Butyrate is a Short Chain Fatty Acid made by certain gut bacteria from fermentable fibre; it is essential both for good gut health and for your overall health. Butyrate is anti-inflammatory and repairs the gut lining and intestinal damage, it makes the gut more acidic, it improves the immune system, corrects insulin resistance, reduces cholesterol and is capable of killing cancer cells. It even crosses the blood brain barrier.
By the way, butyrate smells terrible!!
Bacteria help our health in a multitude of ways
Certain commensal (‘good’) bacteria – for example, Firmicutes, Roseburia, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Eubacterium rectale – produce the Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) called butyrate from prebiotic dietary fibre.
There are, in fact, three important SCFAs and their production in the gut varies significantly. In a really healthy gut levels are:
- butyrate (15%),
- propionate (25%), and
- acetate (65%).
The actual SCFAs produced depend on the specific strains of bacteria present and the acidity or lack of it in your intestine. Butyrate is made by bacteria in acid gut conditions, whereas acetate and propionate and made by other bacteria in slightly alkaline conditions.
Dysbiosis affects one in five adults
An imbalance in the gut microbiome is called Dysbiosis:
i) Dysbiosis has been linked to all manner of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart failure, stroke, type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, obesity, kidney disease and even cancer in many other articles on this CWHW Website.
ii) Dysbiosis is also linked to a variety of specific gut problems – from Crohn’s and colitis, and from IBS to diverticulitis.
The National Institutes of Health in the USA estimates that at least one in five adults has dysbiosis.
The importance of butyrate
Here are a few of the research studies indicating a benefit (inside or outside the gut) of the action of the Short Chain Fatty Acid Butyrate:
i) Butyrate affects mental state
For example, bacteria that produce butyrate are in low numbers in people with Depression (1).
ii) Butyrate affects gut health
For example, its production in the gut is linked to a reduction in IBS (2).
Butyrate (not glucose) is the prime fuel of colonocytes, the cells of the gut wall.
For example, research showed that butyrate could cause regeneration of the mucosal colon wall when given by infusion (3).
For example, the anti-oxidant glutathione restricts free-radicals and cell wall damage and glutathione level rises synergistically with butyrate (4).
For example, dietary fibre is known to reduce inflammation in the gut if sufficient butyrate-producing gut bacteria are present (5).
For example, low levels of butyrate producing bacteria have been found in people with thyroid issues such as thyroid nodules, hyperthyroidism and even thyroid cancer.
iii) Butyrate protects against Diet-induced obesity
For example, butyrate and propionate regulate gut-produced hormones, via fatty acid receptor sites and improve insulin sensitivity and reduce obesity (6).
iv) High fat diets reduce butyrate levels
A high fat diet (such as a Keto diet) reduces the formation of butyrate, but increases succinate, inflammation, liver fat and cholesterol levels in rats (7). Switching to a low fat, high fibre diet corrected this.
v) Butyrate can reduce diarrhoea
For example, increasing consumption of soluble fibre and pectin has been shown to reduce diarrhoea in children, by increasing levels of Lactobacillus and butyrate-producing bacteria (8).
vi) Butyrate can reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis
For example, supplemental butyrate can reduce gut wall inflammation and has been shown to reduce symptoms in ulcerative colitis (9).
For example, in a similar inflammation-reducing way, the use of oral supplements of butyrate has been shown in a small study to reduce symptoms in Crohn’s disease and lead to cure in 53% of cases (10).
vii) Butyrate improves insulin resistance
For example, butyrate has been shown to improve insulin resistance and increase energy expenditure in mice (11).
viii) Butyrate may increase Colorectal Cancer survival
For example, we know that high fibre diets (which increase levels of butyrate) reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. But we know more about how butyrate plays a role.
Specifically, butyrate inhibits histone deacetylases (HDAC), which are drivers of Colon Cancer. HDACs limit DNA freedom and stop gene expression (12). Butyrate corrects this, reducing blockages on genes.
ix) Butyrate can increase survival times in people with solid cancer tumours
For example, a concentrated form of Butyrate administered three times a day, increased survival times significantly in patients with solid tumours, and for whom no conventional treatment remained (13).
x) Butyrate can activate vitamin D
Vitamin D is made by sunshine (UVB) on the cholesterol layers below the skin. However, this vitamin D is not ‘active’ and must be processed first by the liver, then the kidney to arrive at the active form. Researchers from the San Diego School of Medicine found a clear link between active vitamin D and overall microbiome diversity. Moreover, 12 particular types of bacteria appeared more often in the microbiome of men with high levels of active vitamin D. In particular, most of these 12 bacteria produced butyrate. It seems the butyrate may replace the kidney step.
Go to: Butyrate activates vitamin D
Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and author of best seller, ‘Heal your Gut – Heal your Body‘ said, “this is just a selection – an indication – of what we know today about butyrate. We regularly kill pathogens, then add probiotic foods – such as apple cider vinegar, unpasteurised cheese, specialist Kefir products, Kombucha and sauerkraut – plus prebiotic foods – such as berries, nuts, seeds, vegetables, pulses, oats, inulin from onions and garlic, pectin from apples and carrots – to increase commensal bacteria levels in people with damaged microbiomes. Usually this will help build butyrate levels.
However, sometimes we need to do more – for example, in colorectal cancer the patient’s gut microbiome is usually so damaged none is being made – a quick fix is supplementation. But butyrate can do so much more and so we supplement consistently with it when we add probiotics or probiotic foods. Butyrate is invaluable in regenerating a healthy body.”
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