Thinking, Emoting, Reacting and Dreaming With Your Gut Biome

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds

Mayer thinks the bacteria in our digestive systems may help mold brain structure as we’re growing up, and possibly influence our moods, behavior and feelings when we’re adults. “It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease,” he says.

So Mayer is working on just that, doing MRI scans to look at the brains of thousands of volunteers and then comparing brain structure to the types of bacteria in their guts. He thinks he already has the first clues of a connection, from an analysis of about 60 volunteers.

Mayer found that the connections between brain regions differed depending on which species of bacteria dominated a person’s gut. That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine what kinds of brains we have — how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired. […]

But other researchers have been trying to figure out a possible connection by looking at gut microbes in mice. There they’ve found changes in both brain chemistry and behavior. One experiment involved replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice.

“The mice became less anxious, more gregarious,” says Stephen Collins of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who led a team that conducted the research.

It worked the other way around, too — bold mice became timid when they got the microbes of anxious ones. And aggressive mice calmed down when the scientists altered their microbes by changing their diet, feeding them probiotics or dosing them with antibiotics.

To find out what might be causing the behavior changes, Collins and his colleagues then measured brain chemistry in mice. They found changes in a part of the brain involved in emotion and mood, including increases in a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which plays a role in learning and memory.

Pretty interesting, huh?

I began noticing the effect myself back when I was doing lots of raw milk, kefir, kombucha and other fermented foods. At the time, I chalked it up to dense nutrition. After all, milk and its derivatives are complete whole foods with nutrients in a more-or-less proper balance to one another for growing mammals in general.

Then, of course, I got into the whole resistant starch thing (pre-biotics that nourish the gut), and the brain and mood effects were even more profound, such that I no longer felt a particular need to engage almost all commenters, would just delete offending comments to avoid conflict altogether, or would just yawn and let things slide.

For me, it was an unmistakable calming. It’s not that things don’t piss me off, or that I don’t get outraged. I just tend to react differently or not react at all. In the past, I might go off on some idiot in comments, but really from an angry perspective. Now, if I do that, it’s more from a “cheeky” or “schtick-y” motivation and I can easily let it go.

And perhaps the thing that most makes me believe I’m not just fooling myself is the brain activity I have no “control” over. I’m speaking of vivid dreaming. So many people have reported this, and it’s usually at the very outset of supplemental dosing of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch (many of us have been taking 1-4 Tablespoons per day, mixed in either cold food or drink—heat destroys the properties of RS). Probably that’s when the difference in dreaming is the most stark and obvious. Now, after months, I’m not waking up every morning and going “wow, what awesome, vivid, complex dreams!” So either it has just all settled out, or I’m just used to that as the norm, now. Not altogether sure. Yawn. I’ll just let it go and live the mystery. See? :)

Alright, now you MUST watch this 5-minute, awesomely animated video that very nicely explains all things human biome. Note also the stuff about various places they reside on the skin and scalp, making my no soap or shampoo (water only) regime for over four years now seem not so crazy, after all.

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


  1. tatertot on November 24, 2013 at 09:33


    I can attest to the mental clarity that came along with the RS, too. People embarking on paleo have accepted ‘brain fog’ as a rite of passage into the low carb lifestyle–more power to them!

  2. Marc on November 24, 2013 at 10:10

    Just watched that wonderful little vid with my wifey.
    Thanks for sharing, excellent stuff!


  3. Steve on November 24, 2013 at 11:20

    Aw man, more proof that I’m defective! I’ve been taking a few tablespoons of potato starch a day for the past 3 or 4 days, and nothing! :( But, as long as it helps the biome, that’s all that counts.

  4. yien on November 24, 2013 at 14:19

    An interesting read is Language of the Land, James Stephenson, he spends a year living with the Hadza, it is amazing how much time and importance Hadza spend on discussing and analyzing dreams.

  5. cindy on November 25, 2013 at 05:53

    I have a Phillipino friend who told me in the Phillipines they don’t bathe for two weeks after having a baby. She married an American and he made her shower after the birth of their baby.

  6. DuckDodgers on November 25, 2013 at 08:30

    It’s not just you, Richard… :)

    From A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas, By Charles Dickens

    Jacob Marley: Why do you doubt your senses?

    Scrooge: Because…a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.

  7. Raphael S on November 26, 2013 at 00:47

    fantastic video! Could you please expand on the most likely significant sources of RS available during the Paleolithic? Thanks

  8. DuckDodgers on November 26, 2013 at 18:40

    I can attest to reduced brain fog and calmer emotions with RS. Same exact experience here. I love it.

    I must have been going through some significant detoxing this year because even before I started taking RS I found significant improvement in my brain fog from taking small doses of transdermal Nascent Iodine (only 400mcg/day on the skin) and having acupuncture. I could feel the brain fog lifting with each drop of iodine and acupuncture treatment. At first, the lymph nodes in my neck felt a bit tight from iodine, but that subsided after a week or so. But, the Acupuncture was amazing, and acted very quickly — literally in minutes — as it instantly brought blood flow to my brain.

