Public Service: Anal Fistula and How Resistant Starch Cured It

Well, you learn something new everyday, I hope

I was weighing the propriety of putting this up. Not because of any reason other than “do many people suffer from this?” but then co-author of our forthcoming GUT BIOME book, Tim Steele, gave me a clue that reminded me of an experience and it became necessary to put it out there.

The email from a non-anonymous source, name withheld by request for obvious reason.

First, I would like to thank you for popularizing the phenomenon that is resistant starch. Second, if you chose to use this story, please withhold my name.

In my early twenties I was eating SAD. A strange tumor, an abscess, formed near my rectum. After a lot of trouble it was diagnosed as anal fistula. Nasty condition. They said that the only form of treatment is an operation with some chance of success, but also with some chance that I would not be able to hold my bowels normally. So I decided to live with it, because I could live with it—and it would be better than involuntarily making a nasty mess someplace. Pain was there—blood and pus as well. But it was manageable.

10 years later I improved my diet and lost some weight, but the fistula was still there. I decided to check in with the doctors as new methods of therapy for resolving fistula had appeared. They started with an MRI scan and a colonoscopy.

…In the meantime I tried to lose some more weight with the help of The Potato Hack. I don’t have a microwave at work so I ate them cold.

Imagine that, in two weeks, all symptoms of anal fistula disappeared, and AFTER 10 YEARS OF SUFFERING. JUST LIKE THAT: No blood coming out of it, no pus, no pain.

I was familiar with the topic of resistant starch, then suddenly connected the dots.

The doc, when he saw this, was really surprised. Me too. Now I’m taking Potato Starch religiously and not a single event from fistula. That never happened before. It was sometimes better, sometimes worse, but an absolute clean state was not achievable with any other approach (and I did try everything, trust me).

As my wife is a biotechnologist, she dug up a publication called Resistant Starch: Promise for Improving Human Health. Well, it certainly improved mine! I’m planning to show it to my doc. Perhaps he’ll understand that this is not “alternative” medicine, but pure science.

RS healed me so far. It is now almost three months without problems (after ten years of suffering!) And that’s for a condition that according to wikipedia is curable only with an operation.

So thank you, and for any chance that somebody with fistula will read this and this will help them also. That is the sole reason why I am writing this.

So after the story and that last line, I pretty much have to put it out there, right? Can you imagine the displeasure? What a quality of life improvement, if it works for anyone else.

Here’s what Tim had to say:

Dogs get this all the time—usually diet related. Sled dog kennels in Alaska are notorious for feeding their dogs the cheapest, shittiest dog food they can find because sled dogs eat a lot. Try feeding dozens of big, hungry, cold dogs on a limited budget!

One of the common jobs that needs done at a sled dog kennel is “butt milking.”  They need to go and squeeze the pus out of the dogs asses (anal fistulas) so the dogs can poop.

Sled dog kennels that feed their dogs fish and raw meat don’t have this problem, only when they feed them the crap in a bag that is $10 for 50lbs at Sam’s Club. Makes sense that a diet change favorable to gut microbes would clear up anal fistulas in humans, too.

Human Anal Fistula: Looks dire; requires surgery and antibiotics!

Dog Anal Fistula: Just switch to better diet!

I truly believe that humans ought to start going to veterinarians for health problems. Free the Animal. But yea, one time the cute bitch started scooting on her ass a lot, so Bea had me take her in and the anal glands were the first thing the vet checked. Turned out to be a Mark I, Mod A itchy butt hole only. Poor things, lacking the easily available tools to deal with it. Now, knowing that, I just turn the garden hose on it.

…BTW, after about 4 days with Beatrice living at the dog hospital all last week, sometimes not getting back until 4am (out by 9), it was over about 1pm last Friday. In the end, it was renal failure that got my 10,000 mile walking buddy.

Here’s my public Facebook posts about it for anyone interested, and thanks so much to all for the outpourings of sympathy on all channels. You people are great. Life is certainly easier. It’s not any better. And being so sorrowful is silly. Or, it’s not. Dogs aren’t people…

Praise doG.

