Butyrate and Constipation

I have been excited about butyrate because rat studies showed that it increased the motility of the colon (please let’s not dwell much too long on the fact I’m reduced to rat status and writing about constipation).  I am going to summarize and explain an abstract to a study, from which the following quote is taken:

“Little is known about the environmental and nutritional regulation of the enteric nervous system (ENS), which controls gastrointestinal motility. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate regulate colonic mucosa homeostasis and can modulate neuronal excitability. We investigated their effects on the ENS and colonic motility.” 

~  from Gastroenterology,  2010, “Short-chain fatty acids regulate the enteric neurons and control gastrointestinal motility in rats.”  Emphasis was mine.

Aside:  Please note that I am probably a fool and excited about nothing, but it is a path worth exploring for my slow transit constipation.  Also note, I do my best to simplify studies and concepts, some of which are difficult for my basic molecular biology background.  My husband, being an exceptionally logical and fact oriented doctor, hates it when I do this.  Big time scowls.  He is right, sometimes the explanations become kind of inaccurate.  So I will do the best I can.  If you have any questions or note any errors, I would like to know.  Gaps in my understanding will be bridged this way.  And one last note, don’t use my blog stuff to cause any harm to yourself.  Please.  See your doctor.

What did these researchers do? 

  1. Fed rats a resistant starch diet.  (I will write a resistant starch post soon.  Soon is always relative.)
  2. Inserted short chain fatty acids (i.e. butyrate) into rats’ cecums (a part of their colons).  (I only have an abstract so we are left to our imaginations for this lovely process.)
  3. Applied butyrate to some “free-standing” cultures of enteric nervous system cells in a “test tube.”
  4. In the “test tube” cells, they examined how the cell “looked”–its “phenotype.”  What kind of receptors did the nervous system cells have on their outer membranes?  What kind of proteins are expressed?  Knowing this kind of information helps us to know what the cell is capable of responding to and what substances the cell makes.  Special antibodies that will seek out these known proteins and receptors on the cells are used.   Researchers also used polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a way to amplify and increase certain material.  Specifically, these researchers looked for antibodies to Hu, choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), and nitric oxide synthase (NOS).  If you refer back to “Changes in Severe, Chronic Constipation,”  you will see a couple of these discussed:  Less neurons immunoreactive for ChAT and more neurons immunoreactive for NOS.  They also proceeded to analyze signaling pathways using various tests.
  5. Observed the motility of the colon both in the rat and outside the rat.

What were the results?

  1. Resistant starch diet (which increases butyrate) and butyrate (but NOT acetate and propionate, other short chain fatty acids made from resistant starch by the colon’s bacteria) both:
      A.  Increased the ChAT neurons, these are the ones partly responsible for increasing peristalsis.  Neurons with ChAT should make more acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that encourages the bowel to move forward and empty.
      B.  Did not alter the NOS neurons’ proportion and number.  NOS would bring about nitric oxide, which slows down the bowel’s movements.  It makes the bowel relax rather than move.
  2. Bowel neurons have a transporter called monocarboxylate transporter 2 (MCT2), which helps bring butyrate into the colon cell after the bacteria graciously make it.  Well, the researchers were able to “stop” these transporters so butyrate wouldn’t move into the cell so much.  By stopping the MCT2 transporters, the increase in ChAT neurons–and therefore neurons that would increase colon motility–was halted.
  3.  Butyrate increased histone H3 acetylation in enteric neurons.  When DNA is acetylated, it allows the DNA to be transcribed.  So butyrate alters the actual genetic expression of cells.
  4. Resistant starch diet increased colonic transit.
  5. Ex vivo it was noted that butyrate increased the circular muscles contraction when exposed to acetylcholine.

Their Conclusion

“Butyrate or histone deacetylase inhibitors might be used, along with nutritional approaches, to treat various gastrointestinal motility disorders associated with inhibition of colonic transit.”  And that’s as far as I’ve seen it up to this post.  I’ll keep looking.

