Ancestral diets are becoming more popular as people educate themselves on what the human body needs to thrive. Our bodies are adapted to certain lifestyles and diets that have been part of our experience for millennia, and only recently have our food selections and lifestyles shifted so dramatically. Now it is common for diet ideologies to completely ignore our ancestral heritage, which has had devastating impacts on our gut health.
Perhaps the most critical part of the ancestral diet that we are missing out on today is resistant starch, and our guts are paying the price.
The magic of resistant starch
Resistant starches (RS) are, as the name implies, resistant to digestion. Many people assume that RS doesn’t make a difference because we can’t digest it, but the magic happens because it is unable to be digested by the human gut.
Humans evolved from the trees to the savannas, and in that process we adapted to different sources of food. One of the most plentiful food sources available in grassy plains were roots and tubers. Foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables are mostly made of resistant starches. When our ancestors consumed RS foods, their gut bacteria flocculated onto the bits of undigested food to gain energy of their own.
But when root vegetables and tubers are cooked, the starches become digestible and the beneficial bacteria in our gut have nothing to thrive on. This might not seem like a big deal because they’re just bacteria, right? Well, research has shown that microorganisms outnumber human cells 10 to 1. This makes bacteria, as Ron Burgundy would say, “kind of a big deal.”
Human life has evolved to become intrinsic with bacterial life. When we consume an appropriate range of food and enough RS, our gut bacteria have smorgasbord to feast on. And when your gut bacteria is happy, so are you.
Butyric acid and your gut
Metabolic processes in any organism convert one substance into another while producing energy. Respiration in humans converts oxygen and sugar into energy, which releases carbon dioxide. The metabolic process of some beneficial gut bacteria converts RS into butyric acid. Yippee, you may think — what can I do with butyric acid?
Your gut (intestines, colon, etc.) cells depend on butyric acid for the majority of their energy intake. Without butyric acid, gut cells do not have the energy to keep healthy and strong. When butyric acid is scarce, your gut cells will become damaged and cease to perform their vital function, which is keeping food inside the gut and the rest of the body outside of the gut.
Leaky gut syndrome is the umbrella term that labels all manner of food insensitivities and digestive malfunctions that result from increased intestinal permeability. When your gut cells don’t have the butyric acid to function properly, they let undigested food particles pass into your blood stream. Because food is meant to be broken down into elemental form before it enters the blood stream, undigested food triggers an immune response because it is not recognized.
Potato starch to the rescue
If you want to reclaim your digestive health but don’t have the time or desire to chew on raw vegetables all day, there is miracle of modern industry that is just for you: potato starch. Potato starch is made when potatoes are boiled and then processed into flour.
This seemingly ordinary product can work wonders for your health because it is comprised almost entirely of resistant starch, which feeds all the good guys that make for a happy gut. Potato starch, weird as it may seem, can transform your gut health when you introduce it in your diet. Watch this video to discover more how it works.
Potato starch is flavorless, so you can mix it into just about anything. Try adding it to your morning smoothies, or mix it with a couple ounces of water to go along with your meals. People get their best results starting with a ¼-½ teaspoon and working their way up to a tablespoon or two at a time.
It is best to take RS from morning to mid-afternoon, as it has been associated with sleep disruption when taken too late in the evening. Beans, rice, and potatoes are common foods that have RS, in case you find yourself short on unmodified potato starch. The neat thing about these foods is that RS increases each time you cook and cool them for the first three times.
If you’ve tried every type of diet to fix your gut without the results you’ve looked for, RS might be the key to your success.