As biochemistry evolves, we truly see that we are not separate from the “outer” environment, but rather profoundly connected with it. As science begins to explore the human biome, we see that our life unfolds in a symbiotic relationship with the bacterial world that is both around us and inside of us.
In fact, there are more microbes within us than there are human cells. While it is true that pathogenic bacteria can be a big health problem (and one of the reasons that basic public health measures such as sanitation have contributed to a dramatic decline in infectious disease in developed countries), it is also true that since the days of Louis Pasteur we have increasing seen the microbial world as a threat.
Pasteur made it into our history books, but another prominent scientist of that time — Antoine Béchamp — fell into the footnotes.
Béchamp did not disagree that there are microbes and they are related to disease. But rather than looking at the pathogenic microbes that show up in a disease process, he was more concerned about the “terrain,” the shifts in environment that allowed such pathogens to flourish.
After all, we all have staph and strep hanging around on us. Why is that sometimes a problem and other times not?
When it comes to our health, we depend on the bacteria in our gut to do the heavy lifting of digestion. It’s not a stretch to say we need to cultivate the microbes in our gut in the same way that we would cultivate a garden.
One of the reasons for a diet that provides a lot of vegetable material is that it contains the raw materials that feed the intestinal bacteria. That’s right, we basically have a compost pile in our belly — just like the old maps of anatomy from ancient China show.
We can laugh at how the anatomy maps are a quaint metaphor, but this is part of the brilliance of this ancient science: Being able to note function over form.
One of the ways to feed the bacteria in the large intestine is to make sure you get some Resistant Starch in your diet.
Those of you who are concerned about keeping carbs low (and I’m in that camp too!) might be concerned about adding starch to the diet because simple starches usually convert quite speedily into glucose, which in turn raises the blood sugar.
But Resistant Starch is another story.
This starch does not easily digest and quickly convert to sugar. In fact, it is resistant to digestion by the stomach or small intestine, so it arrives unchanged in the large intestine. It is here that beneficial bacteria feed on it and turn it into short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which your body uses as a source of energy. Better yet, this form of energy not only doesn’t raise blood sugar; it helps to burn fat as well.
What are some sources of Resistant Starch?
- Raw potato starch (add it to smoothies or other foods)
- Beans (soak these first for 8-12 hours to remove the phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient)
- Shirataki noodles (made from the konjac yam)
- Plantains and bananas
- Sweet potatoes
- Rice and potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled (Cooling causes a restructuring of the starch.)
Unless you are on a restrictive diet, do consider adding some of these sources of Resistant Starch to your diet. They’re tasty and filling, and in moderation will not raise blood sugar levels. And they do help to promote healthy gut flora.