My Conclusion

I’m not trying to live forever.  I don’t have cancer yet.  I’m eons away from a stroke.  But my gut has a mind of its own.  In addition to more information on butyrate (and resistant starch), I need to explore the outcomes of slow transit constipation in 80 year-old women.  Do they have a study on that?  Right now, things are tolerable with all the changes I’ve made the last 18 months or so of my life, but what happens later?  Or when the magnesium stops working again?  Anyhow, here are my closing thoughts:

  1. Butyrate is made in the gut and absorbed by the gut.  The gut has been my constant, lifelong problem.
  2. Butyrate may affect the immune system and decrease inflammation.  We have studies supporting food intolerances causing severe, chronic constipation and these studies document subtle inflammatory changes in the mucosa.
  3. Butyrate may affect the nervous system through modulation of gene expression.  We know the enteric nervous system is messed up in slow transit constipation.
  4. Butyrate may stimulate the contractile activity of the colon and accelerate GI transit.  We know slow transit constipation has a reduction in high amplitude propagating contractions and a disruption of the coordinated peristaltic activity.
  5. Butyrate is increased by eating resistant starch, a type of “fiber.”  (This is a bit confusing, but I will clarify later.  Resistant starch would be high in diets rich in lentils, beans, tubers, etc.  Please see Butyrate Series, Part 6 for a better, more thorough explanation)  Fiber has long been recommended for constipation.  Perhaps it’s not the fiber.  It could be the fiber.  Or it could be a rich bacterial population capable of making more butyrate for an individual.
  6. Butyrate has been shown to possibly decrease colon cancer.  Colon cancer is higher in patients with chronic constipation (Chronic Constipation Linked To Increased Risk of Colorectal Cancer–summary article from Science Daily).

And finally, I’ll leave you with this quote:

If the promising results by Soret et al [the paper whose abstract I summarized and explained above] can be confirmed and expanded by controlled therapeutic trials, then butyrate-generating foods might become an effective and simple option to prevent or treat functional gut disorders via modulation of enteric neuroplasticity.” (2–a very good little commentary to read!)


Butyrate Series Page


1.  Soret R, Chevalier J, De Coppet P, Poupeau G, Derkinderen P, Segain JP, Neunlist M.  Short-chain fatty acids regulate the enteric neurons and control gastrointestinal motility in rats.  Gastroenterology. 2010 May;138(5):1772-82.  Sadly, abstract only:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20152836

2.  de Giorio R, Blandizzi C.  Targeting Enteric Neuroplasticity:  Diet and Bugs as New Key Factors.  Gastroenterology.  2010 May; 138(5):1663-1666.

Also, if you will please see “Why Does My Gut Defy Gravity:  Changes in Severe, Chronic Constipation” and But What Causes All of Those Changes Found in Chronic, Severe Constipation?and “Cow’s Milk and Refractory Constipation”   then you can find further information plus sources for that information and information mentioned above.



I also have run a whole series on butyrate.  I need to come back and link eventually; the WordPress blogging platform used to have a feature to do that but not now.  If you look under GI Tracts Defies Gravity page, there are links there to the series pieces.

58 thoughts on “Butyrate and Constipation

      1. Holistic Wayfarer

        I wouldn’t have it any other way, though (rather, because) I’ve taught in the public schools. My second article has just gone out globally in this publication:


        In fact, I see that the issue with the girl on the cover is the one with my first article on achievement. On the upper left of the cover, you’ll see “Climbing High,” the title. =)

