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Is Sourdough the Future of Gluten-free Bread? 12/28/2012 - Sourdough bread is made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacilli. Compared with regular breads, sourdough usually has a sour taste due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

Photo: CC--GFDoctorSourdough fermentation helps improve bread quality by prolonging shelf life, increasing loaf volume, delaying staling, as well as by improving bread flavor and nutritional properties.

However, sourdough isn't just good for making better bread. Recent studies show that sourdough fermentation can also speed gut healing in people with celiac disease at the start of a gluten-free diet.

Over the past few years researchers have been experimenting with sourdough fermentation as a means for making traditional wheat bread safe for people with celiac disease. Recently, yet another study examined the safety of this process with great results.

"While the study was small, it did show that individuals with celiac disease who ate specially prepared sourdough wheat bread over the course of 60 days experienced no ill effects." Obviously, larger and more detailed studies need to be carried out, but the early results are intriguing.

In the meantime, sourdough bread made with gluten-free flours might be the best way for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity to get the benefits of sourdough cultures, and to enjoy fresh, minimally processed bread.

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Of course, not everyone can bake their own sourdough bread. That's why I was happy to learn that more artisanal bread bakers are turning to baking their own delicious gluten-free sourdough to share with others.

One of these small, artisanal bread makers is a local San Francisco baker named Sadie Scheffer, who runs a company called BreadSRSLY. Sadie bakes delicious long-fermented sourdough bread and other products, using gluten-free grains. She delivers most of her products by bicycle.

Having sampled Sadie's bread, and I can say that it is some of the best sourdough bread I've tasted, gluten-free or not. It isdelicious, dense, and chewy sourdough bread that is perfect for toasting. The loaves are fermented for twelve hours before baking. Folks in San Francisco can find Sadie's delicious gluten-free sourdough bread at BiRite, Gluten Free Grocery and Other Avenues, and at

Until science establishes the safety of wheat-based sourdough for people with celiac disease, I think that long-fermented sourdough bread, made with gluten-free flour, represents the future of gluten-free bread for people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity.

Here's a recipe for gluten-free sourdough starter.

Other helpful links: welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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13 Responses:

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said this on
28 Dec 2012 10:44:43 AM PDT
As a bread lover, I hated the transition away from wheat bread, my favorite, but I'm extremely thankful I finally did! Sourdough is delicious and if it helps with recovery, all the better!

Dan Cohen
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said this on
30 Dec 2012 10:37:49 AM PDT
I wonder what it taste like.
So far people have been using gluten free flour and xanthan gum which is not that tasty.

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said this on
31 Dec 2012 4:46:26 AM PDT
Interesting. My mom finally had test done for celiac disease (both my boys and I have it), and it came back positive. But what is interesting and ties in with the article is that prior to diagnosis, bread was causing more and more issues for my mom, but that sourdough was the easiest on her stomach for her to eat.

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said this on
31 Dec 2012 5:23:58 PM PDT
I am so glad someone can give back bread. I love to bake but have not had good results with gluten-free flours. Thank you.

Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
07 Jan 2013 11:36:41 AM PDT
Wishing it was true does not make it so. Fermentation does not change the shape of the offending molecules to the extent that the immune system will not react. It's not worth risking injury. Someday there will be certified gluten-free sourdough, but not rushing into a product backed by garbage science.

Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
22 Jan 2014 2:24:23 AM PDT
Please expound upon how sourdough causes an immune reaction regardless of gluten ppm count. You can make GF true sourdough at home today if you just use GF flour.

I'd love to know of a way to reduce gluten ppm through fermentation without sacrificing texture quality.


said this on
28 Feb 2013 3:08:42 PM PDT
I tried a full day ferment sour dough. I just tried one piece. Within 10 minutes, I had a stomach ache and then all the other symptoms the following week. I am a biopsy proven celiac. I have been gluten-free for one year. I was curious, thought I'd try it, now I know.

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said this on
23 Mar 2013 2:44:10 PM PDT
I was wondering why it didn't bother me to eat some sourdough one time. I'm excited!

Rating: ratingfullratingemptyratingemptyratingemptyratingempty Unrated
said this on
04 Nov 2013 6:51:57 PM PDT
Bread of this sort, is still always gonna be bad for people, as it is not being natural, coming from corn. Original recipe, is linked to rice flour...rice contains up to 2 - 3 times as much starch as potatoes. When will people learn!? This crap, coming from corns, is what causes cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the 1,000's other issues, we have in the Western World, and yet, people keep feeding on it!? Last week in Denmark, it was " Break Cancer Week ", and there was a lot of talk about the Budwig Protocol, which has proven to clear Cancer, even for people who have gotten the " Terminated " notice!!! People who have gotten prostate cancer, which spreads to the bones etc, avoid getting chemo, and just drops refined sugars and starches, and processed foods, and boost up their oil intake and protein, and then go from having a PSA of 600 ( 60 Times the amount of showing Cancer ( 10 ) to not being able to measure!!! ) Go Paleo or LCHF people, and live life, like you've never felt before!!!

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said this on
30 Jun 2014 11:02:21 PM PDT
Oh well, I'm late to the party. I am in Tasmania, Australia, and have been baking sourdough bread made with gluten free flours. What distinguishes my bread is that I use only one or two, and at most three flours in each bread. One of my favorites is my 100% buckwheat flour sourdough. I am currently working on bread making techniques that enable me to make 100% millet flour bread.

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said this on
21 Sep 2014 4:20:51 PM PDT
What I do know, is the American diet lacks probiotics. This is why there is such a large market for it. We get lactobacillus from yogurt and fermented or sprouted bread. Bacteria helps us digest our food! Honestly, it's that slow rise in bread making, that develops the bacteria and effectively breaks down glutens ...which our guts can't handle or digest without thre proper bacteria. The sourdough process does
just that - it helps us digest bread because the gluten has already been broken down by the lactobacillus bacteria developed in fermentation. Using a sprouted wheat when making sourdough is even better for celiac or the gluten intolerant/sensitive folks.

Why do you think they don't have much celiac issues in european countries? It's because they don't use the quick rise yeast methodology in baking! It's a slow rise on ALL the breads and litterally takes two days to make. They also don't freeze breads...they make them fresh in the mornings and if you don't go get some before dinner, you won't likely get any at all that day!

The science makes complete sense! If you buy store bought sourdough, chances are they used quick yeast to quicken the leavening process. It's best to know your baker or make it at home for pennies on the dollar from what you would pay for someone else to make it. I am gluten intolerant. I get very bad pain, cramps, gas and bloating when I eat regular quick rise is my nemesis! I have honestly found a new & health sandwhich tolerant life again, by making my own sourdough. It's the best thing in the world to smell bread baking in the oven....It also tastes so much better when it's fresh!


said this on
05 Mar 2015 5:52:50 PM PDT
This is a very good point and you are absolutely right, but I think what we need to realize is that us as consumers have created this problem. the evolution of bread and mass producing has caused these problems with faster mixing times and added enzymes and emulsfiers to make these processes possible. We expect longer shelf life and longer keeping qualities but don't want any hidden nasties etc! consumers have ruined the bread market and gluten free is no expectation with modified starches to give it jelling properties and also addition of more additives and preservatives than normal bread. long story short we need to turn back time reverse evolution and go back to traditional methods where the process happens naturally! Gluten and sugars and braking down with longer fermentation times obliterating the modern day problems we have!!

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said this on
13 Jan 2017 11:35:22 AM PDT
Have used gluten free flours with excellent results; my guests do not notice any difference. I think that is because there are so many gluten free flours available today. Am excited about the sourdough especially for the digestive benefits. Great site.

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