Butyrate, also known as Butyric acid, butanoic acid, or BTA, is a type of saturated fatty acid that is becoming increasingly popular due to its many health benefits. But what is it, and how can you benefit from it? Keep reading to learn more about what is butyrate, its health benefits, and how to increase it in the body.
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What is Butyrate?
Butyrate is a saturated short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced when good gut bacteria ferment or break down prebiotic fibers or dietary fibers like resistant starches and fructooligosaccharides in the large intestine.
Butyrate is commonly found in animal foods like cheese, ghee, and butter but can also be obtained from plant sources.
Besides, animal products are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which can result in various health issues.
Butyrate acid has been shown to improve overall gut health, including reducing inflammation and improving digestion. It has even been shown to boost various gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Additionally, it can improve insulin resistance, fight cancer, especially colon cancer, boost brain health, and more.
Common Foods to Enhance Butyrate Production
While butyrate is common in animal foods, plant foods rich in dietary fiber, especially prebiotic fiber, can boost your levels.
That said, it’s good to remember that these foods do not directly provide SCFA. Instead, they help feed your good gut bacteria, which prompts the production of SCFA.
- Leafy greens
- Turnip greens
- Green peas
What can Butyrate do to Your Body?
1. Fuels your colonic cells
While the cells in other parts of the gut rely on glucose for fuel, colon cells depend solely on SCFA.
This helps support various cellular activities leading to increased integrity and function of the gut barrier, thus preventing gut permeability, among other issues. This promotes a healthy gut lining and prevents bacteria and other pathogens from entering the blood.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the root cause of most chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. And while acute stress can benefit your immune system, too much can cause cell and tissue damage leading to disease.
Research shows that BTA can improve inflammatory conditions while regulating various immune responses.
At the same time, low butyrate levels have been associated with an increased risk of developing bowel inflammatory conditions.
Other studies also found that taking butyrate supplements can lessen inflammation in pathogenic bacterial infection, thus preventing its progression into a more serious condition like sepsis.
3. Enhances Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity refers to your cells’ responsiveness to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that carries glucose from the blood into the cells to be used for energy.
However, the cells can also become insensitive to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance. This will cause glucose to accumulate in the blood, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, weight gain, a4. nd more.
So if you want to prevent or are already dealing with these conditions, you can easily improve your insulin sensitivity by increasing your butyrate levels.
A lab study on obese mice on a high-fat diet found that BTA prevented insulin resistance and obesity. This was highly linked to increased mitochondrial activities in skeletal muscle and brown fat, which is often associated with increased metabolism. Increased metabolism increases energy expenditure, which increases insulin sensitivity.
The study also found that the mice did not experience any additional weight gain.
Although more human research is needed to explore more on butyrate and insulin sensitivity, these findings are quite promising and open the door to more research on the same.
4. May treat Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease caused by chronic inflammation of the gut lining. It’s often characterized by abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue.
One study involving 13 patients with Crohn’s disease found that 4 grams of BTA for eight weeks improved symptoms in 9 of the patients.
BTA has also been shown to improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS, also known as irritable colon, is a condition characterized by intestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, and abdominal cramping.
These symptoms may vary from person to person, but in some cases, they can lead to intestinal damage, although rare.
In one double-blind study, adults with IBS receiving 300 mg of butyrate for four weeks reported reduced frequency of abdominal pain during bowel movements. Furthermore, continued use for up to 12 weeks reduced spontaneous abdominal pain, abdominal pain during defecation, and postprandial abdominal pain.
The benefits of BTA in fighting bowel inflammatory conditions are due to its ability to fight inflammation which helps promote gut barrier integrity, thus protecting your gut lining from damage.
5. Promotes Better Brain Health
While it is produced in the colon, butyrate has various biological functions that promote an optimum function for the nervous system.
Studies show that the anti-inflammatory benefits of butyrate can help reduce inflammation and damage from free radicals in the brain. This can thus offer neuroprotective effects to enhance the development of brain cells and protect it from neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Other studies also confirm that it can help improve memory and learning.
Additionally, butyrate can protect the brain by promoting plasticity. Brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt, which helps it heal and continue after injury.
6. Promotes Quality Sleep
A good night’s sleep is essential for good health, including boosting immunity, reducing stress, improving productivity, and boosting mental health. While most people don’t get enough sleep, consuming foods high in SCFA can help boost your sleep quality.
According to research, gut bacteria can regulate sleep through the brain-gut axis.
Additionally, research shows that butyrate increases non-rapid eye movement by over 70% within six hours. It also decreases the time it takes one to fall asleep, often known as sleep latency. While there are still ongoing studies concerning this, butyrate may positively impact sleep-promoting hormones.
