fiber and the link to gut health

FIBER & RESISTANT STARCH
A MISSING LINK FOR THE CHRONICALLY ILL?

POTATO STARCH

Resistant Starch

Philippa Uwins

“Resistant starch is starch and starch degradation products that escape from digestion in the small intestine of healthy individuals.  Resistant starch is considered the third type of dietary fiber, as it can deliver some of the benefits of insoluble fiber and some of the benefits of soluble fiber.”    – Wikipedia

“New bacteria must be eaten, and I think that the cure, short of the real deal fecal transplant, is still available in the original, paleo form of naturally fermented, live foods.”   – Dr. Art Ayers from February’s post called Resistant Starch, Panacea, but Why?

Dietary Fiber is carbohydrates that are not digested.  I had always been taught that there are two kinds of fiber — soluble and insoluble.  However, there is a third type of fiber that I have known about for quite some time, but have been spending a lot of time reading about recently (articles by Eades, Ayers, Mark Sisson, and Richard Nikoley.  It’s called Resistant Starch, and is being touted, as (in the words of Dr. Ayers above) a panacea.  It’s Resistant Starch that I want to spend the most time on today.  Let’s take a quick look at how Resistant Starch stacks up against fiber, and why people who promote Paleo as their diet of choice would refer to RS in such glowing terms.

  • INSOLUBLE FIBER:  Insoluble Fiber is the dietary fiber we think of when we think of dietary fiber.  It is the indigestible part of plants (vegetables and pulpy fruits) that passes right on through you.   It is the fiber that adds bulk to your stools, and helps move said waste products through your digestive system.  This type of fiber is not readily thought of as being food for your good bacteria (these are knows as ‘Prebiotics’), although to some extent, it can be.

  • SOLUBLE FIBER:  Soluble Fiber is the fiber that as you might expect, dissolves readily in water.  It can actually slow transit time through the intestines.  It’s biggest benefit is that it is a far better Prebiotic than is Insoluble Fiber.

  • RESISTANT STARCH:  Look at the definition (quote) from the top of the page.  Although it is not considered to be “fiber” in the truest sense of the word, Resistant Starch is thought to make up approximately 10% of the starch consumed in the average diet.  Because Resistant Starch is readily ‘fermentable’ by the bacteria living in your digestive tract, it acts as an extremely potent Prebiotic.  Oh, one more interesting thing about Resistant Starch.  In order for it to be effective, the source (potatoes, for instance) must first be heated and then cooled.

As is the case with almost everything, balance is the key.  Enter Norm Robillard, an elite microbiologist (Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts, post-doctoral training at Tufts University), author, and owner / consultant for the Digestive Health Institute.  Listen to his reply to one of the comments about a post called Resistant Starch: Friend or Foe?  “On probiotics, I take a cautious position. The more we learn about the vast complexity of the gut microbiome, the more I stress avoiding anything that upsets that including antibiotics but also swamping the intestines with high numbers of simple mixtures of two – five different organisms. Fecal transplants, properly controlled is perhaps one of the most exciting fields in digestive science today.”   I think he is right on all accounts, including the FECAL TRANSPLANT THING.  Taking large amounts of even the most beneficial nutritional products has the potential to throw your body into disarray (see my post on CANDIDA-YEAST from the other day for a good example of this phenomenon).  This is why I love the principle of WHOLE FOODS & WHOLE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS so much.

Before giving us several examples from the peer-reviewed literature of why we do not want to go overboard with Resistant Starch, he says this, “There are a huge number of published studies on resistant starch.  My biggest concern is that resistant starch has the potential to cause or perpetuate digestive problems if and when excessive fermentation occurs in the wrong place, mainly the small intestine.  To be on the safe side, people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)-related digestive illnesses such as GERD, IBS and Celiac disease, to name a few, would be best served by consuming lower levels of resistant starch….”  This thought process is echoed by several others.  In his recent article (Paleo Gut Flora Repair), DR.ART AYERS goes on to say that, “People get sick on paleo, because they don’t feed their flora.  Gut flora are needed to supply vitamins, short chain fatty acids and immune system stimulants.  If you don’t feed your flora you get vitamin deficiencies, gut inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

He’s right, you know.  The more I learn about health, the more I am coming around to the old adage; heal the gut, heal the body.  This is because GUT HEALTH (or the lack thereof) is being tied to virtually every form of INFLAMMATORY CONDITION, AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE, and ENDOCRINE PROBLEM that you can name — and even some of those that you were led to believe are GENETIC.  The thing is, you’ll never get your Gut issues solved if you don’t swallow the whole enchilada (HERE) — or at least the biggest portion of it.   Is Resistant Starch right for you?  Maybe.  Everyone is different.  Although I am a serious eater of vegetation (PALEO, NOT VEGAN), I’m not even sure if supplemental RS is right for me.  I see an experiment in my immediate future.

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