Revisiting Resistant Starch: Part Three

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.


56 thoughts on “Revisiting Resistant Starch: Part Three

  1. Anna

    Scoff not at the guy taking 1 entire teaspoon – I am down to a mere ¼ tsp as I stubbornly try to continue this protocol! Unfortunately, potato starch gives me chronic heartburn. I must be working with zero gut bugs at this point.

    However, I can definitely confirm having those X-rated dreams!

    1. Tate

      Likely, you are feeding the wrong microbes. The good microbes aren’t the only ones which can eat RS. Hypothetically, this is why people have had varying effects from RS. If you look at my post below, I have addressed how I think this might be mitigated. I think RS is only part of the puzzle and has the potential to be harmful if you gut microbe population is already in a bad way and the RS is use alone.

  2. Nikki

    Great interview.

    Small step with fermented foods, RS foods and dirty hands will be part of the healing process and my life style now.

    Thanks for all you do Tom, and to Dr. Gracie, Tim and Richard.

  3. Jeanne

    A couple of years ago, I had elective surgery. I took a course of antibiotics to prevent infection in the surgery site. A week after surgery, I came down with a monster lower GI bug that had me up 5 times a night cleaning myself up and wearing adult diapers in the daytime, not to mention feeling the sickest I’d ever felt. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have taken probiotics before and nutured my gut way before the surgery. As it is, I have a real empathy for older people who have C-diff, and a real appreciation for the need to take care of one’s gut.

  4. Dave L

    Thanks again, Tom, for publishing this series! As one of your “grain eating fans” (not a big part of my diet, though), I have to say that resistant starch and the gut microbes are another piece in the big puzzle of nutritional health. Also, it’s another nail in the coffin of the “eat less, move more” paradigm.

  5. Firebird7478

    More good news in that article on Glucommannan. I was about to throw out the two bottles I purchased at the Vitamin Shoppe, but I’ve begun to incorporate it into my diet with the potato starch (2 TBS per day so far). I’m not experiencing all the gas that others are experiencing. I guess that is due to the head start I had from taking probiotics over the past several months.

    I remember back in the 80s that Glucommannan was being pushed for weight loss as a diet suppressant, but again, the interviews suggest that it’s benefit for weight loss is in gut health.

    BTW, here is the TV commercial for Lipozene, which is nothing more than Glucommannan, and they charge $30 for a bottle. I got mine at the Vitamin Shoppe under their brand name as Glucommannan for 1/2 the price.

    Never heard of Lipozene. I guess that’s because I record all the TV shows I watch and skip the commercials.

  6. Bruce B

    That was a great interview. I learned a lot. It looks like my favorite breakfast item of potatoes fired in bacon grease, scrambled eggs and bacon is not such a guilty pleasure after all.

    Potatoes and eggs is a very tasty combination. I try to remember to cook a potato the night before, stick it in the fridge overnight, then reheat it to go with eggs in the morning.

    1. Firebird7478

      Find me a restaurant that doesn’t offer eggs and hash browns for breakfast!

      A vegan restaurant, perhaps?

      1. Bruce B

        I know that task would be futile. I hate it when a restaurant lists hash browns on the menu (which are my favorite) and serves home fries. They are both good but not the same thing.

        1. Walter

          Ain’t no such thing. It would be like fat free half and half or milk from plants. The FDA should shut them down for false advertising and mislabeling.

    2. Jean Bush

      Because I’m rushed in the morning and it’s too much trouble to peel, chop and cook potatoes, I did a large batch last nite, pushed them through a cutter and fried them up with eggs and bacon. Saw this post and am glad to FINALLY be doing something right:)

  7. Kim

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to try this resistant starch thing out. I’m going to pick up some potatoes to cook & cool down for lunch, some green bananas to blend into smoothies, and some of the soil probiotic mentioned.

