Natural Leaven Starter, Many Grain Varieties, Even Gluten Free – Ask Dr. Dough

Natural Leaven starter can be made with most grains, including gluten free.

Dr. Matt McClean,

I’m wondering on all the different [Natural Leaven starter] grains…  why are there so many?  Like, why would someone use an oat start?  Or a gluten free start?  I’ve never heard of that before.  I think it’s REALLY cool, & it makes me want to order all of them, to be honest!  But I’m more curious than anything. Do they arrive dry flakes or wet? Jennifer


Many Grain Varieties

Each Natural Leaven starter has inherent bacteria and yeast specific to that grain. We often think of a start being passed down through the centuries.  It is very romantic to think that “my starter came from the pyramids of Egypt” or was “carried across the American plains during the 1800s”. The truth is that the location or origin of the starter matters only for a while.  The environment that you keep the Natural Leaven starter determines which microbes flourish.  For example, when a wheat starter is kept at body temperature around 98.6 degrees F, the bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae will become the dominant cultures.  This will change the flavor, health attributes, and rising characteristics.  So why starters with different grains?  Concerning health, many people will do well when using our hard white wheat natural leaven.  This leaven works well with the grains that most people are using (hard white and hard red wheat).  It will also work well with other grains.  However, some people still react to the modern hard white and red wheat and have switched to some of the ancient grains (ie. Kamut, Spelt, Einkorn, & Emmer).  They prefer to begin with an ancient grain Natural Leavening start already adapted to their grains of choice.

Gluten Free Starters

For people that know that they are extremely sensitive to wheat, we suggest using a gluten free Natural Leaven starters such as oat or sweet brown rice.  Research, from earlier this year, shows that even the gluten free grains cause inflammation.  Many people with gluten sensitivities have switched to gluten free grains but still struggle with gut issues.  Surprisingly, the culprit may be the gluten free grains that they are eating which still cause inflammation.  Using natural leavening with gluten free grains can help to detoxify the gluten free grains as well as provide beneficial bacteria to begin healing the gut. We go into this topic in more depth in our upcoming book.

Shelf stable Natural Leavening

We send Natural Leaven starter to you dry, so they are shelf stable.  We send you enough to begin your start four times.  Only one attempt is usually needed.  So just put the rest of the Natural Leaven starter in your storage for a later date.  We have not found an expiration date.  Some people have compared our Leaven with other grain starters and said that Old World Natural Leavening is very active.  I don’t know why.  We do not add any yeast, pro-biotic, grape leaves, or potato peels. The answer is probably just the Leaven feeding methods that we teach.

For kitchen help and more articles on, sign up for Dr. Dough Blog. To see the Natural Leavening starter varieties, click here. If you have questions about natural leavening, “Ask Dr. Dough” by commenting anywhere on


Part 1/5 describes “Mildly Sweet Natural Yeast”.

Part 2/5 responds to “Making a Smelly Start”.

Part 3/5 answers, “Why all the different grain starts?”

Part 4/5 talks about, “Natural Leavening, Ancient and Gluten Free Grains”.

Part 5/5 lists “Health Benefits of Natural Leavening”.

Dr. Matthew R. McClean’s clinic focuses nutrition, lifestyle, and structural changes. To schedule an appointment to see Dr. Matthew McClean, click here.


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