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Killers (Credit: Alessandro Rugge, PhD)

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. gabkad on March 17, 2014 at 12:53

    Awww Richard, Rotor is now in the ‘happy hunting grounds’……….squirrels for ever. Take care, all three of you. Give ‘the bitch’ lots of snuggles. She’ll be missing him too no doubt. OUch.

  2. Joe Blowe on March 17, 2014 at 12:55

    You’re right: Dogs are not people.

    Because, I’ve never cried over the loss of a human friend as I did for my last dog…

    • bornagain on March 17, 2014 at 13:06

      Dogs make the best people.

    • gabriella kadar on March 17, 2014 at 16:42

      bornagain, agreed but cats are great people too.

    • Janet on March 18, 2014 at 12:45

      My wonderful 20 lb. Maine Coon cat, Taffy (aka Mr. T.) is the best of both worlds–he is a cat and he acts like a dog.

      Richard, My condolences. I cried more when my first cat died than when my dad died. My dad didn’t hang around my house like my cat did and everywhere I looked, I would see where she slept, played, etc. I could barely walk up the stairs, because I could see where she always walked.

  3. rob on March 17, 2014 at 14:18

    If you read the headline and thought it was about weird German porn, then you’ve been watching too much porn.

    • tatertot on March 17, 2014 at 15:20

      You think German porn is nasty, watch this:

      “Butt Milking”

    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2014 at 14:37

      Ha, Rob. Yea, it’s the “anal” and “fist” thing in the same sentence, isn’t it?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2014 at 15:42

      Thanks, Tim. Really, really enjoyed that.

      Now I think I’m going to go Google “live bedroom cams” or something.

    • gabriella kadar on March 17, 2014 at 16:43

      I’m not looking.

    • Chupo on March 19, 2014 at 20:10

      “He likes to sniff his little rear cause that makes him feel really good.” Dogs have all the luck!

  4. Regina on March 17, 2014 at 14:24

    I’m really sorry about Rotor Richard. We lost our soul mate beagle x last summer.
    We still have our herding x.

    I’ve been feeding him raw meat (organs n tripe) and fish since adopting him as an adult (with issues).
    He still itches himself and has seizures and anxiety. (has so for 5 yrs with no help from conventional or holistic vets).

    Tim seems to be implying that that is a dog’s specie-appropriate diet. I stared adding a little PS and gBF to his feed — hoping for a miracle. Is it okay for dogs?


    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2014 at 14:33


      Well, Rotor was an EPI dog for the last 3.5 years of his life and even with the pig pancreas powder, he always had soft serve. Back about a year ago when I began doing my own kefir, I’d let him lick the bowl once I funneled it into bottles. Saw almost immediate improvement. Later, I used to add like a half tsp of PS to his meals on some days, then later, the plantain or banana flour. He seemed to like the banana flour better and even at the end, his poops were pristine.

      It surely wasn’t any of those things that caused his downfall. More likely, an anti-inflammatory we put him on in January, just to help him with the obvious mobility trouble. But, everyone dies of something.

      I was telling Bea last night in her own grief that life is a series of gains and losses but in the end, you’ve lost everything, including your own life (I’m barrel of lafs!).

      So grab what you can, while you can!

    • Wilbur on March 17, 2014 at 14:50

      I too am sorry for your loss. My 10,000 mile companion – she and I are known throughout the neighborhood for our walks – is dying from metastatic cancer originating from her scapula. She was a rescue. When we got her, she had been so horribly abused that she would drop into the fetal position and cry if I moved too quickly. She didn’t fear females. Now she is a normal dog. I and my vet strongly suspect that the abuse is what will kill her – there is some evidence that bone cancer might be a consequence of an chronically inflamed injury. She has had a slight limp/stumble in that shoulder since we got her.

      The ironic thing is that I was planning to talk to the vet about pre- and probiotics once we got the shoulder problem worked out. Now she’s getting lots of good people food. Beef liver pâté today…

    • Richard Nikoley on March 17, 2014 at 15:26

      Have some good sobs, Wilbur. It’s good for the soul.

