20% Rye loaf
Today's Bread is a simple 20% Rye loaf, made more or less in the Tartine Bread style.
- 80% whole wheat berries
- 20% rye kernels
- 80% water
- 2% salt
- 20% sourdough starter
The bread was fine. My wife liked it a lot. She refused to let me give one of these loaves to my friend David, she thought we might need it this weekend when company came to visit. We didn't. There was a lot to eat. Too much, in fact -- as always.
Today I want to talk about some easy tests that one can perform to determine whether a food is harmful to you or not. But lets start by examining one of the tests of the Tartine method. Please note that Chad Robertson falls short of calling this test a "proof," as many other stages of breadmaking have been traditionally labelled. I think that's wise.
Tartine Sourdough Float Test
I've mentioned the Tartine Bread test of the viability of the sourdough starter before: the Tartine sourdough starter is supposed to float, when added to water. That is a rather simple test, which some people have experienced, and yet other people who have tried the Tartline method have reported problems with achieving it.
For me, in the beginning my whole wheat starter would sink, but now I can usually get it to float somewhat, for a second or two, if I time the starter appropriately. But I'm not even sure that my starter ought to float, since it is not identical to the Tartine sourdough starter: my starter is whole grain, whereas the Tartine starter is not. Will that make a difference? Or would changing the hydration of the starter make a difference? How long ought the starter to float before it then sinks or dissolves in water?
I'm still not really convinced that the test is telling me anything important. I can make bread with or without the float test. I tend to think that any dough is going to float unless it becomes waterlogged. The sourdough is already half water. The other half is flour, which when mixed with water immediately begins building a network of gluten, which can trap both air and the product of yeasts and lactic bacteria -- gas and alcohol. How much gas? How much alcohol? Alcohol is less dense than water, so will it promote floating? Brewers like to measure the specific gravity of their worts, but bakers are more interested in the gas than the alcohol, which burns away upon baking. But if there is more alcohol, there is going to be some CO2 as well -- at least until the cells that trap the dough become waterlogged and release the gas. So the graph of when the ball of sourdough sinks might be more or less linear. Sink or swim, the ball of sourdough is going to contain some viable yeast and LAB cells, some water, some alcohol, some gas, some food for the microbiota in the form of flour amylose. The density of water changes with temperature; at 4 degrees C, it is about 1.0 g/cubic c; at room temperature, between 60 or 80 degrees C, it will be about 0.98-0.97 g/cubic c. Ethanol is going to be less, somewhere around 0.79 g/cubic c. But ethanol and water freely mix, so they will not remain separate for long.
So what difference does the Tartine float test make on a loaf? Clearly, there is a lot more going on in my sourdough than I can describe easily. And this simple test is a lot more complicated than it first appears. If we don't actually know what we are testing, why are we doing this test?
Yet in the absence of actually counting how many viable cells there are in my sourdough, a simple test like this may be the only kitchen-worthy method of discovery that we have. It is simple, it gives us a yardstick into the viability of the starter, and it is fast. Even if it might be bogus. And I'm not saying it is bogus. I'm just saying -- we don't actually know what it proves, or even what it is testing.
Update on my Juicer
Our juicer arrived the other day, and we've used it a couple of times, with great curiosity and interest. It does take some time to cut up the veggies and mash them into the grinder, but it is also fun and we are enjoying this honeymoon/ experimentation phase with our new appliance. Some of the drinks have been pretty awful, but some are surprisingly tasty.
As I've been reading more and more about juicing, and raw, 'living' foods recently, it didn't take me long to encounter some of the theories about balancing Acidic and Alkaline foods (such as those examined by Kris Carr in her video "Crazy Sexy Cancer", e.g. Young, R. (2010) The pH Miracle: balance your diet, reclaim your health). I've been dipping into various books on the matter, as well as revisiting some of the books I've had for some time on raw diets (but never actually read, because I assumed it was not for me).
It turns out, you can't believe everything you see on these videos; and you can't always believe everything you read, either. At least, I can't seem to take it at face value, I have to look at it a bit more closely. For example, there is the question of digestive leukocytosis.
