Sourdough, pukey but delicious!
February 17, 2011 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Why does all sourdough bread leave me feeling nauseated?

I love sourdough bread so much, but even a single slice will have me sick at my stomach for hours. This is all sourdough, commercially made, homemade, fast food, upscale restaurant, all of it. Is it related to my mold allergy or another food allergy? Is there any way to make it not do that?
posted by nadawi to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do any other artisan breads give you trouble? Pumpernickel (also made with sourdough starter)? Does yogurt (contains Lactobacillus)? Beer (Saccharomyces)? Vinegar (acetic acid, the byproduct of the yeasty-bacteria-conglomeration)?

No, it's probably not your mold allergy -- there's a bunch of yeast proteins in it, sure, but if other yeasty things don't bother you, I'm not sure why sourdough would.

Maybe it's another food allergy. I guess it's possible that you're allergic to specific strains of the yeast or bacteria present in sourdough starters, and not allergic to the related strains in other yeasty foods. It could be, though I hesitate to suggest it because I think this is over-hyped, a gluten sensitivity--but I'm not sure if sourdough-type breads are really that much higher in gluten. You *can* get gluten-free sourdough, so maybe trying that could help you narrow down what's going on.

Good luck, and I'm so sorry. Sourdough is delicious.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:52 PM on February 17, 2011

Do you have problems with other fermented foods like wine, cheese, sauerkraut?
posted by amyms at 12:17 AM on February 18, 2011

i've never had enough pumpernickel to know if it makes me sick. yogurt doesn't, neither does beer. i've not noticed anything with vinegar. i eat a lot of gluten and none of it gives me sudden nausea of sourdough. i have no problems with wine (no stomach problems, it makes my asthma worse). i hate sauerkraut. the interesting one is cheese - i absolutely have the same sort of sick feeling with a lot of cheese - it seems worse if the cheese is melted then if it's solid. it's also bad with blue cheeses and the like.
posted by nadawi at 1:20 AM on February 18, 2011

Ah, your not going to like my answer.

If the information you provided above is true, its in your head. There is no way to be sick from sourdough and not white bread. They are the same thing. Sourdough is simply left out longer. There is a higher acid content in sourdough, but for homemade breads its about the same.

I would try eating a sourdough loaf one day, and then white loaf from the same place the next.

I would bet your having trouble with cheap sourdough, they actually add sour chemicals to it. I could see someone getting sick from it.
posted by Felex at 1:22 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you've ever eaten sourdough, or something similar in flavour, just before becoming sick with food poisoning or a sickness-causing illness, it could be psychological.

I feel nauseous at the slightest hint of wheat bran (which has, for me, its own distinct flavour). And also 'mexican cheese' - a sort of reconstituted cheddar with chillies and other peppers embedded in it that you can find in British supermarkets. In both cases, it was because I was once ill immediately after eating them. In the case of wheat bran, it was twenty years ago, and I still feel nauseous if I try to eat it.

So there's always that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:49 AM on February 18, 2011

Felex, I'd hate for you to be right, and the above posters are saying much of my thoughts, but I'm reaching here, OP, for the love of I'm going to ask the OP again:

Please give us more info to help you.

Sourdough can sometimes be made "levain" style (real sourdough, if you will, with natural wild yeasts and bacteria creating a sourdough "mother" whereas most bread is made with packaged yeast- one flavor, one issue) I am TOTALLY simplifying here, don't get all meta, people (;))..., or it can be made sour with chemicals, like store bought pickles now are, or it can be something else. Sourdough, as you express it, is far too broad a category. I totally get that it's really making you sick, don't get me wrong, but we need more info to help you figure out the details. Because being allergic to levain might mean yogurt, soy, dairy, wine, beer are also things to be worried about in the future. I had a canary, so to speak, and didn't listen when she sang. Think you might want to avoid that painful moment;)

Mold, though? Nope. It's not mold. That will make..well, it depends on your mold allergies, but mold makes way more sense with cheese, aka blue, hallo! and any fresh or soft ripened cheeses. Stick to hard cheese.

