Archive for April, 2014

Many thanks to Richard Nikoley, Tim “Tatertot” Steele and Grace Liu for not only giving comprehensive answers to my many questions about resistant starch, but for taking the time to answer questions in the comments section as well.  I appreciate your dedication, gang.

Speaking of the gang, Richard was the guest host for the latest episode of Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb show.  Tim and Grace were his primary guests.  I came on at the end.  The topic, of course, was resistant starch.

I started the three-part interview series by saying my next few posts should be filed under Stuff I Got Wrong or Stuff I Wish I Hadn’t Ignored.  Resistant starch was one.  Okay, got that one covered for now.  The other was “safe starch” as prescribed in Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet.

I’ve already explained why I dismissed resistant starch when the topic first hit the media:  the people pushing it were the makers of an industrial corn product that’s used to add a little resistant starch to muffins and other baked goods that are still frankenfood garbage.  They’re still promoting resistant starch that way.

I mostly ignored the “safe starch” issue when it created a buzz in 2011 because I’d given up starchy foods and felt fine.  In fact, I didn’t even watch the Ancestral Health Symposium debate on safe starch until last week.  I say mostly ignored because the one time I commented on it was when Jimmy Moore wrote a blog post and asked for a comment.  I hadn’t read the Perfect Health Diet book, but knew Jaminet recommended a diet that included “safe starches” such as white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and plantains to avoid a glucose deficiency.  So I made a wisecrack about how my Irish ancestors died off from a glucose deficiency because they didn’t have access to white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and plantains – none of which are native to Ireland.  (Potatoes didn’t come to Ireland until they were brought from the New World.)  Then I went back to ignoring the topic.

I did, however, start adding sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet here and there after I read more on paleo and ancestral diets and realized that tubers and other starchy plants have been part of the human diet for a long, long time.  Unlike wheat and other cereal grains, roots and tubers are not Neolithic foods that require farming and processing.  They’re ancient foods that can be (and were) gathered by hunter-gatherer societies.  In the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, the author cites research showing that humans began cooking meats and tubers hundreds of thousands of years ago.  It was these calorically-dense foods, easily digested after cooking, that allowed our big brains to develop.

So when we talk about Paleo Man with his tall stature and good bones and teeth, we’re talking about a man who gathered and ate some roots, tubers and other starchy plants to go along with his meat and fish.  My Irish ancestors didn’t eat rice or yams or plantains, but that’s not the point (or so I realize now).  Because the truth is, none of us eats exactly what our paleo ancestors ate.  We can’t.  They hunted animals that have gone extinct.  They gathered plants that have mutated or gone extinct.  When we shift towards what we now call a paleo diet, the best we can do is try to eat foods that provide the nutrients they consumed, not the same plants and animals that provided them with those nutrients.  My Irish ancestors didn’t eat yams, but they likely discovered species of edible roots and tubers while digging up the Guinness bushes to make themselves a yummy drink.

With all that in mind, I added small servings of sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet, but considered them an acceptable real-food treat, not a necessary part of a healthy diet.  I figured I could just easily live without any starchy foods, and perhaps I can … but perhaps some people can’t, and perhaps I’m better off with those foods than without them.

As you know if you saw my most recent speech, I’m a fan of the Wisdom of Crowds effect: when people communicate what they know with each other, the answers bubble up.  In the cyberspace crowd of health-oriented blogs and Facebook groups, I noticed more and more people saying they developed problems on a strict very-low-carb diet – low thyroid function, cold hands and feet, high fasting glucose, dry eyes, etc. – which went away when they added some “safe starches” back into their diets as prescribed in the Perfect Health Diet.  In the same post about safe starches where I made the wisecrack about my Irish ancestors, in fact, Chris Kresser made this observation:

I see a fair number of patients in my practice struggling with symptoms like hair loss, cold hands and feet, plateaued weight loss, low energy and mood imbalances after following a VLC diet for several months. In many cases they adopted this approach to lose weight, which was successful – at least to a certain point. However, others were not overweight to begin with and simply chose to eat VLC because they got the impression that “carbs are bad”, even for people without metabolic problems. I believe many of these issues are related to the decrease in thyroid hormone levels seen on VLC diets.

In cases where there is no significant metabolic damage, when I have these folks increase their carbohydrate intake (with starch like tubers and white rice, and fruit) to closer to 150g a day, they almost always feel better. Their hair loss stops, their body temperature increases and their mood and energy improves.

So I figured there had to be something to it.  Kresser is a brilliant guy and treats a lot of patients.  That’s real-world experience talking.  But he followed with this:

For people that are overweight and are insulin/leptin resistant, it’s a bit trickier. In some cases increasing carbohydrate intake moderately, to approximately 100g per day, actually re-starts the weight loss again. In other cases, any increase in carbohydrate intake – in any form – will cause weight gain and other unpleasant symptoms. A different approach is required for these patients.

As always, there’s no simple answer and no one-size-fits-all approach. If I could leave your readers with one point, that would be it.

I agree completely.  We’re all different.  Some people may need starchy carbs in their diets, other people probably don’t.  Until recently, I put myself in the second camp.  I was doing fine without making safe starches a part of my daily diet.  I never developed any of the health problems people were saying they cured with safe starches.  Cold hands and feet?  Nope.  Dry eyes?  Nope.  Depressed thyroid?  Not according to the battery of lab tests I had when I turned 55.  So I figured if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and continued pretty much ignoring the safe-starch issue.

It was revisiting resistant starch that finally prompted me to revisit safe starches and read Paul Jaminet’s book.  Why?  Well, it’s all about gut health and the microbiome.  After Richard Nikoley beat me and thousands of other people over the head with a hundred or so posts on resistant starch, I decided to give it try.  Within two days, it solved the one issue I had not just with a low-carb diet, but with every diet I’ve ever tried:  slow digestion.  As I’ve mentioned in several posts, the worst digestion I ever had was back in my grain-eating vegetarian days.  I always had a bottle of Pepto-Bismal in my medicine cabinet and packed the chewable version when I traveled.  Going low-carb cured that.  No more stomach aches, no more irritable bowel, no more gastric reflux – probably because going low-carb meant giving up wheat and other gluten-containing grains.

But the slow digestion stuck around, so I either ate good-sized servings of almonds or swallowed psyllium-husk pills before bed.  That usually did the trick.  But after starting a protocol of resistant starch and probiotics, my digestion has been excellent – better than it’s ever been.  I’m also sleeping more deeply than I have in decades, which is quite a welcome development, since I’ve been prone to occasional bouts of insomnia for most of my life.  I feel clear-headed and alert soon after waking.  Normally it takes two big cups of coffee before I feel truly awake.