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yes. “A unique feature of milk fat from ruminant animals is the presence of butyric acid….Bovine milk fat contains from 7.5 to 13.0 mol/100 mol butyric acid. Because dibutyrylacylglycerols are present in trace amounts only, this means that about one third of milk fat triacylglycerols contain one molecule of butyrate. On ingestion, lipase-mediated hydrolysis of butyrate commences in the stomach and will be complete on reaching the proximal small intestine. Liberated butyrate is absorbed from the intestinal lumen to the enterocytes; it then passes directly to the portal circulation for transport to the liver where most is metabolized (Parodi 1996). Can butyrate from this source or together with colonic generated butyrate, as a result of a high fiber diet, modulate carcinogenesis at sites other than the colon? The evidence is meager…” (Cow’s Milk Fat Components as Potential Anticarcinogenic Agents)

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  4. poetrydude66

    Have you tried something like polydextrose? As I understand it most of the caloric value of this starch is not metabolized and remains in the gut. It should increase activity of bacteria and might lower transit time through the gut. Some people complain of gas, and some people claim that effect goes away if you introduce polydextrose slowly.

    In any case, polydextrose is cheap and plentiful industrially produced resistant starch, and therefore you at least have a basis for measuring it and testing with it, cost effectively.

    It’s difficult at best to know how much butyrate you are producing, and even if you had a pharmaceutically pure source for it, my guess it it gets metabolized to ketones pretty rapidly. What really benefits your gut is feeding the good bacteria, so it’s a question of testing different kinds of resistant starches to see which produce the effects you want.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      No. At this point I have not tried polydextrose. I was having good success with oral butyrate (don’t ask me how this worked as an oral supplement–at this point I can’t explain it) which I then transitioned over to resistant starch in the form of green bananas; cold, leftover-from-my-family’s-dinner potatoes; some cold leftover rice; and potato starch mixed in water. As things were going very well with this prior to my becoming pregnant, I continued this experiment–until I got too “sick” to want to eat any of that or anything else. And all I want to do is make it off the couch. 🙂

      I was not under the impression that polydextrose (which for those reading comments– is glucose/sorbitol/citric acid synthetically combined and often used in processed foods to replace sugar and fat, allowing for less calories without sacrifice of taste and texture. It is also available as a supplement.) is a resistant starch. I would categorize it as a soluble fiber–which will have some effects of resistant starch–but not completely. I try not to eat processed foods so I would not eat it this way. Also, I try to obtain all nutrients I can as whole foods, unless I just need more than I can get to heal/be stable (such as in vitamin D or magnesium or my butyrate trial). As a supplement, I may consider using polydextrose as I would consider FOS or inulin. If I’m not meeting my goals, it may be something to try. However, I’m not sure I see the advantage of it over FOS or inulin. Do you have an opinion on this? Have you tried polydextrose?

      I agree that it is difficult to know how much butyrate you’re producing, for sure! And I see your point about quantification of polydextrose (compared to the variability of resistant starch). For what it’s worth, I would like to point out that short chain fatty acids (SCFA), like butyrate, do not get metabolized into ketones. SCFA, however, as you suggest, are very quickly absorbed usually from the GI tract–just not to be converted to ketones.

      Feeding the bacteria is very important, which the role of fiber and resistant starch do well, but we need to be sure that we are feeding and increasing SCFA/butyrogenic bacteria. So I guess we’d need to know the effect of polydextrose specifically on the butyrate-producing bacteria/production of butyrate. Is there a study like that for polydextrose? Of course, like you say, testing it on ourselves is all that it comes down to in the end.

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it. I had not read much on polydextrose, so it was nice to be able to do that a tad. Take care.

      1. poetrydude66

        I have not experimented with polydextrose yet. I have been looking for ways to increase soluble fiber. I’m using chia seed in the morning (about three tablespoons) which I like because it holds water pretty well in its gel form and keeps me hydrated. I use grapefruit pectin as well (which tastes awful) but I’m currently just wanting to experiment widely and test.

        On butyrate, I only have read superficially, but typical references are like this one:


        which contains the comment “In ruminants, both NEFAs and volatile fatty acids produced from rumen metabolism can be used to form ketones. Proprionate, butyrate and acetate are volatile fatty acids that are produced by rumen fermentation. Of these, mainly butyrate is converted to BHB in the rumen epithelium and the liver.” Of course he is talking about ruminants not humans. And it is pretty difficult to find much discussion of butyrate in humans, because we don’t have the long lower intestine needed to produce a whole lot of it. But why would butyrate metabolize differently in humans, once it is somehow in the intestine?

