The Blooming Science of Gut Flora

This is too cool, Jeff Leach of The Human Food Project: Going Feral: my one-year journey to acquire the healthiest gut microbiome in the world (you heard me!).

I think he has a way to go to top the resistant starch monster, Tim: Resistant Starch: American Gut Project Real Results And Comparison (Very Big News).

At any rate, a couple of excerpts from Jeff’s post:

But reading between the lines of the near breathless and optimistic reporting on the human microbiome, sits a sobering fact: scientists know very little about the connection between disease and the potential microbial culprits (these are early days). Science is hard and the human gut is a vast and diverse ecosystem. As with any ecosystem, it’s the community as a whole that’s likely more important, not single members per se. Connecting the dots when there are lots of them – and they are shape shifting all the time – is proving to be tough (a similar reality has slowed our understanding of the role of human genes in disease). This will take some time – but the writing is on the wall.

I smiled when I read that, as yesterday Tim and I were working on a chapter for The Book about the human gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and contrasting how it used to pretty much be viewed as a bunch of tubes of human tissue that digest food and from time to time gets invaded by a pathogenic alien bacteria that causes problems.

Anyway, take a good look at the post, as well as the article in Science about his life and work with the Hadza in Tanzania.

Interesting times.

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  1. Julie on January 19, 2014 at 12:58

    This whole RS stuff is fascinating. Thank you and Tim so much for being willing to spend time telling us all about it.

    I’m fairly new to your blog – discovered it a couple of weeks ago and am already into my own RS experiment. Forgive me if this has come up already but I just listened to the podcast that you did on Angelo’s show and had the impression that there might be a gap of some months between your finishing the manuscript and the book appearing. I wondered if that meant that you were trying to get a mainstream publishing contract rather than self-publishing.

    Self-publishing (on Amazon, for example, as a Kindle e-book or as a paperback via Createspace, their print-on-demand arm) would offer you immediate publication. It would also give you 70% of the cover price (for the ebook) and whatever profit margin you chose for the paperback. You’d have total control of content, cover design, price, marketing blurb, the whole thing. And your book would be permanently available on Amazon, bringing you an income for years.

    Plenty of great blogs on self-publishing, such as Joe Konrath’s blog, Dean Wesley Smith’s and so on.

    My vested interest in telling you all this is that I want to read your book sooner rather than later. :)

    • Richard Nikoley on January 19, 2014 at 13:29

      Thanks Julie.

      Yes, am aware of all the options, but Tim and I are as yet not talking about what’s in the works for various reasons.

      Anyway, you can always read my first book, published by Hyperink. Search ‘Nikoley’ on Amazon. The religious books are my Baptist preacher uncle. Mine is the Paleo book.

    • Julie on January 20, 2014 at 03:21

      Thanks – glad you’re up on all the options. Really looking forward to reading the book,whichever channel you go for. And thanks for the reference to your paleo book – I hadn’t been aware of that so I’ll take a look.

  2. john on January 19, 2014 at 17:09

    Hi Richard and Tim,

    An interesting question is does the human colon increase in length with a range of resistant starch etc inputs and if so, can we measure a response?

    My interest was always piqued by the autopsy results by the csiro boys who showed the pig colon length increased by approx 20 to 30% in 21 days.

    If this potentiality is applicable to humans, the colon is an extraordinary organ to rapidly respond to environmental changes. One could speculate that the organ length we see now is a shrunken version of what the length might have been before the development of fire for cooking, some 2 million years ago.

    • gabriella kadar on January 19, 2014 at 17:19

      John, there’s a study showing that rats fed a fibre free diet had colon atrophy. It makes a person wonder if all these people who have chronic constipation from eating a very low fibre diet not only don’t produce enough mucin to pass stool comfortably, but that the muscles of the colon are not functioning well from a peristaltic perspective.

    • tatertot on January 20, 2014 at 10:36

      John – most of the pig studies were done on ‘weanling’ pigs, meaning young and growing fast. The pig farmers took such keen interest because they could make pigs grow much faster and gain more weight when feeding them RS. What they were doing was making them super-healthy and letting them grow faster on similar rations.

      I have seen studies that looked at the colon of adult animals dissected after prolonged RS feedings and they noted a hypertrophy of the muscles that support the colon presumably due to the increased activity in the large intestine. I doubt that an adult human would see a lengthening of their colon, but I can easily see an increase in the musculature of the bowels and the improved peristalsis that would go along with that, as Gab mentioned.

  3. DuckDodgers on January 19, 2014 at 17:27

    Yale University anthropologist Brian Wood, who has studied Hadza health and demography, is also skeptical that the Hadza enjoy rude health. “It seems like they have less cancer and cardiovascular disease than we do, but we do not have good data to evaluate the actual incidence,” he says. In any case, he notes, accidents, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases limit the Hadza’s life expectancy at birth to only 34 years, too short for cancer and heart disease to be significant killers.

    I fucking hate it when scientists fall back on the “life expectancy at birth” critique. Life expectancy at birth is a meaningless comparison unless you are looking into child mortality. “Adult life span” would a far more accurate comparison. Life expectancy at birth is always used to dismiss all non-modern cultures.