    The effect on sleep you mentioned in this third installation was particularly interesting to me. When I changed to a strict paleo diet a couple of years ago I had overall good results initially (minor weight loss & great energy levels) but then the pendulum swung the opposite direction about 2 months in as I was hit by horrible insomnia. I wouldn’t say my sleep was GREAT before but this was something else entirely … months on end of only 2-4 hours of sleep per night turned me into a walking zombie. Eventually I threw in the towel and started incorporating some non-paleo stuff like dairy, white rice, potatoes, etc. and saw some improvement. I still feel like the 6-7 hours of sleep I get now is lacking enough “deep” sleep though. I’m very curious to see if incorporating resistant starch and a good probiotic will help any! If it does, I will be forever grateful …

    Good luck. My sleep has been deep and restful since I started this protocol.

  8. Tate

    So here is a crazy theory:

    If you read the Perfect Health Diet book, they base their diet on human milk and make adjustments for the different needs between a growing baby and an adult. However, this is largely based on the macro dietary needs, from which different “poisons” are removed. For example, they recommend around 20% carbohydrates, but subtract grains. I think they are onto something there, but the idea is not fully explored. I have done a fair amount of reading about this in different medical journals. Here are two papers which sum up a lot of what I have read in regards to better health and the stomach microbes: and Intestinal Colonization Resistance by Lawley, Trever and Walker, Alan. Both are great reads, but my take away from both is intestinal health is the number one factor in health and once the stomach microbe population is set, it is very difficult to change. Going back to babies, they have no microbe population to speak of initially. Over time the larger categories of bacteria which are the same between babies are implanted as long as they are getting human milk. In the past, if they were not getting human milk, things went very wrong, with negative side effects for the duration of the babies’ lives. Recently, this has been largely addressed by adding prebiotics to baby formula in the form of Galacto and Fructo-Oligosaccharides. It still isn’t as good as mother’s milk as it lacks the diversity and the targeting effects of being fermented at different points in the digestive track. Currently, they only way of getting these prebotics is by buying infant formula and these are expensive to buy. However, Fructo-Oligosaccharides targeted bacteria can be fed through digestible fiber (I haven’t found a good, cheap source of this yet. I have tried chicory root, but I am getting pretty tired of it), and Galacto-Oligosaccharides targeted bacteria can be fed through RS! The next thing I looked at was the amino acid profile. These can be met through eating complete protein sources and your body can synthesis the protein you need from the amino acids from diet. After this, I looked at the fat profile. Sadly this is not addressed in infant formula which may partially explain the continued underperformance of infant formula despite the addition of prebiotics. Human milk has some nearly unique (from our food sources) saturated fatty acids: Lauric Acid, Caprylic Acid, and Capric Acid. The only food sources which supply these fatty acids are coconut and palm oil. What is extremely interesting about this is these fatty acids have anti-microbe effects, and are absorbed in the small intestine, which would kill off SIBO. So, not only does breast milk support good microbe growth, it actively kills and starves (through the rest of the content of milk being extremely digestible by the baby) bad microbe growth. Milk also provides probiotics. Most of these are lactic acid producing and are in the bifidobacterium family. This can be supplied by fermented cow milk products. I would say Kefir is ideal for this as it is so easy to produce. So, if you wanted to very aggressively shift to your gut profile, nature as already given us a template. And it can be done cheaply. A mix of RS, digestible fiber, coconut oil, and a load of good bacteria. Especially if you lived off of this for a few days exclusively, I think you could effect a large change in a short amount of time. What do you think?

    I think it makes sense and it’s worth a try.

    1. Grace/Dr.BG

      Tate~! MAN, I LOVE YOUR WONDERFUL THOUGHTS. The thing about butyrate is that is like the MCTs — lauric/caprylic/capric acids. Aren’t those beautiful names? Butyrate is anti-microbial. Additionally natural gut microbes make over 1200 targeted anti-microbial chemicals actually (without killing themselves). And the microbes nearly all derive from DIRT where plants are receiving huge benefits from the soil microorganisms for pathogen protection, enhanced nutrient and mineral delivery and anti-oxidants.