7. Boosts Gut Cells and gut lining
The gut lining is the protective cover in your gut. It is the gatekeeper that determines what gets into your bloodstream. When the gut lining is healthy, it allows the right vitamins and minerals to get into your bloodstream. It also keeps toxins and harmful bacteria from circulation, thus protecting the body.
If the gut lining has a butyrate deficiency, it struggles to maintain a strong gut lining. This means that pathogens and toxins can seep through, and you can easily develop leaky gut syndrome.
8. Regulates the Immune System
An immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs performing various functions to protect your body from internal and external invaders that can cause disease.
Butyrate is among the largest influencers on the body’s immunity system. Ongoing research shows that butyrate can enhance the regulation of anti-inflammatory and immune pathways and reduce the inflammatory ones resulting from triggers such as toxins and allergens.
Additionally, butyrate positively affects the lymphoid tissues, commonly known as the GALT (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue). These tissues are vital in determining an immune response’s intensity based on the gut system’s microbial balance.
If you have too much harmful bacteria in your gut, GALT will prompt an attack. This makes the gut more susceptible to inflammation. If this is uncontained over time, it can cause permanent damage, including cancers.
Research supports that butyrate can modulate the body’s immune system by directly impacting various germs, fueling the gut tissues, enhancing microbial balance in the gut, and lowering inflammations. All these ensure that the GALT is less reactive, thus reducing damage to the gut system.
9. Regulates hunger and satiety
According to research, butyrate can directly cross the blood-brain barrier, activating the hypothalamus and vagus nerve, which affects eating behavior and appetite.
The hypothalamus is part of the brain that produces hormones that control heart rate, mood, and hunger. The vagus nerve, on the other hand, when triggered, sends sensations of fullness and satiety to the brain, which stops you from eating. This helps regulate your appetite and satiety, thus preventing overeating.
Another study found that butyrate can boost weight loss by improving energy metabolism by enhancing fat oxidation and reducing energy intake by directly acting on the gut-brain neural circuit.
What causes butyric acid deficiency?
You are more likely to have low levels of butyric acid if:
i. You eat too much-processed food
While butyrate production is increased with certain foods high in prebiotic fibers, processed foods have their fiber, among other nutrients, destroyed. So you have no raw material to work with.
If your diet comprises only or too many processed foods, your levels are definitely going to be low.
ii. Certain medications like antibiotics
Antibiotics, for example, can help kill the bad bacteria in the gut, which can help treat an infection.
However, once in the gut, antibiotics destroy both the good and the bad bacteria. Keep in mind that butyrate is produced when good gut bacteria ferment the fiber in the food. So with them being destroyed, again, you cant ferment the fiber to obtain butyrate. So you’ll end up with a deficiency.
That’s why it’s always recommended that you take a probiotic during your antibiotic course to help restore your good gut bacteria. Probiotics are live bacteria similar to those that make up your microbiome.
They can be obtained as a supplement or through eating fermented foods like sauerkraut.
iii. You eat less of the foods that promote butyrate production
While many foods are rich in fiber, not all are high in the prebiotic type of fiber. Eating less of these foods will cause low levels of butyric acid.
Should You Use a Supplement?
Besides food sources, butyric acid supplements are also available. This can be especially beneficial for those finding it difficult to consume the necessary foods to boost their levels.
These supplements are often available in tablet or capsule form, and the dosage may vary by product. So always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Nonetheless, natural food sources are always the best as they not only provide butyrate but also contain additional nutrients that can enhance the effects of butyrate as well as improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Butyrate Supplement Side Effects
The side effects of using this supplement are very rare, and if any, they have not been well documented.
But if you’re on one and develop any side effects, it’s best to discontinue and seek medical attention.
Also, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any other medication, it’s always safe to seek your doctor’s advice to ensure the supplement is right for you.
What fiber produces the most butyrate?
Dietary fibers, including prebiotic fiber, play a vital role in butyrate production. While most foods contain different types of fiber, those high in dietary fiber produce high concentrations of butyrate hence an excellent source.
What can lower the levels of butyrate?
There are various reasons for a low butyrate level, but the most common one is a reduced number of butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut system. If you reduce the number of butyrate-producing foods, your body may be unable to produce enough CFA. Using certain medications like antibiotics can also reduce your good gut bacteria.
How long does butyrate take to work?
You can experience results as soon as one day, while others might take up to a week. In most cases, it takes up to two weeks for butyrate to work.
The more butyrate builds up over time, the more you’ll see results in your digestion and gut health in general.
- Foods That Cause Constipation
- What is an Elimination Diet
- Gut Cleansing Foods for a Healthy Digestion System
- Best Fiber Foods for Constipation
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced when good gut bacteria ferment dietary fiber in the large intestine.
Butyrate plays a vital role in aiding digestion, reducing inflammation, and boosting the immune system. The best thing about it is that there are readily available foods that you can consume to increase the amount of butyrate in your colon.
Butyrate supplements are also available. However, you should always aim for food sources.
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