That’s when I decided my if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it confidence was misplaced.  Something was broken, or at least far from optimal.  My version of a near-paleo diet was controlling my blood sugar and keeping my weight down, but it wasn’t properly feeding my gut bacteria.

In an email exchange with Richard Nikoley, he told me he first learned about the benefits of resistant starch from Tim Steele.  In an email exchange with Tim Steele, he told me he first learned about the benefits of resistant starch from … wait for it … Paul Jaminet.  Okay, I thought to myself, it’s about time I read this guy’s book.

And so, with apologies to Jaminet for the longest preamble ever to a book review (and for that wisecrack about my Irish ancestors), I’ll explain why I believe it’s one of the best books on nutrition I’ve ever read.

In case you’re not familiar with his story, Paul Jaminet lived on a standard American diet for decades and paid for it with ill health.  His health improved on a very-low-carb paleo diet for awhile, but then he developed other problems – scurvy, to name one example.  So his low-carb paleo diet was better, but obviously still not good enough.  It was the desire to find a perfect diet that inspired all the research that eventually went into the first edition of the Perfect Health Diet book and the Perfect Health Diet website.

Among other careers, Paul Jaminet was once an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  His wife and co-author, Shou-Ching Jaminet, is a molecular biologist and cancer researcher at the Harvard Medical School.  So let’s just say they’re on the smart side of the bell curve and not afraid to delve into the heavy-duty science stuff.  Fortunately for the book’s readers, they explain it clearly.  In fact, I would describe their writing style as relentlessly logical – and I mean that as a compliment.

The relentless logic that underlies the Perfect Health Diet goes like this:  ill health is the result of pathogens, nutrient deficiencies and toxins.  So other than avoiding pathogens, the key to robust health is a diet that excludes toxins as much as possible while providing the optimal intake of all necessary nutrients.  Optimal intake means enough to derive the biological benefits, but not enough to become toxic – because almost anything can become toxic to humans at some level.  Not too little, not too much.

Among many other nutrients, the Jaminets make a case that there’s an optimal intake of glucose – otherwise known as starch.  (Fruits provide most of their calories as fructose, and sugar is roughly half fructose and half glucose.)  As the book explains:

For glucose, as for all other nutrients, our strategy is to find the peak health range – the intakes at which benefits have ended and there is still no toxicity.

That peak health range is the amount of glucose our bodies require on a daily basis — somewhere in the range of 100 to 150 grams. It’s this chapter of the book that started all the hubbub over “safe starches.”  Yes, your body will convert protein into glucose – even if it has to raid the protein stored in your muscles to do so – but the Jaminets argue that forcing your body to meet its daily glucose requirement through gluconeogenesis can eventually cause the health problems Chris Kresser described seeing in some of his patients: slow thyroid, dry eyes, cold hands and feet, low energy, weight-loss stalls, etc.

I don’t believe everyone on a very-low-carb diet will develop those problems, of course.  I didn’t.  But as I mentioned above, I’ve been including occasional servings of sweet potatoes and squashes in my diet for awhile now, plus I usually consume a high-carb Mexican meal on Saturday night.  Perhaps that made the difference.  Or it could just be that some of us are more efficient at producing glucose from protein than others and therefore avoid the glucose-deficiency problems the Jaminets describe.

The point is, just because a low-carb diet is beneficial for many people, it doesn’t mean a no-carb diet is even better.  If the optimal intake for most people is somewhere in the 100 to 150 gram range, which the Jaminets believe it is, then we need to obtain those carbohydrates from foods that also provide nutrients without tossing toxins into the mix.  That’s the logic behind what they call safe starches:  potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, tapioca, white rice, plantains, yams and sago.  Those are low-toxin Paleolithic foods (with the possible exception of rice) that provide nutrients such as potassium, copper, vitamin A, resistant starch and fiber.

The Jaminets mention resistant starch specifically several times in the book.  Here’s an example from a section about the benefits of producing butyrate in the colon:

Although the fiber in cereal bran is harmful, two kinds of fiber seem to be highly beneficial:  resistant starch and pectin.  These also happen to be the types that generate the most butyrate.

“Resistant starch” is starch that is indigestible to human digestive enzymes.  Potatoes naturally come with high levels of resistant starch.  But all starchy foods can form resistant starch after cooking and cooling.  Cooking gelatinizes starch into a form that is readily digested by human amylase, but if it is allowed to cool, some of this gelatinized starch re-forms into resistant starch.

In a later chapter on meal planning, the Jaminets mention that they regularly cook several potatoes ahead of time and then store them in the refrigerator (a habit Chareva recently adopted as well).  That means a good chunk of their safe starch is also resistant starch, the kind that keeps our gut bugs fat and happy.

The Perfect Health Diet is not an invitation to go carb-crazy – not by a long shot.  The book specifically says starches should only be eaten as part of meal that includes plenty of fat to avoid glucose spikes.  Despite being dismissed or ignored by much of the low-carb world (including yours truly) because of the safe-starch issue, the Jaminets are essentially advocating a lowish-carb paleo diet.  It’s just not very-low-carb.  If you followed their advice and were at the lower end of the recommended starch intake, your diet would be roughly 20% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 65% fat.  Is that high-fat enough for you?

My Fat Head fast-food diet was 22% carbohydrate, by the way, with a lower proportion of fat (55%) than the Jaminets recommend.  Funny how I became known as a “fat head” low-carb advocate while the Jaminets didn’t, at least not in low-carb circles.  Of course, my 100 grams or so of starch were coming from hamburger buns and potatoes fried in vegetable oils, both of which the Jaminets advise against.  I guess we could call my experiment The Very Imperfect Health Diet.

So far I’ve been focusing on the safe-starch aspect of the Perfect Health Diet, since that’s the section that caused all the debate in the paleo and low-carb diet worlds.  But there’s way more to it than that.  The new paperback edition runs just over 400 pages and offers advice on the optimal levels and best sources for all three macronutrients and plenty of micronutrients.  The first chapter is titled Why We Start with an Evolutionary Perspective, so not surprisingly, almost everything in the book will have paleo enthusiasts nodding their heads in agreement.  (Mark Sisson wrote the forward for this edition.)

The chapter on grains is titled The Most Toxic Food: Cereal Grains.  (It’s like a Reader’s Digest version of Wheat Belly.  They could have titled it Wheat Is Murder.)  The chapter on vegetable oils is titled Liquid Devils: Vegetable Seed Oils.  Sugar takes a beating in a chapter titled The Sweet Toxin: Fructose.  (Dr. Robert Lustig would approve.)

