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The link between food and wellness

Food as medicine was big at the time of the ancient Greeks, and is now having a major renaissance. 

Due to recent scientific discoveries, as well as a backlash against the influence of pharmaceutical industry and the push of pharmaceutical drugs and highly processed food products on offer to us, many desire to find out more about traditional or artisan products and how to include them in a nutritional diet. There is now good evidence that switching to a healthy diet is as good as the average effect of an anti-depressant.

Microbes are the key link between food and the health of our minds and bodies.

We are in a symbiotic relationship with microbes - the earth has its own microbiome, the soil is teeming with billions of microbes, and our skin and entire digestive and reproductive system have their own microbiomes too.

The gut microbiota (also known as gut flora) is the name given to the bacteria, viruses, yeasts and archaea that inhibit our digestive system. The human colon (large intestine) is home to trillions of bacteria cells, far more than we have in the rest of our body. Our gut bacteria perform many essential tasks, not just breaking down dietary fibre into beneficial substances, but also regulating the immune system, preventing inflammation and deterring pathogenic bacteria from making us sick.

Your gut is home to the enteric nervous system, which fires off signals to your digestive tract and tell it when to do everything. It works without you having to lift a finger! It's connected to your vagus nerve, so your gut and brain are constantly communicating, about things like what's for dinner or whether you feel a bit off.

The gut has been proven to be a key-link between all aspects of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. When we understand the role of the gut, we have the fundamental knowledge to enjoy eating well so that we can feel well. Eating to support our gut microbiome means that we can feel well on a holistic level.

Our gut health has been linked to many areas of our health. Almost all non-communicable diseases have been linked to gut health, from diabetes and obesity, to autoimmune conditions such as Alzheimers. Research also shows that individuals with gastrointestinal disorders are far more likely to have a higher prevalence of negative mental symptoms including depression and anxiety.

John Cryan, a neuropharmacologist from the University College Cork, has been uncovering evidence that certain probiotics have a positive influence on mood. Felice Jacka and her team at the Food and Mood Centre uncovered that women who ate higher levels of wholegrain, fruit and vegetables were less likely to suffer from depression.

Why sourdough?: About
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Benefits of sourdough

Aided by the process of fermentation

Traditional sourdough loaves are something much different to wheat based breads you find on supermarket shelves. Industrialised loaves are really a 'batter' of ingredients: yeast, added minerals, preservatives, and grains - "wonderbread" as they called it!

With the industrial revolution saw the introduction of commercial yeast. Yeast speeds up the rise of the dough in the shortest time possible. It also saw bakers have the ability to add in fortified minerals, e.g iron, folic acid and riboflavin, to make up for the minerals that are lost when the grain isn't fermented long enough. The grains used often have all of their naturally forming n nutritional goodness removed - they are ground down and the healthy part of the grain is extracted, to make the bread as white as possible. They also add preservatives in, to manage delivery time frames and for convenience, to make it non-perishable, and to allow for mass production. 

There were, although, unintended consequences that came with the convenience of yeast. Funnily enough, it coincided with spikes in gluten intolerance and sickness.

In response to the claims that people were getting unwell from eating bread, those minerals were added back in, as they are no longer present in fast rising yeast products, and the grain is not given enough time to be broken down enough for our bodies to absorb.

But wait a minute, hasn't bread has been around for centuries? over 6000 years to be precise!

These claims of unwellness only began once wonderbread evolved through modern day techniques. Bread is considered a staple food, that is immersed heavily in our daily diets, almost in every kitchen you will find a loaf of bread. Cheap and readily available and accessible for everyone.

All these factors, in turn, started the trend of how gluten is the enemy, it is no good for us, and something we strive to avoid: we need to avoid it as much as possible!

Then comes sourdough.

flour...water...salt. Three ingredients that come together to make sourdough. Using the magic of biology and physics, along with time, heat and love, to create something that tastes so delicious - a sacred food many may even say!

The traditional art of bread making sees the grains fermented, broken down. Traditional bread making using whole grains and natural yeast starters is at the heart of a good healthy diet, providing crucial amounts of fibre that most of us lack as well as other nutrients and gut-friendly chemicals.

A sourdough starter is sort of a mini version of what goes on in our gut. As a micro version of our own digestive system, a sourdough starter uses many of the same families of lactic acid that are on our skin and in our gut. 

Through long fermentation of flours with the addition of a mature sourdough culture, it allows the grain to break down and nutrients efficiently released. These are able to be absorbed by our bodies efficiently, rather than adding them in later like with commercial yeast based breads. They are able nourish us nutritionally!

Our digestive system has a much easier time when we eat sourdough - it is easier to digest, as the dough has already been partially 'digested' before we even eat it. The breakdown of macronutrients including gluten and other proteins within wheat during the fermentation process, makes the fibre, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals more bioavailable, and degrades the gluten, resulting in a 'reduced gluten load.' This is the key reason our digestive system has a much easier time with sourdough. It is more nourishing and less inflammatory.

There are many mechanisms that may contribute to why people feel happier and healthier when eating sourdough, including the reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, better control of blood sugar, higher levels of fibre.


The process of a long, slow fermentation of wheat effectively diminishes the levels of FODMAP carbohydrates by 90%.

Controlling blood sugar and mood:

There is evidence that the production of acids during sourdough fermentation can help slow down the rate of assimilation of carbohydrates, and thus reduce the risk of spikes in blood sugar levels.  

Increased bioavailability of minerals:

One of the enzymes that gets activated during the extended fermentation process is phytase, which is a phylic acid-degrading enzyme. Phytase draws minerals to it, like a magnet, by neutralising physic acid there is up to an 80 per cent increase in the bioavailability of minerals. 

By simply slowing down and taking the time to eat and appreciate the food you're eating, it can change the way you feel and how your digestive system reacts. If you are under a lot of stress, your digestive system is compromised because all vital functions are directed to running away from a threat, not digesting your food. 

Of course, those with coeliac disease need to be wary of gluten, but the high percentage of us can easily digest grains in their fermented form, resulting in us feeling so much better after eating them! Wheat is nutritionally a powerhouse when eaten correctly!

Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food!

Source: Vanessa Kimbell

Why sourdough?: About Us
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