There’s been a lot of discussion about Resistant Starch (RS) in the Paleo world lately, most of which has taken place over at Free the Animal. I haven’t read all of the posts, threads, and comments relating to this topic, but I’ve read enough to pique my interest. RS is basically the isolated starch from potatoes and other foods that is resistant to digestion in the body – it behaves in the body like a fiber rather than a typical starch.
Many people seem to be having very good results with supplementing with RS (mostly, in the form of potato starch), and there is research backing the anecdotal results. Most commonly, folks are lowering their fasting blood glucose and are increasing their body’s ability to tolerate other carbohydrates without causing a big spike in blood sugar. Well, that sounds exactly like what I need, right? Other benefits I’ve read about include lowering cholesterol and improving markers of thyroid function (specifically, increasing body temperature). Additionally, when you eat it, it passes undigested (resistant!) into the large intestine where favorable bacteria have a field day and crowd out pathogenic (bad) bacteria. Lastly, it reportedly regulates bowel function – if you’re constipated it gets things moving. If you’ve got loose stools (or even parasites, according to one report) it firms things up. Last advantage – it’s dirt cheap (like $3 a pound) and widely available. I got a bag at the store across the street. The only negative side effect people seem to be posting is extra gas, but most folks indicate that resolves after a couple of weeks.
Well, my husband and I both decided to give RS a try. He’s insulin resistant, and I’m certainly having blood sugar management problems of my own, so we’re most interested in finding a way to improve in this area. Before starting we got a baseline of our body’s ability to tolerate carbohydrates. About a week ago, first thing in the morning, we each ate an 11 oz. baked potato with nothing on it but salt. Then every 15 minutes for the next 3 hours we took blood sugar readings. Here are our baseline results:
Mine is in the blue – as you can see my blood sugar was over 200 for well over an hour, topping out at 255, and took a long time to recover. Sorry, body, but that’s kind of diabetic. David’s was better but still got fairly high (189 at the one hour mark), but he was back to normal after an hour or so. So here’s our plan: Start supplementing with potato starch, give it a month or 6 weeks (research seems to indicate it takes 4 weeks for your body to respond fully to supplementation), and then do the test again.
We also had lab testing done this week, including fasting insulin and the “Comprehensive Wellness Profile” offered by Direct Labs, my favorite place to order labs without a doctor censoring me. I should have my results this week – I’ll post when I get them. We’re going to get another set done in 6-8 weeks after supplementing with RS. Additionally, we’re testing fasting blood sugar every day.
So let me tell you briefly, and with as little TMI as possible, about my own experience so far taking potato starch. I decided to simply stir it into a quarter cup of water or so – some people mix it into yogurt or kefir to get extra gut-health benefit. The recommended dose is 4 tablespoons a day. Research indicates more is not better, and less than 1 Tbs has little or no value. I started with a teaspoon a day, to see how my digestive system was going to respond. The teaspoon test went fine…increased it to 2, and then 3 teaspoons over the next two days. All of that went well. Then I decided to try a tablespoon. Well, that didn’t go well. It felt like there was a war in my intestines for about 24 hours (and perhaps there actually was). It was painful and I was in the bathroom a lot the next day. So I started again, smaller. 3 teaspoons a day. Now I’m up to 4 doses a day of 1.25 teaspoons each. No problems. My husband has had no problems other than a little gas – and he’s already up to 4 tablespoons a day. From my reading, my response is unusual – almost no one is reporting serious GI upset, but it was really bad for a day there. I wonder if the more unhealthy your gut is to start, the more “cleaning house” needs to be done. Maybe that distress meant I’ve gotten rid of some bad guys hanging out in my gut.
Anyway, this post is getting long. Here are a couple really good links on Resistant Starch supplementation and benefits:
- A Resistant Starch Primer for Newbies (read the comments too for more information)
- Resistant Starch – a really informational thread from the forum at Optimal Health Cave.
- Resistant Starches – a great thread from the forum at Mark’s Daily Apple.
On another topic, I’ve again embraced Ray Peat’s dietary wisdom. On a whim I decided to try eating whole oranges with protein, having had a hard time with hunger and blood sugar regulation when I drank juice. The whole oranges keep me satisfied a little longer (I get hungry after 2 hours instead of 1), but I can tolerate that. Also, my blood sugar is under 130 an hour later. I’m not sure if it’s the resistant starch having an effect or if it’s eating the fiber of the orange that slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, but it any case I’m going to keep doing it. I have so much more energy eating fruit than I do when I eat starchy foods or skip carbs altogether. So I’m going to keep it up. Also going to get some lights (like this with this) in the next day or two…cuz Ray Peat said to:
Light, especially the red light which penetrates easily into tissues, activates the formation of new cells as well as their differentiation. It affects energy production, increasing the formation of mitochondria, and the activity of the DNA methyltransferase enzymes. Red light accelerates wound healing, and improves the quality of the scar, reducing the amount of fibrosis. The daily cycling between darkness and light is probably an important factor in regulating the birth and differentiation of cells.
My many N=1 experiments are going to be very confounded: lights, reducing PUFAs, Resistant Starch, eating fruit sugar again, etc etc…all of it is going to leave me wondering what’s working and what isn’t. Fortunately, my husband is ONLY changing one thing – the addition of RS – so we’ll have a good idea of how well it works in a month or so.
Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!