Time to look forward. There's no question that since my very first post on resistant starch in April, 2013, things have changed in a number of ways. I like to think that the more than 130 posts related to resistant starch or the microbiome in some way—many including contributions by others, like Tim Steele and Grace Liu—have contributed to the general impact of recognizing the importance of gut health and the role of resistant starch in the whole picture. Since there's now a number of voices out there on the topic and some dispute about some things, I thought I might put some rules or guidelines out there I'm going to use to evaluate things moving forward.
- The vast majority of what's to be known and understood about the complex workings of the human microbiome and its interactions with the host remains to be discovered.
- The things we think we know and understand are mostly wrong or incomplete in some way.
- The struggle is in the process of becoming less wrong over time, not in searching for ways of being right.
- We don't know what the "ideal" gut microbiome looks like. It's more likely there's no such thing.
- Gut bug composition changes meal to meal and season to season. RNA sequencing, then, is perhaps best done in a fasted state of at least 24 hours to get a better idea of an individual's "metagut."
- RNA sequencing is flawed, where even the same sample taken in the exact same spot yields some vastly different results.
- Hunter gatherer guts are probably of limited value to non huntger-gatherers. Perhaps better would be the sequences of people in your neck of the woods, same age and gender, who are lean and have a clean medical history (esp. no signs of autoimmune disorders).
- Just because a particular species of gut bacteria is generally associated with good things doesn't automatically mean that more of it is better. 1% of 100 trillion is a very big number.
- Excluding testing error (#3), a decrease in a species associated with good stuff could have a number of explanations: all good, all bad, or a mix. For example, if Akkermansia drops in population, could it be because something else good increased and the previous levels of Akk are no longer necessary, or needed?
- Is a different mix and relative proportion of bugs called for in a diseased person than a healthy person; and moreover, is it possible that the mix in the diseased person is actually helping them from getting worse, rather than a direct cause of their state of disease?
- Horizontal gene transfer is a factor in all of this, and I don't think sequencing is yet sophisticated enough to detect that. In other words, it's the genes and their expression in the gut that's fundamentally important, not species classification (just a way for us to...um...classify).
- Some humans, owing to their specific human genetic makeup, i.e., what needs expressing and what needs repressing, and control of specific pathogens, will require different sets of genes in their gut.
- Some species associated with good (or bad) stuff may have significant members of their ranks "hiding out" in mucosal layers, biofilms, whatever, and be relatively undetectable in sequencing tests.
- One thing we do seem to have a pretty good handle on is clear pathogens (or overgrowths of even "good" bugs) and this should dominate therapeutic intervention for now. Once that's out of the way, we'll have all the time in the world to worry about boutique bugs.
There may be more. Feel free to suggest. I already incorporated some stuff by Gemma in the last few rulz.
Ok, so one issue at hand now, spearheaded by Grace (link removed), is questions over the propriety of using raw potato starch as a supplement, or perhaps more poignantly, in high dose. It's important to go back to the beginning, the very first post, and look at how this all got started. In the words of Tim Steele.
Most scientists used 20-50 grams RS per day in their human studies. Most recommendations are for the ingestion of 20-40g/day for maximum benefit, and there seems to be an upper limit of about 60g where it stops being effective, and a lower limit of about 20g where it has little effect.
My next step was to target RS in the 20-60g/day range from common foods...this proved difficult.
I learned there was a bit of RS in cooked and cooled rice, like sushi rice, but only a small amount, like 5g per cup.
He goes on to lay out the RS content of a bunch of common foods, then suggests potato starch at the end as supplement, alternative. Check it out. And, later on, Tim painstakingly put together a 5-page PDF listing RS in a whole bunch of foods, by weight.
And yes, in spite of that, a lot of people ignored trying to get much from foods, because they come in grains and starches. You know why? The Very Low Carb Menace, that's why. In Tim's case, he was already eating lots of cooked and cooled potatoes, beans, and his own dried green plantains. In my case, I did the 4 TBS daily for a while, then went intermittent (1, 0, 3, 6, 0, 0, 0, 2, etc.). Now, sometimes I go a week or more with zero and a while back went more than a month with zero. Why? Because I eat plenty of beans and potatoes. Rice sometimes. Even bread...very only sometimes (doing my part for hormesis).
Nonetheless, if we are to look at studies showing that high dose raw potato starch is a questionable practice, which I'm willing to do, we have to look at anecdotes or, more accurately, the relative lack thereof. But, one thing out of the way: I agree, a regime that's like 4 TBS every morning at 6:38 am, with the exact same smoothie or food, is not the best approach. Intermittency and variation in all things, please.
