This is a question that more people are asking, and we're here to help.
This article will answer some of the most common questions about butyrate and discuss its clinically proven health benefits.
What Is Butyrate?
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by certain types of beneficial gut bacteria. It is a postbiotic metabolite shown to provide numerous mental and physical health benefits.
What Are Short-Chain Fatty Acids?
The three primary short-chain fatty acids are acetate, butyrate, and propionate. They are among the most significant metabolites produced by bacterial fermentation of fiber in the lower colon (large intestine).
Which Bacteria Produce Short-Chain Fatty Acids?
Each short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) is produced by different bacteria and provides unique health benefits. Let's discuss each of them. (1)
Acetate (acetic acid). It is produced by the bacteria Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, Akkermansia muciniphila, Prevotella spp., and Ruminococcus spp. Benefits: Regulates gut pH levels, defends against pathogens, and regulates appetite.
Butyrate (butyric acid). It is produced by the bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale, and Roseburia spp. It is the SCFA most associated with gut health. Benefits: Improves gut health, defends against leaky gut, reduces inflammation, and more.
Propionate (propionic acid). It is produced by the bacteria Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Lachnospiraceae. Benefits: reduces inflammation, regulates appetite, normalizes cholesterol levels, and more.
What Quantity of Short-Chain Fatty Acids Are Produced by Bacterial Fermentation?
The three primary SCFAs also vary in the percentage of total short chain fatty acids produced by bacterial fermentation in the lower colon. Here is an estimate of the amounts of each made in the gut. (2)
The fact that butyrate is the least prevalent SCFA produced is intriguing because it is the primary energy source for colon epithelial cells, (3) an essential part of the gut barrier. This fact alone speaks to the potential gut-healing benefits of butyrate.
Indeed, Ivy League Doctors call butyrate the "optimal" SCFA for gut health and note that it provides more health benefits than the others.
Are There Other Names For Butyrate?
Yes. Butyrate is also known as butyric acid or butanoic acid. (Butyrate is a form of butyric acid.)
What Does Butyrate (Butyric Acid)Smell Like?
Butyrate has a rancid odor similar to vomit. Others describe it as smelling like sour milk or rancid butter. The name butyric acid comes from the Latin word for butter (butyrum or buturum). (4)
What is Butyrate Used For?
Butyrate is the most studied SCFA, and research suggests that it provides numerous health benefits.
Here are 7 health benefits of butyrate.
1. Heals Leaky Gut Syndrome
A leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions (TJs) that line the intestinal barrier become weak, allowing harmful substances to "leak" into the bloodstream, which can cause widespread inflammation with resulting health problems.
Infographic Explanatory Text
Leaky Gut Syndrome.: Normal tight junctions. Blood flow. Food particles, good bacteria, healthy tight junctions. Leaky, and inflammation: Toxins, bad bacteria, virus, gluten, faulty tight junctions.
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Health issues associated with a leaky gut include:
Autoimmune diseases, such as celiac's disease and type 1 diabetes
Irritable bowel syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome
There is scientific evidence that butyrate may prevent or heal a leaky gut.
For example, a significant factor in leaky gut syndrome is believed to be gut inflammation, which stresses and weakens the intestinal barrier. So, resolving this inflammation should reduce the risk of developing a leaky gut -- and that's exactly what butyrate does.
In a study published in theJournal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, researchers discovered that butyrate exerted a powerful anti-inflammatory effect in the gut by regulating the immune response. (5)
This anti-inflammatory effect could help recovery from leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and bowel cancer.
And that's not all. Butyrate appears to affect the intestinal barrier directly. Research shows that butyrate repairs and enhances the barrier function of intestinal cells. It gives your cells what they need to keep the tight junctions working correctly. (6)
2. Improves Gut Health
Improving gut health is an essential step in boosting overall health. Researchers have discovered that far from being involved just with digestive issues, the gut influences your entire body.
The gut microbiome comprises 300 to 500 bacterial species -- nearly 2 million genes. Most of the bacteria in the gut are located in the lower colon, where they break down resistant starch (dietary fiber), ferment it, and excrete butyrate and other postbiotic metabolites.
Gut bacteria also extract nutrients from food, assist in nutrient absorption, synthesize specific nutrients, etc.
They participate in bidirectional communication with the brain via the enteric nervous system (ENS) and the vagus nerve. The ENS is a layer of neurons lining your gastrointestinal tract, extending from your esophagus to the rectum. The vagus nerve is a long cranial nerve in the body, running from the brain stem to part of the colon.
Vagus Nerve. Brain, pons, medula omblogata, vagus nerve, superior ganglion of vagus nerve, inferior ganglion of vagus nerve, pharyngeal branch, laryngeal branches, lungs, cardiac branch, pulmonary plexus, liver, stomach, colon, small intestine, esophageal plexus, spleen, celiac plexus, kidney.
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Thus, the brain and the gut communicate the state of one's current health and then make adjustments based on that information.
And guess what?