    I started taking RS a few months ago — and it must have helped sweep away the toxins my body was trying to detox. I believe it helped take me to another level of clarity that I wasn’t expecting. I honestly never believed that my consciousness could be this clear. I feel like someone upgraded by brain to a Blu-Ray player.

    A year ago, I started taking transdermal magnesium oil, MCT oil and eating grass fed liver, but each of those always made my brain fog worse. It was terrible. I tried “Earthing” mats as well and they made me nauseous and caused insomnia. It was just my luck that doing anything “healthy” (all forms of detox support) made me feel awful.

    I am happy to say that now I can tolerate all of those foods and practices and feel significant benefits from each. Earthing now makes me feel great — no nausea and I wake up feeling amazing. Transdermal magnesium rubbed into the kneck and forehead before bed made my dreams more vivid again for a few weeks, but that seems to have subsided as well. And eating liver is perfectly fine now.

    What a ride it’s been, but I believe that RS definitely played a role in my detox protocol — likely sweeping toxins away with every tablespoon.

    Thanks Richard and Tatertot for all your research!

  9. yien on November 26, 2013 at 19:06

    “the most likely significant sources of RS available during the Paleolithic? ”

    The most likely sources during the evolution of modern guts, potentially included: Coccinea surantiaca or aurantiaca, Vigna sp. (Papilionoidea Leguminosae), Vigna frutescens, Vigna macrorhyncha, Vatoraea pseudolablab, Rhynchosia comosa, Ipomoea transvaalensis, and Vigna esculenta.

  10. yien on November 26, 2013 at 19:43

    Incidentally, the non-digested/resistant content of the legume root, in the above photo, is between 60-70% (and that’s not including the expectorated portion).

  11. Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2013 at 20:30


    I enjoyed that comment.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d rather eat lead for lunch than get all that involved, astute to every possible feeling. And, I worry that there’s so much confirmation bias and appeal to minutiae going on that I’m wondering what I’ve done.

    But these are just idle reflections.

    I’m the kind of guy who gets up I’m the morning, and it’s a good day or bad day. Most are good, and that’s why I’m still annoying as many people as possible.

  12. DuckDodgers on November 26, 2013 at 20:50

    I hear you. If it makes you feel any better, RS has yet to cure my dandruff. Nor has the no-poo / no-soap approach. So, we can safely say that RS is a failure in that department.

    If only I could figure out a way to feed the good bacteria on my scalp! I don’t think RS shampoo will help :)

  13. tatertot on November 26, 2013 at 21:05

    @whoever – The thing I love about RS rich foods and potato starch in particular is that it is such a simple solution–no need for endless protocols when you fail at simpler ones–just eat real food, easily picking ones that contain RS and also add some potato starch to your daily intake, since food is usually not enough.

    The whole deal with RS is that it will increase your beneficial gut bacteria and start you on a path to better health. If you have serious medical issues, it’s probably better to go see a real doctor instead of relying on endless protocols outlined by internet gurus. Just look at Jack Kruse–he’s up to like his 30th protocol after the promise that a leptin reset would fix everybody.

    When I hear people talking about earthing and ‘blood-type’ diets (sorry, Grace) and that sort of thing, I always think of used car salesmen. With RS, there are tests you can do to show it’s working–what tests are there that grounding yourself is effective?

    I know there is science behind all these things, but the bigger science seems to be separating people from their money. My biggest joy about potato starch–simple, cheap, effective. Not leading to endless protocols because ‘you are doing it wrong’.

  14. Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2013 at 23:17


    You know when I did the whole no soap/poo thing years ago, there were two kinds of people, Those, like me who said makes sense fuck it, and those who could not tolerate change of transition,

    I and many hundreds have been no soap or poo for four years and I am no longer interested in hearing about those who can’t manage

  15. Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2013 at 23:20


    You know when I did the whole no soap/poo thing years ago, there were two kinds of people, Those, like me who said makes sense fuck it, and those who could not tolerate change of transition,

    I and many hundreds have been no soap or poo for four years and I am no longer interested in hearing about those who can’t manage it, for whatever reason.

    The weird thing about having a blog, plus getting emails from non commenters is the juxtaposition of really go-to people in email who don’t care to comment versus a lot of hand wringing over every single shit they have, every feeling, ever comb of hair.

    Yes, I’m venting. Sorry, but, without vitriol.

  16. Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2013 at 01:05

    @ tater

    So, supposedly because I get heartburn I have SIBO. Thing is, maybe, or, because I like my afternoon whiskey, I only notice getting it with booze… At any rate, last three – 4 days, I do 2T PS in water, empty stomach, first thing in AM. I’ve had a decent amount of whiskey tonight, even had a grilled cheese sammy on gluten free and just like last night, but not the night before, zero heartburn. So maybe it was SIBO, but maybe there are degrees and you can do the PS in a way that flushes is out for you if not too bad.

    Back in early days of lcPaleo, I had and iron stomach for 3 years. Then it went away and for a couple of years, I have been getting the burn.

