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Study Finds Wheat-based Sourdough Bread Started with Selected Lactobacilli is Tolerated by Celiac Disease Patients

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Feb;70(2):1088-1096 02/26/2004 - Please note that the sourdough bread used in this study is not your garden-variety sourdough bread, and as far as I know it is not commercially available. Even though this study had very promising results, it was conducted on a relatively small number of people, and larger studies need to be carried out before reaching any conclusions about the long-term safety of celiacs consuming this type of sourdough bread. -Scott Adams

Researchers in Europe conducted a novel study which utilized a highly specialized sourdough lactobacilli containing peptidases that have the ability to hydrolyze Pro-rich peptides, including the 33-mer peptide, which is the main culprit in the immune response associated with celiac disease. The sourdough bread in the study was made from a dough mixture that contained 30% wheat flour and other nontoxic flours including oat, millet, and buckwheat, which was then started with the specialized lactobacilli. After 24 hours of fermentation all 33-mer peptides and low-molecular-mass, alcohol-soluble polypeptides were almost totally hydrolyzed.

For the next step in the study the researchers extracted proteins fro the sourdough and used them to produce a "peptic-tryptic digest" for in vitro agglutination tests on human K 562 subclone cell. The agglutinating activity of the sourdough proteins was found to be 250 times higher that that of normal bakers-yeast or lactobacilli started breads.

A double blind test was then conducted in which 17 celiac disease patients were given 2 grams of gluten-containing bread started with bakers yeast or lactobacilli. Thirteen of them showed distinct, negative changes in their intestinal permeability after eating the bread, and 4 of them did not show any negative effects. The specially prepared sourdough bread was then given to all 17 patients and none of them had intestinal permeability reactions that differed from their normal baseline values.

The researchers conclude: "These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans." welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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14 Responses:

cindy trim
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said this on
21 Aug 2009 8:13:47 AM PST
I had read a similar article in the British Journal of Medicine sometime ago but they failed to mention it was a specialized sourdough. Both my daughters with celiac tried eating regular sourdough and both seem to tolerate it in spite of the fact it is 100% wheat based. They did notice the more sour the taste, the better it is tolerated. Now I wonder if they should continue eating it.
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said this on
30 Jan 2013 3:23:02 AM PST
Just because they experienced no symptoms does not mean it did them no damage.

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said this on
13 Feb 2010 7:52:03 AM PST
Thanks for this great article. I thought it was a miracle when I had some sourdough bread in a weak (and hungry) moment and had none of my usual reactions. Since then I have read that people with celiac may be able to tolerate sourdough made with a slow process (several days of proofing). Some commercial sourdough starters are quick-proofed and used within hours for baking. The longer process (proofing for up to a week allows the bacteria to break down the gluten making it easier to digest. This may be why Cindy's daughters can tolerate it better the more "sour" it tastes. I recommend trying to make your own sourdough bread at home with a starter that is fed for a 5 days to a week before being used.

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said this on
12 Sep 2011 5:18:19 PM PST
I come from Cyprus and I know that people used to make their own bread in the old times by using a sourdough starter that they kept from their previous batch of baking. They used to make bread once a week and hence their starter was fed for 5-7 days and there was no such thing as gluten intolerance in those days. It makes one wonder really whether this once a week business was the reason why. It seems that gluten intolerance has increased after the invention of commercialization of bread making. Perhaps time to honor our ancestors' know-how!

Cary MacDonald
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said this on
14 May 2011 11:09:05 AM PST
I am a gluten intolerant person who can tolerate sprouted whole grain breads. Generally, bread is more tolerated when it's toasted; apparently, the extra cooking helps to break down the offending proteins a bit more. I am very interested in the sourdough findings and would appreciate receiving an email that points me in the direction of more data and studies about this.

It has occurred to me, and to many other observant people, that mankind almost always prepared its breads from fermented doughs. This is still true in Russia, the former bread basket of the world, although I've heard that the modern version of quick bread making is now popular. This re-discovery regarding bread making is extremely important to every bread eater in the world. People who do not know about gluten intolerance are suffering the consequences nevertheless of eating modern breads. They do not realize that slowly, over many years, these poorly made breads are leading them down the road to various "old age" illnesses, such as, rheumatoid arthritis, weakened digestion, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, to name a few.

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said this on
20 Aug 2011 5:57:25 PM PST
I was encouraged by this article, although as I looked up more about it, it seems that whey/lactic acid may have been in the starter. What about a person who has an allergy to the protein in milk (whey/casein)? Is there a starter that could be used for their sourdough wheat bread and still be free of the side effects of wheat? Who has the phone number of the people who did the
experiment so that I may ask them?

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said this on
28 Aug 2011 8:59:56 AM PST
Barbara -- whey/lactic acid isn't used in sourdough starter. Lactobacilli is a bacteria, and completely dairy free. I own a bakery, and our sourdough and 7 Grain bread is fermented over 15 hours, and many people who are gluten intolerant can digest it easily.

( Author)
said this on
29 Aug 2011 4:56:48 PM PST
Please note that celiacs should not eat any of this bread, but perhaps further research will lead to bread like this that celiacs can eat.

Madeleine Hoffman
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said this on
20 Jul 2013 5:59:31 PM PST
Excellent article.

Gluten intolerant
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said this on
20 Jan 2014 1:52:25 PM PST
Sorry to say, doesn't work for me. Gluten intolerant and sourdough (fermented properly and prepared appropriately) still glutens me up. So disappointing.

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said this on
11 Nov 2014 7:07:53 AM PST
I am happy to say I can tolerate sourdough bread, I get it at a local bakery there which has been around for years. Although if I go on a sourdough free for all, it can cause some stomach bloating and gas. So a slice here and there is fine!!!

( Author)
said this on
12 Nov 2014 10:20:11 AM PST
This is a very bad idea--don't do it.

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said this on
13 Sep 2015 11:05:32 AM PST
I am NCGS. I read the articles on sourdough a couple of years ago and tried it. If it is truly sourdough, It does not give me the same symptoms as any other bread. Also, and this is IMPORTANT, some commercially-prepared sourdough is actually white quick bread with lemon added to give it that flavor. If you do try sourdough, in the states try Panera sourdough first (if you don't have the luxury of being in San Francisco). Panera's starter is quite ancient.

( Author)
said this on
14 Sep 2015 10:14:53 AM PST
We at would definitely NOT recommend that any celiacs try a wheat-based sour dough bread, no matter what this study shows. Cross contamination at the bakery would occur no matter the outcome.

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