Any guesses why most medical establishments suggest a yearly colonoscopy beginning around age 50? It’s because colon health is far more important than most of us think! Meanwhile, diseases of the colon, particularly colon cancer, have become more common over the decades. So how does butyrate relate to all of this? Can Butyrate supplements serve as a boon for colon health?
What is Butyrate?
Latest Research on Butyrate Benefits
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced in the gut as a by-product of fermentation. This fermentation occurs when beneficial probiotic bacteria feed on important undigested fibers, such as resistant starch, that reach the colon.
Think of butyrate as essential fuel for the integrity of the gut lining. More specifically, butyrate feeds our colonocytes, the cells that form our gut-lining.
There are important components necessary to optimize the production of butyrate in the body. A couple of these include healthy amounts of beneficial bacteria in the body and a plentiful intake of resistant starch.
Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that resists digestion until reaching the large intestine (colon). There, bacteria embark on a feeding frenzy, producing the SCFAs (butyrate included) that produce hosts of benefit for the gut.
Butyrate Supplements for Crohn’s Disease
Oral butyrate supplements have also proved beneficial.
Butyrate supplements have been studied, for example, as an effective intervention for Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that often produces ulcers in the colon.
Butyrate research has shown that “oral butyrate is safe and well-tolerated, and may be effective in inducing clinical improvement/remission in Crohn's disease.” In the research linked above, 9 out of 13 Crohn’s patients had improved symptoms after 8 weeks of butyrate supplementation.
Butyrate Supplements for Colon Cancer
At the beginning of this article, we discussed the importance of receiving yearly colonoscopies to check in on the colon. One of the primary purposes of these procedures is to check for polyps that have the potential of becoming colon cancer.
Sadly, colon cancer is fairly common. Thus, many look to ways to prevent or help with cancer that has already developed. Butyrate seems promising.
A 2016 study published in PLOS ONE introduces butyrate by claiming, “Butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid derived from dietary fiber, inhibits proliferation and induces cell death in colorectal cancer cells.”
The study examines and concludes how sodium butyrate stopped colon tumor proliferation “by blocking the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. . .These results provide novel insights into the anti-tumor mechanisms of butyric acid.”
These findings are important for our understanding of the impact of butyrate as well as the search for holistic means of cancer remission.
Butyrate Supplements for Insulin Sensitivity
Good news for type 2 diabetics: Butyrate may be of significant help.
According to a study completed on rats, “SCFAs might contribute to healthier adipocytes and subsequently also [improve] energy metabolism with for example less circulating free fatty acids, which is beneficial in the context of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
A keyword in such conclusions is “might.” More research is required to come to definite answers regarding the utilization of SCFAs such as resistant starch as an effective protocol for diabetes.
The Best Sources of Butyrate Supplements for Gut Health
Now we can efficiently dive into the best sources of butyrate for gut health. Together, we’ll discover actual sources of butyrate as well as food and supplement sources that can lead to the creation of butyrate in the gut.
Butter is renowned as a potent source of butyric acid. We suggest consuming butter in the form of clarified butter, or ghee, instead.
Popular in Ayurveda for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, ghee is renowned for its abilities to lubricate joints and connective tissues, improve memory, calm inflammation, aid digestion, and yes, rebuild the gut.
A good way to consume ghee is on an empty stomach in the morning. Try a teaspoon. Eat it straight out of the jar or mix it with warm water and drink it. Also, in replacement of butter, try cooking with ghee. Ghee has an extremely high smoke point and retains its benefits through being heated.
When thinking about increasing levels of butyrate in the body, some argue that we should focus on “foods to increase butyrate” rather than “foods with butyrate.”
This is where resistant starch comes in. Resistant starch is classified as a type of fiber that cannot be broken down in the small intestine or stomach, and thus makes its way to the large intestine to feed beneficial probiotic bacteria that reside therein. This feeding is what creates ample amounts of butyrate in the body.
Sources of resistant starch include plantains, green bananas, whole grains, and cooked brown rice. Another popular source is potatoes (both russet and sweet) that have been cooked and then cooled. Yes, interestingly, resistant starch forms during the cooling process.
You may have heard of prebiotics alongside probiotics. Prebiotics such as inulin is often coupled with probiotics because they serve as an ideal food source for probiotics.
Foods such as almonds, oat and wheat bran, chickpeas, garlic, and apples are all examples of foods rich in prebiotic dietary fiber, some of which are insoluble. Insoluble fiber, like resistant starch, can survive the small intestine and reach the colon for fermentation.
A good rule of thumb is to include plenty of prebiotic sources as a regular part of your diet. When in doubt, stick to a plethora of fruits and vegetables. This way, you won’t have to depend on buying prebiotic supplements.
Butyrate may be a saving grace for many in a world where the gut disease is running rampant. What’s more, with a bit of education, it’s accessible and easy to implement in your daily life.
Earlier, we mentioned how it’s best to focus on foods that allow your body to create butyrate as opposed to consuming foods that contain it (which can still be beneficial). That being said, it’s important to ensure you have a healthy, thriving gut microbiome. This is essential to ensure your body is efficiently making butyrate. You can check your probiotic levels through targeted stool samples.
Creating butyrate is one of the most important functions of the gut microbiome. Butyrate production in the gut can’t be overlooked and must be optimized for a human to thrive.