The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough intolerance?

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Babedia's picture
Babedia

Sourdough intolerance?

Hi all,

I've often read this forum but never contributed. I finally registered so I could ask this question.

I made a sourdough starter a couple of years ago but only managed to bake a couple of loaves before I finally forgot to feed it and threw it again.

I finally got round to doing another one last week and I baked a gorgeous loaf yesterday. I had some for dinner (once it'd cooled down) and some for breakfast. It was very, very good, but an hour or so after breakfast I had horrible stomach cramps and it reminded me that the same had happened on the both occassions when I'd baked the sourdough a couple of years ago and that was the reason why I'd decided to throw the starter away.

I don't have any food intolerances. Is it possible to have an intolerance to sourdough? I've searched everywhere but I only find comments about it being more digestible than normal bread. Bizarre coincidence?

dettmerg's picture
dettmerg

Babedia,

If you have used that starter after just one week of fermentation, I can see why you are getting stomach cramps. A starter should never be used for at least 1 month from the date you first created it. There are bad bacteria that haven't been expelled (or neutralized) until it's about one month old.

If that's the case, be patient at first. Wait until your starter is ready. SD is generally easier to digest. There are never any promises that it will always be true, but don't use that starter until it has had time to develop fully.

-Gary

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I've never heard of that before.  I let mine develope for 7 days before using it and never had any problems.  The one sort of bread I cannot eat any more, be it sourdough or regular, is whole wheat.  Oatmeal, barley, rye, or straight white are all okay, but no whole wheat for me.  I find sourdough much easier to digest, but you never can tell what your insides can take or not.  It's just the nature of the beast - human, that is.

Babedia's picture
Babedia

Oh, I'd never heard about waiting a month either, but I'm a real beginner so I'm just going for the few recipes I've read online and in the one book I have.

The starter is now in the fridge - should I take it out and continue the daily feeding for the full month?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

give you lots of gas.  So can sugar substitutes.  

A month? myth!  

Babedia's picture
Babedia

No, not low on carbohydrates - normal diet. The good news is I just had a bit more about an hour ago and feeling alright. I really hope it's not the sourdough, now that I've dared to make it and it tasted so bloody good, I don't think I can bear not to eat it every week!

dettmerg's picture
dettmerg

Mini,

Since a new starter contains more than lactobacillus; one bacteria that is equally predominant when beginning a starter is streptococcus. The strepto begins in the culture at around the same count as other bacteria . Lacto multiplies more rapidly than strepto. As your culture begins to refine itself through its starter feedings, the lacto bacteria contain more "energy" to multiply much more and stronger. As lacto increases, strepto decreases and gives up its dominant position in the culture. Onec a starter has reached it's clinically fully developed state, the strepto bacteria receeds as a minority influence. Thus reducing its impact in the starter and its gastronominal agitation.

The strepto bacteria can cause a lot of digestive complications more so than lacto due its nature in the digestive tract. Many people have different reactions to sourdough used too early. If you serve an early starter made breadl and you're happy with your bread, to your family and they don't mind, that's great. But do you know everyone intimiately enough you're serving your bread to? That is the reason for waiting because someone you may not know or only slightly know hasn't tried your SD bread made with a new early developmnet starter may find the bread disagreable.

Our bodies are resilient and the acids in our stomach (and in the mouth) can neutralize most of those bacteria before any problems arise. If the bacteria are more than what some people can be neutralized, then the issues of digestive problems arises.

Yes, two weeks is usually fine most of the time, but I am cautious and continue to wait more time. I have had my main starter for over 20 years now. I have started only two others since then but never used them earlier than a month. ( I really didn't have to nor did I want to).

I sell my bread at Farmers' Markets and am unwilling to put a product on the table which could cause a customer digestive issues.

If I remember correctly, you live outside of the US? In the US, we are open to lawsuits for just being in someone's line of vision (that's hyperbole yet there is a point there). But the risk of being sued here is real if someone believes your product made them ill; even if it is slightly ill (even just gas.)

Regards,

Gary

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I am with Mini on this one.

A seemingly good argument Gary however there is perhaps a rather huge, glaring omission - The Bake. Any bacteria will be dead after the bake.