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Bingo!!!! Thanks for that link! I have visited that site before for butyrate, but I don’t think I saw this–or I forgot I saw this! I have been wanting to tie together coconut oil with its beta-hydroxybutyrate component (ketone) with butyrate. I googled something like that many times. Why wouldn’t they be interchangeable? I will check that out and see what I can understand better. Thank you! It may be a rumen study, but it was rat and pig studies that got me started on butyrate because like you say, hard to find much discussion of butyrate in humans. I will print it off and look forward to reading it!

        I have read a little on the differences between gorilla guts and human guts. I’m going to need to read a little more so I can be on the same page as you (thus the lack of reply on another comment you have made–sorry).

        I tried chia seed, but I didn’t see much difference for me. However, I do think that over the two years since I’ve started this, my GI tract environment has changed for the better. So I wonder if some things that I have tried in the past may work now when they wouldn’t have before. Not to mention, chia seed can make some good recipes. I have not heard of grapefruit pectin–must taste pretty bad for you to say that! If you try polydextrose, come back and let us know how it goes. It’s always the comments on blogs where you learn so much!

      3. poetrydude66

        You might find this blog post useful regarding gorillas:


        So the long and short of it is that “In chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, the colon is about two to three times the size of the small intestine. But in humans, those figures are reversed: the small intestine dominates, clocking in at over twice the size of the colon.”

        So a gorilla eats a ton of resistant starch, and has massive amounts of bacteria in its much longer colon, which then ferment the starch to butyrate and other short chain fatty acids. Some of that butyrate feeds the gut, but a lot of it goes to metabolism, to the liver, and creates ketones. So even though the perception is that the gorilla has a high carb diet, in fact the gorilla has a high fat diet! The key is that the carbs are converted into useful fats by the bacteria. But the gorilla is using primarily fats for metabolism.

        Humans don’t have much colon and therefore cannot ferment effectively. This is exactly where my knowledge ends. So how much butyrate can we actually produce? How much of that feeds colon cells, and how much escapes into the blood and gets used in metabolism?

      4. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Thank you for that!

        The quantitative amount of butyrate I can not supply you right now. However, the amount of butyrate production is highly person variable, depending on the foods they eat, the type of bacteria and quantity of those bacteria they have, and their transit time.

        I believe 70-90% is used by the colonocytes while the rest goes to the liver.

      5. poetrydude66

        Just a follow up on my previous post: my understanding is that an animal like a gorilla is able to convert large amounts of fiberous plants into short chain fatty acids in the lower intestine. Because the gorilla’s lower intestine is so much longer – as a percentage of body weight not just in absolute terms – than human lower intestines, they are able to produce very significant amounts of butyrate and other SCFAs and actually use those for metabolism. So we think of the gorilla as being a carbohydrate eating animal, when in fact most of their calories are coming from fats that their gut is creating from the plants. Yes, the butyrate is feeding colonic cells, but it is also rapidly absorbed into the system and metabolized to ketones.

        I thought MCT Oil was doing something very similar to this, and it bypassed the normal long chain fatty acid metabolism in favor of a shorter path to the liver that creates ketones as well.

        Now it’s an open question for human beings, if we create much smaller amounts of butyrate from resistant starch, how much of that is feeding our colon and how much of that is coming into metabolism and being used for energy?

      6. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Fascinating to read about the gorillas’ gut and how their consumption of fiber/RS is actually a mechanism for getting increased fat!

        I mentioned it in another response, but I’ll state it again because you never know what gets seen and doesn’t. I believe that 70-90% or our own butyrate production is to feed our own colonocytes, while the remaining heads to the liver.