      1. Tate

        My thought on this is the small intestine absorbs pretty much all fats before they have an opportunity to get to the large intestine. From what I understand, this is why having the bacteria produce Butyrate in the large intestines is effective where as eating it is not. However, I was hypothesizing by eating the MCTs, there may be a benefit in the reduction of unwanted microbes in the small intestine. I have found lots of claims to this effect, but no peer review literature. But it would make sense when compared to human milk, which has been studied and has been proven very effective at making babies’ digestive tracks right. I am not saying adults should have the same microbe population as babies, but adults may be better off starting from that point rather than the current standard US gut issues.

    2. Paleophil

      Tate wrote: “Going back to babies, they have no microbe population to speak of initially.”

      This is something we have all been misled on, Tate. In 1900, the French pediatrician Henry Tissier declared unborn babies bacteria-free, without actually checking. His assumption made it into textbooks and became a medical dogma. No one bothered to check whether it was actually true until recently. It turned out to be completely bogus and was even called “insane” by Dr. Juliette C. Madan, Professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth (Human Microbiome May Be Seeded Before Birth, The microbiome is even more important than anyone realized.

      Lauric, caprylic, and capric acid are also in animal milk. There’s more in goat’s and sheep’s milk than cow’s milk. (Replacing cows’ with sheep’s dairy fat lowers plasma cholesterol concentration in participants consuming dairy fat-rich diets,

      1. Tate

        Huh. Interesting. This doesn’t change the fact that human milk very aggressively drives a relatively narrow microbiome in human babies.

        In regards to the fatty acid content in milk, while interesting that sheep and goat milk more closely matches humans, this is not particularly actionable information for me. I would love to consume goat and sheep milk products, but what little access I have is expensive. My point remains that lauric, caprylic, and capric acid are not present to a great amount in the US food chain. Which could be ANOTHER reason the SAD is so bad.

  9. Shannon

    Ok, I’m trying it too.

    I whined before that I have problems and a few people suggested malabsorption, which I agree with, but I can’t seem to find the fix for that (for me). Maybe this will help. Along with the homemade sauerkraut, homemade yogurt, probiotics, homemade kombucha, vinegar (for digestion) and enzymes.

    I have a very mild heart defect but because of it, I had to take antibiotics whenever I had dental work done or when *anyone else* had strep all throughout my childhood (I never even had strep as a kid, but took it when others did!). I finally rebelled as an adult and refuse to take them for what I consider stupid reasons (seriously, my defect was described as “trivial”).

    But I had them so many times in the 70’s and 80’s (and then in the 90’s when they made me take them after childbirth) and add that to the gluten intolerance issues that run through my family and yeah, we’re talking long term gut issues.

    Hey, worth a try, right? 🙂

    Definitely worth a try.

  10. Katja

    Just curious. How does your current meal plan look like? Still avoiding general grains; e.g. wheat? Bread? Cereals?

    It’s not dramatically different from what I ate before. Still no wheat or other gluten-containing grains, and still on the low-carb side, just not as low as before. My diet consisted mostly of meat, eggs, vegetables, full-fat dairy and some nuts, but we also consumed sweet potatoes or squash two or three times per week. Now I’ve added potatoes and gluten-free bread (made from “safe starch” tapioca and rice) into the mix here and there. So instead of sausage and eggs, I’ll have eggs and a small potato or sausage and a small potato.

    Dinner last night was leg of lamb, kale and a potato with butter and sour cream.

  11. Kathy in Texas

    My first thoughts as I read through these three posts with all their comments were things like “game changer” and for some, “life changing”. Way to go, Tom (and Richard, Tim & Grace), getting this science-y stuff out there in a way that most of us can understand – without a degree in biochemistry!

    I believe it will be a game-changer for lots of people. My sleep and my digestion are noticeably better already.

