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Can’t Eat Baker’s Yeast? Use a Naturally Fermented Sourdough Starter Instead

A man and woman sprinkling flour on a loaf of rising dough.
Yuganoc Konstantin/Shutterstock

Do you struggle to digest commercial yeast, but desperately crave bread? Try using an all-natural sourdough starter. The wild yeast can be easier to digest, offering those with yeast sensitivities a great alternative.

Perhaps you can’t find specialty yeast-free bread right now, due to COVID-19 supply limitations. Or, maybe you want to make bread but can’t get your hands on any yeast packets. Whatever the reason, you can create some scrumptious loaves using a naturally fermented sourdough starter. As a bonus, they’re also bursting with tons of nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

What’s the Deal with Yeast Allergies and Sensitivities?

According to The Yeast Connection by William G. Crook, M.D., certain people can develop allergy-like symptoms due to an overgrowth of yeast in their system. This is often called chronic or systemic candida. The symptoms of yeast sensitivity are believed to include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and depression.

Although there’s some strong disagreement among the medical community as to whether yeast sensitivity is a thing, many researchers continue to research the topic.

We’re not here to debate that, though. Many people report feeling poorly after digesting commercial yeast-based products, such as mass-produced or homemade bread made with commercial instant yeast.

One potential reason could be that some people are just more sensitive to the highly selectively bred strains of yeast used in commercial bread. These strains are used because they yield faster fermentation.

Whether you have an allergy or not, discomfort is reason enough to seek out other options, like sourdough! Many folks find they don’t experience indigestion and other problems after consuming the wild strains of yeast that drive sourdough.

Plus, it’s delicious, so it’s worth a shot to give it a try.

What Is Sourdough?

The term “sourdough” specifically refers to wild or naturally occurring yeast, as opposed to commercial baker’s yeast.

A traditional sourdough starter is made by combining flour, water, and salt—that’s it! You don’t need any packets of yeast, additives, sweeteners, or milk. Life doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The magic happens during the fermentation process, as healthy organisms multiply and grow. Once your starter is alive, or “active,” it’s ready to work as a rising agent, giving you fluffy, rich, delicious loaves of bread loaves. Yum!

Why Sourdough Is Superior

A jar containing a sour dough starter, wrapped loosely in a kitchen towel.
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Did you know sourdough has a reputation for being the healthiest bread out there?

Basically, naturally fermented sourdough contains lactobacilli bacteria. This, in turn, creates lactic acid, which is believed to help promote a healthy gut. Lactic acid is also in other prebiotic and probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

So, even if someone can’t tolerate commercial yeast, she might have no problem with natural sourdough. Thanks, friendly bacteria!

Studies also show that the fermentation process in sourdough lowers the level of phytic acid, which is known to interfere with the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium. Another win for sourdough!

Lastly, sourdough bread is generally slower to digest. This can help avoid blood sugar spikes, ultimately making it a low-glycemic-index food. This is important as people who struggle with yeast often report problems with sugar, too.

There’s obviously a lot to love about sourdough, but don’t forget about moderation. Even though it offers many health benefits, you still don’t want to eat too much. And, yes, it’s tough not to when that delicious, fragrant loaf of fresh bread comes out of the oven.

Time to Create

Totally convinced to give sourdough a try? We believe it’s an excellent choice. Your gut will thank you, what with all those beneficial bacteria swimming in your sourdough starter.

Check out 5 simple sourdough starters to get you baking. Once your starter is active and ready to go, you can try this yeast-free sourdough bread recipe.

If you’re gluten-free, there’s also this basic recipe that uses King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Flour. Alternatively, this post includes a start-to-finish guide for making a rich, satisfying gluten-free sourdough bread. The starter contains yogurt, which greatly improves the digestibility of the bread.

Plus, the final recipe is completely yeast-free. We’ve made it twice, and it’s fantastic!


Limiting or cutting commercial yeast out of your diet doesn’t mean you have to forego delicious comforts, like a warm loaf of bread. Put some time into creating a naturally fermented sourdough, and then enjoy the healthy, nutrient-rich goodness for months.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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