Wheat, spelt, and rye, the primary grains commonly used in conventional breads, are high in FODMAPs, a collection of small-chain carbohydrates naturally found in foods that are difficult for most people with IBS to digest. So does that mean that people with IBS need to forgo sandwiches in order to feel better? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding no!
Old-fashioned sourdough bread -- made using the traditional, slow method -- consumes a significant portion of FODMAPs during the long fermentation process, which makes it much more digestible. Although preparing authentic sourdough bread at home can be time-consuming, it's not difficult.
The process begins with a traditional sourdough starter, which is surprisingly easy to whip up. You can also use a "cheater's" sourdough starter that may be quicker and more reliable but uses packaged active dry baking yeast rather than the wild yeast from the ambient environment. But if you're lucky enough to have friends who make sourdough bread, perhaps they would gift you with some ready-made starter to get you going.
Sourdough starters, if properly fed and cared for, can last for many years, and their flavor becomes deeper, richer, and more sour over time. There are many recipe books that deal specifically with sourdough breads, and you can also find numerous recipes available online. You really only need one tried-and-true recipe, though, as the dough itself should contain only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. You can follow the directions in any bread-making book to learn how to shape the dough into interesting forms, or you can make standard round or rectangular loaves. If you make several loaves at a time, you can freeze them and use them as needed while you get your next batch of sourdough started.
If you're very fortunate, you might have a local bakery that sells traditional, slow-risen sourdough bread and rolls. Be sure to inquire about their methods and check to make sure that no yeast is being added to the bread. Added yeast can indicate that a shortcut method is used rather than the slow-rising process. So even though the bread may contain some elements of traditional sourdough bread, such as a sourdough starter to give it a tasty sour flavor, if the process is shortened, the bread will end up being high in FODMAPs.
Alternatively, you can order 100% sourdough spelt or wheat bread through bakeries that ship it on dry ice. Once you receive your order, store the bread in heavy-duty ziplock bags in the freezer, where it will keep for several months. You can defrost it by the loaf or simply remove the number of slices you need and return the remainder to the freezer. Mark the date on the ziplock bag with a sharpie so you know how long it's been stored. One of my favorite brands of traditional sourdough is Berlin Natural Bakery's sourdough spelt bread. Visit their website to see if their sourdough bread is available near you. or search online for retailers who will ship it to you directly.
Some people with IBS have had good success with Food for Life brand's Ezekiel sprouted-grain bread and gluten-free sprouted-grain bread, which are vegan. Look for them in the freezer section of your natural food store. Although these products contain some high-FODMAP components, such as wheat, barley, and soybeans, sprouting these ingredients consumes a portion of the FODMAPs in the same way that sourdough fermentation does, making for a more digestible finished product.
Remember, as with any new food that might trigger or exacerbate your symptoms, sample these breads in small amounts over a trial period to determine how well they agree with you. For example, have one slice one day and see how you fare over the next twenty-four to seventy-two hours. If you feel okay, try another slice, perhaps two days in a row. If that goes well, perhaps try two slices at a sitting or one slice at two meals that day. And, to be on the safe side, wait to experiment with new foods or potential trigger foods until you're feeling good, aren't in the midst of a flare-up, and don't have any pressing business or social activities scheduled.
Have you tried making your own sourdough bread or do you have a favorite brand of low-FODMAP bread? Tell us about it in the comments below!