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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Is cutting out bread my only option to achieving good gut health?

Depends. What kind of bread are we talking about? What are you going to replace it with? Bread 20 years ago: flour, salt, water, olive oil, sourdough starter, fermented for 3 days. Bread now: refined, bleached, sunflower oil, made with GMO wheat higher in gluten, not fermented. Still wondering why you're bloated and believing it's normal?



The chemistry of carbohydrates


When we talk about bread, most people think carbs. Yes, bread is a carb. Short for carbohydrate, the main macronutrient bread delivers. When eaten and digested in the body, a carbohydrate is broken down to Carbon (C)• Hydrogen (H)• Oxygen (O) = CHO (Hence the nickname Carb). Carbs can be simple and complex. Simple carbs include glucose and fructose. These are digested easily, broken down by the body fast, absorbed quickly and spike your blood sugar levels, providing energy almost instantly.


Complex carbs include starch, cellulose and glycogen. These take more time and effort by the body to break down, consequently release a more steady stream of energy. Complex carbohydrates are also known to have low Glycemic Index (GI). This refers to that slow and steady effect it has on our bloodstream, whereas simple carbs are high GI.


So, what about bread?


Bread can be both a simple and a complex carb. White processed bread is a simple carb, easy to digest. Wholegrain bread is minimally processed and has heaps of nutrients and fibre. Both simple and complex carbs have a role to play. When you’re feeling unwell, you might choose simple carbs because you’re body needs the energy. High fibre options may aggravate bowels and make you feel more unwell. If you train hard, you might need simple carbs to refuel after or fuel for your upcoming session to perform better.


Remember that bread is not your only source of carbohydrates. Fruit, vegetables, legumes and dairy also provide carbohydrates. The human brain uses 120g glucose daily for basic functions like breathing, eating, moving.


When we train our body to use fat as fuel, often referred to as the keto (high fat) or paleo diet (grain free, low carb) we are actually training our body to convert fat into glucose for those functions. It takes time for the body's metabolism to switch and it easily switches back because its much easier and more efficient to use glucose as fuel than have to convent fat to glucose. I am not opposed to training the body to use fat as fuel and there are specific circumstances when I would in fact recommend this.


When bread got banned


Whilst true that when humans eat more carbohydrates than they need the liver converts the extras to fat and stores it as adipose tissue, during the start of Americas obesity pandemic we didn’t know much about the role of complex and simple carbohydrates. So, all carbohydrates got the blame. Bread was off the table for a very long time. However, as we know, this strategy did not in fact solve the obesity pandemic which continues today. A person’s carbohydrate amounts and the type chosen will vary depending on things like age, gender, activity levels, goals and health status.


The more important question becomes, where is the carbohydrate coming from and what is it packaged with. When I say packaged I mean literally and figuratively. Is it delivering a host of nutrients or unnecessarily spiking your blood sugar levels. Are you eating bread the way we baked it 20 years ago, or taking home that packaged, sliced, refined bread in a colourful bag with lots of fancy buzz words?



What about sourdough bread?


Sourdough bread being fermented is actually easier to digest.


It has a lower fructan level than regular bread, a type of carbohydrate that irritates people with increased intestinal permeability. It also has about 1000x less gluten than regular yeasted bread due to the fermentation process. The bacteria in the sourdough starter actually digest (break down) a lot of the gluten.


Wait, did I just say bacteria? Yes, sourdough contains the gut-friendly lactobacillus bacteria, but the high heat of baking destroys these 'probiotics'. So, unless you'd like to eat the raw dough (I don't recommend this), sourdough is not a probiotic food.


Interestingly, the fermentation process to make bread was once upon a time common practice. As long ago as 2,000 BC the Egyptians knew how to make fermented bread. With the industrial revolution, technological advances, people looking to save time, the fermentation process got cut out or modified.


If all our health issues were going to be solved by sourdough bread, I'd expect the obesity rate to half by now. There is more to gut health than your bread. However, choosing your bread wisely will help.

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Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. Promoting consciousness in food choices helping people heal. Dietitian & Wellness Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.

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KEYWORDS: Bread, Sourdough, Gluten, Fructan, Fermentation, Intolerance, IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gut Health, Gut Microbiome, Gut, Microbes, Microbiome, Health, Carbohydrates, Keto, Paleo, Diet, Wellness.

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