As much as we’d all like to think our bodies are our own, the truth is, you share your body with billions of microscopic organisms. While that might sound creepy at first, these tiny inhabitants are actually essential for your survival – impacting just about every aspect of your health.
One way that these microbes contribute to keeping you healthy is by producing a compound known as butyrate. Today we’re going to dive into exactly what butyrate is, how it benefits your health, and how you can optimize your levels of this mighty molecule.
What Is Butyrate?
Butyrate, also known as butyric acid, is a compound known as a short-chain fatty acid. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat within your body and in food. Fatty acids can be categorized into several different groups. The term “short-chain fatty acid” refers to fatty acid molecules that contain less than 6 carbon atoms.1
So, how and where are these short-chain fatty acids produced?
So, Where Do Short-Chain Fatty Acids Like Butyrate Come From?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body is unable to digest on its own. So when you ingest fibrous foods, it passes through your gut largely undigested until it reaches your large intestine. This is where most of your gut microbiome is located. Once it reaches your gut microbiome it undergoes a series of reactions to produce butyrate that goes something like this:2
- Step 1: As the molecules of fibrous food come into contact with the millions of bacteria that reside in your gut, these microbes begin absorbing this undigested fibrous material.
- Step 2: Once absorbed, these microbes begin disassembling and digesting the fiber. They extract nourishment and energy in a process known as fermentation.
- Step 3: As dietary fiber is broken down and fermented by the microorganisms in your gut, a number of by-products are created. This includes short-chain fatty acids like butyrate
Once butyrate is released into your gut, it gets straight to work promoting health from your head to your toes.
What Are the Health Benefits of Butyrate?
Having adequate levels of butyrate is essential to your health. Just a few of the health benefits linked to this powerful fatty acid include:
A Happier, Healthier Gut:
Butyrate serves as the primary source of fuel for the cells that line your intestinal barrier known as colonocytes. Having well-fed and well-functioning colonocytes is critical for gut health because these cells play a pivotal role in:3,4,5
- Keeping the integrity of your gut lining strong – meaning they keep your gut sealed up tight so harmful toxins and microbes don’t “leak” into your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your body.
- Regulating blood flow, movement, and absorption in your intestines so you can properly absorb life-sustaining nutrients.
- Boosting production of mucin – the gel-like substance that lines your gut to protect your cells.
In fact, this fatty acid is so important to gut health that low levels of butyrate have been directly linked to devastating digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colon cancer.
Increased Insulin Sensitivity:
Insulin sensitivity refers to how well your cells respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar molecules into your cells. When your cells become less sensitive to insulin, it’s known as insulin resistance. This decreased response to insulin sets the stage for serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases.
Studies have found that butyrate can combat insulin resistance, increase your cells' sensitivity to insulin, and reduce body fat. Butyrate is able to produce these effects by promoting energy expenditure and enhancing mitochondrial function – allowing your cells to burn energy more effectively and respond more appropriately to insulin.6
Better Brain Health
Butyrate and other fatty acids play an important role in maintaining the integrity of your blood-brain barrier. Your blood-brain barrier is the tissue that serves as the gatekeeper between your circulatory system and your brain. Having a strong blood-brain barrier is essential for protecting your brain from harmful molecules.
Inadequate levels of fatty acids can also result in increased demyelination. This is the gradual breakdown of the protective covering that surrounds your nerve cells. Boosting butyrate levels has been found to not only combat demyelination, but can also trigger remyelination, or the rebuilding of the protective myelin sheath covering.7 This has major implications for understanding and addressing the link between gut health and diseases of the nervous system.
One of the underlying reasons butyrate is able to have such spectacular health-promoting effects on your brain – and just about every other organ and body process – is due to its impact on inflammation.
Does Butyrate Reduce Inflammation?
The answer is – yes, big time! Optimal levels of butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents by:8,9,10
- Regulating the movement and activity of immune cells
- Influencing cell growth and cell death
- Coordinating the production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other immune-signaling molecules
Butyrate’s ability to reduce inflammation is what makes this molecule so important. Because if left unaddressed, ongoing inflammation has been found to be the underlying cause of nearly every chronic condition known to humans.
What Foods Are High in Butyrate?
While you don’t directly receive butyrate from the foods you eat, you can increase your body’s natural production of butyrate by eating a healthy diet that’s high in fermentable fiber. Some foods that are an excellent source of fermentable fiber for your gut microbiome include:
- Green bananas
- Raw plantains
- Raw potato starch
- Cooked and cooled rice
It’s also important to take steps to ensure the bacteria in your gut are balanced and optimized to properly break down fermentable fiber and produce butyrate. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do that is by taking a daily probiotic, like my Probiotic Essentials.
Are Butyrate Supplements Effective?
So are butyrate supplements really the best way to boost your butyrate levels? The answer is – yes and no. The very best way to support optimal butyrate levels is to focus on eating plenty of fermentable fiber and keeping your gut balanced and healthy. If you need some help getting more fiber in your diet, check out my recipe library for some healthy, delicious, and fiber-packed meals.
But if you have trouble getting enough fermentable fiber from your diet alone, it can be beneficial to incorporate a butyrate supplement. It’s important to note though that not all butyrate supplements are created equally. Many butyrate supplements aren’t super effective because they are broken down before they reach your colon – meaning they never make it to their intended destination.
But I have found that taking 1-2 capsules three times daily of BodyBio’s Calcium/Magnesium Butyrate supplement can indeed help improve your levels of butyrate and other beneficial short-chain fatty acids. You can find it on my online store and even get 10% off your first order by clicking right here.
When It Comes to Your Health, You’re in the Driver’s Seat
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of just how important our microbiome is to every facet of our health. These tiny microbes that call our bodies home are one of the secrets to unlocking the vitality and longevity we all deserve.
If you’re looking for some research-backed easy-to-implement steps to support your microbiome, boost your butyrate production, and optimize your health, head over and check out my blog – it’s full of actionable steps to help you take control of your health. And if you want to take it to the next level, I encourage you to sign up for my email newsletter by entering your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn just how beneficial butyrate is? What are some of your favorite fiber-packed recipes? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- Review article: short chain fatty acids in health and disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health? | Advances in Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Butyrate Enhances the Intestinal Barrier by Facilitating Tight Junction Assembly via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Caco-2 Cell Monolayers | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Formation of short chain fatty acids by the gut microbiota and their impact on human metabolism – PMC (nih.gov)
- Dynamics of Human Gut Microbiota and Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Response to Dietary Interventions with Three Fermentable Fibers | mBio (asm.org)
- Butyrate improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure in mice – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Butyrate suppresses demyelination and enhances remyelination | Journal of Neuroinflammation | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
- Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health? | Advances in Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Implications of butyrate and its derivatives for gut health and animal production – PMC (nih.gov)
- The Immunomodulatory Functions of Butyrate – PMC (nih.gov)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.