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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unexplained weight gain, may be poor liver function

The issue of weight is a prevalent source of discontent especially in western cultures. It seems that we have woken up and realized that weight control is about much more than keeping up appearances. Obesity rates have skyrocketed along with the associated adverse health conditions. Each year more and more people choose to eat right and exercise but still struggle with weight issues and chronic degenerative conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, etc.

A seldom-discussed yet extremely important aspect of weight loss is liver function. Traditional diets see-saw between high fat, nutritionally void foods and weight loss gimmicks and products that actually causes people to gain weight in the long run. In the middle of all this is a liver that grows, quite literally, fattier and more sluggish by the day.

The liver has two distinct and highly important functions. First, it is the body's chief blood detoxifier. Secondly, the liver is the body's primary fat metabolizer. Once the liver becomes sluggish and fatty it performs neither job well and we begin to pack on the pounds in earnest and have great difficulty losing the weight once it is on.

What are some causes of a fatty liver

A high fat diet (primarily animal fat) will most likely cause the liver to malfunction over time. Animal fats tend to contain toxic materials that were trapped by the animals body. When we ingest these fats the toxins are released in the liver where they have the ability to cause damage, inducing poor liver function.

Another cause of fatty liver is artificial sweetener use. Artificial sweeteners have been touted by industry as a zero calorie marvel that will help consumers reduce calories and lose weight. What is not revealed is that artificial sweeteners generally lead to long term weight gain. How, do you ask? Artificial sweeteners completely bypass the normal digestive stages and are immediately taken into the liver. The liver basically shuts down all other metabolic processes, including metabolizing fat, to contend with the sweetener. The fats in the liver are either released - without being fully metabolized - into the blood stream to be stored as unprocessed material or they attach themselves to the liver. Either way,this is bad news for your weight and health.

An additional prevalent culprit behind fatty live is excessive alcohol use. Before the alcohol causes cirrhosis it makes the liver fatty, which is the beginning of the road to dysfunctional health and weight gain. Your liver will work at burning off alcohol before it burns off fat, making your weight loss take a back seat if you're indulging more that you should.

Finally, prescription and over-the-counter medications have adverse effects on the liver. Notice that almost all of the pharmaceutical commercials mention the liver and liver function. It is because they know how detrimental their medications areto the liver and the health dysfunctions, like weight gain, cirrhosis and liver failure that will occur when using their products. Continue taking your prescriptions but seek a holistic health professional who can assist with eliminating the underlying cause(s) of your condition which would eliminate the need for the medication.

How to avoid or reverse a fatty liver

Here are a few helpful tips that can get you started or keep you on the road to healthy liver function.

• Avoid artificial sweetener use
• Restrict or eliminate alcohol consumption
• Nourish the liver with fresh citrus juices, milk thistle, and licorice. A mixture of cayenne and lemon juice or cayenne and vegetable juice is a great liver nutritive
• Detoxify the colon to keep the digestive system flowing which increases metabolism and aids the liver in its proper functioning
• Chlorophyll is water is a great way to slowly detox your liver all day long

It is clear that poor liver function will most likely lead to a malfunctioning and fatty liver, in turn making weight gain probable and weight loss unlikely. If you are working diligently at exercising and eating right but still struggle to lose weight have your liver function checked to shed light on this little-known aspect of weight management.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownies & GF Baking Secrets

I've slowly been adapting my Gran's recipes into gluten free for myself and my family, some have gone horribly wrong and others have needed tweaking. So here's one that was one of my fav's as a kid and has become the most asked "bring to parties" dessert that I've converted.

I have perfected the gluten free brownie!
It took me 10 different times to make this work but this one is a winner. I like to make them in the small muffin tin (without the paper lining) and they come out moist and chewy. Please let me know how they turn out for you.

Chewy, moist and chocolatey, but not exactly
low in calories so indulge in moderation
Gluten Free Chocolate
Chip Brownies
- 2 squares Bakers semi-sweetened
chocolate, melted
- 1/2 C butter, unsalted†

- 1/2 C cocoa
- 1 C Gluten Free All Purpose Flour*
- 1/4 C oat bran
- 1/2 C almonds, ground (optional)
- 1/4 C flax seed, ground
- 1/2 C white sugar  (you can sub white sugar with Agave nectar)
- 1/2 C brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 1 C water (1/2C at a time)
- 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melt the butter (and optional coconut oil) and chocolate squares in a bowl over hot water (bain marie), cool a bit before adding to wet ingredients. Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.
Sift the flour, coca into a large bowl and add the remaining dry ingredients, mix together with a whisk. In a separate bowl add lightly beaten eggs, 1/2C of the water and the cooled melted chocolate/butter, mix until incorporated. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and 1/2 C the water, mix together and let the badder sit for 10-15 minutes. Mix in the other 1/2 C of water and fold in the chocolate chips.
Place the mixture 3/4 high into bite sizes muffin tins and bake for 15-20minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place on a rack and cool for 20 minutes, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Gluten Free Baking Secrets
Gluten free can be very dry and very dense when you first start baking with it. It's the nature of the grains used, it doesn't have the gluten in it to help it rise and make it light and flaky. So here's a few tricks I've learned on the way to help with that fact.

So here's a few secrets to baking with gluten free flour:
- Let the final mixture soak in the 1/2 the water for about 10-15 minutes, you'll notice it soaks up the water and becomes stiff and sticky. Then add the second half of the water, mix and put them into the muffin tin or baking dish to bake.
- Sifting the flour not only takes out lumps it also adds air to the mix, making baked goods lighter
- When baking flaky pie crusts or scones use cold butter and cold water and let the dough rest in the fridge (as you would regular dough) to keep the butter cold. When it bakes the butter melts and releases steam that makes the pockets of air in the scone or pie crust, making it flaky.
- Try not to overwork badder or dough, mix minimally just to incorporate the ingredients and pat the dough down instead of rolling it out.
- Beating the egg whites and folding them in will also make your baked goods lighter. Great for GF cakes and cupcakes.

Or you could use a combination of 1/4 C butter and 1/4 C coconut oil. For those that are lactose intolerant and cannot use the butter use a combination of beneficial oils: 1/4 C coconut oil and 1/4C grapeseed oil. NO MARGARINE!! (see my previous post on butter vs margarine)

* I used Bob's Red Mill- Gluten Free All Purpose Flour but if you want to use a combination of gluten free flours: sift together 1/2C brown rice flour, 1/2C sorghum flour will make a nice brownie.

Yours in good health,
Jocelyn McTavish RHN DSHM