    The thanks go to Richard, Tim and Grace. I’m just passing along the knowledge they dug up. If Richard hadn’t been such a bulldog about this topic on his blog, I’d still be ignoring it.

    Kudos also go to Paul Jaminet. Tim learned about the importance of resistant starch from Paul, then got Richard interested.

  12. Erica

    Thank you, Tom, for getting me onto RS. I had seen posts by Steve Cooksey and others about it, but skimmed past. I always read your blog posts, and you and Richard, Tim, and Grace explained it so well for me. I’m still working my way thru the comments on Richard’s site.

    I began the RS on April 15th. Apparently I had a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch in my freezer already, but I’m not sure why I bought it. It was unopened. Still on 2 T/day, although I tried 4 T one day and was really sorry, lol. Not “TMI” as Richard says, but definitely windy. I slept like the dead for the first 2 nights, then wide awake for another couple nights. Last night was back to sleeping soundly and vivid dreams.

    The best thing is my blood sugar. I went back to LCHF a month and a half ago and got my readings down to the low 200s. Yesterday afternoon it was 143. Huzzah!

    Ordered some of the AOR Probiotic 3 yesterday to feed my gut bugs. Hoping this helps me get healthy and eventually to drop some more weight.

    Here’s to continued success in lowering the glucose levels, Erica. Those are encouraging initial results.

  13. Kathy from Maine

    So how come the 7-page listing of RS in common foods doesn’t include raw potato? Many of us commenting on these posts have said they love eating raw potato. I eat one every morning now.

    From what I’ve been able to glean from FTA posts. a 5 oz raw potato contains approximately 37 grams of resistant starch.

    True? Can this be added to your listing?

    Regarding warming up potatoes, I recently made some hashed browns (you’re right, Bruce, they’re NOT the same as home fries) and threw the leftovers in the fridge. The next morning I nuked them on medium for 30 seconds, bringing the temp up to just over 90 degrees. Throw a couple fried eggs on top, and it was heaven.

    Tom (and others), how long before you felt the RS and added “safe” starches began to help you feel better? I’ve done this for less than two weeks and things seem to be better in terms of digestion, but not much else.

    I started by just adding the resistant starch and my digestion improved within two days. Same for sleep. Lower fasting glucose happened immediately — down by 10 points the next morning. I started adding safe starches maybe a week or so later. I’m not sure if those are making a difference or not.

  14. js290

    As Dr. Rosedale has pointed out, it’s not “ketosis” per se that you want. It’s the utilization of ketones that confer the health benefits. “Ketosis” is what’s left over; unused ketone bodies. Blood ketone measurements tells you roughly how much ketones are being produced. Keto stixs measures roughly how much is wasted. Neither tells you exactly how much is being used. Someone who is keto adapted may waste less ketone bodies.

    1. Bret

      I have heard the same. This likely has a lot to do with all the dramatic controversy involved with the Inuit’s level of ketosis.

      Those pesky assumptions we made–whether yesterday or 200 years ago–seem to bite us in the butt frequently.

  15. Kathy in Texas

    This is all so exciting – I just can’t get enough!

    Here’s Mark Sisson’s latest post on this hot topic.

    Some of my favorite lines…………..

    They cross arms and stand together, steadfast against encroaching pathogens seeking residence. Sheer brute force is one of, if not the most primary immune function of our gut bacteria.

    Maybe “us” is closer to the truth than “me.”

  16. Paul Eilers

    “RS combined with soluble fiber or as a whole food or supplement (green banana flour or green plantain flour) leads to significant weight loss.”

    If I take a fiber supplement with resistant starch (Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch), will that offset the benefits of the resistant starch?

    Will the fiber sweep the starch through my system too quickly and cause me not to experience the full benefits of the resistant starch?

  17. Firebird7478

    I cannot say for sure if it is the potato starch, but I have noticed an increase in appetite this week since beginning the RS regimen (up to 3 TBS/day). Has anyone else noticed this?