Our bodies are resilient and the acids in our stomach (and in the mouth) can neutralize most of those bacteria before any problems arise. If the bacteria are more than what some people can be neutralized, then the issues of digestive problems arises

The above paragraph speaks as if bacteria are alive when in body! The baked product will contain byproducts of these bacteria and the dead cells themselves but you made no mention of these factors.

When it comes to the culture. I don't believe yeast gets active until L. (lacto-bacillus) bacteria has taken hold and by the time a culture is active enough through initial refreshments to raise bread any undesirable bacteria will be sufficiently flushed out.

Michael

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Nothing like a myth challenge to bring out some facts or interesting research.  (I love it!)  

I do think baking kills lots of wee beasties but it's their toxins that they produce that bother our bodies and sends messages to our immune systems to react and eventually over react.  As a person sensitive to one type of toxin from one strep. family of bacteria I can understand hesitation to use a young starter.  What I would like to read is more research on the subject.  

I was digginging around on the net, wow!  Lots of info and research!  But way too much for me to sort out just the right portion.   Gave myself a streptococcus infection of sorts along with a head ache.  Pretty important those little beasties... some actually produce lactic acid and CO2 gas and encourage yeast production!  Some to fear and some to love.  Saome are rare and others everywhere!   Some even sold to make cheese and sourdough production.  So... some kinds of streptococcus bacteria are there all the time in the culture.  What is a dangerous level?  Does it change with age or temperature of the starter?  Most seem to love 37°C.  Why would a month old starter cultur be less "dangerous" as compared to one week? Or a year old starter different from a month old one?  I need some research....  The more I dig the more I want to learn!

For starters an interesting experiment:  LINK

Grenage's picture
Grenage

Throw a heavy probability of psychosomatic issues into the pot of questionable research, and the situation gets even worse!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

instead of baked bread.   I thought most of the intro stuff was interesting.  Experiment was a dud.  

So, starter promordial soup...  When is it safe to eat?

Got anything to back up month old starter?  What about a badly treated month old starter?

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I've been taste-testing my starter since I started using it; if I suddenly stop visiting the site, you'll know why. ;)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)

mwilson's picture
mwilson

When I mentioned byproducts, toxins would be what I was alluding to. As I pointed out Gary didn't refer to these and his comments seemed, to me, ill-conceived.

I wouldn't use a starter until it meets a certain level of activity and that would take a number of refreshments. How a starter is being refreshed is going to have a big impact. I think sourdough in the hands of someone less experienced is more likely to experience upset.

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Googling around a bit there seems to be at least one beast resistent to baking, even to more than 100°: B. Mesenthericus, responsible for the roping bread. Even a very high acidity isn't 100% toxic for all bacteria.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

I knew that there would be something that would survive a bake!

However you have to consider the strength in numbers factor. By repeatedly feeding a starter you encourage the desired bacteria and yeasts (natural to the flour) and being more resource intensive they will significantly hinder the activity of the undesired bacteria.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Bread with rope infection is usually a hollowed-out loaf, isn't it, because the rope organisms come out of dormancy and eat the bread after the loaf cools?  What's left inside is supposedly sticky, discolored, and smells bad.

Written by ACH Foods, Inc., on rope infections and their prevention:

http://abrfaq.info/treatise/202

 

fancy4baking's picture
fancy4baking

Yes i agree with what Gary said. This symptoms happened to me as i very eagerly used my sourdough in baking when it was just 8 days old.

And i had the same cramps, i waited on my SD and fed it for approx. a month and now i'm using it and it's all fine, and giving me breads i can't have enough of.

Izzat

placebo's picture
placebo

You have to take a lot of "wisdom" you hear about sourdough with a grain of salt. This is a perfect example. I've heard from various sources you should let your new starter mature for 7 days, two weeks, or a month before baking the first loaf. Most of this is just people repeating what they read or heard elsewhere. It doesn't appear to be based on any hard data, though there may be explanations which sound plausible. So which is it, one, two, or four weeks — or perhaps even longer? Who knows. I'd be surprised if the youthfulness of your starter was the cause of your indigestion since it's my impression a lot of people, including me, have used young starters with no ill effects.

Still, I would still suggest you keep your starter out at room temperature and feed it twice daily for a while. (Note this is another one of those "facts." Some people say you can store the starter in the refrigerator after only a week. Others say two weeks, and yet others say a month.) The starter does seem to mature over time, and storing it in the refrigerator slows or prevents that process from occurring. You might find reading the comments to this blog post enlightening. Debra Wink notes that at about the two-week mark, she seems to notice a change to a starter's aroma, so letting it develop for at least two weeks sounds like a good idea.