There’s a ton of good information in the book, but since this will already be a long post, I’ll just give you a taste with some random quotes in no particular order:

Don’t be afraid to eat fat!  Hunter-gatherers flourished on a fat-rich diet.

Too often, experts dole out advice based on unproven hypotheses without ever looking at the scientific evidence from evolutionary selection.  In fact, evolution selected for a certain salt intake.  Anti-salt advice was not supported by reliable studies.

One often hears that glucose is the body’s primary fuel.  That is quite mistaken.  It’s true that all human cells can, if need be, metabolize glucose.  But mitochondria, the energy producers in most human cells, prefer to burn fat.  So in the body, fat is the preferred and primary fuel, except in specialist cells that lack mitochondria or ready access to fat.

Saturated and monounsaturated fats are the safest calorie source – indeed the only calorie source that is nontoxic even in very high doses – and should provide the bulk of calories.  Fish, shellfish, beef, lamb, and dairy fats such as butter and cream are the best animal sources; coconut milk and coconut oil are great plant sources.

Saturated fat improves lipid profiles in two ways:  it increases levels of protective HDL cholesterol, and it makes LDL particles larger and more buoyant, protecting them from glycation and oxidation.

Choline is abundant in liver and egg yolks — foods American eat less than ever before, thanks in part to the demonization of cholesterol… Get choline by eating three eggs yolks a day and liver once a week.

As our Paleolithic ancestors who dominated the globe were characterized by tall stature and healthy teeth and bones and their health deteriorated as soon as their diet was altered, we think it’s safe to say that such a low-carb, high-plant, starch-meat-and-fat-based diet is a healthful human diet.

When the obese try to eat less on a malnourishing diet, they sooner or later become hungry and weight loss stalls or reverses.

The long-term effects of eating less without improving the character of the diet are shockingly bad… efforts to eat less often lead to weighing more.

In their own version of what I’ve termed Character vs. Chemistry in several posts, the Jaminets explain that hunger is the body’s way of saying I need nutrients!  If your diet is deficient in a necessary nutrient, you’re going to be hungry, and eventually you’re going to give in and eat more. Nutrient deficiencies, in fact, may explain why people adopt a particular diet, feel great for awhile, then feel not-so-great, adopt a different diet, feel great for awhile, then feel not-so-great, lather, rinse, repeat.  To quote from the book:

Sometimes people alternate among extreme diets.  They do a low-fat diet, and it works great until a fat-associated nutrient becomes scare and hunger returns.  Weight starts to rebound due to hunger for the fat-associated nutrient.  Disturbed by the weight gain, they shift to the opposite diet – low-carb, high-protein, high-fat.  Now weight loss resumes until they become deficient in some plant-associated nutrient that, on their low-carb diet, they no longer obtain.  Then weight loss stops, hunger increases, and the weight comes back.

The key to long-term weight loss, then, is a diet that provides all the necessary nutrients without an overabundance of food. When you give your body what it needs, it stops ramping up your appetite in hopes that you’ll keep eating and eventually stumble across some actual nutrients.

Darned if that doesn’t make perfect sense.  That’s what I kept thinking to myself as I read the book:  Man, this is all so logical.  It just makes sense.

Like I said, the Jaminets are relentlessly logical. Their own health problems inspired them to undertake a seven-year, relentlessly logical review of the science and design a diet based on unprocessed whole foods, high in fat and low in carbohydrates … but not low enough to create a deficiency that could cause other problems, and with the carbohydrates coming from real foods that provide real nutrients, such as resistant starch to feed our gut bacteria.

Is the Perfect Health Diet truly the perfect diet?  I don’t know, but I was persuaded to move my own diet more in that direction.  I’ll describe what that looks like in a future post.

Meanwhile, I asked Paul Jaminet if he’d be up for a Q & A with the Fat Head audience, and he graciously agreed.  Ask your questions in the comments section for this post.  Put the phrase “Question for Paul Jaminet” at the beginning of the comment so I know it’s a question for him, not for me.  I won’t reply to those comments.  I’ll pick a dozen or so questions and forward them to Paul, then post his answers.

Perhaps you’ll be persuaded to eat a potato smothered in grass-fed butter.

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If you tried to check the site during the past 24 or hours or so, you were greeted with a message that it had been hacked.  Depending on the time of day, the hack was credited to a group in Tunisia, a group in Russia, or a group that included someone named TGirl5000.  The prevailing wisdom on Facebook was that I’d somehow annoyed a vegan transsexual who has hacking skills.

Anyway, this all started when the site became very slow and I called my IP provider to find out the reason.  The support lady told she would check with the server team.  They ran some tests and replied that the entire server was slow because some blog named fathead-movie.com was getting too much traffic for the number of sites hosted on that server.  Heh-heh-heh …

So they moved the blog to another server, and a few hours later it was hacked.  The tech people had to restore the last saved version from Friday.  That means all the Saturday comments are gone.  Sorry about that, but there’s nothing they can do about it.

We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging …

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The 25 chicks Sara is raising for a 4-H project finally got too big to live in a trough in the basement, so it was time to move them outside this week.  Putting them in the chicken barn with 19 adult chickens seemed like a bad idea, so Chareva told me we’d put them in the portable coop she built last year.

Well, that sounds easy enough …

“Oh, and I want to move that portable coop out back near my new garden.”

Gulp.  The portable chicken coop has been parked next to the chicken yard in the front pasture:

We raised our second flock of chickens in that coop and slowly moved them down the steep hill in the side field so they could eat plenty of bugs on their way to living in the Big House.  Moving the coop to the back of the property near the new garden would mean pulling it up the driveway you see below, then all the way up the same big hill.  I’m no physicist, but I was pretty sure pulling it uphill would be more difficult than pulling it downhill.

But Chareva wanted to toss the used straw and chicken poop into her new garden, so we got to work.  We attached chains to the coop and the back of my car, then I drove it veeerrry slooowwwly up the driveway.  Worked like a charm.  Truck?  Who needs a truck?

I need a truck.  The ground is soft because of recent rains and the grass is long in the side field, so as soon as we reached the steep rise in the hill, my tires started spinning.  The boards didn’t help.  Having Chareva drive while I pushed the coop didn’t help.  Nothing helped.

Okay then, time for some exercise.   My feet aren’t quite as big as tires, but they don’t spin in wet ground.  I pulled and the ladies pushed.  (Chareva didn’t make the girls do all the pushing.  She stepped aside for a moment to snap a picture.)

