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All about butyrate

Have you heard about butyrate?


ost people would answer NO to this - I'd never even heard of it until a year ago!!

Yet it's a vital part of gut and immune health, and incredibly simple to target

Butyrate is one of several short chain fatty acids (SCFA), these are molecules made in the large intestine by our gut microbes

Its actually the least common SCFA (others include acetate and propionate) but it's the most researched, and has significant health benefits

Butyrate is thought to be one of the key reasons plant foods are so protective against bowel cancer, inflammation, gut disease, and dementia

Its formed when fibre (which the body cant digest), passes through into the large bowel, where its fermented by bacteria. Fibre is almost solely found in plants

The fermentation process produces butyrate

Butyrate is the main energy source for your gut cells, and also helps produce the mucus layer that lines and protects the gut wall.

High levels of butyrate mean a gut that is resistant to damage, can heal inflammation, and can effectively provide a barrier to unwanted food and microbes getting into the body (aka leaky gut)

Butyrate also:

  • helps regulate immune function in the gut wall, improving immune defences

  • helps stabilise blood sugars and may reduce appetite, via enhancing secretion of hormones (PYY and GLP-1)

  • protects against inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer

  • enhances brain growth, neuroplasticity, and BDNF (brain 'boosting' hormone), and may protect against dementia and strokes

  • strengthens blood brain barrier (protects brain)

  • increases levels of healthy gut bacteria (via creating beneficial environment)

Increasing butyrate is simple - eat as much plant based fibre as you can, and aim for diversity!!

Foods that particularly help butyrate are prebiotics (ie onion, garlic, apples), veges legumes, and whole grains

Resistant starch also helps - formed by cooking then cooling foods like potato, brown pasta, and brown rice

Diets high in fat and high in refined carbs can reduce butyrate so aim for most of your diet to be whole plant foods

Think of feeding your gut bacteria - they'll love you for it!!!

Sources: Canani, R, B et al. (2011). Potential Beneficial Effects of Butyrate in Intestinal and Extraintestinal Diseases. World J Gastroenterol: 17(12), pp 1519-1528. Hamer, H, M et al. (2009). Butyrate Modulates Oxidative Stress in the Colonic Mucosa of Healthy Humans. Clinical Nutrition: 28(1), pp 88-93. Liu, H et al. (2018). Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health? Advances in Nutrition: 9(1), pp 21-29. Peng, L et al. (2009). 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. Stilling, R, M et al. (2016). The Neuropharmacology of Butyrate: The Bread and Butter of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis? Neurochemistry International: 90, pp 1-23. van de Wouw, M et al. (2017). Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Modulator of Host Metabolism and Appetite. The Journal of Nutrition: 147(5), pp 727-745. Wu, X et al. (2018). Effects of the Intestinal Microbial Metabolite Butyrate on the Development of Colorectal Cancer. Journal of Cancer: 9.

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