Recently I watched the video "Food Matters" and heard the talking heads who were being interviewed quote a study by Swiss researcher Paul Kouchakoff from the 1930s. This video touted the benefits of a Raw Food diet, and Kouchakoff's study is one of those chestnuts that is frequently trotted out by those who are pro-raw food as proof that the body considers all cooked foods toxins. Kouchakoff is supposed to have compared white blood cells (both number and types) when eating raw foods, cooked foods, or highly refined foods, and found that raw foods do not alter the body's leukocytes; but cooked foods do, and processed foods do even more. Kouchakoff went on to determine at what temperature various foods (cereals, nuts, vegetables, dairy products, seafood, meat) cause this increase in white blood cells -- because we also see white blood cells increase when the body senses inflammation. He concludes that eating cooked and processed foods leads to a pathological state.
However, this study has largely been ignored by the scientific community because it was not reproducible, or else Kouchakoff's conclusions could not be entirely supported by observable evidence. Today, scientists note that many things affect the body's white blood cell count and distribution: in addition to inflammation and toxins that might increase white blood cells, there are also variants by sex, age, race, level of excitement, exercise, diet, time of day, and season of the year, leading some to suggest that things as subtle as changes in the intensity of sunlight might be triggers for changing the body's leukocyte homeostasis. Videbaek's 1946 study (Videbaek, A. (1946) Is 'digestive leukocytosis' a reality? Acta med scand. 123(5) pp. 449-471) was enough to poo-poo Kouchakoff's conclusions in the minds of mainstream scientists (see, for example, Englebreth-Holm and Videbaek, A. (1948) Normal Blood counts in different seasons). The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine says that you can have elevated white blood cells after eating a large meal. How much food did Kouchakoff's subjects eat? That doesn't seem to be part of the study.
And yet, perhaps there is something to it. We know that white blood cells do elevate, sometimes dramatically, when the body encounters stress, or toxins, or inflammation, or trauma, etc.
The term "digestive leukocytosis" is not really used much anymore. Instead, leukocytosis is defined by the type of white blood cell that is predominately elevated: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Which of these are elevated will help the physician diagnose what's happening.
These days, even instead of a specific leukocytosis, one hears of "leukemoid reaction", "systemic inflammatory response syndrome," (SIRS), sepsis, and leukaemia. Besides these named conditions, there can be a rapid increase of white blood cells due to inflammation. Often it is due to the white blood cells themselves encountering inflammation, and sending out "colony stimulating factor" or CSF, to ask the bones to release more white blood cells to help fight the inflammation. The body's response is very quick indeed.
Possibly a form of leukocytosis could be a result of ingesting something toxic to the body. Possibly a form of leukocytosis could be a result of ingesting a cooked food. So again, there might be something to it.
But what? Like the Tartine sourdough starter float test, do we even know what we are testing for, when we check the blood for leukocytes following a meal of a single food following a fast? How do we know whether what we are testing for is significant? Is any correlation causative?
And without a lab in one's basement to actually check the blood values as they change, what can the average person do with the knowledge that the white blood cells change when we eat different things?
More info on inflammatory reactions to food might be garnered if instead of white blood cells we tested homocysteine levels, or C-Reactive Protein in the blood. But again, who has that kind of lab in their basement?
Tests in Felicia Drury Kliment's book
I've been perusing with great fascination Felicia Kliment's popular book, "The Acid Alkaline Balance Die (2010)." This book has drawn a wide range of comments from reviewers on Amazon, from those who love it, to those who hate it, and the mid-range reviewers mostly didn't get what they thought they were buying.
I'm simply interested in it for the various tests that she includes. These tests seem simple enough to do without a laboratory. Whether or not the tests are bogus or not is beside the point, at the moment: for me, it is enough that they are interesting. They are also simple to perform in the home without a full laboratory, so anyone can try them.
Kliment suggests that the foods we eat can result in waste products following digestion (or partial digestion) that leave our body in either an acidic state or an alkaline state. She does not make the mistake that some other authors do, who suggest we ought to eat to balance our pH: these often forget that the stomach itself is quite acidic, and so despite what the food originally starts out with, its pH is going to change chemically anyway. She notes that some foods start out acidic, but after digestion some of them actually tend to act as a base to neutralize the pH levels. Therefore some of her recommendations can be surprising.