My legs definitely got a workout.  My thighs were burning by the time I dragged that sucker all the way to the garden.  The coop was Chareva’s first construction project, but I’m impressed.  It held up under rather a lot of stress while being dragged across the rocky, bumpy ground of a Tennessee hill.  Now it’s parked near the garden, ready to provide the all-important chicken poop to the squash and eggplants.  Never in my pre-farm life did I suspect I’d someday be looking for a good source of poop.

Sara’s chicks are now happy inhabitants of the portable coop.

Meanwhile, Chareva moved Alana’s four surviving chicks to the Big House, but they’re in a cage.  Apparently the idea is to let the adult chickens get used to their presence until they’re big enough to defend themselves.

Soon we’ll have 49 adult chickens.  Sara has to auction five of them at 4-H, but that’s still going to mean a lot of eggs.  Good thing I love eggs.  Good thing our friends and neighbors love eggs, too.

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Here’s the third and final installment of my interview with Richard Nikoley, Tim “Tatertot” Steele and Grace Liu on the subject of resistant starch.  They’re writing a book on the topic, and I will of course let everyone know when it’s available.

Fat Head: Several of your readers have reported that after adding resistant starch to their diets, they finally broke through a weight-loss stall.  Any idea why that happened?  Do we understand the mechanism?

Grace: RS is one of the bionic fuels that feed and replenish our ancestral gut bugs, and we need these for not just optimal gut health but for optimal body fat, hormones and brain function. In human and animal trials, RS improves body composition (higher lean mass, lower body fat). The co-owner of the Australian Mt. Uncle green banana farm told me the story how he became inspired to sell green banana flour after having to trash 40% of his delicate ladyfinger banana crop each year because, darkening so easily, a high percent failed to meet grocery specs. Rob Watkins gave the cows and steers on his farm the reject green bananas and noticed within weeks that they appeared healthier, stronger, and more muscled. In other words, they appeared to have less body fat and better hormones!

And this is the case in the fiber clinical trials. RS alone rarely induces net weight loss, however RS combined with soluble fiber or as a whole food or supplement (green banana flour or green plantain flour) leads to significant weight loss. Additionally, we have many anecdotal stories at  Free The Animal about overcoming weight-loss stalls. The mechanisms behind this may include: fixing tight junctions and intestinal permeability, improved whole-body insulin sensitivity, improved adrenal/thyroid health, lower inflammation, and improved testosterone and progesterone levels.  For my case, which I discuss here on my Animal Pharm blog, I also had a tremendous weight-loss stall after many gut disruptions (mercury, titanium, antibiotics, Tetanus vaccine) but resolved it after the gut microbiota improved.

Tim: RS by itself isn’t generally a great weight loss tool, but it is known to repair broken metabolisms.  In the short term, RS can lead to weight gain as your intestines get healthier and harbor more friendly microbes, but in the long run, the increase in signaling of hunger hormones and insulin sensitivity should lead to long-term health consequences and weight loss for the overweight or weight gain for the underweight.  Best bet for long-term weight loss and weight maintenance is a diet with ample food that feeds gut microbes.

Richard: Debates over things always seem to get framed in terms of “it’s either this, or it’s that—or maybe it’s something else, but it’s got to be some one thing.” Then people align themselves with one theory or the other and prepare for the cage match to the death, looking for every opportunity to become even more entrenched.

Many times in the past, over various issues across the board, I’ve always said, “Well, what if it’s both?” Or what if some aspects of all these “opposing” ideas have some parts that are true, and if you put all the true parts together, then you have a kind of Hegelian dialectic where you’ve synthesized something closer to the truth.

I recently put up this post to advance just such a thing in the obesity debate. So there are all these competing theories out there like it’s the calories, no it’s the carbs, no no no it’s all genetic, or everyone is all wrong because it’s clearly food engineering and the reward value of stuff.

I happen to think there’s some truth in all of those ideas, but I think the unifying one is the genetic theory — only I’m not talking about our 25,000 genes; I’m talking about the other 3 million genes in our gut biome, evolving to the tune of six generations per day. Chewing on it in those terms, understanding the influence gut microbes have on our behaviors, feelings, mood, sleep and hormonal regulation, and all of a sudden you might begin to understand that all these theories weren’t just arrived at by stupid people — except for the one you hold, of course — but that they saw one part of the whole truth, but didn’t have that unifying piece that brings them all together.

Anyway, that’s my pet theory and I plan on defending it to the death against all the “stupid ideas” out there.

[Note:  Richard assures me has was smiling in a self-deprecating sort of way when he wrote that last part — Tom.]

Fat Head: I’ve lost weight when my ketone levels were low, so I don’t think ketosis is necessary for weight loss and I don’t aim for ketosis with my diet.  For me, it’s more about keeping blood sugar in a healthy range and maintaining my ability to efficiently release and burn fat for fuel.  But for people who feel better and lose weight more quickly in ketosis, does resistant starch kick them out of it?

Tim: We’ve done quite a few experiments.  Potato starch will not kick anyone out of ketosis, probably no matter how much you take.  It’s 66% to 87.5% RS, depending on which method you use to measure it, with the remaining fractions being mostly water and some slowly digested starch.  Other isolated RS sources like banana flour or tapioca starch may have varying results, since they are not as concentrated as potato starch, ranging from 30 to 50% RS.

Richard: In the post I previously linked above dealing with the Inuit and ketosis, I have to pretty much conclude that chronic ketosis is not a good thing. Ketosis is wonderful as a survival adaptation to starvation, ensuring glucose is available for the brain. But in order to pull this off, your metabolism has to essentially say “Hey, we don’t give a flying @#$% about your cellular insulin sensitivity. What good are insulin-sensitive cells to someone who’s brain dead?” And I think ketosis ought to be exercised just like you might do with sprints to get your heart rate up — intermittently. So, yeah, put yourself in ketosis now and then via a fast, like 24 to 48 hours. There are probably beneficial hormesis and autophagy involved.

But if you’re going to do LC, then I think follow the Inuit model, which is high (very high) in protein. Yeah, it’s high fat too, but keep in mind fat has twice the energy density, so 135 fat grams can come to 50% of calories, whereas twice as many grams in protein might be 35% of calories. Guaranteed it will be a lot tougher to get down the 250 grams of protein. And unless you’re getting glycogen and prebiotic glycans from fresh raw animals, then you’ll need to get your 50 to 60 grams of carbs from something like a safe starch, some fruit maybe. Then get some prebiotics like resistant starch. Now you’ll be closer to what the Inuit actually did instead of the folklore, and you might find that LC actually works better for you.