        Two articles:
        1. This one briefly describes the effects of MCT in humans: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/329.full

        2. This one has nice a nice schematic graphic for butyrate metabolism (including a final pathway which could take it to a ketone): http://pathman.smpdb.ca/pathways/SMP00073/pathway?level=2

  5. james

    Terri There has been quite a bit of discussion on several blogs about resistant starch and the way in which it is possible to help your gut flora along and by doing so doing your gut and everything else a grand favour. We discovered by using potato starch (the real stuff that sinks to the bottom after mixing with water) our stools have become so much softer. Never have to use the plunger anymore to unplug the toilet 🙂 We mix a table spoon with some yogurt (prebiotic and probiotic) and a tsp of real honey (fructoologosaccharide) before turning in. Sleep like a baby. Check out Mr Heisenbug’s blog or Seth’s
    and Seth’s http://blog.sethroberts.net/2014/01/02/interview-with-mike-mcinnes-author-of-the-honey-diet/ Even Dr Art Ayers, who is usually pretty sceptic about all the things we know to be true but half the time aren’t necessarily so http://coolinginflammation.blogspot.ca/2014/02/paleo-gut-flora-repair.html Like your blog by the way. James

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi James! Waded through the spam comments today. Your potty talk must have landed you there. 🙂

      Anyhow, potato starch worked for me as well. (But for those reading, do note that I’ve eaten pretty darn “clean” for about two years–lots of veggies, fruits, whole foods, GAPS-type diet–I’ve also removed foods that I learned to be problematic for me including any dairy, eggs, low on nuts, and obviously no grains–plus I take a probiotic and probiotic foods.) I tried butyrate orally and it worked great for me. So I started adding in potato starch just stirred in a glass of water so my gut bacteria could make butyrate for me. Tastes sweet, actually. Not bad. Things worked very spontaneously without even magnesium! Until I got pregnant and I couldn’t stomach any of that. So now struggling to get back on track. But RS is easy and worth a try!

      Thanks so much for commenting and adding links for myself and others to follow. I just found Mr Heisenburg’s blog and I’m really enjoying it! The best to you. ~~Terri

  6. Debbie

    I’m excited to find this site about, it seems, constipation! As a long-time sufferer, I think getting better using RS and some other things, I can’t wait to read all the posts!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Good luck, Debbie! I’ve been pregnant so focusing on other issues lately, but I have a couple of areas I eventually want to explore more on severe, chronic constipation and some issues like prostaglandins/progesterone. So keep a watch out peripherally. Takes me awhile! ~Terri

  7. Debbie

    I too am wondering what will happen long term – especially as my poor grandmother died at 92 after being “impacted” to such an extent she required hospitalization. Aids were giving her enemas during the night when she had a stroke. I feel sure had her constipation been under control she’d have lived longer. She gave herself enemas for years – heavy-duty, constant enemas. She also had issues.

    Anyway – I’m still binging on soil based probiotics, eating fermented vegetables and of course potato starch. I’ve discovered – sadly – that my weight/calorie intake makes a huge difference in the constipation. I lost about 80 pounds years ago, when I was 31 – I’m 59 now – and certainly for many years have dealt with pretty severe constipation. To keep the weight off it’s clear I don’t eat a normal amount of calories. I weight about 140 now and I’m 5′ 1″ so not skinny. But if I drop weight, which I want to do, the constipation returns somewhat.

    I keep hoping for some magical gut cure, to get enough “good” bugs in there so my metabolism will get better, but perhaps that is not to be. Earlier in my weight loss I was at a lower weight and over the years it has crept to really what is probably a healthier weight for me. I should add when my weight drops – even five pounds – my energy, ability to think well (and the constipation) drop too. The energy is huge – in earlier thinner years I was seriously dragging. Ridiculous!

    Sorry for the big long post, and hope you are doing well!


    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Debbie! Thanks for the comment and well-wishes. All is well here. (Knock on wood.) I am sorry about your grandmother. Miserable problem that typically does only get much worse with age. Hoping, like you, to avoid the severity she developed.