Kliment once suffered from acid reflux herself, and discovered that eating foods that did not trigger this ailment, she could correct it. Based on her experience with stomach acids, she came to the conclusion that there are three different ways people metabolize foods: quickly, with excess stomach acid, slowly, with reduced stomach acid, or balanced. To discover which metabolic type one is, she uses the simple test devised by the dentist/nutritionist Dr. William Donald Kelley (author of One Answer to Cancer, Self Test for the Different Metabolic Types and The Kelley Program) in the 1970s: The idea is to take 50mg of Niacin with water on an empty stomach, and observe its effects 30 minutes after ingestion. Niacin, or vitamin B3, is water-soluble and acidic, and will complement the stomach's acidity, she says. If after eating 50mg of niacin you are flushed, feel heat, and itch, you have a "meat-eating metabolism" (she says) and require meat to slow your metabolism down. If you feel warmer, have better colour and feel euphoria, you have a balanced metabolism and can eat anything. If you feel nothing, you have a "grain eating metabolism" who will thrive on quickly moving grains, as well as fish. She calls this the "Metabolic Type Niacin Test." How reliable it is, I won't hazard a guess. But wikipedia currently says that the RDA for niacin for adult men is 16mg/day, and that most people get the niacin flush at 35mg/day. So with this metabolic typing, just about everyone is going to have a "meat eating metabolism," if you are niacin-naive. Of course, this is a vitamin that is sometimes prescribed or suggested by physicians to people who want to lower their cholesterol; the flushing of the skin can go away with repeated use. Notice that Kliment doesn't mention whether the suggested dose of niacin might be different for different body weights, or if you have already been eating a lot of animal products (organ meats contain fairly high amounts), or lots of grains (whole grains contain quite a bit). As DoctorYourself.com suggests, everyone's 'saturation level' of niacin is going to be different. So how can the flushing at 50mg be diagnostic for everyone? (Incidentally, I've found that Metabolic Typing is still going strong today, witness: The Metabolic Institute; but various firms that promote Metabolic Typing have fallen into disrepute among mainstream medicine and at times they have even run afoul of the law -- see for example, the wiki, or the work of Nicholas Gonzalez, which continues and expands Kelley's work. See also Quackwatch's article on Gonzalez.)
Still not sure, after taking the niacin test, about whether you should change your diet from vegetarian to carnivore, or vice versa? I wouldn't be. To confirm the diagnosis of one's body type, Kliment says, one should take 8g of vitamin C for 3 days to see how you feel: increased irritability, depression or exhaustion indicates a meat-eating metabolism, no change means a balanced metabolism, and more energy means a grain-eating metabolism (she says). Since the RDA for vitamin C is currently set at 90mg, Kliment's suggested dose of 8000mg seems a bit high. I think I would be irritable at that dose, considering how much vitamin I'd be peeing down the toilet. I'd probably be exhausted because I'd also have diarrhea, and the toilet and I would be great pals at the end of those 3 days.
Kliment suggests that the (2 or 3) different metabolic types have evolved from different human cultures and communities who obtained most of their diet from either grains or meats. Indeed, she makes some specific sweeping claims about various cultures throughout the book which seem a bit uncomfortable, like racial profiling.
I am more interested in another test, popularized in her book, and following the work of the Dr. Arthur F. Coca in 1994, whereby she says we can determine if we are allergic to any given food. Before one can perform the test on any given foodstuff, one must take one's pulse, several times a day, to arrive at one's norm. She suggests the pulse be counted in the morning before arising, and then again before meals, and finally in the hour of sleep. If the rate never exceeds 84, she says, "you probably don't have any food allergies." After a week of monitoring the pulse, one examines the pulse before, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes after eating one food on an empty stomach. From Kliment's experience, a pulse that is 4-5 beats higher after eating than before eating indicates an allergic reaction. Alternatively, one can test the blood pressure; if it reads 135/85 30 minutes after eating a specific food, it indicates an allergic reaction (provided you started out with a BP of 130/80 or less): again, 4-5 degrees higher indicates an allergic reaction. This allergy test she calls "The Pulse Test."
Kliment also uses a similar test using a thermometer to check one's thyroid status (she calls it the Basal Thermometer Test, or the Test for Underactive Thyroid, and cites the work of Dr. Broda Barrens). This test is the first step, and then there are a raft of other blood tests that can complement it or narrow down the problems. Blood pressure and temperature together give information on the thyroid. Kliment goes on to suggest some foods to eat and avoid that will remedy one's thyroid hormones.