Fat Head: If resistant starch preferentially feeds the good bacteria in our guts and improves gut integrity, then it’s almost certainly been part of the human diet for a long, long time.  But I’m pretty sure Paleo Man wasn’t buying bags of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch at Whole Foods.  So what does that tell us about the notion that the paleo diet was all meat, fish, eggs, low-sugar fruit in season and some leafy greens now and then?

Tim: Tiger nuts and yams have been man’s staples since Day One in Africa and are full of RS.  When we started cooking, we developed a second kind of resistant starch, RS3, the retrograded kind from cooling cooked starch.  Man didn’t cook on-demand like we do now.  He built a big fire, laid roots in and around it and ate them for days after the fire went out.  We evolved for millions of years alongside raw starch and cooked and cooled starch (RS2 and RS3).  As man spread North and East, he found cattail roots, sago palms, rice, beans, corn, potatoes, and numerous other foods full of starch.  Where there was little starch, such as in the deserts of America, Paleo-Indians ate loads of inulin containing plants … cactus pads, onions, agave and others that we would be hard-pressed to eat today.

Richard: Coprolites are also often full of small bones, hair, connective tissues of small animals. Many of these bits are resistant to our digestion, but food for gut microbes. Offhand, I’d also imagine that the carcasses and outer shells of various bugs and insects that were eaten also served a role in feeding the gut.

Grace: Coming from an Asian background, no doubt my ancestors ate plenty of underground storage organs leaving Africa and migrating across Eurasia. Cordain et al in 2000 wrote that underground storage structures (tubers, roots, and bulbs) represented 24% of the current worldwide hunter-gathers’ diet. Last December Brown et al discussed the paleo nutriscape and the role played by RS-containing carbohydrate sources including plants, particularly those with underground storage organs such as reed mace, common reed, water chestnut and yellow water lily. Most of our common ancestral foods are very low glycemic index, high fiber, and contain greater than 10g RS per 100g-cooked serving.

Fat Head: So for those who want to get some resistant starch into their diets without stirring potato starch into a yogurt smoothie, what foods are good sources of resistant starch?

Tim: RS from foods is easy to do with a bit of planning.  Pre-cook potatoes, rice and beans and freeze them in serving-sized containers.  Thaw as needed.  Potatoes don’t freeze well, so keep them in the fridge.  Preparing these foods in this manner turns them into the starches our ancestors ate, full of retrograded RS.  Potatoes for instance, will go from 0 grams of RS in a small potato to 10 grams … just from cooling it down!  It’s even OK to reheat it; in fact the RS fraction will grow a tiny bit more if you quickly fry it in some oil or butter.  For another quick blast of RS, eat a slice of raw potato when you are cleaning them up to cook.  A half-inch slice has about 5 grams of RS.  Green bananas are another great source.

Richard: Tim compiled a 7-page PDF of the RS content of foods that’s diet-agnostic, so there’s even something there for your vast cadre of grain-eaters, Tom.

Fat Head: My grain-eating fan club, yes.  I met him once.

Grace: I’m actually very fortunate that in Asia, RS-rich purple potatoes, white mountain yams, taro, sweet potato, yams, cellophane mungbean noodles, heirloom corn, water chestnuts, lotus roots, green bananas, and whole grains and beans (adlay, sorghum, purple rice, black rice, red rice, brown rice, millet, red beans, green beans, kidney, adzuki, etc) are all readily available. Often I cook rice or tubers then eat them later at room temperature or re-heated by steaming or with hot bone broth. After a workout, I’ll eat a few purple potatoes for a snack. There’s some protein, plant antioxidants, and it’s low net carb. Each potato has  about 20 grams of RS.

Fat Head: You’ve been adding potatoes and other starches back into your diet and ending up with lower fasting glucose levels and better tolerance for starch than when you were on a very-low-carb diet, thanks at least in part to the resistant starch.  I’m finding similar results so far in my own n=1 experiment.  I had a small baked potato with my meatloaf and broccoli for dinner recently, and my glucose peaked at 126 mg/dl.

But in Denise Minger’s latest book, she makes the case that some people really and truly do have a genetically low tolerance for starches.  They get blood-sugar spikes beyond what the glycemic index would predict and their glucose stays high for hours.  For them, consuming resistant starch and then reintroducing rice or potatoes to their diets might be a bad idea.  Would they benefit from supplementing with resistant starch even if they skip other starches entirely?

Tim: Our gut bugs deserve a chance to thrive.  They can’t do it on steak and eggs.  If someone is truly ‘carb sensitive’ then a diet filled with non-starchy plants and some supplemental RS, such as potato starch or banana flour, may do them a world of good.  They could also go with inulin, glucomannan, or the other prebiotics we discussed.  RS is just an easy source.  If you were eating zero starch or RS, I would highly, highly suggest looking into inulin and glucomannan!

Richard: Don’t discount the possibility that poor gut health may be the root cause of this starch insensitivity. Recall some of my previous answers where for some people, myself included, there was a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy going on. On the other hand, everybody is a snowflake (nobody has precisely the same gut microbes, or in the same proportions), so the only way to tell if your starch insensitivity is real or induced is to get your gut healthy over some months with the supplemental RS and SBO probiotics while remaining LC, and try again.

However, give yourself a chance to not freak yourself out. A week of BG spikes isn’t going to kill you, so toss the meter for a week or two, introduce the starches slowly, like maybe a half cup per meal for few days, three-quarters per meal, up to a cup per meal. Two weeks later, check your sugars. See where you are. Note, I would not suggest anyone clinically diagnosed as diabetic to ever do this. You could still try, but under your normal monitoring. I’d just give yourself a little leeway.

Incidentally, many diabetics, both type 1 and type 2, have reported the need to reduce their doses of insulin once commencing potato starch supplementation in order to not go hypoglycemic. But that also presents an opportunity. They could simply remain on their same insulin dose and make up the difference with a few tasty starches, instead of reducing insulin. After all, last I heard, the pancreas actually produces insulin, so long as blood levels are in the normal range, I doubt insulin is the Satan’s spawn it’s sometimes made out to be.

Fat Head: Name any food, and somebody somewhere will have a bad experience from eating it.  Are there any downsides you’re aware of from consuming resistant starch?  Any concerns about feeding the wrong kind of gut bacteria in people who have intestinal issues?

Tim: There are people with guts that are truly jacked.  Yeasts and microbes that are perfectly fine and harmless in the large intestine become mean and nasty in the small intestine.  If they are there, they can theoretically digest RS in the small intestine and cause all sorts of problems.