Butyrate has been shown to improve gut health. For example, in a review article published in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, researchers stated:
"One remarkable property of butyrate is its ability to inhibit histone deacetylases, which is associated with the direct effects of butyrate and results in gene regulation, immune modulation, cancer suppression, cell differentiation, intestinal barrier regulation, oxidative stress reduction, diarrhea control, visceral sensitivity, and intestinal motility modulation. All of these actions make butyrate an important factor in maintaining gut health." (7)
Various studies suggest that butyrate can decrease intestinal pain and bloat, help ease constipation, reduce gastrointestinal infection symptoms, and keep the pH of your gut down. (The latter helps keep harmful bacteria from taking over your gut microbiota, as they cannot survive in an acidic environment.) (8, 9, 10, 11)
It has even been found to affect the frequency and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome dramatically. (12)
3. Helps With Weight Loss
Numerous research studies suggest that butyrate may even help with weight loss and maintenance by moderating the underlying cause of weight gain and obesity -- insulin resistance.
For example, researchers added 5% sodium butyrate to mice's food in one study. The results? Butyrate efficiently increased insulin sensitivity and decreased body fat in those mice. (13)
Indeed, when compared to the control group, butyrate was shown to improve: (14)
Body fat percentage
Fasting glucose/insulin, insulin sensitivity
Energy expenditure, fat oxidation
4. Boosts the Immune System
The gut microbiome is a significant player in the immune system. After all, an estimated 75% of immune cells are located in the gut.
Indeed, specific cells in the gut lining continually excrete massive quantities of antibodies into the gut. (15)
There must a reason -- a very GOOD reason --they're doing that!
The answer, of course, is that the gut is intimately involved with regulating the immune system, and butyrate plays a role in that.
For example, butyrate has been shown to calm and quiet the immune system by down-regulating your T-cells! (16)
But T-cells aren't the only part of your immune system affected. Instead, pro-inflammatory cytokines, dendritic cells, and macrophages are all told to stop their attacks on your suffering gut wall. The net result is your gut has a chance to repair itself! (17)
5. Protects Against Colon Cancer
Colon cancer also called colorectal cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States. (18)
Fortunately, butyrate may help.
As mentioned earlier in this article, butyrate is the preferred energy source for colon cells. So, if you have enough butyrate-producing bacteria and supply the prebiotics to feed them, there's a good chance that it can help prevent colorectal cancer.
Numerous studies show that butyrate protects against the development of colon cancer. Through the "Warburg Effect," butyrate accumulates in cells, reducing inflammation and inhibiting tumor cell progression. (19) Butyrate can also cause cancer cells to die off, thereby preventing colon cancer. (19a)
By the way...why do you think fiber is so good for your gut health? Recent studies suggest that dietary fiber's protective effect on colorectal cancer depends on the butyrate production by the microbiota. So, it's not the fiber that is good for you -- it's the butyrate the fiber helps produce in your gut. (20)
6. Improves Mood
There is also scientific evidence that butyrate may improve mood, easing depression, anxiety, and other mood-related conditions.
For example, probiotics and a fiber-rich diet that promoted butyrate production produced better mood outcomes in rat studies and healthy human volunteers. (21)
In conditions related to anxiety and depression (such as chronic fatigue syndrome), butyrate was also found to help ease symptoms. Again, this was found both in human and animal studies. (22)
The exact mechanism that butyrate uses to improve mood is not clear. However, many of these studies show a link between gut inflammation and mental health. (23)
It is proposed that the gut can “talk” to the brain via a long connecting pathway called the vagus nerve. When there is chronic inflammation, the vagus nerve signals this disease state to the brain, which responds with anxiety and depression symptoms. (24)
7. Boosts Brain Function
Last but not least: brain function.
Again, butyrate may help promote brain health and boost cognitive function.
In various research studies, butyrate was found to:
Encourage new cell growth in the brain, especially useful following a stroke (25)
Reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases due to its anti-inflammatory effects (26)
Boost cognitive function, both in neurotypical people and those (including children) with autism (27, 28, 29)
Aid learning and memory after traumatic brain injury. This may, eventually, make butyrate a helpful treatment following car accidents or sports injuries. (30)
How Do I Increase Butyrate in the Colon?
You can help produce butyrate in your colon by eating many dietary fibers and resistant starches. In addition, you must eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables to ensure enough variety for the butyrate-producing bacteria.
What Foods Have Butyrate?
Butyrate is not a nutrient in food that you ingest to improve your health. Instead, it's produced when beneficial gut bacteria ferment dietary fiber.
Butter and other dairy foods contain butyric acid but in meager amounts. In other words, you cannot depend upon certain foods to increase your butyrate levels.
So, you need to either eat loads of fiber foods or take butyrate supplements.
What is the Best Butyrate Supplement?
Unfortunately, you won't find plain butyrate supplements on store shelves or online. That's because butyrate is an unstable molecule that dissolves before it ever reaches the large intestine, where it's needed to provide all those incredible health benefits -- and more -- listed above.
Consequently, butyrate is always produced with a stabilizing ingredient. Examples include sodium butyrate, calcium butyrate, etc.
But the BEST butyrate supplement contains TRIButyrate, the patented gut-healing super-nutrient time-released to deliver butyrate directly in your lower colon. (Combining a glycerol molecule with three butyrate ones stabilizes this molecule.)
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20- Rios-Covian, D, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A, Gueimonde M, de Los Reyes-Gavilan CG, and Salazar N. Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health. Front Microbiol 7: 185, 2016.