In the end, though, you just need to find whatever works for you. 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

My sister was like this. Sourdough made her horribly sick.

Babedia's picture
Babedia

Thanks all for your advice. I've taken the starter out of the fridge and will carry on feeding daily for atleast another week or two. I'm getting very confused with the amounts I need to feed with. In some places it says to have the same volume of starter, flour and water, in others the same weight, in others something completely different. I've just kept 1/3 cup of the starter and added 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup flour. Does this sound about right for feeding twice daily?

I'd also like to take the opportunity to ask another question. I'd like to have some bread ready for Saturday lunchtime but I'm going to be at work until about 4pm on Friday. Can someone help me with the timings? Sponge on Thursday evening, kneading before work on Friday, shape on Friday evening? Can I leave it in the fridge overnight and bake on Saturday morning?

placebo's picture
placebo

It's pretty common to maintain a 100%-hydration starter. That means it's fed equal parts of flour and water by weight. Roughly speaking, flour has a density about half that of water, so if you're measuring by volume, you'd have twice the volume of flour as water. Ideally, though, you'd use a scale to measure the amounts. (If you don't already have a scale, get one. It's probably the first things you should get for bread baking.)

Then there's the question of how much flour should you feed a given amount of starter. Most people here seem to recommend a 1:1 ratio of starter to flour at a minimum. That is, if you have 100 grams of starter, you should feed it 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. Again, this is one of those questions where people seem to answer by asserting various figures they read elsewhere. I used to feed my starter enough to double the amount of starter, e.g. 100 grams of starter, 50 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water. It worked fine for me, but many here would claim I was starving and killing my starter. I've also seen some people here claim that you had to feed using a 1:5 or 1:10 ratio otherwise you were starving the starter. A 1:1 ratio seems to work fine for a lot of people, so it's probably a safe way to go.

A 1/3-cup of starter weighs, in my experience, about 85 grams. If you want to feed it using a 1:1 ratio, you want 85 grams of flour, or about 2/3 of a cup, and 85 grams of water, about 1/3 of a cup.

As far as the timing goes, it's hard to say. Sourdough timing can vary quite a bit. How long did the first rise take when you made your previous loaves? I'd worry that the dough will ferment too long while you're at work.

fermento's picture
fermento

Hi Babedia, I recall having many of the same questions and uncertainties when starting out in sourdough - and wading through an ocean of misinformation, much of it presented with absolute certainty! It's important to find a good source of information you can rely on. For me that was Hamelman's book "Bread", which stripped away a lot of the mythology. Debra Wink's posts here have already been mentioned - they have also been enormously helpful to me, opening the door into the complex scientific side of things in a layman-accessible way. There are also many other posters here with a wealth of experience to be relied on. 

One lesson I learned from all this is that the processes and methods are enormously flexible, that it's actually hard to completely wreck your breadmaking. Ignore those who try to tell you there's one true way to breadmaking perfection!

I agree that on average a starter needs to mature for a couple of weeks out of the fridge before it's going to perform adequately, and will further improve over time. And I think your schedule starting Thursday night sounds workable.

Babedia's picture
Babedia

Thanks all for your comments and help. I took the starter out of the fridge and continued with the twice-daily feeding following a 1:1:1 ratio for the moment and I have to say it's already looking healthier than when I first made bread with it. I made some pancakes with the remnants yesterday instead of throwing it away and they tasted fab.

I've realised that different people have different methods and opinions on how to do this and I don't understand enough yet to make my own decisions so I've ordered a book which hopefully I can just follow for the moment until I'm confident to make my own tweaks and refinements. As I'm in the UK I've ordered Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf rather than Hamelman's book - it has very good reviews. Hopefully I'll be back in a few months' time to show off my perfect breads!

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

If the starter smells like cheap nail polish remover or some kind of paint solvent, it is starving.  Starving yeast starts to metabolize protein and smells ketonic, just like the breath of human dieters who are starving themselves.  If the starter smells like alcohol, it isn't necessarily starving.  It was just sealed well.  In the absence of oxygen, yeast makes alcohol.  That is part of why fermenting fruit juice is sealed from the air by a waterlock.