Richard: In a world with this many people, you will get all kinds. The other day I was reading a forum post by a guy somewhere and the title was something like “Potato Starch Made Me Crash!” I expected to read this account about how he’s been pounding the stuff to the tune of 16 tablespoons per day with massive fartage, heartburn, autoimmune flair ups, etc.

Turns out he had “built himself up” to ONE ENTIRE TEASPOON per day over a period of weeks, and all of sudden he was too fatigued to get out of bed. Now, I don’t want to make fun of anyone’s experience (though one commenter did remark “Hell, that’s less than I spill on the counter when preparing my mixture!”), only point out that there are some folks seemingly bulletproof out there, and others who may be truly sensitive for any number of reasons. Over many months reading thousands of anecdotes, it does seem like there are some folks who, once they begin talking potato starch, will instinctively assign it as the cause of any bad thing that subsequently happens or that they perceive to have happened.

Fat Head: So let’s suppose some of the people reading this interview want to start experimenting with resistant starch in their diets.  How would you recommend they get started, and what markers, if any, should they track as they go?

Tim: Start slow.  Start with real foods…the cooked and cooled starches, green bananas, and also start looking at the inulin contents in food.  Eventually you’ll want to be getting 20 to 40 grams per day of prebiotics.  The easiest source is RS, either from real food or a raw starch supplement.  Start eating just a serving or so of RS-rich food per day, which will get you probably 10 grams of RS — twice the U.S. average.  Hardly anyone sees issues at this level.  Double it again by eating a green banana every day.  Learn to fix all your starches in a manner that maximizes the RS, and on days when you aren’t getting much RS, take a few spoonfuls of potato starch or banana flour in a glass of water or smoothie.   Lots of people jumped straight into this by taking 4TBS a day of potato starch.  This is a good therapeutic dose, approximately 25 to 30 grams, but few people are able to tolerate this dose in the short term.  Work your way up to it, do it through real food.  Cook your starches like our ancestors did.  If you experience discomfort…farts, bloating, pain…stop, get on some probiotics, and resume slowly — you need it worse than anyone!

Richard: What Tim said; but also, I have a Resistant Starch Primer for Newbies, and for those interested in also bringing in or back the Safe Starches, my Resistant Starch-Based Dietary Guidelines.

Grace: I think everyone should first start with probiotics in order to ‘seed’ the gut. Even if you are a barefoot hippie in Berkeley, everyone seems to have had at least a single course of antibiotics. The average is more like 10 to 20 courses. Studies are showing more and more how even a single course of antibiotics ravages the gut populations, leaving them extinct where the core beneficial species never resume abundance or diversity even two years later.  The markers to track are any health marker someone is interested in — HgbA1c, mood, sleep, skin, hair, libido, hormones, reversal of inflammatory conditions and digestive disorders, etc. Functional medicine labs are the best ones to track I believe.

Fat Head: Okay, one final question:  like many other people have reported on your blog, after adding potato starch to my diet, I started having long, complex, Technicolor dreams.  I may have even dreamed the entire sixth season of The Walking Dead, which I hope to transcribe and sell to the producers.  What the @#$% is up with these dreams?

Tim: It’s the neurotransmitters, Dude! (said with a California surfer accent).

One of the biggest factors in our overall health is sleep.  Deprive yourself of it and your health deteriorates rapidly.  One convincing demonstration of the brain-gut connection is a molecule secreted by gut bugs known as “Factor S.”  One phase of our sleep cycle is known as slow-wave sleep.  This cycle is known as “deep sleep” and is the time when the brain recovers from its daily activities and new thoughts are “cut and pasted” into the long-term memory drives of your brain.  This is also when human growth hormone is secreted, and disruptions in this cycle can result in bedwetting, nightmares, and sleep-walking.  In other words—it’s a very important part of our 40 winks.

Gut bugs have a massive hand in ensuring we get a good night’s sleep, and in turn, our entire physiology.  They want us to remember where that wonderful patch of microbe-encrusted wild onions is, and they want us to have the strength to get there again.  Factor S is how they do it.  As animals get sleepy, Factor S accumulates in their brain and promotes sleep onset and the shift into slow-wave sleep.  Additionally, other brain chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin are generated by gut bugs and contribute further to our dreams, rest and recuperation.

Richard: When I first reported this early in my own experimenting on the blog, I was almost reluctant to do so, because it seemed so outlandish and implausible. “Wait, so you’re telling me that if I go to the supermarket and pick up a bag of Bob’s for 4 bucks, take 2 TBS before bed, that I’m going to have the most amazing, complex dreams of my life?”

But once I did, the anecdotes began pouring in. Perhaps others were just as reluctant. Interestingly, it seems to be the females reporting having the X-Rated ones. Form your own opinions!

There’s also a weird time dilation sometimes. Just last night, I had this amazingly involved dream that went on and was long and complete, and for some reason, I woke up. I thought at once it was probably soon time to get up, so I looked at the clock. I’d been asleep for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Grace: Tom, I believe the microbes synergized your gut-brain axis! Thank you so much for exploring and opening conversations about the gut and having us!

Fat Head: Many thanks to all three of you for taking the time to answer so many questions about an important topic that I initially overlooked. My gut thanks you too.

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Part three of my interview about resistant starch with Richard Nikoley, Tim Steele and Grace Liu will run on Monday, but in the meantime, I thought I’d post a link to an article about the human microbiome that appeared in The Economist.  It’s a nice introduction to the topic.

That is, after all, what we’re talking about when it comes to the benefits of resistant starch – feeding the gut bugs that make up the microbiome.

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Here’s part two of my interview with Richard Nikoley, Tim “Tatertot” Steele and Grace Liu about resistant starch.  Given how many questions I asked and the comprehensive answers, I decided to divide the interview into three parts.

Fat Head: What do you think of the high-maize resistant starch the corn refiners are promoting? From some of your comments, I get the feeling you consider it yet another industrial food we can do without.

Tim: I’m very disappointed in the direction that the makers of Hi-Maize have taken it. Here they have a substance with the potential to help billions, yet they only want to put it in bakery goods and snacks so they can promote them as “high fiber foods.” The people who make Hi-Maize are the same ones who make High Fructose Corn Syrup. Since that bubble burst, they are looking for ways to refill the coffers of the corn producers. The studies in which Hi-Maize, or High Amylose Maize Starch (HAMS) was used to show marked metabolic improvements required approximately 20-40g of RS per day. This level makes most people fart, so when they put it in food, they are very careful to get it in at a level that ensures nobody “squeaks one off” in church, God forbid. This fart-proof level is the same issue that inulin and other prebiotic supplement makers had to deal with. A level of RS that produces no farts in 90% of the consumers is a level that does no good for 100% of people eating it for its “high fiber” benefits.

