If you’re like most people, you’re probably taking interest in improving your gut health. As several studies suggest, it’s one of the keys to optimizing your overall health.
The focus is on improving your microbiome, and the number one reason for this is to get the butyrate benefits that comes with having the right types of gut bacteria.
However, working on your gut health isn’t that easy. For one, you’ll need to make the right lifestyle and dietary changes. This includes working on your butyrate levels.
Butyrate or butyric acid is classified as a short chain fatty acid or SCFA. It’s generally produced by certain gut bacteria types when they ferment fiber in the human gut.
In short, it’s one of the byproducts of breaking down large and complex molecules in your large intestines. Think of resistant starches and fibers as examples.
When you eat green bananas or oats, your colon cells struggle to tear them apart and break them down. This means that they get to stay and survive.
However, when they reach your large intestine, it becomes a totally different story. The bacterial species present in the area rip them apart to find useful molecules they can extract.
While the entire process is happening, butyric acid is created.
The butyrate benefits aren’t limited to your colon. It also plays an important role in the functions of other body systems.
Below is a list of 10 of its most important health benefits:
Free radicals are those unstable molecules that cause problems in your body. As they build up in your cells, they damage other molecules like proteins, lipids, and even your DNA. The damage they cause put you at risk of developing diseases such as cancer.
Possessing anti-oxidant properties, butyric acid can help boost your body’s defense against free radicals. It’s a huge help in fighting off oxidative stress.
Just think about your large intestine.
Like a storage container for your body’s waste, it’s a good area for free radicals to form and proliferate. Without enough butyrate, you’ll have a weak barrier to neutralize them.
If you want your gut to stay healthy and free from issues, there must be enough butyrate in your gut lining.
Think of it as your intestinal barrier. It stops pathogens and toxins from getting into your bloodstream and making you sick. At the same time, it gives vitamins and minerals free access to your bloodstream so that they can go when they’re most needed.
The health benefits of butyrate aren’t limited to your gut health and gut microbiome; it can also benefit your nervous system with its neuroprotective properties.
Butyrate has the capability to target several pathways which are often associated with stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and even autism. It won’t be long before it can be a potential treatment for such diseases.
The short chain fatty acid can boost the secretion of peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. These gut hormones can improve insulin production while limiting glucagon production.
Keeping both insulin and glucagon production within the normal range is one of the best ways to battle diabetes.
There are certain cells in your body that are able to change to specific types like your blood cell and liver cell.
When these cells fail to differentiate properly and they just simply grow in numbers, they end up becoming tumors. Eventually, they end up being cancerous.
Butyric acid is capable of promoting cell differentiation. Apart from that, it can also induce apoptosis or a cell’s natural death.
The lining of your gut is made up of colonocytes. These cells make sure that your colon is able to absorb the right nutrients. At the same time, they work hard to protect it against yeast, harmful bacteria, and other dangerous pathogens.
Colonocytes rely on butyrate as their main source of fuel. And when there’s not enough of it, the lining of your gut weakens, putting you at an increased risk of developing several gut issues.
It’s normal to have a small but controlled amount of colonic inflammation. It’s helpful for your gut microbiome.
However, chronic inflammation is a different story. When your body is fighting off pathogens for a long time, it makes your body over-reactive. As a result, it ends up battling substances that aren’t really that bad for you.
A histone deacetylase inhibitor, butyric acid shows anti-inflammatory properties.
The gut-brain connection isn’t a secret. This is one of the reasons why people who suffer from brain fog and poor sleep try their best to improve their gut health.
Let’s talk about brain-derived neurotrophic factors or BDNF.
This metabolite is quite critical in one’s ability to learn and remember. Having high levels of butyrate increases its level.
In addition to that, butyrate benefits are also helpful in your brain’s ability to rewire. This includes changing your routine or learning a new language.
The level of butyric acid in your system is inversely proportional to your blood pressure.
Having higher butyrate levels is equal to having low blood pressure. Having low levels of it means having high blood pressure.
This relationship is reflected in several studies, including the one that was done in 2017. The study which involved rats showed the anti-hypertensive effects of sodium butyrate.