    • gabriella kadar on January 20, 2014 at 03:43

      Duck, there’s not many Hadza to begin with. If you look at country stats, in a lot of African countries, only about 3% make it to 65+. Life is tough. I don’t think the point of the study is to find some elixir of long life in the gut biome.

  4. kxmoore on January 19, 2014 at 22:07

    I would love to see a study that pumped up the RS consumption of a population versus a control group. Such a study could easily be done within the confines of a school, military or prison food service operation. I’ve been experimenting cooking with high RS sources and with a little creativity RS can be incorporated almost invisibly into typical American institutional food menus. I may even have found a way to get RS into my next batch of homebrew : )

  5. Joel on January 20, 2014 at 00:09

    Hi Richard,

    Have you seen any bad side effects from RS, Particularly with those in immune disorders. I suffer from hashimotos, and started experimenting with potato starch and my antibodies and TSH more than doubled (bad). I also saw a return of asthma which i haven’t had in years. After stopping the RS everything returned back to normal. Maybe i should have built up the dose slower? I follow a perfect health style diet.


    • Richard Nikoley on January 20, 2014 at 08:28

      Joel, some people have reported sensitivity to PS and at least one person I recall switched to green plantain flower and the issues resolved.

    • tatertot on January 20, 2014 at 10:44

      Joel – What you mention is very strange because if you are following the PHD, you should be getting a lot more (probably triple) RS than the average person, especially if you eat like Paul recommends and having lots of leftover rice and potatoes the next day. Did you notice any change when you switched to PHD or were you eating lots of carbs to begin with?

      How much RS and what type were you taking, and how long until your antibodies and TSH doubled, then how long to get back to normal?

    • gabriella kadar on January 20, 2014 at 18:00

      Joel, maybe check your TSH and antibodies a couple of weeks after you no longer take RS.
      Are you not taking any thyroid hormone to suppress the Hashimoto’s?

    • Joel on January 21, 2014 at 01:18

      I felt better when i initially switched, But i was on a VLC diet before that.

      I started with a teaspoon but quickly(after a week) went to about 2 tablespoons a day. I get my blood tested regularly every 3 months so i couldn’t tell you exactly how long it took. Except i’m positive it was the RS that made them rise. I was using bobs potato starch.

      I heard somewhere the immune system regulates the amount of bacteria in the gut. Could a sudden rise in bacteria lead to a over activity in the immune system?

      Also i have read on here people have reported a rise in body temperature has anyone seen tested there TSH before and after using RS?


    • JenG on January 21, 2014 at 11:05

      This is interesting because I also had a negative reaction to PS and I have been suspecting I have Hashimoto’s (currently awaiting test results). I’m assuming it was due to a white potato intolerance since I seem to be able to handle cold/reheated beans and rice as well as plantain flour. I just had blood drawn today (since stopping PS about 2 weeks ago) so I’m curious to see if my TSH will be up from my last reading this past August.

  6. Jackie on January 20, 2014 at 11:06

    Since starting on raw potato starch (4T every morning with milk), I have had almost no negative side effects. My sleep is better, dreams more vivid, etc. I’m not testing my blood glucose but assume that’s great as well.

    The one major side effect has been a combination of dry eyes and nosebleeds. Today, I actually coughed up blood for the first time.

    I did see a commenter saying on your blog that they’d suffered the dry eyes from RPS. I don’t want to give it up, so wonder if I can counteract this in some way. My research has only led me to Paul Jaminet’s comments on this being from a lack of carbs – but in addition to the RPS, I’m also eating quinoa or lentils or some other grain/legume or potato three times a day. I’m not VLC or low carb by any stretch.

    I wondered if you had any insights on this that you’d be willing to share. I’m just a bit disturbed by all the blood, really. It’s not gallons, but it is worrying.

    • Ashwin Patel on January 20, 2014 at 13:57

      RPS is reported to induce “deep sleep” by increasing Rapid Eye Movement Sleep period. My thinking:
      So, if your eye-lids “flutter” and rub against your cornea during this prolonged Rapid Eye Movement period, the friction will cause Dry eye sensation during the day (Burning, Itching sensation).
      The way to prevent this is to use a lubricating eye ointment based on Paraffin . a good example is LACRILUBE . Worth a try.

    • Nick on January 20, 2014 at 12:11

      Interesting; I coughed up a tiny bit of blood in my mucus this morning.

      No idea if it’s related to RS. I kind of doubt it though because I’ve been on taking it for months now.

    • tatertot on January 20, 2014 at 12:17

      The only thing I ever remember seeing about dry eyes was from the low carb crowd. But i know I get dry eyes this time of year when the humidity in my house is in the 20% range and the cat hides in fear of getting it’s ears and nose zapped whenever it touches my finger or anything metal.

      But seriously, if anybody ever has anything they think may be attributed to increasing RS in the diet, wrongly or rightly, just stop all supplemental RS and just eat real RS rich foods. It’s easy to get RS up to 40g if you take some time with your food and learn to like green bananas.