      I hope the soil based probiotics, ferments, and potato starch are helping some it sounds like? I do benefit from probiotics, but I didn’t have much luck with the soil based probiotics unlike many other people have reported. And I, too, shoot for the ferments. Resistant starch (RS)/potato starch/GI issues got interrupted by pregnancy and food/substance aversions. So I’m sorting out now that I’ve delivered six weeks ago where things stand. I have been using green bananas as my RS source again. Not that the world really wants to know, but I am planning an update post on what I’ve tried and how it has helped.

      I have noticed in the back of my mind a connection between the quantity of food I eat for a period and improved GI motility–but not my “weight” per se, as at my top weight for me I was at my worst GI-wise (but eating tons of grains, dairy, and sugar). Are your symptoms related to a change in what you eat to drop weight, just the fact that you’re dropping weight, or calorie restriction? Have you noticed? I’m just curious. And as an aside, I started reading about iodine (low iodine). It’s something interesting. Don’t know if you’d want to check it out and see if any of it sounds familiar.

      Take care! ~~Terri

      1. Debbie

        Congratulations – my niece just had a little girl. About the weight/calories relating to constipation, for me if my weight is up, it means I’m eating more calories. I don’t count, but it’s just a fact with me. I don’t remember if I told you this, but I have had a lifelong weight problem; was obese as a teenager and, after losing and regaining seven times ! finally lost – and have maintained it – about 80 pounds. That was 25 years ago – and my eating to maintain has been until pretty recently horrendous. I’d eat bags of hard candies for dinner and a normal lunch, for instance.

        I also was much thinner earlier on – lost then 90 or more pounds – but was dragging horribly, had no energy, couldn’t think at all. This also went on for years. I really screwed myself up. I don’t remember when the constipation started, because there were years when I ate enormous amounts of vegetables – I’d eat for hours – I turned orange from the carrots – and so when I cut back to just a huge amount of vegetables I think perhaps my system was somehow adapted to this outrageous amount of food. Then I weighed about 127 – that number sticks in my mind. Was it less calories or the same or even more? I don’t know. But now I weight 140, which is awful. But I feel good and am usually going once a day, sometimes with a little difficulty. Diet is now better than ever.

        So, I cut back a little, as I can’t stand weighing so much, and didn’t go to the bathroom. Believe me, I know talking about this is so insane, but we must ! because it’s so basic to our health and important, right? I remember my gastroenterologist just looking away and down when I’d try to tell him I was constipated. I said it was two weeks since a movement, and he said to start taking – whatever, I don’t even remember. That was years ago.

        Anyway, so people who tell me to eat an apple, for instance, just completely don’t understand. I keep wondering if there is a type of bacteria I’m missing – you get the idea. Anyway, thanks so much for your reply, and we’ll be in touch! All the best with your little – girl or boy?

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        That weight loss was amazing! Your comment about people who say eat this or that or this is so true. Those people don’t get it. My GI function has improved to nearly once daily, but it has taken a lot more than “just eat an apple or more vegetables.” A heck of a lot more. And most doctors don’t get it. “Just take…” Fill in the blank with Miralax, Smooth Move tea, docusate, fiber, you name it. I have tried numerous probiotics, and I have not found one to be a magic bullet–but I do think they play a role in my case. It is one supplement (and foods) I have consistently taken since starting “nutritional intervention” two years ago. The thing with the probiotics is that how I understand it is that the probiotic will not seed the GI tract once you stop taking it–so I kind of view them as helping to create an environment in which the bacteria that I need more of can thrive. That the bacteria I need are likely there, but perhaps not in the quantities that I need them in or crowded out by other micro-organisms. That’s my take on it. But I do have to wonder in your case, what made the GI tract slow down with less food. Question to keep in the back of my mind as I read.