      And remember what I keep telling Bea: it’s an irrevocable loss. It always will be. It can never be undone, never made better or whole—and _that_ is the essential beauty of it.

    • gabriella kadar on March 17, 2014 at 16:47

      We all need to sob sometimes. Bea is a very loving woman. She loves you, Richard. Don’t die first.

    • gabriella kadar on March 17, 2014 at 17:05

      Regina, I started tonight giving Prescript Assist to my cats. It’s the same as PetFlora. One of my cats twitches and itches and barfs. Less these days because I think the Wellness kibble (which apparently and it’s a bit of a quandary after I’ve read the research paper on probiotic in pet food but there’s definitely some) has helped a lot. The cats did not appear to notice the presence of ‘black dirt’ in their food tonight. I’ve also added Primal Defense Ultra (although except for the bifidobacter the lactobacillus clears out of the system) to their food.

      Really, you could give the dog some kefir. Richard is right. Dogs will eat anything. My cats won’t eat kefir.

    • Regina on March 19, 2014 at 14:04

      Thanks Richard.
      I think I’ll give Phineas 1 AOR and a 1/2 tsp of PS and gBF a day.
      (because he’s driving us crazy)

    • Charles on March 20, 2014 at 17:25

      Iv’e given my cat Flora Balance (basically Bacillus Laterosporus) and it cleared up an ear/skin condition he had had for all his life, and which the vets could do nothing about. It cleared up within a couple of weeks. Now I have been giving him Primal Defense Ultra, and it just knocks him out (in a good way) for hours (and yes, I can tell, even though cats sleep for 22 hours a day anyway). I just put it in Wellness canned food, and he has no problem with it. As RN noted, he’s basically an indoor cat and always has been. Otherwise he’d be eagle food I’m afraid.

  5. Gina on March 17, 2014 at 14:34

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  6. Ellen on March 18, 2014 at 04:43

    My deepest sympathies. You will always miss him. But/and you will always love him. They give us so much.

  7. Jim on March 17, 2014 at 16:48

    Sorry about the dog Richard.

    I like dogs better than I do most people. You always know how they feel about things.

  8. gabriella kadar on March 17, 2014 at 16:59

    The anal fistula testimonial is uber impressive. Potatoes heal.

  9. Ozquoll on March 17, 2014 at 17:14

    I clicked on the Dog Anal Fistula link (there’s a sentence I never want to say again) and one thing caught my eye ‘Many veterinarians recommend a high fibre diet to attempt to firm up soft stools’.
    Isn’t it interesting that that is the exact opposite of what health authorities tell us will happen to us humans if we eat more fibre?

  10. Doug McGuff, MD on March 17, 2014 at 19:07

    Richard and Bea,

    My deepest sympathies on your loss of Rotor. We are thinking of you.

    Doug, Wendy, Eric, Madeline (Moose and Bon Bon too)

  11. mleuch on March 17, 2014 at 20:02

    If you and Bea have never read Vicki Hearne’s essay “Oyez a Beaumont”, I highly recommend it. Best thing ever written about the loss of a dog.

  12. Denis on March 17, 2014 at 21:13

    Sorry for the loss Richard.

  13. Matt on March 17, 2014 at 23:21


    I like this site.
    How do I get an email notification of the latest post?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 18, 2014 at 06:34
    • David on March 18, 2014 at 07:00


      Thanks for posting the networks and connections page. So useful!
      In O these many years I never even noticed it. Better mousetrap/better idiot, I suppose.

    • Matt on March 18, 2014 at 07:05

      I really tried to find that on my own.

  14. agatha on March 18, 2014 at 04:21

    Sorry to hear about Rotor. We just lost our elderly greyhound, so know how you and Bea feel – it surely does hurt bad.

  15. Skyler Tanner on March 18, 2014 at 09:15

    Richard, I’m so sorry for your loss. Dogs are the biggest pains in the asses and somehow they eviscerate you when they die, no matter how kind the death.

  16. Val on March 18, 2014 at 09:40

    My deepest sympathy to you & Beatrice on your loss of dear little Rotor. It is never easy to say goodbye to a beloved pet, no matter what the cause, no matter what their age…

  17. Alie on March 18, 2014 at 09:41

    Richard and Bea, so sorry about Rotor (what a great name). Dogs are amazing, intuitive, and hilarious, and I often say they are all the therapy I need.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 18, 2014 at 10:22


      In case you’re interested in how Rotor got the name rotor.

      (Sport: Hang gliding)


      “A turbulent area of wind found behind the edge of a sharp cliff that curls over into the sheltered area and blows in the opposite direction to the main wind.”

      That’s convoluted, but what it means is that when we fly, we have to always be aware that if there’s a prevailing wind of anything over about 5 MPH, you can encounter significant turbulence in the shadow of any obstruction (mountain, ridge, tree, building, and so on). At the time, we were on hang gliding trips all the time, with other hang glider and paraglider folks. Having him around, with that name, was hilarious.

      “Hey, careful of that rotor!”

      I created ambiguity!

    • Alie on March 18, 2014 at 18:34

      Very awesome! Having never been hang gliding, but having worked on cars, I had assumed it to be an engine reference 🙂 Thanks for the story. I actually really love hearing the stories behind names.

  18. Marc on March 18, 2014 at 09:58


    Hang tough. Not easy breezy stuff. Those rascals sure claim stake to a very real piece of us.

    9 years ago when I lost my Boxer, I drove 30 minutes in the car with him to my friends “land” and I dug a big hole by myself for him. Was very VERY therapeutic for some reason. Some tears, a few screams and sweat.

    Anal stuff…
    Could be way off topic and off base here… but our little doggie who we put on a home cooked food routine (used to be a kibble dog before we got her, now I make weekly pot of carrots, greenbeans, rice and meat) used to have a real problem with her anal sacks impacting (scoot-ville). Since the switch to “real food” it now takes 6-8 months before a squeeze (with very minor liquid compared to previous) when it used to be a just 6-8 weeks until it was needed. Curious if the cooled (RG-RS) rice is helping her.


    • Richard Nikoley on March 18, 2014 at 10:32


      Yea, when Rotor initially began leaving food, which he NEVER did, we suspected in was the pancreas powder for his EPI. We thought, or actually Bea did: rice, chopped veggies, chicken, all mixed together. He initially loved it, then shortly went back to refusing food. kidney failure will do that. By the time he was skin & bones and Bea was ready, his creatine and BUN were almost back to normal. But, it’s because he hadn’t eaten in a week and the only thing to clear was the buildup. unfortunately, by that time, his lean mass was far too shot to ever recover and plus, he was 15.

      And yep, I think it’s appropriate to give dogs sme starch in their diet too.

      BYW, thanks to ALL for the kind words and to Dr. McGuff, thanks a little especially since you’ve met Beatrice because of AHS11 at Aaron’s place where you originally came up to her. 🙂

  19. John on March 18, 2014 at 10:52

    I’m sorry about your dog Richard. I had to put my rat terrier down last month – Had cancer on the skin, in the bladder, and in the lung. Her mood and disposition were great, but eventually after trying to treat the conditions she had a tumor in her elbow which deteriorated the bone. She was happy and running around right to the end, which made it tough, but I was glad to see her still enjoying life, rather than waiting for the inevitable pain to take over (which the vet said was already constant and bad).

    I’ve been thinking about the food I gave her, supposedly among the best (out of a package).

    Feel better.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 18, 2014 at 13:48

      John, don’t know how old she was. Sorry. I grew up with black labs who are the most lovable dogs ever, but ratties are just so special to me. Big Dog in small package, and they have the “off switch.”

      Rotor was crap-in-bag fed from 1999-2007ish, Nuke from 2005-2007, until I put them both on EVO, both canned and kibble combo. Still, Rotor did great and seemed to feel great and always wanted anything being served up at the table (they got plenty of scraps, licked plenty of plates—nuke liked egg yolk off Bea’s plate just the other day). Rotor did lose all the fat around his balls, though, when I put him on EVO. for the first time in his life, they swayed from side to side, just like they should. He died intact.

      I’m really not sure it makes a huge difference. Dogs evolved by following humans around, eating their garbage. So, don’t beat yourself up. I’ve used the grain free stuff and support it as a middle ground between the pain of raw feeding. What we’re going to be doing is a rice, veggie mix to add to the high protein EVO.

  20. Josh on March 18, 2014 at 14:50

    Can’t thank you enough for this post! My father has an anal fistula–ON TOP OF HAVING NO COLON. His large intestine was removed in the eighties as a fix for colitis, and a j-pouch is now there to do the work of his rectum (I think I have that right).

    He’s had so many complications that seem to beg for RS from what I understand, except if RS does it’s thing in the colon, what would it do in him?

    Here is the only thing I found, which seems to say that RS can do its thing sufficiently in the j-pouch:

    Please let me know if you know more, and thank you.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 19, 2014 at 04:47


      No idea, but that’s an interesting study. I didn’t even know they could reconstruct something like that from small intestine material. But, apparently it can ferment RS so I don’t see why not, and perhaps it’s more needed than ever for him. I’d take it slow, though.

  21. Ellen on March 18, 2014 at 15:25

    Richard, I am sorry for you and Bea. Comfort each other. Take life easy for awhile. Grief can do a number on your health. Hugs!

  22. Linda on March 18, 2014 at 16:55

    I’m really sorry for your loss. Losing a pet shouldn’t be easy – they are family and for many of us, even more special than kin. Thanks for letting us in and sharing a bit of your lives together.

  23. Q on March 18, 2014 at 18:18

    I think it’s harder on us, than it is on them. Animals seem to accept suffering and death with amazing resilience and spirit and, when it’s time, peaceful resignation. I hope I can do as well.

  24. Mike on March 19, 2014 at 06:08

    been on RS for a over 3 months. Type 2. A1C start 6.4. 150lbs. Now A1c 6.6 156lbs. 4 tlbs per day too much for no return. No other changes no thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 19, 2014 at 08:01

      Hi Mike.

      Sorry to hear about that, but thanks for sticking it out 3 months. Just a couple of things to consider, just in case:

      1. The RS does not seem to perform very well in a VCL diet.

      2. Have you checked what Steve Cooksey and other diabetics have been up to with RS? He’s eating beans with normal post-prandials under 140, no meds. But, he also understands it will take some time to “carb adapt.”

      3. You might be missing some necessary gut bugs that make RS work (very likely if you’ve ever had antibiotics, especially oral ones) and that you won’t get in any of the lacto products on the shelves, and probably not enough in fermented vegetables.

      4. Consider that your weight gain might be a very good thing, and perhaps part of it explained by more robust gut tissue, as well as a greater population of bacteria (while still lacking some key players, i.e., #3).

      Well, since you’ve given this three months, you sound like the kind of person who would make sure you understand the stuff above.

      But still, it’s possible that none of that will make a difference for you, either, but I hope it does. Keep us updated, and don’t be afraid of retribution if everything isn’t coming up roses for you.

    • Mike on March 19, 2014 at 15:00

      Thanks Richard, for the reply and all you do. (we do appreciate it even if we do not always show it)
      I was disappointed by the results and I will follow up on your links and let you know. Sorry about your buddy Rotor, My Siberian has just turned 16 still with a good quality of life but I am slowly getting a sinking feeling knowing how it has to end.

  25. Christoph Dollis on March 19, 2014 at 16:05

    I don’t know what the hell anal fistula is, and I’m sure I don’t want any personal experience with it.

    But this is as good a thread as any to say that I started taking 2 tbsp/day of Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified potato starch about 10 days ago and so far:

    • No noticeable increase in fartage or other gastro upset.
    • Feel noticeably less acidic, starting two or three days after taking it and continuing to present.

    That’s all I can say with certainty (although I think there’s likely more good going on). That’s a good start in my books, and thank you for your posts on the subject, Richard.

  26. Christoph Dollis on March 19, 2014 at 16:06

    Ah, I guess the html for that should have been & b u l l ;


  27. Jonathan McRae on March 20, 2014 at 08:26

    Sorry about your Dog Richard,

    Wanted to share:

    Over the last 6 months I have been dealing with an “anal fissure” and severe hemorrhoids, the doc told me that if things did not improve that surgery might be the “only” answer, I freaked out started using all sorts of Preparation-H products, to no avail, my wife told me that after our two kids she was advised to take a high fiber supplement and a probiotic, since i have started the dreaded “red” streak as gone away and the “burning” sensation is also gone.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 20, 2014 at 09:09


      Thanks for having the courage to share that under your own name. Not a pleasant thing to do. I didn’t know what to think of doing this post, and kinda regret mixing it with my own minor troubles by comparison. Got this message via Facebook yesterday from a woman, here’s just a small excerpt.

      “I have had 5 surgeries in the past 3 months to try to control this damn thing and the fistula I have has devastating consequences because I am a woman and two orifices that should not be connected are now due to this fistula.”

      Imagine that, on many levels. Now, that’s what I call a real problem.

    • Jonathan McRae on March 20, 2014 at 09:57

      No worries, just glad that we have a forum that is filled with so many experiences that may lead to more people finding the answers they might need.

  28. Matthew Terhune on March 20, 2014 at 12:45

    A little off topic, but I’ve been reading through your resistant starch info with great interest and wanted to contribute another data point..

    I have a form of dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system), possibly auto-immune, that I’ve worked to improve with diet changes, supplements, etc. Pastured butter has been helpful for me, so I thought I’d give the RS a shot for endogenous butyrate production.

    I supplemented for a week, starting with 1 tsp / day potato starch, and switching to plantain halfway through. I experienced a return of my dysautonomia symptoms (had been mostly in remission) which became progressively worse over the week, along with joint pain, tingling extremities and other weirdness. On the positive side though, my mood improved quiet a bit, in spite of the physical problems.

    I wasn’t able to make it past a week. 2 days later and I’m mostly back to baseline. Anyway, it seems like other people have had autoimmune flareups from RS, and I would urge caution to anyone with a similar condition. I don’t seem to have any problems with RS1 or RS3, which is odd.

  29. Kelly Romagnola on March 21, 2014 at 08:51

    Anal fistula is very serious problem for women. They suffer so much for it. Weight control is helpful to reduce fistula.

  30. agatha on March 23, 2014 at 12:25

    Many thanks to the person who shared their story above (and to Jonathan in the comments) – I have just sent this info to a friend who has been suffering a similar problem for some time.

  31. UJ on March 28, 2014 at 17:19

    Coming into this discussion a little late, but I am another rare individual that has been plagued by this condition. I had a fistula 6-7 years ago, had surgery, and was fully “cured.” In December of 2013, I developed a new abscess and fistula in a different location of the anus (not to be unnecessarily graphic, but hey, it is what it is). I had surgery 3 weeks ago. Recovery has been no fun, and I’ve a funny feeling that a second round of surgery will be suggested, as things seem much the same as before the surgery.

    I’ve been a low-carb paleo type for the past few years, but I’m going to be throwing in some resistant starch immediately. I’m desperate. This has given me a little hope. Really do appreciate the post.

  32. Susan on April 3, 2014 at 13:37

    Thanks so much for this information. A loved one has this condition, and will be trying the PS. I will post back if there are any results.

  33. Fritz on April 29, 2014 at 07:21

    Hi, my name is Fritz.
    Just like you, i also been having anal fistula in past 2 months. And i also refuse to go for surgery and interested to try Potato Hack.

    Questions, do you only eat potato for two weeks? Or do you use potato as the main dish and mix it with other meals?
    Do you cooked the potato or do you eat it raw?

    Please be kind to answer me.

  34. Mel on January 27, 2016 at 13:19

    How long did it take for the fistula symptoms to subside after the potato diet? Also how much potato starch do you consume daily.

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