A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can heal your gut and provide relief from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases and even arthritis. By consuming anti-inflammatory breads rather than refined grains, you can begin to feel better almost immediately.
Look for breads that are high in fiber and made with all-natural whole grains. These are better for your digestive system and slower to convert to sugar in the bloodstream.
When it comes to grain-based foods like bread and pasta, not all types are created equal. Unfortunately, processed foods have become a mainstay in modern society — and while they may be convenient, they often lack nutritional value. Refined grain products like white bread, traditional pasta, cake, cookies, cereal and white rice are all made up of simple carbohydrates.
Refined grains have removed the bran and germ of the original grain, leaving only the endosperm to be consumed. This strips the grain of most of its natural vitamins and minerals and makes it very quick to break down in the body. Refined grains convert almost immediately to sugar in the bloodstream, which can spike blood sugar and inflame the gut.
Instead, you'll want to look for products that are made with whole, anti-inflammatory grains and complex carbohydrates. A complex nutritional profile will not only add more flavor, but it will also provide your body with a better array of vitamins and minerals.
To assure that you're buying a product with at least half a serving of whole grains, look for the whole grain stamp by the Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit that advocates for higher consumption of whole grain products.
You can also look for words like "whole grain," "stoneground" and, of course, brown rice and oatmeal. These anti-inflammatory foods contain all parts of the grain and are less likely to convert directly to sugar in your body. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to your overall health.
Is Sourdough Bread Anti-Inflammatory?
Another option if you're looking for anti-inflammatory grains is sourdough bread. Since sourdough is created through fermentation, its vitamins are richer and more easily digested. It's low-glycemic, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar, and it also contains prebiotics that form during the fermenting process. This means it's easier on your body to digest without sacrificing nutritional value.
Sourdough bread also contains no artificial additives and a lower amount of gluten than many other breads, making it a good option for people with a mild gluten insensitivity (though it should not be consumed by people with celiac disease). While it shouldn't be consumed in excess (because overdoing carbs can create blood sugar issues), it's a great option that probably won't wreak havoc on your digestive system.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Breads
Sourdough isn't the only option if you're looking for anti-inflammatory foods but still want to eat bread. The Arthritis Foundation lists rye bread and millet as two varieties that work well for anti-inflammatory diets.
Rye bread is anti-inflammatory because it is high in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Millet is also nutrient rich and full of fiber (plus, it's naturally gluten-free). Both of these ingredients are commonly found in breads, especially multigrain and all-natural varieties.
Another way to eat healthier breads is to look for brands made with sprouted grains. These are made by soaking the grains until they begin to sprout, then mashing and cooking them to include in breads and pastas. According to Harvard Health, this method of preparation increases the ease of absorption of the vitamins and minerals present in the grain. Since the sprouting process breaks down the starch in the grain, it also makes it easier for the body to digest.
Are Gluten-Free Grains Better?
Many people with IBS or other digestive issues may experience a sensitivity to wheat or gluten. If this is the case, you could benefit from eating fewer gluten-containing products, which will help your stomach heal from previous inflammation and irritation.
But not all gluten-free grains are created equal. If you replace gluten-containing foods with refined, simple gluten-free grains, you aren't reaping any major health benefits. Gluten-free refined snacks and sugars are still likely to cause some inflammation in your gut, and they're unhelpful for anyone trying to lose weight.
If you're planning to switch over to gluten-free breads, look for varieties containing grains like quinoa, oats, buckwheat, amaranth and millet — all of which are naturally gluten free. Just like with gluten-containing whole grain breads, you're better off if you choose anti-inflammatory breads with a complex nutritional profile and without added sugars or unnatural binding ingredients.
You can, of course, make your own bread if you want to be sure of its nutritional profile. Use recipes that require unprocessed whole grains with a variety of vitamins and minerals, and soak your grains beforehand to make them easier for your body to digest.
Dealing With IBS
The root cause of gastrointestinal issues can be difficult to pinpoint in many cases. If you're experiencing traditional symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, the best thing you can do is increase the amount of fiber you're consuming daily. Fiber helps your body break down and process foods more easily, so your digestive system can work smoothly and without pain.
It also helps some people to lower their fat intake and to eat smaller meals throughout the day, notes the Cleveland Clinic. When you're consuming bread, sweets and pasta, try to steer clear of anything without a high serving of fiber to offset the carbohydrate count. You can still enjoy bread as part of a healthy diet, as long as it includes whole grains and a diverse array of vitamins and minerals.
And as always, talk to your doctor if you're experiencing symptoms you can't solve on your own. Gastrointestinal problems can come about for a variety of reasons, and it may require the help of a professional to reset your diet in a way that works for you.
- Arthritis Foundation: "Best Grains for Arthritis"
- Whole Grains Council: "Identifying Whole Grain Products"
- International Journal of Food Microbiology: "Sourdough and Cereal Fermentation in a Nutritional Perspective"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Enhancement of Attributes of Cereals by Germination and Fermentation: A Review"
- Sustainable Food Trust: "Sourdough and Digestibility"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Are Sprouted Grains More Nutritious Than Regular Whole Grains?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy for Someone Who Doesn't Have Celiac Disease or Gluten-Sensitivity?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Foods to Choose If You Have Mixed Irritable Bowel Syndrome"
- American Heart Association: "Carbohydrates"