When it comes to foods that cause IBS, wheat products are most often cited by sufferers as being a trigger for symptoms. A recent study by Adele Costabile and her team of researchers from the University of Reading investigated the effects that breads with different fermentation times had on the gut and found that for some IBS sufferers, bread may still be on the menu.
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic and sadly common disorder of the colon. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. About 20% of the population suffer from IBS symptoms at some point in their lives.
Probiotics Relieve the Symptoms of IBS
In several studies, patients who took a probiotic supplement experienced relief from IBS symptoms. From the University of Reading study: “Due to effects on modulating the immune function, motility, secretion and gut sensation, probiotics have been suggested to have the potential to exert a beneficial role in managing IBS symptoms. Furthermore, it has been suggested that IBS patients could be characterized by a potential dysregulation in energy homeostasis and liver function, which may be improved through probiotic supplementation.”
Foods high in probiotics (like some organic artisanal breads) will help to stabilize digestion and relieve symptoms of IBS.
Another way to relieve IBS symptoms is to cut certain foods from the diet. Patients who cut bread and wheat products reported an improvement or complete cessation of their IBS symptoms. Studies have also shown that the modern diet, and its reliance on wheat products, promotes the spread of IBS and other digestive ailments such as gluten intolerance.
Not all Breads are Bad
What Costabile’s study set out to investigate was whether the fermentation process used in bread making can have an impact on the way it affects our digestive system. What they found may surprise you: “…a change in the process of wheat fermentation from the traditional long fermentation process to the shorter, incomplete fermentation of the Chorleywood Breadmaking Process (CBP) may have contributed to intolerance to bread through effects on gut microbiota and fermentation.”
Artisanal breads are long fermentations which ‘rest’ for four to six hours while the gluten is converted into digestible sugars and the bread has time to rise naturally. This makes the bread easy to digest and gives it that ‘real bread’ taste. CBP breads rise in about 45 minutes and may also contain artificial chemicals and preservatives.
The study measured the effects of breads made using the Chorleywood process on IBS patients compared to the effects of artisanal breads which were baked using a long fermentation process and sourdough starters.
The study concluded that while a general consensus has banned bread from the IBS sufferer’s diet, what really seems to exacerbate symptoms are breads baked using the Chorleywood method rather than traditional long-fermentations. From the study: “More specifically, a change in bread making processes from a traditional long fermentation process to a short, incomplete fermentation may have contributed to bread intolerance through its effects on fermentation in the colon.”
What they found was that bread baked using traditional long-fermentation sourdough methods were less likely to aggravate IBS symptoms, especially bloating and gas.
“These findings suggest that sourdough products may be advantageous for patients suffering from IBS. This study provides findings supporting the utilization of breads fermented by the traditional long fermentation and sourdough with a positive effect on the composition and metabolic profile of the human intestinal microbiota.”