Butyrate for Gut Healing
Butyrate is a really important fatty acid, not just for our gut, but also our entire body. Butyrate is made by bacteria in our gut when they ferment starches.
Benefits of Butyrate
Promotes intestinal barrier integrity in the large and small intestine
Decreases endotoxin (LPS) absorption
Decreases abdominal pain in people with visceral hypersensitivity
Enhances colonic motility (can help with constipation)
Enhances insulin sensitivity
Increases mitochondrial function
Protects nerve cells and increases nerve growth by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Decreases inflammation by suppressing the release of inflammatory cytokines like IL-6, IL-12, and TNF-alpha
So butyrate is really important for a healthy gut and a healthy body. But you only get the benefit for your whole body if your gut bacteria produce more butyrate than your gut cells use. So how do you make sure you have enough butyrate? You make sure you have enough butyrate-producing bacteria in your gut.
Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (the most abundant bacteria in a healthy gut)
You want your gut bacteria to comprise of greater than 40% butyrate-producing species. How do you know if you have enough? Get the right testing.
Testing Gut Bacteria
There are two dominant methods of testing gut bacteria. A stool culture or a stool DNA test. Stool culturing misses many species and cannot accurately quantify species abundance so it has limited utility. I recommend getting a stool DNA test such as Genova GI Effects, Diagnostic Labs GI-MAP or uBiome.
Increasing Butyrate-Producing Species
Most people who have been eating a diet low in fiber and plants or who have taken recent or many antibiotics will be low in butyrate-producing species. In fact, some of these species may be extinct in your digestive tract.
So how do you increase these important species? Most people may think that you just need to take a probiotic. But probiotics do not actually colonize your digestive tract, at least not for very long. So they will not create a long term shift in your gut ecology. Also, many of these species do not do well with oxygen, so you will not find them in a capsule.
The key is to feed these butyrate-producing species to naturally shift your gut bacteria populations. If these species are truly extinct in your gut, then only a fecal transplant will restore them.
Foods that Increase Butyrate-Producers
Ground psyllium seeds or psyllium husks
Foods high in resistant starch such as buckwheat and sorghum
Other important dietary strategies include avoiding high fat diet, high protein, low carb diets, and processed foods and grains. Now, as you feed these bacteria, they will be fermenting these starches and carbs. This means more gas, but this is usually temporary as your gut bacteria transitions.
Now, you may be wondering if you can just take a butyrate supplement and get the same results. Yes, you may benefit from a butyrate supplement depending on your health conditions. But in the long run, it makes more sense to support a healthy butyrate-producing bacterial gut population through food.
Note of Caution
If you suspect you have an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine, called SIBO, you may react negatively to many of the foods listed above (more than just increased gas). Please speak to your doctor to get a proper evaluation and medical advice.
I'm Dr. Carly and my mission is to create a health revolution. I believe that another prescription is not the answer. I believe in using natural therapies that go beyond the symptoms. And I believe that doctors should spend way more than 7 minutes with a patient.