    1. Mark Krigbaum

      Yes, I noticed that I am hungry for breakfast much more than before trying RS. It feels to me like I’m less fat adapted, and the eating window is now larger. Fasting is more difficult. Be careful of “green” bananas. I’ve been buying green bananas and storing in the fridge and using them in a smoothie. But yesterday I decided to eat one whole and realized it was pretty sweet tasting even though it was green. And I’ve gained about 7 lbs. The trouble is that if you try to get your RS from real food (rather than Potato Starch) you end up eating a lot of digestible starch along with the RS. Bloating and fartage still there after four weeks. I’ve been taking standard probiotic and need to try the soil based pb.

      1. Firebird7478

        I’m really not interested in the green bananas. I’ve had them in the past as a kid and use to get yelled at for not waiting for them to ripen. I might do white rice here and there and make sort of an instant rice pudding out of the fridge.

        I’m loaded down on the potato starch. It’s still too early to tell what benefits there are, though the dreams that others are reporting have crept into my sleep, too. Had one right before waking up this morning…watched a thunder/lightning storm from a high rise and watched other office buildings in the area lose their power.

      2. SB

        I slice up and freeze my green bananas – tried a bite of one that had been frozen for a week and it still tasted reasonably icky and not sweet.

  18. Maureen

    Thanks for the series Tom.
    I am totally confused by discussions of probiotics. Dr. Davis says to pick one with 50 billion CFUs. Tried that and saw no difference. I am hoping that combining the probiotic with the RS could be helpful but notice that none of the three probiotics mentioned has anywhere close to 50 billion. Am I looking at the wrong thing? Mixing apples and oranges? Love to hear Grace weigh in on this.

    I’ll let Grace chime in.

    1. Grace/Dr.BG


      Davis is likely confused or not up to date on probiotics. The soil based probiotics that I recommend are spore based and thus not technically alive (hibernating). They germinate only when they are exposed to food and an environment that allows them to be viable (temp, food, moisture). Davis is referring to live probiotics where in studies, sometimes the dose matters and sometimes the dose doesn’t.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I haven’t looked into that specifically. I went with the soil-based probiotics because (from what I understand) those are different strains of bacteria.

        1. Jean Bush

          I did a little research after your reply to me and found this article. After looking it over, perhaps you would like to post it. The research seems excellent.

          Too many people see info on a site and rush right out to try it without doing proper research. This article’s comment on the fact that too many people may not be ready for soil based probs was especially interesting.

  19. GadsBC

    I put my skepticism aside and tried the RS via 4 Tbs PS. I have done 2 intense workouts that pre-RS would have left me with BG at about 140 post-workout. I had 4 TBS PS 30 minutes before these workouts and my BG was about 105 post workout both times.
    Awesome improvement of course, but now my brain hurts trying to understand why this is occurring. What is the mechanism that is now keeping my BG at such a great level post-workout?

    I’m still wrapping my head around that one too. Apparently it’s a matter of insulin sensitivity, which in essence means more and/or more responsive insulin receptors, so insulin does what it’s supposed to do: move glucose into cells and glycogen.

  20. Grace/Dr.BG


    Have you ever stood next to someone in a room wearing strong cologne or perfume? You can’t smell anything until you move away or out of the room and your scent receptors readjust? Butyrate created by the intestinal microbes from fiber fermentation bind receptors that CALIBRATE insulin effects. So if there is insulin resistance which leads BGs above normal then it makes the insulin out in circulation work stronger, bigger and better. Thus lower BGs overall.

    All fiber does this. Earlier someone mentioned glucomannan which Dr Mark Hyman MD promotes because it potently lowers Hgba1c and BGs in T2D to the point of reversing disease and dramatic weight loss.

  21. Mark

    Tom, would you say that instead of eating resistant starch, could I perhaps eat some fermented foods alà Nourishing Traditions.

    I’d go for both. I’ve stirred the potato starch into yogurt. Apparently the RS helps the probiotic bacteria arrive in unscathed.

