All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Flax Seed WW Bread

Flax Seed Whole Wheat Bread

Another sourdough bread.  The unusual thing about it was how long it fermented, and how it fermented mostly in the refrigerator.  It may be that long fermentation will break down the flax seed hulls and allow the omega-3 goodness out, even though the seeds appear to be intact in the finished loaf.  They certainly make the dough mucilaginous.

I was looking for sesame seeds, to make a Moroccan Kobz, but couldn't find my stash.  I really must get my grains organized.  I had less than an hour to throw together some dough before I had to drive to work, so I grabbed the next best thing: some flax seeds.  I emptied my bag into the whole wheat and wheat germ mixture, and it came to 225g of flax.

  • 100% ww
  • 5% wheat germ
  • 75% hydration
  • 20% sourdough starter
  • 23% flax seeds
  • 2% salt

Dough just out of the Fridge

Proofed loaves, scored & ready for baking on the stone

Finished bread on top of a map of Point Pelee

Since I wouldn't be around to stretch and fold this, after adding the salt I kneaded it for 5 minutes (all that I could afford), covered the bowl with stretchy plastic and put it in the fridge.  It stayed there for 15 hours, then I took it out, and an hour later (it was still cool), I kneaded it again until it warmed up, and I shaped the dough to fit into baskets.  Then it went back in the fridge, and I fell asleep

Now the strange thing was, I slept poorly.  Sometimes this happens when I'm switching from days to nights (or, as in this case, from nights to days).  I awoke extremely lucid, vibrant, well-rested, but my heart sank when I checked my watch and discovered I'd slept only 2 hours.  I tried to sleep some more, but it was no use.  So up I got.  I took the dough out of the fridge, dealt with the confused animals who thought it was breakfast time at 0130, and then tried once more to sleep.

A couple of hours later, when I realized that sleep was never going to come, I got up and baked this bread before I had to go to work.  The loaves were baked on a stone, with steam.  The first 20 minutes, they had baker's parchment under them too; I had used it to transfer the loaves, not sure how much they would spread once brought to room temperature.  I needn't have worried, this dough did not sag (and didn't expand either).  I removed the baker's parchment for the final 20 minutes, at 450 degrees F.

One of the finished loaves shows stress fractures, evidence I think of incomplete proofing.  I expected these loaves to be fairly dense.  At 75% hydration, they retained their shape even though the gluten wasn't well developed.  I'm fairly certain that this is due to the mucilage in the flax seeds, making the dough more cohesive.  This is a stickiness that you can feel on your hands when you try to stretch the dough, fail, and decide to knead it.

One of these loaves was given away to a neighbour, who recently asked to try my bread.  I was a bit leery about giving it away, since it is just another experimental loaf, not my best, more dense than usual, etc.  I will simply have to give her another one, perhaps a pan integrale made in the Tartine style.  She called after trying it, to thank me for it.

And it turns out, she did us a huge favour by taking one of these loaves.  The problem with this loaf is that it stales quickly.  Two loaves would have been far too much to get through before it would become tough as nails.  Cut thinly, it is a nice bread with jam.  And since my wife has just made a batch of elderberry-peach jam, what else was I going to put on it?  

Next morning, I used a couple of slices to make French toast, over which I put some huckleberry syrup (that was supposed to be huckleberry jam from our garden, but it didn't become jam, it is too wet.  Still tastes good). That was nice.  I think that the bread would also be nice as a panini.  A bit of oil might help it soften up.

Sleeplessness and Bread
Recently I've been playing around with fasting a couple of days a week.  It turns out that I don't have much trouble with it, so I guess I am able to stop my bread craving long enough to go 24 hours or more without eating (anything).  I do like to eat bread, but I am able to go without it, with few problems.  So it would seem that the term "Exorphin Junkie" is really still just a tongue-in-cheek jibe.  That is what I intended when I started this blog anyway.

But fasting hasn't been a complete breeze.  

I have reported headaches -- which seem to be rectified by drinking more fluids -- and I've reported constipation -- But I'm not talking about real constipation, the kind I deal with on a daily basis with my patients who are on a lot of narcotics, and haven't had a BM in 3 days or more.  I'm just talking about how when you stop the steady stream of intake, your steady stream of output stops.  And things get packed, which makes things a bit slow to get started again.  TMI?  Perhaps.  But I think its important to discuss such things.  Again, if I drink more fluids on a fast day, this becomes less of a problem.

But I've also reported another side effect of fasting, and that is sleep disturbance.  It may be, as I originally thought, that this side effect is due to my shift work, and switching from days to nights, etc.  On the other hand, it may be linked to the fasting.  And its this possibility that I wanted to discuss here.

According to Wikipedia, we've only known about Leptin (from Greek leptos, meaning "thin") a short while.  Work started on it in the 1950's, but apparently it was only isolated in 1994, when Friedman and Coleman studied mutated morbidly obese mice who lacked the gene to produce Leptin on their own.  Injections of the hormone into these mice returned them to normal weight.  The Ob(Lep) gene on chromosome 7 encodes the hormone production in humans.

Leptin is manufactured mostly in fat cells of white adipose tissue*: how much is in your circulatory system at any given time thus depends upon how much white adipose tissue you have.  The usual** target of Leptin is receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain, which then knows to alter the appetite (in general, if you have lots of leptin, you don't feel hungry).  

