Lately, I've been submerged in research about the gut and its co-habitants, the gut microbiome, or microbiota. These are the tiny beings that we humans have outsourced a tremendous part of our physiology and biochemistry. Why do I say that? Well, for one thing, they outnumber us by 10:1. And, if we look at them in terms of our genes versus their genes, we get a whopping 150:1 ratio. Who is running our show then?
What is so cool, is that these tiny guys are turning medicine on its head. Research is pointing to interventions that recognize the mighty role of the microbiome.
By now, many of you have heard that gut health is crucial to a healthy immune system. So, how do we improve this microbiome? With one of the easiest to find and least expensive foods available!
This food has even been lauded in the January 5 2017 issue of Time Magazine. The title: This Kind of Food is Both Filling and Insanely Good for You.
They are talking about resistant starch. What is that? It just means the kind of starch that your body can't digest. It goes through the small intestines until it gets to the large intestine or colon. There your microbiome is busy getting fed and doing its work to keep you healthy. Your good bacteria take this resistant starch and turn it into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). One in particular, called butyrate, is an energy source for the epithelial cells that line the gut.
These are the cells that are famously portrayed in the Leaky Gut Sagas of our time. You have probably heard that Leaky Gut is a major factor in just about every chronic disease out there from autoimmune diseases, gut issues, brain and mood disorders, cancer and even cardiovascular disease.
These cells are the guardians between the outside world (whatever we have ingested through our mouths) and the inside world. This is where most of our immune system is and where in the small intestine, we absorb our nutrients.
What are Resistant Starches?
- Those in raw foods like unripe banana, papaya, mango (these are often used in Asian cuisine). Raw papaya is contraindicated for pregnant women due to latex
- Beans and potatoes are the best sources according to Dr. Alan Christianson
- Cooked and cooled starches are even better! So take your cooked potatoes and beans and cool them. Reheat them for even more benefit. Every time you heat and cool them, you will increase the resistant starch. You can even add rice to this list.
- Cassava, plantains, potato starch can also be added to this list.
Benefits from Consuming Resistant Starch:
- Energy for your gut lining
- Improves insulin sensitivity even in those with insulin resistance
- Improves your blood sugar, keeps it steady so you won't have those dips and highs
- This means will help you lose weight including your belly!
- Improves integrity and function of the gut - reduced inflammation all over
- Reduces risk of colorectal cancers and probably all cancers
- May reduce risks associated with eating red meat
- Increases satiety or feeling full - again will help with weight loss
- May preferentially bind to bad bacteria (thus may be part of the treatment for those with SIBO - Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth)
- Enhances magnesium absorption. Magnesium is used in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body
Did You Know?
When you put mice in water and they have to swim, they get really stressed. When mice raised without any microbiota, are fed the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, they swim happily!
There is a whopping success rate (in the high 90's) to curing those with antibiotic resistant C-diff in a unique way. How is this done? By introducing fecal material from a healthy donor. Sounds gross, but "yellow soup" was described in the 16th century by a Chinese physician, Li Shizhen.
Researchers are using fecal transplants from thin mice and introducing them to obese mice and they get thin. They've done the reverse, taking fecal transplants from obese mice and inserting them into thin mice and seen them gain weight.
Some Anecdotal Stories:
- Improves body composition, ie more muscle
- Improves thyroid function
- Improved sleep
- Less anxiety, feeling calm
Ok, with all these benefits its time to start incorporating these foods into your diet? See my suggestions below for greater success or schedule an appointment to design your gut health plan.
Adding Resistant Starches into Your Diet: Start Slowly
My suggestion would be to start with regular food sources versus purchasing potato starch. If you experience gassiness or bloating, it's probably some of the bad bacteria fermenting them into gases. Back off and add slowly back in.
If you're doing ok with just using food sources, and want to experiment, you can always try a more concentrated version, ie the potato starch and see how you do.
Let me know how you do and if you need any guidance along the way, come in for a session and we can develop your unique gut program.
Here's to feeding our hidden helpers!