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How to Conduct a Self Experiment: Resistant Starch

It’s been well over a year since we last did a self experimentation post [1], and I think it’s time for one on that current sensation: resistant starch. Whether you’re an ardent low-carber, a carnivore, or a safe starch fanatic with dried up rice stuck to your lapel, the allure of improved sleep [2], better glucose tolerance, lower blood sugar [3], and solid digestion is universal. I mean, sure, there are probably some fetishists who prefer difficult toilet experiences and creative types who thrive on the weird headspace created by sleep deprivation [4], but the effects often attributed to resistant starch consumption are objectively beneficial.

Besides, with more and more science emerging every day, it’s becoming obvious that the gut biome is the next health frontier. If we can do something that might improve our gut health, it will probably have resoundingly positive effects throughout the rest of our body – our psychological health [5], our immune systems [6], you name it. What about the uncertainty factor? I mean, what do we really know about our guts [7]? Is it truly safe to “mess” with them?

Naysayers worry about the mystery of it all. They suggest that we wait until we truly know what’s going on in our guts, until we know all the key players, all the strains, and all the interactions between host and microbe and health outcomes.

I think that’s a mistake. If mixing a little white powder or an unripe banana into a smoothie consistently correlates with better sleep, better digestion, better blood markers [8], and a better subjective impression of being and existing, it’s likely going to be safe and good and overall beneficial to the rest of the health markers the gut biome interacts with and which science is still investigating. That seems like a simple, safe heuristic. Doing nothing and ignoring the gut biome is far more risky. They can “wait for science” to finish. I’ll try some out myself. Since science is an ongoing process, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Today, I’m going to give you a few guidelines for conducting a personal experiment with resistant starch. I’m not going to spell it out for you in detail, because exactly how you conduct an experiment depends on the specific effects you’ve chosen to test. By the end of the post, you’ll know how to make that choice and test it. You’ll know which variables to consider and modify and which measurements to track.

How should the uninitiated go about trying it for themselves?

Choose a research goal for your experiment, drawing on the claimed and demonstrated effects of resistant starch for guidance. Check out the Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch [9] for ideas. Make sure the effect is plausible and shows up in the short term. Don’t try to test, for example, if resistant starch [10] consumption will make you taller or reduce all-cause mortality. Instead, choose something like:

Your goal could be more cutting edge, too. Think of all the effects and conditions that preliminary evidence suggests are “somehow linked” to the gut, like cognitive function [14], anxiety [15], obsessive compulsive disorder [16], autism [17], or depression [18]. You could see if resistant starch affects those, way before science confirms any causality.

As you can see, the breadth of anecdotal [19], empirical, and preliminary evidence means you have dozens of potential goals.

Come up with a hypothesis:

And so on.

Assemble any tools you’ll need:

Identify any variables that may affect the results of the experiment.

How might they modify the effect of RS? Keep these in mind, pay close attention, and tweak them as needed:

Figure out what you’re measuring:

And finally, but perhaps most importantly…

Give the experiment enough time to work.

Initially, negative effects do not necessarily imply intolerance or failure. Make sure the dosage is low (don’t start with four tablespoons of potato starch right away) and take it very slowly. Introduce probiotics [31]. Be patient; a month should be sufficient for an honest try.

What do you think, folks? Feel like giving RS a shot? In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth trying. The implications of gut health are too great, too far-reaching to ignore.