But apparently leptin is a fragile hormone, and can break down fairly easily.  Lots of different things can affect it.  And how it gets beyond the blood-brain barrier is still a bit of a mystery.  Let's just say there remain a lot of mysteries remaining about Leptin.  But the short of it: lots of things can go awry.  Like insulin, another circulating hormone, we can apparently build up a resistance to high levels of leptin (so we see morbidly obese people with high levels of leptin, and the leptin should be telling the brain and body "don't bother eating;" but the message isn't getting through). Also, leptin is affected by levels of insulin, and other hormones like testosterone and estrogen.  The whole thing gets complex quickly.  

But you don't have to know all this consciously.  The body adjusts its own hormones on the fly.  

The hypothalamus regulates a lot of autonomic nervous system functions besides hunger: body temperature, thirst, fatigue, sleep and the body's response to the circadian rhythm.  That tiny brain structure has dozens of functions, many of them interrelated.  

Now that we know this minimum of info on a very complex subject, we can piece together the following:  

  • The hypothalamus is involved in both sleep and hunger, and the hormone leptin is involved in both.
  • When you eat more calories than you need to support cell division, and current energy levels, and you add to your white adipose tissue levels, leptin levels will rise.  (The body says, "You've eaten enough, you're satiated")  -- But that's not the whole story, since morbidly obese people will have higher leptin levels and it won't stop them from hunger and the need to eat more.
  • When you fast, or if you follow a very low calorie diet, leptin levels fall.  (The body says, "you're hungry, better eat") -- but the strange thing is, the body adapts to the lower level of leptin, hunger isn't as much of a concern.
  • Leptin levels rise when we experience stress.  (The body is saying "I don't need to spend my energy eating now, I have to deal with this stressful situation by either flight or fight.  You're not hungry, I have to attend to this situation").  -- But I must stress (sorry) that stress is not a really good way to lose weight.
  • Inflammation can occur due to stress.  Leptin levels increase when there is inflammation.  In fact, leptins look a lot like cytokines, the part of injured cells that hook onto white blood cells to do a mop-up job, and cause an inflammation response at the sight of the injured tissue.  We tend to see higher leptin levels with higher white blood cell counts.  -- But here is what I don't understand: some people who become emotionally distressed will eat more, to sooth themselves.  If stressed, shouldn't leptin levels be high, and therefore food wouldn't be desired?
  • Leptin levels can be thus be used as a marker for obesity, stress and inflammation.  But levels do fluctuate on what appears to be an ad hoc basis, and the interrelatedness of this hormone and others working in concert make leptin non-specific for all of these things.  -- Personally, I think lots more work has to be done before we can say for sure even what we are measuring.

The relationship between leptin and sleep deprivation has been studied -- starting with obese people who are experiencing sleep apnea, with its resulting sleep disturbance.  In these cases, researchers found that sleep caused leptin levels to rise (Is this the body's way of telling obese people, "you aren't hungry, you need to sleep"?).  But we cannot, from these studies, merely extrapolate and say that  when we get a good night's sleep, leptin levels rise.  On the other hand, if you deprive yourself of sleep, your leptin levels fall, and you crave food -- especially carbs, apparently (And is this your body's way of saying, "eat some carbs and fall asleep"?).  As with any of these hormone-regulated body-changes, the levels of hormones in the blood at any given time can tell us many things, but the body knows more than we ever will about what it needs, and if we monkey with these things, it may disturb our self-regulating controls, our feedback loops.  If you inject leptin to curb your appetite, you may end up becoming resistant to it, and you might end up gaining weight.  If you don't know what you're doing, it's like cranking up the air conditioner while baking bread because its too hot in the kitchen.

There are a lot of things I still need to learn about leptin, and how eating whole grain bread affects it.  A study I read (Jensen, M. et al. (2006) "Whole grains, bran and germ in relation to homocysteine and markers of glycemic control, lipids and inflammation" Am J Clin Nutr 83(2) pp. 275-283 says leptin levels go down, but this is counterintuitive, because whole grain satiates, and high leptin levels are associated with satiety.  What that study described was that high leptin levels could be a predictor of weight gain.  

The subject can get complicated quickly when you are dealing with sleep cycles and fasting.  I'm going to keep an eye on what happens when I fast, and my sleep patterns.  I want to know if my sleep problem the other night was a side-effect of the fast, or due to my switching from working nights to working days.  Normally I have no trouble sleeping.  But I have always wondered how my switching around from working days to nights affects my cortisol levels, too.  More hormones.  I'll have to save that for some other time.

Notes to Myself
  • You could increase the hydration of this dough, but you also must develop the gluten somehow -- either by stretch&folds, or by kneading. The long refrigerated bulk fermenting is okay -- there wasn't an overly sour taste -- but you really have to let it come to room temperature before baking it. Even 2 hours may not be enough.
  • We've all heard the stories of bakers who get up in the wee hours to bake ("time to make the donuts," the old TV commercial had Fred the baker saying, when the rest of the world slept). Do bakers live a sleep deprived life because they are eating more carbs, or do they eat more carbs because they are sleep deprived, I wonder?
  • Brown adipose tissue also manufactures leptin, but we don't have as much of that, as adults.
  • ** The role of Leptin as a paracrine is established also, but I still don't know much about it.  
  • The Jensen study was helpful to me, because I learned that whole grains do not in themselves cause inflammation, something I often wondered about.

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