Natural Fermentation for Nutrition and Tolerance

The ancient method of slow, cool natural fermentation that we have recreated increases nutrient availability from the grain to the body by neutralizing enzyme inhibitors (that interfere with digestion) and phytic acid (that blocks mineral absorption) and predigesting or completely breaking down the gluten. It has also been shown that the acidic environment of our natural fermentation produces a lower Glycemic Index bread.

The Lactic Acid Bacteria strains present in our Sonoma Cultures have been shown to have a particular capacity to degrade proteins during the natural fermentation into small peptides and amino acids, which can then be transported through the bacterias cell membrane.

Recent studies at Stanford University have identified a sequence of 33 amino acids present in the gliadin gluten proteins of wheat as being responsible for the exceptional toxic potency against the small intestinal mucosa that characterizes Celiac sprue. This same sequence was found in other grain proteins like hordeins (from barley), and secalins (from rye), all of which are toxic cereals in the Celiac diet.

Proteins in nontoxic food grains, such as oats, rice and maize, do not contain a homologous sequences to the 33-mer found in gliadin. Oats has been shown to be a non- toxic alternative to wheat.

The Lactobacillus in our cultures have adapted to the dough environment and several enzymes associated to this adaptation have been identified. These specialized enzymes are particularly capable of breaking down the toxic sequence of 33 amino acids that is rich in the amino acid Proline. Proline has a spatial chemical structure that makes it very difficult to hydrolyze.

We have experienced many cases of gluten-sensitive people that have had no negative reactions after eating our breads. Recently published scientific research has confirmed that a special sourdough bread made with a gluten containing flour and some special cultures of Lactobacilli can be tolerated by people with severe gluten sensitivity or celiac sprue.

Since a thorough study specific to our products has not been conducted, we can only speculate that the reason people suffering severe wheat intolerance have not shown adverse reactions to our breads is related to the combined effect of our long Natural Fermentation process and the use of low gluten grains or oat. We strongly recommend that anybody in that situation consults with a specialized physician before consuming any of our products.

The Problem with Modern Wheat

Today's wheat just isn't the same grain our ancestors enjoyed. Over the last 200 years of our modern age, active genetic selection, and actual genetic manipulation, have changed the nature of the original wheat enormously: from few grains and little gluten to great wheat harvests very enriched in gluten, well-adapted to industrial cultivation practices and ready to be handled by monstrous bread making machinery.

This modern wheat is very difficult to digest and directly toxic to many people. We have to go back to the origins of agriculture to understand why this is happening.

Agriculture has no simple single origin. It developed in Europe through the demographic expansion and, to a certain degree, cultural diffusion of the early farming communities from the region now identified as the Middle East. The geographic arc encompassing the Fertile Crescent, the wide belt of South East Asia which includes Southern Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon and North Iraq, is considered the cradle of agricultural innovation starting at around 10,000 years ago.

These Eastern populations, presumably well adapted to such profound changes in the basic nutrition, grossly replaced the existing Mesolithic European dwellers who still lived on hunting and gathering. But a proportion of the local populations (or, rather, of their inheritance ) persisted beside the invaders.

The feeding changes were not well tolerated by everybody. The best similar example is lactose intolerance: populations that have more recently adapted to milk consumption, still lack the genetic ability to digest lactose over the infancy period. The environment changed centuries before any change in the inheritance may have been possible. For example, in Ireland, where wheat cultivation appeared only 3,000 years B.C., a very high frequency of gluten intolerance has been reported.

Similarly, a considerable proportion of the hunters and gatherers of the pre-Neolithic ages have not fully adapted to the great feed changes induced by the cultivation of modern wheat. These people could not recognize gluten as a 'tolerable' protein available for digestion and absorption: they may have not have any problem or complaint for centuries, since the content of gluten in the grains was very low, but when 'industrial' quantities of gluten were induced by selection of wheat in order to improve bread making, they were exposed to unbearable quantities of an 'intolerable' protein or peptide.

At Grindstone we use heirloom varieties of grains, which are easy to tolerate and have substantially less gluten, more fiber, more water soluble protein, a wide variety of minerals, an array of anti-oxidants , and a distinctive sweet nutty flavor.

Rye, Barley, Oat, Quinoa and Millet are other low- and no-gluten grain alternatives to modern wheat that we use at the bakery.