Could it be a byproduct of fermentation, rather than the critter doing the work?

Are there any fermentation or biochem helpfuls that can make sense of this?

And even if they don't bother you now, it's something to think on if it's...see? We need more info, please?

Also, is this at a certain place? Time of day? Time of year? When did it start?
posted by metasav at 2:00 AM on February 18, 2011

the interesting one is cheese - i absolutely have the same sort of sick feeling with a lot of cheese

It could be something as simple as you reacting to the histamines in the sourdough and in the various cheeses. All fermented foods contain histamines, and some people are more susceptible to them than others. And, yes, histamine reactions can manifest as stomach discomfort without any other outward signs.

You could try taking an antihistamine (benadryl, loratadine, etc.) before consuming sourdough or cheese and see if that helps relieve your symptoms. But, food allergies aren't really good things to play around with.
posted by amyms at 3:05 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it's histamines, you would also react badly when eating foods made from tomatoes (ketchup, pasta sauce, etc.).

People with urticaria often go on low-histamine diets. You could try looking at this list of histamine foods for people with urticaria to see if any of the foods is a trigger. If a lot of foods on this list make you sick, it might be from the histamines.

Note that alcohol is a big source of histamines, which you don't appear to have a problem with.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:34 AM on February 18, 2011

Doesn't sourdough contain lactic acid (or lactose?)? I thought that was the reason it was sourdough- because it had lactobacillus along with the yeast.

I LOVE sauerkraut, but it gets me feeling a little queasy. Maybe that's the cause?
posted by gjc at 5:50 AM on February 18, 2011

My allergy doc tried to talk me into giving up sourdough bread as well as all cheeses due to the severity of my mold allergy.

So, according to at least one medical professional, your suspicion may be on target.

Also, sourdough makes me nauseated, but I didn't tell the doc that before she put it on the 'no' list. I love the taste of it so much that I eat it anyway, just not very often. And I don't mention it because it's just too weird to have a conversation about.
posted by bilabial at 6:19 AM on February 18, 2011

Just to clarify; there should not be mold in sourdough. In fact sourdough is probably less prone to mold than ordinary bread, thanks to the lactic acid.
posted by HFSH at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2011

If it's any consolation, I find sourdough nauseating too. I don't know how to describe it medically, but it seems like not a big deal. I just don't eat it. Kinda like Cilantro tastes like soap to some people. It's just the way it is.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2011

this has been going on as long as i remember. all sourdough from fresh made on (multiple) farms using a starter, in hoity-toity bakeries, at jack in the box, in grocery stores. if anything, i'd say it's the opposite of what Felex says - the more "real" and natural the sourdough, the more if makes me sick.

i've never had food poisoning around it that i know - and i'm the kind of person who can throw up a kind of food and be eating it again 48 hours later with no ill effects. i'd love if it were all in my head because i LOVE LOVE LOVE the taste of sourdough to the point that i just eat it sometimes even though i know i'll be curled in a ball from it. everyone in my family really likes sourdough. none of them have reactions and we've eaten a lot of the same (fresh, not chemical) sourdough.

i guess i'll just chock it up to one of those things and find joy in my 10 nuts ultra wheat breads.
posted by nadawi at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2011

Although most commercial breads are safe, homemade yeast breads and sourdough breads contain substantial amounts of tyramine.

As do many cheeses, and tyramine is frequently a trigger for migraines.

Sauerkraut also contains significant amounts of tyramine.

Sensitivity to tyramine can apparently cause nausea as well as headaches:

Excessive amounts of tyramine may initially cause headache, heart palpitations, nausea, and vomiting and may lead to a hypertensive crisis that can be fatal ...
posted by jamjam at 10:10 PM on March 27, 2011

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