    • Jackie on January 20, 2014 at 12:22

      I’m using green plantains in my smoothies, eating cold potato salads, cold lentils, etc. I’m just afraid of losing the benefits I’m getting from the raw potato starch.

      I really appreciate your response, Tim. I listened to the two hour podcast with you and Richard, as well as to his other recent podcast, this past week. It answered a few of my questions and was very interesting.

    • tatertot on January 20, 2014 at 12:34

      Sounds like you are getting plenty of RS! There’s no worry of getting too much. Anything over what gut bugs can use is simply eliminated. There are no real benefits to potato starch over any other RS, it’s just an easy way to bridge the gap between what you get in foods and an assumed need for approximately 20-40g/day.

      For someone eating like you, I’d recommend on days when you don’t get that plantain smoothie and forgot to make potato salad, then supplement with a scoop of the white powder. That’s what I do. I made a batch of dried plantains on Saturday so I’m munching them throughout the day instead of my regular potato starch laced yogurt dessert.

      Good luck, thanks for joining in.

    • Jackie on January 20, 2014 at 15:38

      Thanks, Ashwin – the bloody noses and coughing up blood is a bit more concerning. I am going to try to create more humidity in my home and see if that helps. I have always used vaporizers in the past but ditched them before moving house this summer. Will reinstate and see what happens. I don’t want to give up RPS!

    • Spanish Caravan on January 20, 2014 at 18:26

      @Jackie, PS can induce nighshade reaction in those with RA or other connective tissue autoimmunity. While symptoms tend to be joint related, they also include dry eyes, esophagus, mouth, nasal passages, and vagina. Many people with Sjogren’s and Lupus display such symptoms. Sjogren’s, especially, could cause dry nasal passages and that alone could make you prone to nose bleeds. Is it possible that you may be ANA positive? Have you ever been tested? Do you have Raynaud’s?

      Paul’s point regarding dry eyes is strictly related to glucose deficiency when VLCing. I would tend to think your dry eyes might be related to undetected autoimmunity or a food allergy. If not those, then are you getting 6+ hours of sleep? You’re not like Richard who’s up all night and getting by on 4 hours? Check and see if you’re dry elsewhere, as dryness makes you susceptible to bleeding in body cavities.

    • Jackie on January 20, 2014 at 19:13

      SC: I have to laugh at your suggestion about my dry vagina. Sorry, I’m 12.

      Anyway…I have been inclined to think that this dryness in my eyes and the blood in my nose/throat was not related to lack of humidity in my home. It’s been winter where I live for quite some time, and these symptoms only started in the last week (I started on 4T RPS on Jan 1). I don’t think I have RA, though it is hereditary in my family. I haven’t even started exploring Sjogren’s and Raynaud’s – as far as I know, I don’t have those.

      I am getting fabulous sleep, thanks in part to RPS (I also take 10k IU of vitamin D every morning and 500mg magnesium at night, and just last night started on the raw honey before bed, which surprised me by inducing that extened deep sleep – or at least I think that was it).

    • Spanish Caravan on January 20, 2014 at 20:10

      @Jackie, you’re a teenybopper? What are you doing up so late? And why are you slinking around grown ups’ forums? ROTFL.

      No, autoimmnity is way too early for someone your age. But why’re you taking RS anyway? Most of us are in mid-forties and have had our bodies wrecked by years of horrible abuse and SAD. At your age, I suppose RS is okay but I don’t think any supplements are really necessary, unless you have a problem absorbing. It’s way too early.

      I would attribute your nosebleeds to being up too late or not getting enough sleep. 8 hours is probably what you need when you’re bouncing around full of energy; kids get very tired at the end of the day. When I was your age, my eyes would start closing around 9pm. If I stayed up late and didn’t get enough sleep, my nose would bleed inevitably, especially if I picked my nose. Don’t pick your nose!

    • Jackie on January 21, 2014 at 19:06

      I’m not actually 12 – that was a joke about my immaturity. I’m 36.

      Bought a vaporizer for my bedroom and, after finding out that my colleague (with whom I share a large, open office) has been having blood in her mucus too, we are putting one in our office as well. I really think dry air may be the culprit here.

      Yesterday I tried taking 2T RPS in the AM, and taking the other 2T before bed with my raw honey. Had terrible sleep. Trying it again today, then going back to my 4T first thing in the morning if I get the same result. I enjoy the experimenting, so not complaining – just offering my experience.

    • sootedninjas on January 21, 2014 at 19:18

      hmmm… right now just doing the 2×2 PS only and having the best sleep ever. I was planning to add honey later on to my n=1.

    • tatertot on January 21, 2014 at 19:32

      Jackie – Thanks for you inputs. Don’t be too put-off by Richard’s comments on the nosebleed in his newest blog, it was just to illustrate a point. When I first read your comment, I was sure you were just someone who’d come here to plant seeds of doubt, “gasp! the blood!”. Glad that wasn’t the case.

      I always tell people, my wife, son, and Dad included, when you start taking potato starch–expect nothing. It’s just food, not medicine. I think sometimes the expectations can steer the outcomes, perceived or otherwise.

      Check back from time to time and let us know how it’s going.

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