmune reactions and allergic responses, helping fight off bacterial and viral invaders, and keeping our whole immune system more balanced.
Mental Health and Brain Function: Think of your gut as a “second brain.” The gut-brain axis connects our digestion to our brain, so happy gut = happier brain. Because the gut and brain are “talking” to each other, the gut microbiome can influence brain function and mental health. Imbalances in the microbiome have been associated with conditions like depression, anxiety, and neurodegenerative diseases (source).
Metabolism and Weight Regulation: Although the studies are still emerging, some research indicates that the composition of the gut microbiome can influence metabolism and weight regulation (source). We know how important diet is for healthy weight balance, so think lots of colorful vegetables and fruit, fiber from grains and legumes, and probiotic-rich foods like gluten-free sourdough. When eating this way, we also happen to support a healthy microbiome!
Inflammation and Chronic Diseases: At the root of most chronic dis-eases is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can happen for a variety of reasons including lifestyle choices, exposure to medications, chemicals in our environment, food sensitivities, stress, and infections. An imbalanced or disrupted gut microbiome has been linked to increased inflammation, which, in turn, is associated with various chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (source).
See how this is all connected?
To maintain a healthy gut microbiome, it is essential to have a balanced and diverse diet, rich in fiber and fermented foods (like gluten-free sourdough), while limiting the intake of processed foods and unnecessary antibiotics. Additionally, a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and managing stress can positively impact gut health.
Let’s talk more about fermented foods and specifically the benefits of gluten-free sourdough!
Fermented foods play a significant role in promoting digestive health and overall well-being. They are foods that have undergone a process of fermentation, in which natural bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms break down the sugars and carbohydrates in the food. This fermentation process leads to the formation of beneficial probiotics, enzymes, and other bioactive compounds, which offer all sorts of advantages for the digestive system.
Fermenting of foods is found in cultures all around the world dating back as far as the Neolithic period, a time of early agriculture in China around 7000 BC (source). Traditionally, fermentation was a process that helped preserve foods to ensure that there was food to eat in hard times. Today, with the help of modern technology, we can study and recognize all the beneficial properties of fermented foods from digestibility to microbiome health to its antioxidant content to its health-promoting nutrients. As an added bonus, fermented foods taste great!
Popular examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and certain types of pickles. And of course, gluten-free sourdough from Bread SRSLY!
So what are some of the benefits of fermented foods in general and gluten-free sourdough specifically?
Probiotics and Gut Microbiota Diversity: Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which are live beneficial bacteria that can populate the gut and help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive tract. These probiotics can aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and they also support a robust immune system. Consuming fermented foods can introduce different strains of beneficial bacteria into the gut, which can enhance microbial diversity and promote a healthier gut environment.
Improved Digestion: The fermentation process pre-digests some of the food components, making them easier for the body to assimilate. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with digestive issues, as the fermentation process starts to break down the carbohydrates in the food, making it easier to digest for many people. According to Monash University, “Traditional sourdough processing techniques reduce FODMAP content via fermentation . . .the yeast and bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in the flour (including the FODMAPs) and via a process of fermentation, start to break them down.” Add to it that Bread SRSLY is gluten-free, which means that those of us with wheat/gluten sensitivity (whether to the proteins, like gliadin and gluten, or the carbohydrates, like fructose and fructans) often get to enjoy the pleasure of sourdough bread without the digestive or inflammatory problems associated with eating wheat bread.
Synthesis of Vitamins and Nutrients: Fermented foods can increase the bioavailability of certain vitamins and minerals. For example, the fermentation process can enhance the production of B vitamins and improve the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc (source). Because fermentation of sourdough reduces nutrient-blockers like phytic acid, the bio-availability of the gluten-free grains in Bread SRSLY is increased, making it a more nutrient-dense food choice. Fermentation also contains natural antioxidants which protect our bodies against oxidative stress that leads to age- and diet-related chronic diseases (source).
Incorporating fermented foods into your diet can contribute to a healthier digestive system AND support your overall well-being. However, as with any dietary changes, it's essential to introduce fermented foods gradually and observe how your body responds, particularly if you have pre-existing digestive issues or conditions.
On a final note, it must be said that gluten-free sourdough bread isn’t just nutritious, but it’s also DELICIOUS! My favorite way to eat Bread SRSLY sourdough is with some mustard, avocado, and microgreens for a yummy avocado toast!
Michelle Dwyer is a Holistic Health Coach and Certified Nutrition Consultant in Oakland, California. She has Master of Science degree in Health and Nutrition Education and is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. With over ten years of experience, her areas of specialty are digestive health, plant-based eating plans, food sensitivities, healthy weight loss, hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, and lifestyle management. She is also founder of Whole Life Nourishment, a mind-body-spirit program that address the whole health of progressive leaders and visionaries. She works
with clients both locally and across the country via Zoom or phone. More information about her services can be found at HealthCoachMichelle.com.
Bread SRSLY Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this post, the Bread SRSLY website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
“Traditional sourdough processing techniques reduce FODMAP content via fermentation
When sourdough breads are made, a culture of yeast and bacteria are added to the raw ingredients of flour and water in order to make the bread dough. This dough is then left to ‘prove’ for a prolonged period of time (typically >12 hours). During this time, the yeast and bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in the flour (including the FODMAPs) and via a process of fermentation, start to break them down. This ‘proving’ process also results in gas production and forms air bubbles in the dough, helping the bread to rise. The end result is a bread with a reduced FODMAP content.”
From Monash University: https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/sourdough-processing-fodmaps/
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