Grace: Movies like Fat Head, and others — King Corn and Future of Our Food — brought awareness and enlightenment for me about the dangers of the greed and perversions of industry interests including USDA collusion and GMO Big Agriculture. Part of the reason industrialized nations have epidemic gut problems, many experts believe, is secondary to GMO foods in the food supply that make up 80-90% of the American SAD food pyramid: GMO grain and GMO Bt corn fed livestock (pork, poultry, beef), GMO grain crops, GMO Bt corn, GMO soy, GMO sugar beets, etc. We have moved away from sustainable, organic, heirloom and biodynamic farming and livestock production and all its abundant life, including the soil organisms and other gut-preserving probiotics that live on the roots, tubers, shoots, fruits and leaves of our crops.

Fat Head: Lower glucose levels are a nice benefit, but I wasn’t getting the high fasting glucose levels that you and other people have reported on a very low-carb diet – perhaps because I’m low-carb but not zero-carb, and I usually have a high-carb Saturday night meal. So reports of lower fasting glucose levels didn’t persuade me to run out and buy potato starch. But when you wrote several posts about resistant starch and gut bacteria, you got my attention. Describe how resistant starch affects our gut microbiome.

Tim: RS is ALL about the gut bugs –100%. The first studies on RS in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s didn’t take the gut microbiome into account, and lots of their studies made it look like RS was not all it was cracked up to be. However, give a person RS for a couple weeks and allow their gut bugs to grow and change, then try the same studies — big difference. If most people had really good gut flora and all that was lacking was some fermentable fiber, then RS would be HUGE on its own.

Unfortunately, with widespread overuse of antibiotics, sanitized food and living conditions, and a disconnect from the microbes that live in the dirt, most people just don’t have the right set of gut bugs to take full advantage of simply adding RS to their diet. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when they first started looking into prebiotic fibers, they noted that about 75% of test subjects could not tolerate RS or inulin over 30 or so grams per day, causing them excessive gas, bloating, and pain. Now I suspect it’s even higher. The folks who can’t tolerate RS are the ones who need it most! For them, a good program of probiotics and fermented food should get them back on track.

Richard: It’s really been quite a deal for me. Unlike you, Tom, I’d had high fasting numbers for years and recently had seen a post-meal spike as high as 194 after a carby meal. Thing is, as I already said, my carb intake was very sporadic. Now, someone’s gonna say “Well, then you’re diabetic, or pre-diabetic, by clinical definition.” Well, that’s the rub. I just did a post about the Inuit and how in three studies, 1928, 1936 and 1972, they found no ketosis in the Inuit (To Reiterate, Just In Case You Missed It: No Elevated Ketone Levels in the Inuit), even though they are low carb, about 55g per day on average, mostly from the glycogen in fresh, raw animals (liver, meat, skin and surprisingly enough, whale blubber—the most carby of all). So researchers give them a glucose tolerance test and they passed with flying colors, with max spikes right to about 140. Keep in mind that nowadays in LC forums and comment threads all over, people have convinced themselves that they literally cannot have carbs. Why? Because they have physiological insulin resistance, high fasting BG, and so when they go eat a piece of their kid’s birthday cake and get 160-180, they self diagnose as diabetic or pre-diabetic and the prophesy is self-fulfilled.

So then how come the Inuit eating low carb can handle a bolus dose of glucose? The secret is in two things: 1) all the prebiotic fibers they get from the glycans in fresh raw blood, organs and meat, so they have healthier guts than your average modern LC dieter and 2) they have a massive protein intake, 250g and up. Try eating 250g protein daily without drinking it. So, they had plenty of dietary protein to fuel gluconeogenesis without causing insulin resistance. But what happens if you fast them for 82 hours, putting them into no-shit ketosis and forcing physiological insulin resistance? Give them the same bolus dose of glucose and they spike to 280-300 and 3 hours later, they’re still above 230.

Interestingly enough, some negative reaction to that post focuses more on measuring methods for ketones, insisting that it’s a LCHF diet — missing the point that it’s the very high protein that’s making the difference — and for some inexplicable reason, continuing to insist that they just must have really been in ketosis in spite of three studies spanning 44 years finding no ketosis amongst Inuit eating their traditional LC diet. For some reason, perpetual, chronic ketosis just simply has to be a very healthful thing to do, beyond it being proven therapeutic for certain medical conditions, and in spite of the very unhealthful thing that happened to their BG numbers when there’s no dispute about them being in deep ketosis after an 82 hr fast.

There’s much work to be done.

Fat Head: You’ve written that living on a very-low-carb diet might even starve our gut bacteria in the long term. Is there evidence for that, or is it more of a concern that warrants more research?

Tim: Well, here’s my stance on that…a VLC diet, such as an Atkins induction-type keto diet, isn’t going to completely kill off all your gut bugs, but what will happen is that the ones that do all the “good stuff” we’ve been talking about — for instance, producing butyrate and stimulating gut health — will be relegated to the minority. The majority of your gut bugs on a VLC diet are ones that can eat any old plant matter, animal scraps, and the lining of your intestine — the mucus layer. A gut thus populated has a high pH, pathogens thrive, and colonocytes starve. The good gut bugs are more than likely still there, just hiding and waiting for enough food for them to once again flourish. These populations change fast, even on a “by-meal” basis. Long-term eating habits set up long-term health patterns. We can eat however we want in survival situations, or any short-term diet intervention, but in the long run, a colon with ample butyrate and populated with beneficial microbes such as those that eat RS and the ones that benefit from the RS feeding frenzy is best.

Another thing to consider, Tom, is your lifestyle on the farm … your close association with chickens, animals, dirt, trees and fresh foods give you a leg up compared to most people. Your gut is most likely populated with all the soil-based organisms and lactic acid producers that folks are paying dearly for. I’d guess that for you, a big slug of RS gave your gut bugs a real treat and they were trying to tell you something: FEED US! What do your chickens do when you miss a day of feeding them? They cluck and fuss and let you know they are hungry. When well fed, they lay eggs and grow big juicy breasts and drumsticks. It’s the same with your gut bugs. Treat them like your farm animals or crops, feed, fertilize, and treat them well and they will pay it back in spades.

