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What Is Butyrate And How Might It Help You?

Gut health is a hot topic in the field of health and wellness today, though there is a great deal about it that’s still left to be figured out. Gut health impacts everything from our genetic expression to our mental health. Knowing a little bit more about this essential system of the body can improve almost every aspect of our wellness…


Did You Know…

One of the essential substances that your gut needs for vibrant health is a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. It’s a building block of the fats that our cells use for energy. Butyrate is created in our digestive system when our gut bacteria break down and ferment the otherwise indigestible fibers present in grains, bananas, beans, and other foods rich in complex carbohydrates.

Butyrate is the primary energy source for the cells in your colon; its most vital function is providing a barrier between the colon and the bloodstream, reducing digestive inflammation and lowering the risk of developing leaky gut syndrome. Your production of butyrate depends largely on the pH balance of your digestive system. Bacteria that produce butyrate thrive in a more acidic environment, while the production of other short-chain fatty acids like propionate and acetate are produced in an alkaline environment.


An Overview Of Butyrate

Butyrate has specific properties that make it appealing to many for preventative gut health. Some of these properties include:

  • Providing essential energy to cells in the colon
  • Increasing mitochondrial efficiency
  • Helping to reduce inflammation
  • Acting as a protective barrier to keep toxins out of the bloodstream
  • Helping to improve insulin sensitivity and control weight

Butyrate has come under fire for giving off an unpleasant odor, similar to that of strong body odor. Additionally, a lack of high-quality, human-centered research, and the fact that it’s difficult to separate from other short-chain essential fatty acids, make it necessary to continue further study into its benefits, and the implications of its use for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/OpenStax College

How Does Butyrate Work In The Body?

Butyrate helps to inhibit the release of HDAC, an enzyme that packs DNA up tightly and prevents full gene expression. It’s being evaluated for use in the development of certain drugs and supplements designed to treat anxiety and depressive orders. Early research is promising, and indicates that it may reduce and possibly eliminate symptoms of depression.


Benefits Of Butyrate

Several benefits come from efficient butyrate production in the colon. These include:

  • Fueling your colon cells – Most of the cells in your body use glucose as their primary energy source, but the cells in your colon, known as colonocytes, use butyrate as their main source of fuel. A cool chemical reaction occurs in your colon – butyrate fuels cells, and in return, these cells respond by creating an anaerobic environment in which beneficial gut microbes thrive; it’s a win-win for everyone.
  • Helping to protect your cells from free radical damage – Free radicals are leftover particles from completed chemical reactions in the body, and they do damage to your cells. Butyrate goes to work by creating antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radical damage. This could potentially reduce your risk of developing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Helping to protect against leaky gut syndrome – Some medical professionals theorize that a leaky gut is a foundation for all disease; butyrate provides a protective barrier in the colon that helps to prevent toxic substances from getting back into your bloodstream. This separation of digestive processes from other systems in the body can actually safeguard your immune system and ensure that it functions more efficiently as well.
  • Possibly preventing obesity and diabetes – The blood glucose dance is a delicate one; your body creates the hormones glucagon and insulin to keep glucose levels stable all day long. When either one of these hormones is out of balance, it can result in the development of conditions like obesity and diabetes. The production of butyrate in the body assists with triggering essential peptides that play a role in the creation of both insulin and glucagon. The result is that your blood sugar remains stable, and your risk of weight gain, obesity, and diabetes are lowered.
  • Protecting vital brain function – Butyrate plays a significant role in the pathways that are associated with diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and autism. Making simple dietary changes and considering supplementation may play a critical role in reducing your risk factor for these types of conditions.

Supplement Or Food?

Butyrate is present in foods, and is also available in supplement form. Supplements come in formulas that are bound to calcium and magnesium, so they are more easily assimilated by the body. Butyrate tablets are protected by a fatty acid coating that protects its release before it reaches the intestine.


Foods That Increase Butyrate Production

It’s possible to encourage the body’s own production of butyrate through diet. Dairy products are rich in butyric acid – butyrate actually derives its name from butter. Increasing your fiber intake is also known to stimulate the production of butyrate in your gut. Taking into account that each person’s gut flora is unique to them, the following foods may increase your butyrate production naturally:

  • Asparagus, garlic, onion, and leeks
  • Bananas
  • Rice and potatoes
  • Fruits such as oranges, apricots, carrots, and apples
  • Guar gum and other starchy flours

Gut Health = Overall Health And Wellness

Among the many short-chain fatty acids present in the body, butyrate seems to provide numerous benefits for the body and mind. Regardless of how you choose to boost the production of butyrate in your microbiome, you can probably expect to see physical and mental benefits that could make the extra effort very worthwhile.