Sourdough and Spices

The business of the Christmas season has kept me away from my cultures for quite some time, so I have several interesting developments to report. First off, my SCOBY is still thin but is coming along nicely.


I started a second one as well (I used a different brand of kombucha this time, in hopes that it will grow a more substantial skin).


I started this kombucha on December 14th, and today, on January 3rd,  I found that not only has it grown a SCOBY, but the SCOBY is a hard disk with a strange dark growth hanging off of it.img_6734


My culture growing in the citric acid-dyed medium is, as predicted, not showing much sign of life. It appears a bit cloudy, but that is all right now.


I started two more cultures using samples from my inner cheek (exactly as I had for the above culture), this time “dying” them with spices. The orange one is colored by chili powder and the yellow one by turmeric.


The exciting part of this for me is that not only did both the naturally-dyed mediums produce growth, but that they produced noticeably different growths. The turmeric culture is the one that looks vaguely reminiscent of a map one might use in to create a fantasy world and the chili culture is the one that looks like a fuzzy grey mess.


I took both cheek swabs at the same time on the same day, so I believe that the difference comes from the nutrition provided by the two spices involved. I found a study suggesting that turmeric and one of its biologically active components, curcumin, can increase the variety of species found in the human gut. However, another study investigating the prebiotic potential of seven different culinary spices found that turmeric was the only one among them that did not enhance the growth of Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. (the two which are primarily indicated in affecting MDD). I have not found any similar studies investigating chili powder. What began as an experiment in coloring my growth medium has led me to learning about how food components may alter the gut microbiome.


I mentioned previously that I wanted to investigate The Sourdough School, and now I am on the topic of food, so it seems like a good segway. While The Sourdough School explains many potential health benefits of sourdough, including low glycemic response, increased mineral bioavailability, and various activity of enzymes produced during fermentation. I decided to check out these claims externally, and a quick search brought me to a fascinating article describing the clinical effects of sourdough, wholegrain, and white bread. The study found that after a week-long dietary intervention, the gut microbiota responses were highly individualized. In other words, the preexisting microbes of any given person will change how they respond to a bread type, to the extent that the researchers concluded that it is inadvisable to give any blanket recommendations to all people about what type of bread to consume. Unlike with turmeric, bread did not seem to have such a dramatic response from the colonies in a person’s gut. However, they also found that it was possible to predict an individual’s glycemic response (changes in blood sugar level) to bread based on their microbiome. This means that in the future, dietary recommendations may be given after sampling the person’s microbiome, in order to predict which foods will be best for them personally.


My takeaway from all of this so far is that 1) Many food components can easily alter the microbiome, 2) these alterations are not always beneficial to treating mental health, and 3) whether or not they are beneficial or detrimental depends heavily on individual variations.

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