    And now, after only 3-4 days of what I call the morning flush, rock solid so far,

  17. DuckDodgers on November 27, 2013 at 04:42

    Sorry Richard. It wasn’t meant as a health nitpick. I knew you had experience with no-poo and I was sort of hoping you might have a suggestion or two in terms of nourishing the “scalp” microbiome you mentioned in the post. :/ It’s not a big deal for me, so I can just as easily let it go.

  18. DuckDodgers on November 27, 2013 at 05:30

    Richard, you probably think I’m fucking with you (I’m not). Anyway, you’re not going to believe this, but “Potato Shampoo” is a thing. Get this… Some people actually sprinkle tiny amounts of either dry corn starch or potato starch in their hair…

    Can’t believe I’m actually thinking of trying this.

  19. DuckDodgers on November 27, 2013 at 07:13

    Nah… Come to think of it, I’m not trying it. You’re right. This is going too far.

  20. Tatertot on November 27, 2013 at 08:45

    @Richard – Interesting observation on potato starch and SIBO symptoms.

    My big problem with SIBO, is nobody really knows if the have it. The breath hydrogen test is notoriously misleading, or so I’ve heard, making SIBO a ‘symptom-based problem’. I think most CW doctors don’t even believe it’s real.

    Where I think potato starch is ‘money in the bank’ is it’s ability to mop up stray bacteria. I am convinced that this is probably 50% or more of it’s effectiveness. I was re-reading one of the studies we linked to on one of the very first RS posts, and found this blurb–something I had totally missed when first reading it:

    “It is striking that Ruminococcus bromii, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, and Eubacterium rectale, which showed the most substantial increases in the human gut in response to RS2, have also been shown to form highly selective associations with this substrate [35]. Therefore, the adherence of bacteria to starch granules might constitute an important first step in the utilization of this substrate, and groups of colonic bacteria might differ in their ability to adhere to granules of RS2 and RS4.”

  21. Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2013 at 12:36


    Ok, you got me. Good job. :)

  22. Carolyn Huffman on November 27, 2013 at 18:16

    After eating homemade sauerkraut, I always noticed my thinking and focusing would be so much clearer. I always knew that gut health meant brain health and your comments on this confirmed. It was subtlety significant. I thought it was just me.

  23. DuckDodgers on November 27, 2013 at 19:45

    Tatertot wrote:
    what tests are there that grounding yourself is effective?

    Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Not sure if you’ve ever used HeartMath before (they are having a big 48 hour sale on their popular emWave devices this weekend) but basically you do breathing exercises as part of a “heart focussed” meditation and the more balanced your autonomic nervous system is, in real time, the more your pulse changes move in a sine-wave. When you are stressed, your pulse is all over the place (no sine-wave pattern). They call that “Heart Rate Variability” and the more sine-wave like your pulse changes are, the higher your HRV score is. HRV is a highly researched biofeedback — lots of interesting stuff there.

    Anyway, when you “Earth” yourself for more than 40 minutes, your HRV goes up considerably. The longer you Earth, the more pronounced the effect. And it’s easily measurable from a HeartMath device. It’s basically tuning your heart and autonomic nervous system.

    Anyway, it’s something.

  24. DuckDodgers on November 27, 2013 at 19:52

    @Richard (and anyone else affected by heartburn/GERD)

    I assume you’ve read Chris Kresser’s series on curing heartburn with Betaine HCL (preferably with pepsin)?

    Helps to read the entire series to put it in context:

    As you can see from the comments, the results are very good. I’m sure you’re aware of it, but thought I’d mention it in case you weren’t.

  25. Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2013 at 20:57

    Duck, that’s how I first came in contact with Chris. He emailed me back then, thought readers would be interested so yea, there’s a post on the blog.

    Got to meet him and AHS12 when he, I and Denise Minger were prepping our presentations in the “presenter’s room.”

    And, I assume you know the deal with Denise. She came to me originally to break her story about the original China Study takedown. So, that was a great time.

  26. Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2013 at 20:59

    Incidentally, I no longer think HCI is the GERD fix. Chis & I exchanged an email the other day, so I have an idea for him to consider testing clinically.

  27. Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2013 at 21:00

    …and oh, damn, he sent me his book that will be coming out next month, so I’ll be doing a review. Haven’t cracked it yet though.

  28. Jo on November 29, 2013 at 00:35

    Can anyone tell me where I can get unripe dried plantains? Ideally from a UK retailer.

  29. tatertot on November 29, 2013 at 08:39

    Jo – Can you find fresh plantains in the UK? If so, you just make your own dried plantains.

    It’s a pain-in-the-butt the first couple times, but once you figure out the tricks, it’s pretty easy. I can strip down and slice 6 big, ugly green plantains in 15-20 minutes. The biggest hurdle is finding a suitable drying rack–I made my own out of 1/4″ stainless steel mesh that will fit 6-8 sliced plantains. But smaller batches can be made on smaller racks. I think air-drying, especially with a fan on them, is the best method. No chance of overheating. But they need lots of air circulation–putting them on a cookie sheet doesn’t work too well.

    I think green plantains, dried in this fashion, are just as good as potato starch and probably even closer to the type of RS eaten by our ancestors.

  30. Nancy on December 13, 2013 at 11:07

    A fragment of an underdone potato! Dickens was here! Lol!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.