  22. jackisback

    Are you still going to address the so-called “safe starches”? I am currently reading the PHD book, and the prospect of adding potatoes to a paleo-type diet sure makes meals a heck of a lot easier and enjoyable. Since potatoes are nearly always accompanied by a good fat (butter, sour cream, cheese), the GI is generally not too high for people without diabetes.

    Yup, that post is coming next.

    1. Erik van Altena

      Amen Jack. These articles not only made me ecstatic because it answered a thing or two more, but also from a culinary perspective it is a blessing. Although its going to take a while to adjust to eating stuff cold and raw 🙂

      Next experiment: making a nice Arborio based risotto to be consumed cold as a salad. I can hear some Italians rolling over in their graves.

  23. Grace/Dr.BG


    Whether we buy them or they live in our gut — microbes are not impotent. In fact the ‘vipers’ in the gut are likely the worse, triggering obesity, cancer, inflammation, mind disorders, allergies, autism and autoimmunity. We need some of these vipers actually because they play key roles in the gut ecosystem, however, the balance disruption occurs when the commensal guards (or goddesses) may be absent. Balance in modern living is hard to re-establish for manysuburb- and urbanites but any connection to healthy soil can bring it back — gardening, playing and hiking outdoors, farming, eating organic root vegetables and their skins, (poop) and SBO probiotics. These are the commensal guardians/goddesses and keep the vipers outta da sacred temple LOL.

    Low white counts and severe immunocompromised states are contraindications to most probiotics on the market, including the SBO ones, just as these individuals should be careful to avoid sick and virulent people, no?

    Have you seen these cases where the 7 Steps with SBO probiotics have reversed conditions where modern healthcare can not?

  24. shutchings

    So do you have to eat the RS an hour before eating? Or can you just eat it with a meal? Or just a certain amount a day?

    1. erik van altena

      Probably at this point we’re missing some comments due to the recent site hack and I did not read those comments, so sorry if what I’m about to say has already been said or does not match with information given earlier.

      My interpretation is that it doesn’t matter unless you are going to eat a carby meal such as rice, then it benefits to consume RS 2 to at most 4 hours before that meal to benefit from the increased insulin sensitivity.

      But what is most important is that you get RS in any case so you don’t only feed yourself but also your gut bug friends. I’ve seen recommendations on other sites of taking a tea spoon of potato starch before each major meal; that seems like a pattern easy to adopt and introduce progressively.

      But I’m still learning like you are so I find your question very interesting too. If someone made a comment that has gotten lost, please repost it.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I agree. It appears that it’s important to get some resistant starch into your system regardless of the effect on glucose levels after meals.

  25. Kristin

    Encouraged by this series I’ve baked one potato which I cooled and ate over two days and had some sushi for the first time in a long time. I also started stirring a teaspoon of tapioca starch (which I already had in the cupboard from my GF days) into a serving of plain yogurt every morning. When I started the tapioca starch I had a couple of windy days but I also noticed an almost instant increase in energy and focus.

    I have also been sleeping better (I’m typically a horrible insomniac) and having some more vivid dreams as well. Didn’t realize that was connected in. After doing some reading it looks like the occasional loaf of wild sourdough rye/spelt I make myself contains a fair bit of RS. And frankly it is nice to have a serving of potatoes a few times a week again. I missed them.

  26. Norm

    I’m sorry for not getting my head around this issue of resistant starch properly. Resistant starch like any fiber would slow down the glucose absorption and that will make the insulin sensitive. What is the mechanism of making insulin sensitive that is uniquely exercised by resistant starch? Secondly, Bob’s red mill potao starch 3 tbs in cold water give no gas, green banana gives loads of gas, wonder what’s going on there?

  27. Norm

    Blood glucose before taking 2 tbs of raw potatoe starch in coled water 93. Half an hour later 111

  28. jiani mazza

    “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).”

    can you show me this study??


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