It occurred to me that Kliment's pulse test might be something I could try, since I fast twice a week, and could trial some different foods on an empty stomach quite easily. And of course, I am curious about whether eating bread affects me negatively. Unfortunately, my heart rate never seems to get over 60 when I test it at rest. I do notice some subtle changes in my heart rate and blood pressure when I over-eat, but this doesn't seem to be tied to any specific food, and it is not an increase of 4-5 beats/min like Kliment says. I really don't think that the pulse test is sensitive enough to tell me that any food I eat is causing me to be allergic or sensitive to it. Perhaps with some people, the test might work, I don't know.
I'm not convinced, but if some people find these tests work for them, and they believe it, why not go for it? For me, I wish it was that easy.
Simpler tests, but more and more bogus
Of course there are even easier ways of finding out allergic reactions to food, if you can believe them. You can try the applied kinesiology techniques of Dr. David R. Hawkins and others. Simply hold the food item in one hand, and try to hold up the other arm while someone pushes your arm down. If that foodstuff is no good for you, you will be weaker. Or so they say.
You could also try a pendulum to contact your subconscious. Is that piece of chocolate really good for you? Your subconscious knows it isn't, and the pendulum will swing in the "don't eat me!" position, no matter how your conscious mind intends to swing it in the "eat me!" position. Or so they say.
Update on the Juicing
The point of all this is, we have to be careful what we believe. We have to be careful what we think we are measuring. I might believe that juicing is going to make me healthier in the long run, but I also know that its going to cost me something. I am going to be ingesting a lot more vegetables than ever before, and that's a good thing, but I also look at the piles of fiber that I'm composting with each juice I make, and I think, "I used to eat all that." What am I really gaining by drinking these juices instead of eating the whole thing? As long as I still eat the same amount of vegetables that I used to, in addition to the juicing, I am really just flooding my system with mega amounts of micronutrients, in concentrated form. What will that do to my bread craving, I wonder?
One of my first thoughts when I saw the amount of fiber I was throwing away was, "I wonder if I can add that to my bread?" Another thought was, "Why can't I ferment it and eat it?" No doubt I'll end up trying both, as I walk this new path (juicing, raw food) while still straddling the old diet path (my whole grain bread, and a diet that is lacto-ovo vegetarian).
Eventually, something's gotta give. When I begin the detox from bread and other dead foods, perhaps I will decide never to return to them. Or will I?
I'm very curious to learn whether or not I'll break my bread addiction following a juice fast of 10, 21, 30 or 60 days (haven't decided yet how long or what form the detox will take. More research is necessary). And if I do, will I become a complete vegan ("one of those people"), or will I still eat some dairy product?
I guess I'll just have to wait and see. The only real test in the end is whether I feel better after a detox, and if a bread-free diet would be sustainable or desirable for me.
I guess I'll just have to wait and see. The only real test in the end is whether I feel better after a detox, and if a bread-free diet would be sustainable or desirable for me.
Notes to Myself
- I still have lots of questions about juicing. Is an organic carrot that is pulled from the ground, washed, bagged and shipped halfway around the world still a living food, once you juice it? If you believe in the benefits of whole foods, how can you justify throwing away that much pulp? If you believe in the benefits of local eating, how can you justify going 1000miles or more to get a vegetable, or 10000miles to get a fruit? I'm just a neophyte when it comes to juicing, and not yet a total convert. I've just spent 3+ years baking bread and insisting on whole grain bread, and here I am starting to eat fruits and vegetables that are not whole. Does that make sense?
- I wonder what it would be like to add wheatgrass juice to bread, as the bread's hydration. I'm sure the raw foodists wold be horrified: go to all that trouble to get a raw living juice, and then totally destroy it in the oven? Tsk tsk. And yet I'm still straddling the two worlds, still thinking about bread while I'm making juice.
- I have not yet begun my 'detox' (or what Joe Cross calls a 'reboot'). Since I'm not overweight (according to my BMI, that is; I have never calculated my total body fat), I wonder if I even need the detox. Perhaps I will just feel better -- healthier, more energetic, younger -- if I give up bread and dairy and embrace the juice. Do I have one of those systemic Candida yeast infections, and if I detox it will be like coming out of a fog? Or am I one of the lucky people who is already fairly healthy, on my lacto-ovo veggie diet? Who knows? Unless I try it, I will never know.