Grace: I love VLC and LC diets. They will always have a place therapeutically and clinically, I believe. My problem is that for some or many, these diets compromise or will eventually compromise 1) the gut and 2) adrenal/thyroid/gonad health. In four different LC or VLC short-term studies, prominent core gut microbial populations were dramatically reduced. These gut populations are important for health because not only do they serve vital functions such as expelling pathogens, vitamin processing and production (A, K2, B) and maintaining healthy immunity, they are also huge butyrate factories, pumping out butyrate which keeps gut tight junctions tight, immunity intestinal integrity intact, pathogens low and insulin sensitivity appropriate via the GPR41/43 receptors.

In one study, the researchers examined the shifts in gut populations during an Atkins induction diet (24 g carb/day) for 4 wks. With the VLC diet, they observed an enormous drop in butyrate to a fraction (about one-quarter) of the maintenance diet level. Four very significant subpopulations of gut bugs were decimated by the VLC low fiber and RS-deficient diet: Bifidobacteria, Ruminococci, Roseburia, and F. prausnitzii.

The study groups ate salads, but this was not apparently enough to sustain the important core gut communities. Salads may provide about 10 grams of non-starch fiber, but zero RS or oligosaccharides for them to feed on. These prominent populations are also highly correlated to longevity and robustness in centenarian and aging studies. In more and more gut microbiota studies, these populations are found missing in disorders and disease, yet found in great abundance and diversity in the healthy. Their favorite substrate to feed on is resistant starch.

Strict paleo diets that eliminate legumes, GF grass grains, roots and tubers may also exert the same detrimental gut effects as RS-deficient Atkins because the gut has to contend with the same conflict: a deficiency of RS and soluble fibers from starchy ‘plant babies.’ Without RS and other fiber, fecal carcinogens are not diluted, N-nitroso compounds occur at higher amounts, stool pH increases (allowing more pathogenic growths), and microbial-derived antioxidants such as ferulate and other phenolic compounds decrease.

Fat Head: If we do starve our gut bacteria, what would be the negative health effects?

Tim: Look at America…the modern, dyspeptic gut we’ve created: Frequent heartburn, loose stools or constipation, indigestion, smelly gas, GERD, IBS, or worse. You may even have one of the many autoimmune diseases that are running rampant, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or cancer. Digestive diseases affect over 70 million people in the US alone! These diseases required 48.3 million ambulatory care visits, 21.7 million hospitalizations, and caused 245,921 deaths in 2009. Total cost for digestive diseases was estimated at $141.8 billion in 2004. And, these stats are getting worse, not better. It’s estimated that over 90 million Americans use antacids or other digestive upset medicines. Upset stomachs are the number one cause of self-treatment. These are all caused by “hungry gut bugs.”

Richard: Most people actually have both E. coli and C. difficile in them, but they are kept at bay by our symbionts and commensals. C. difficile causes about a half million sicknesses annually in the US, hospitalizes 250,000 and kills 15,000. Guess when the most common time is for an infection to occur? Immediately following a round of antibiotics. Now, connect them dots.

[On that topic, folks, you may want to listen to this NPR interview about the effects of antibiotics on the gut microbiome — Tom]

Fat Head: To experience the benefits of feeding our gut bacteria, we need gut bacteria to feed. Is it worth taking probiotics while adding resistant starch to the diet? Or do probiotic supplements just create expensive poop?

Richard: This was the last puzzle piece for me personally. I pounded three brands of soil-based organism probiotics that Grace recommends. I did this for a week or so but by about day three, it was very clear this was a huge benefit. Very notable was energy and sleep. Very interesting because I seemed to be relieved of this sort of regimented thing where you have to get 7-8 hours. It quickly became way different. Some nights 4-5 hours and others, 8-9 but less on average and when it was one of those 4-5 hour deals, I wasn’t just getting up at 4 a.m. because of insomnia. I was ready to hit it and felt great.

But the biggest deal of all was airborne allergies or, for all I know, food allergies. Anyway, I’ve had perpetual congestion, sneezing, runny nose and cough virtually all my life. Used to be on meds year round. LC Paleo did wonders for that initially. Got rid of the meds, felt a lot better. But it was creeping back and I’d always have to have tissue on hand, have to shoot Afrin some nights to get to sleep, and now and then, have to pop an OTC. Within 3 days on the SBO probiotics and for the first time ever, I’m breathing clearly through my nose 80-90% of the time. Seems to be getting even better, even though I’m down to just taking one or the other of those three products every day or two. They are pricey, so after pounding them the first week or two, I’d recommend stretching them out like that.

Lots of folks have now introduced these and many positive reports are beginning to come in. Clear breathing seems to be a common one.

Grace: Since you are a farmer, Tom, I am envious of the natural probiotics you and your family encounter daily! My family and I are suburbanites with no garden and the only healthy dirt I encounter is the few that rim our carrot tops or the little dusting on my organic greens that haven’t been blasted off by triple filtered water rinsing. Also I’ve had plenty of antibiotics in my lifetime which likely decimated my gut little did I know.

What I see anecdotally and clinically is that many people’s guts are missing core ancestral species (which is my AHS14 topic this year). Our gut bugs have taken a hit and the damage is immeasurable. By using functional medicine lab testing of stools and urine organic acids, I can see the damage. By talking to people, the damage is often evident as well. This is the same advanced testing that is bringing us rapid information about the gut microbiota over the last 10-15 years.

I can’t tell you how often I see Bifidobacter, Lactobacilli and other core ancestral species missing. I advocate a few good soil based organisms (SBO) probiotics such as Prescript Assist and AOR Probiotic-3, which do an excellent job of filling in nicely for now for the lack of soil exposures that our ancestors were immersed in, and we now have challenges in obtaining.

Modern, industrialized societies consume 100% of food, vegetables, and packaged beer that is sterile, dead, or hyper-hygienically clean. By contrast, our ancestral gut strains Bifidobacter, Lactobacilli, Clostridium, Bacilli, and wild yeasts all naturally co-exist on farm livestock, children, chickens, eggs, raw dairy, legumes, grass grains, tubers, roots and other plant sources.

Tim: In the ancient past, no one needed probiotics because we got all the new microbes we needed from dirty food, dirty fingers and a close connection with the Earth. In the more recent past, probiotics worked like migratory farm workers. As long as you used them, they gave you some benefits, but as soon as you stopped, they were gone because they had no incentive to stick around. With RS, that all changes. Probiotics now have a reason to stick around a while. If you are one of the 25% of people who cannot ferment RS, or even one of the 75% who can, you should take probiotics when first healing your gut or switching to a high RS diet. Most if not all of us are missing key gut bugs that are found in several probiotic supplements. In a diet filled with RS, inulin, glucomannan, and other prebiotics in the 20-40 gram per day range, these probiotics will not only survive, but kick ass on the pathogens and set the stage for stability and resilience in your gut’s ecosystem.

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