The presence of Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans spells bad news for your health.
Having good levels of sodium butyrate not only inhibits the spread of yeast but also makes it easier to get rid of them. There are even studies suggesting that it can also boost the effects of antifungal drugs.
After reading about the health benefits, you’re probably thinking of ways to increase its level in your microbiome. In general, there are three ways to do that:
A really excellent source of butyrate is butter. However, it’s not that ideal to consume a lot of it. The same goes for cheese.
For one, butter and cheese are loaded with saturated fat. Eating more than what’s recommended can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
A safer option is to increase your daily dietary fiber intake by eating more plant-based foods. Rice, boiled potatoes, whole grains, and legumes are good choices. You can also eat more fruits containing fermentable fibers like pears, apples, and kiwi.
Apart from that, you can add the following to your diet:
Broccoli, Onions, Garlic, Chickpeas, Asparagus, Carrots, Potatoes
Now, why do you need to increase your fiber intake?
If you’re wondering if you have enough beneficial gut bacteria, you can always take a GI Map Stool Test.
If you are like most people who struggle to consume the recommended grams of dietary fiber per day, you can try taking probiotics. Some people experience positive results by doing that.
Or you can simply take butyric acid supplements, this is the fast way to get the butyrate benefits.
Now, if you are thinking of taking one, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider first. This is critical if you are taking other medications or if you have existing health issues.
I recommend the BodyBio brand – they have two options with are both good.
One of the most common reasons behind low butyrate levels is the poor consumption of foods that trigger its production. Eating too much low carbohydrate foods and following a high-protein diet can lower your butyrate levels as well.
Taking antibiotics can lower the level of butyric acid in your system, too.
You see, when you consume antibiotics, they target bacteria that are responsible for the infection you’re experiencing. In the process, they also affect the good bacteria in your gut microbiome. This decreases the bacteria that produce butyrate.
While it’s true that butyric acid can help improve your gut health, having higher levels of butyrate isn’t always better for your health.
Consider the following:
Butyrate production, at normal levels, can improve intestinal barrier function. However, when it’s present at high concentrations, it can induce apoptosis, ruining intestinal barrier function in the process.
Additionally, people diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease show lower levels of butyric acid. A literature review done in 2020 showed IBD patients have fewer butyrate producing bacteria.
Plus, if you have an extra sensitive gut, consuming extra dietary fiber may not be a good thing. It can irritate your colon, trigger inflammation, and boost intestinal motility which can slow down your body’s healing process.
If that is the case, consider starting an elimination diet. The low FODMAP diet is one excellent example. Although it may lower your gut’s butyrate production, it can help calm abdominal pain and bloating.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24063909/ – Sodium butyrate (SB) preventing travellers diarrhea
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22738315/ – SB decreasing pain in IBS
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24343275/ – After 12 months, the study group noted a significantly decreased number of diverticulitis episodes in comparison to the control group. The subjective quality of life in the study group was higher than in the control group. There were no side effects of the MSB during the therapy.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35623879/ – reduced blood pressure
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10795763/ – In conclusion, results of the present pilot study indicate that oral butyrate is safe and well tolerated. These data also suggest that oral butyrate may improve the efficacy of oral mesalazine in active ulcerative colitis
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19108937/ – This study demonstrated that butyrate is able to beneficially affect oxidative stress in the healthy human colon.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24343275/ – improved diverticulitis
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. He is a registered naturopath with the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) and works with clients from all over the world via video or phone consultations. He is a degree qualified naturopath from the Endeavour College of Natural Medicine in Australia with 18 years of experience. He uses advanced testing methods, nutritional medicine, herbal medicine, and lifestyle advice to help you stay healthy. He is a Kalish Method-trained practitioner that keeps updating his education with Chris Kresser. Michael completed Dr. Terry Wahls practitioner training program, a 12-month program with ongoing training that helps understand the underlying cause and treatment of MS and autoimmune conditions. He keeps up to date with the latest research into health and natural medicine through the Metabolic Fitness Pro course with Dr. Bryan Walsh.