This morning, I scanned through all sales via my Amazon shopping link (13,200 orders) from April, 2013 to today, looking for products associated with gut health. Here's the list with order totals:
- AOR Probiotic-3 - 1,195
- Prescript-assist Probiotic - 1,436
- Primal Defense ULTRA - 1,261
- Amazing Grass - 298
- Banana Flour - 591
- Baobab Powder - 15
- Potato Starch - 891 (these are 4-packs, so 3,564 packages)
- Hi-Maize Resistant Starch - 12 (50-pound bags)
- Plantain Flour - 328
- Organic Raw Tigernuts - 510
- Amla Powder - 170
- Larch Arabinogalactan Powder - 21
- Inulin and FOS Powder - 409
- Glucomannan Powder - 38
- Primadophilus Reuteri - 36
- Psyllium Husk Powder - 72
- Yacon Root Syrup - 15
Tons of other things gut related, but I excluded anything with less than 10 orders. There's also the case of commenter Wilbur, who takes all manner of various powdered fibers and claims impressive results.
Take home points:
- There is one hell of a lot of people worldwide experimenting with potato starch and to lesser extent, other fibers. And probiotics (the soil-based ones as Grace harped on almost from the beginning) are pretty huge. Add to that their mention now on hundreds of other blogs and websites, using their own associates links. Add to that, the the folks who just grab it at the supermarket, as I sometimes do. Very lots.
- If the argument that ritual supplementing of 4 TBS or thereabouts daily is not the best approach, zero argument from me. More on that below.
- If the argument, however, is that this stuff is really going to harm you (and some have been using it for 20 months), then I need to see some really compelling anecdotal evidence of that. Instead, what we have is thousands of positive anecdotes in comments (and I get many emails), compared to a relatively small percentage where some level of discomfort was experienced, like bloating, joint pain, rash, etc.
- I don't think that a changed gut RNA sequence cuts it, for reasons outlined in the thumbrulz, above, and especially if not accompanied by some sort of clear physical downstream effect that shows up significantly in a lot of people. We are still bound to the scientific method, here.
But again, this may not even be worth arguing because I am all on board with expanding the mix. First of all, eat the damn food! Second, if you do supplement, then keep it real, use a mix of the prebiotics, and incorporate the probiotics, especially the dirt.
So, right now, I'm experimenting with mixes of a variety of stuff. Usually, it's about a third to half PS, then a bunch of other stuff from above, and Wilbur's list too. And yes, I hope to develop a product once I nail down proportions I like and do some beta testing. Yes, you'll know the ingredients, but the proportions will be my trade secret. The idea is that by using economies of scale to purchase bulk, I can get you a single product with a mix of about a dozen things that costs less than buying all of them, saves space, saves the trouble of spooning out individually or mixing yourself, and ads convenience to your life. Of course, anyone can develop such a product, BUT ONLY ONE WILL BE CALLED..."ANIMAL FARTS!"
Now, when I have a smoothie, which is maybe 3-4 times per week: it's 1 raw egg, two heaping TBS of my mix (roughly 40% PS), 3-4 oz orange juice, the rest of the 14 total oz topped off with whole milk. I don't bother with blenders anymore and I'll just eat fruit. I put all that in one of those 14 oz shakers with an agitator ball in it. Comes out perfectly smooth, tasting creamy like an Orange Julius. It's the only smoothie recipe I need; might use other fruit juices sometimes.
- Since I've had elevated TSH since about 1998-2000 when it first showed up on a blood test, it's likely that it was the same autoimmune condition.
- I can't recall what those numbers were back then, but in 2008 my TSH was 16 in a 1-5 reference range.
- One would expect the condition to get worse over time. TSH was in normal range in the 2009-2011 timeframe because I was on Armour Thyroid, which of course does not address the underlying issue of the elevated TPO antibody.
- While I don't have a TPO AB reference point, since my TSH went from 16 to just under 10 from 2008 to now, and I haven't been on any meds in 2-3 years, it's more likely that I have LESS TPO antibody now, not more.
- ...Meaning that the WORST one can say about my supplementation with raw potato starch over the last 20 months is that it almost certainly did not make this autoimmune condition worse (and if there's any effect at all, it's far more likely to have been a positive one).
But, now I'm interested in fixing it. First, I have to get rid of things I don't need that may be adversely impacting my gut: all alcohol, gluten, processed and fast foods. It's not like I do a lot of the latter, but I can get pretty sloppy. Thankfully, I've been pretty weight stable at around 185 for months now.
So, gonna eliminate all that stuff, drop 20 pounds, get off my ass and exercise more, and really target the gut with foods and my powder mixes and probiotics and a few other supplements, do it for 90 days and retest in mid-March.
With me ruck.
Update: Well, the truce didn't last long. I have permanently severed all ties with Ms. Liu: