If you've landed on this article, there's a pretty good chance that you're here because you're struggling with poor gut health. You may have heard that butyrate is good for your health and are curious to understand more about this health-boosting short-chain fatty acid.
The importance of butyrate and the many benefits it can provide to your gut health and entire body
Butyrate, also known as butanoate, gets its name from the Greek word for butter (βoutupoς). It is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that is naturally occurring in animal milk fat.
It's created when healthy butyrate-producing bacteria in your gut begin fermenting resistant starch. Butyrates provide many health benefits far beyond just digestive health, by positively impacting the brain, immune system, and more.
What are Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)?
To gain a better understanding of butyrates (also known as butyrate acid), it's important to first understand a bit more about short-chain fatty acids. There are three primary types of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA's) known as Acetate, Butyrate, and Propionate. Together, these three form approximately 83% of the SCFAs in our colons and 95% of those in our entire body.
The digestive systems of mammals cannot metabolize certain types of fiber, but they are easily fermented in the gut by good bacteria that produce SCFAs. Between them, they offer a wide range of health benefits to the human body. Let's take a closer look at them individually.
Acetate is responsible for the highest amount of SCFAs in your gut and it's primarily produced by Bifidobacterium and lactobacilli bacteria. Among its functions and benefits are regulating gut pH, protecting against pathogens, fat metabolism, and controlling appetite.
The primary producers of butyrate are Eubacterium rectale, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, and Roseburia spp. Butyrate primarily serves as a source of energy for colon cells, but as you will discover later, it also has many other important health-boosting properties.
The least studied short-chain fatty acid of the three is Propionate, which is produced by the phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Lachnospiraceae. It helps regulate the appetite, balance glucose levels, and is believed to help promote healthy inflammatory responses in the body.
What is Butyrate and How Does it Work?
So let's delve a little deeper into the world of this superstar short-chain fatty acid. We mainly get butyrate and other SCFA's from consuming food high in resistant starch. This is starch that can't be broken down by the body. When it arrives in your colon, the healthy probiotic bacteria ferments, producing butyrate.
What is The Function of Butyrate in The Body?
The primary role of butyrate is to provide an energy source for the mucosal cells that line our colon (also known as your intestinal lining or gut barrier). Butyrate provides these cells with about seventy percent of their energy requirements.
These cells (known as colonocytes function) keep the gut free of oxygen, providing the perfect conditions for gut microbes to thrive. Without enough butyrate to provide optimum colonocyte metabolism, the mucosa (gut lining) can become damaged and inflamed. This can lead to what is known as a "leaky gut" or increased intestinal permeability.
While the three main short-chain fatty acids we discussed earlier are all essential for good gut health, butyrate especially plays a significant part in intestinal homeostasis.
What are the Health Benefits of Butyrate?
Although there is limited clinical research on humans regarding the benefits of butyrate, the evidence suggests that it could have a hugely positive impact on our overall health. Let's have a look at just some of these many benefits below.
Improved gut health
There are a number of gastrointestinal conditions that are categorized by inflammation of your gastrointestinal tract and symptoms such as abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Although more research is needed in this area, one small study of 13 people suffering from Crohn's disease found that, after receiving butyrate supplements, 69% showed an improvement. Seven of the participants even reported that their symptoms had disappeared completely .
Healthy weight management
As of yet, most of the research looking at the connection between weight loss and butyrate has been performed on mice. However, these results have been encouraging. In one test, mice were fed a high energy diet; those supplementing with butyrate put on much less weight than those that didn't.
Another experiment on obese mice remaining on the same diet and supplementing with butyrate resulted in them losing 10% in body weight . This indicates that butyrate may help with maintaining a healthy BMI and preventing weight gain.
Healthy inflammatory responses
Systemic inflammation can occur in all parts of your body and affect you in many harmful ways over time. It's believed that chronic, low-grade inflammation may play a substantial role in many diseases throughout the body as we age. It may even also lead to certain mood disorders and cognitive damage.
Butyrate is believed to help promote healthy inflammatory responses in the body by keeping the colon lining healthy. By maintaining a strong, ironclad intestinal wall, harmful bacteria and toxins are not able to "leak" out into the bloodstream.
Since chronic inflammation is now believed by many experts to be the root cause of many modern diseases, butyric acid's ability to help promote healthy inflammatory responses in the gut lining are sure to benefit overall wellness and healthy aging.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Also known as "increased intestinal permeability," leaky gut syndrome is when the intestinal tract develops gaps in its tightly bound junctions that allow for bacteria and toxins to "leak" into the bloodstream. As we mentioned earlier, this could be due to ongoing inflammation and a number of lifestyle factors, such as stress, poor diet, infection, and many other potential issues.
Leaky gut, although still a fairly new term, is now being associated with a number of other gut health conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Butyrate is believed to play a huge role in fixing leaky gut, since it increases the protective mucus around the intestinal wall, forming a tight junction in the large intestine.
In simpler terms, butyrate is essential for repairing a damaged gut lining and restoring an "ironclad" gut barrier to keep inflammation-causing toxins from leaking from your gut into your bloodstream.
Even with the sparse amount of research on human subjects available, it certainly isn't down to coincidence that butyrate positively influences our health in so many ways. The positive impacts on health listed above are just a few examples of the many ways that butyrate can give your overall wellness a boost.
How Do You Know if You are Lacking Butyrate?
The only way to truly know if you're lacking butyrate is to take a test; there are two options, either a stool culture test or a stool DNA test; the latter is regarded as the most accurate.
However, for many of us, we may notice common symptoms that could indicate a lack of butyrate, such as chronic diarrhea, foggy thinking, food sensitivities, bloating, indigestion, inflamed skin, and more.
If you are not eating enough resistant starch, then you are likely lacking in butyrate. In addition, if you have taken antibiotics recently, this could also be a cause of decreased butyrate in the gut.
What you eat is very important when it comes to maintaining a strong gut barrier. For instance, if you are following a diet that is high protein or high fat and that low in carbs and fiber (like keto and paleo diets), you are likely to have low butyrate levels. If this is the case and you worry that you may be low in butyrate levels, a good choice would be to consider a holistic gut supplement that contains butyrate.
Previously, it was very uncommon to find butyrate in supplement form, due to smell and bioavailability issues. Luckily, with the introduction of new gut health technology such as CoreBiome® postbiotics, it's now possible to find butyrate in capsule form to add your daily routine!
How Can You Increase Butyrate?
There are some more radical ways to increase butyrate in your body and some less intrusive ways. According to studies, butyrate enemas have been reported to potentially help decrease colon inflammation arising from ulcerative colitis.
Another potential method is a fecal microbiota transplant or fecal bacteriotherapy, as it is also known. This is a process in which gut bacteria is restored by transferring feces from a healthy donor into the donee’s gastrointestinal tract. Doesn't sound too pleasant? A far less obtrusive way is to eat the right foods, follow a healthy lifestyle, and take a high-quality postbiotic supplement.
What Foods Contain Butyrate?
You might have guessed already, with butyrate being named after the Greek word for butter, that it is contained in this dairy product, and you'd be correct. Butter contains about 3 to 4 percent butyrate; while there have been no real studies on which butter is the richest in butyrate, the healthiest options would be unpasteurized or grass-fed.
As well as butter, it is also found in other dairy products such as ghee, which is clarified butter that is often used in Indian food. Most milk from mammals, including humans, contains butyrate with the exception of sow's milk. Other options with butyrate in lesser amounts include; vegetable oil, kombucha, parmesan cheese, red meat, and sauerkraut.
Unless you are going to eat dairy until the cows come home (pun intended), the foods listed above are not your best option, especially if you have a dairy allergy.
So what's the answer? If you've read so far, you should know the answer, for those not paying attention, resistant starch. This and dietary fibers such as inulin and pectin will give that healthy gut bacteria something to feed on, thus producing butyrate.
There are four types of resistant starch, but we can forget the fourth as it is synthetic and not suitable for human ingestion. RS1 is found in grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds. RS2 is found in raw potatoes, plantains, and unripe bananas. RS3 is the starch formed when food items such as oats, pasta, rice, and potatoes are cooked and cooled.
Pectin-rich food such as apples, apricots, oranges, and peaches will also help in butyrate production, as will those high in inulin such as chicory root fiber, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onion, and leeks.
Before you start consuming sticks of butter and raw bananas in large amounts, understand that butter is high in calories and that your gut is delicate. If you haven't been in the habit of eating lots of fiber, then take it slowly; otherwise, you might experience other issues with your gut, such as bloating. Letting your body slowly adjust to the extra dietary fiber will provide the best results.
What are the Side Effects of Butyrate?
Butyrate has no known side effects. However, if you do take it in supplement form and experience any adverse side effects, then you are best to cease using it or check with your doctor before continuing. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have other medical conditions, or are taking other medications, it's always best to speak to your doctor before taking butyrate as a supplement.
The research on butyric acid is still somewhat limited, so a comprehensive understanding of its health benefits is nowhere near complete. But from the research published, it does appear to have a promising and greatly positive effect on our overall wellness.
Remember, some of the best foods to eat that the healthy bacteria in your gut use to produce butyrate include fibers and, to a lesser degree, other sources such as butter or ghee. If you are on a low carb diet and prefer to take supplements, there have been no side effects associated with them.
A healthy gut has far-reaching positive effects on your body, including brain health, promoting healthy inflammatory responses, and helping your bowel movements stay regular! Don't neglect it. Keep those butyrate levels high by increasing your dietary fiber or taking the right supplement.
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