  8. Debbie

    By the way, I’m sure you know all about Tim Steele! What a nice guy. He just started a blog – but I’m finding it hard to post there.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! I do know about Tim Steele, and I did not know he started his own blog. I would love to read it! If you happen by chance to see this reply, would you let me know its name? I tried Googling it without success.

      1. Debbie

        Sure! Here it is – vegetablepharm.blogspot.com

        I am having a hard time posting on it, however. I’m sure you’ll be more successful.

  9. Debbie

    By the way, can you tell me where to find a butyrate supplement? I’ve been taking the three SBO recommended by “Dr. BG” and also Dr. Higa’s liquid. Are you still taking the butyrate supplement as a probiotic (or any others) along with resistant starch every day? I know you said you didn’t like the idea of being dependent on supplements – and I certainly don’t either, but am nowhere near making a decision to see if I’ve reseeded my gut sufficiently. What a work in progress! Just wondering what your experience is at this point. When you have a chance!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      This is what I have. I stopped when my transition to potato starch/green bananas/plantains/etc was working great. Then I got pregnant and I stopped everything due to food aversions. Delivered six weeks ago and waiting to get a routine back in place. Will update when I do.

      I have tried the Prescript Assist soil based probiotic, and I didn’t have any luck with that. I grew up in mud, so that may not be my weak link. 🙂 Will have to check out what Dr. Higa’s liquid is!


      1. Debbie

        I haven’t tried anything other than PS for RS. I’m going to order the banana flour, at least. I also don’t make my own fermented vegetables (I have made kefir, but end up drinking the whole quart and it’s too many calories!) but buy them. Thanks, I should get this.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Hmmm…I guess I shouldn’t make kefir then! If you down it, I’m sure I would too. For ferments I make my own sometimes and use Bubbies and buy kombucha also. I didn’t notice any difference between when I made my own ferments versus when I used Bubbies. So I make my own when I can, but I don’t feel bad if I can’t. Would be interested in hearing how banana flour goes!

      3. Debbie

        I just received a post from Life Extension – not really sure who they are, but they sell a ton of supplements – and the article was about Bifidobacterium Longum BB536. Have you ever taken probiotics containing this? Maybe this is another ANSWER! I’ll keep you posted.

      4. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I have avoided too much Bifidobacterium. I don’t know if this is founded or not as my avoidance is based on something I first read when I started this journey. I remember reading that Bifidobacterium was an aggressive grower and so people with GI issues may want to avoid it. So I did, particularly as I think I have a bit of small intestinal bowel overgrowth. But, I have not researched this topic well, so my thoughts have no citations. Do keep me posted! (And whoever else may read this!)

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  11. Patricia Gatesman

    So what does all this mean for someone who is not of a scientific mind.
    I have slow transit constipation but developed this about 5 years ago after having IBS D for 20 years.
    I am just reading about butyrate, GAPs diet, Paleo, Fodmap.
    I know fibre makes it worse. I tried increasing the fibre slowly as recommended and increasing fluid, but ended up with a brick. I dont know how it ever came out but I did feel like taking it to the doctors that have told me, “it’s not rocket science, increase fibre fruit and fluid “.
    So can anyone simplify how butyrate works. Can you buy it at the healthstore?
    The more I read the more confused I get!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Patricia, Isn’t the conventional stance on constipation so frustrating? On the surface, it does seem like such a simple problem (but I know it’s not). I’m still sorting through it all. I haven’t got it figured out, although drastically improved. Here is a post I wrote about changes I have made: https://thehomeschoolingdoctor.com/2014/09/30/curing-my-colon/ . I wish I could say my colon was as good as it was when I wrote this post. But that seems to be a nature of this syndrome; it changes–notice how you went from IBS-D to STC. However, I still am happy to say that simply taking magnesium (Natural Calm–titrating it as needed to effect) almost always works. I am not content with this because I don’t like supplements permanently–I worry about excess magnesium not balanced with enough calcium and I worry about contaminants in supplements. I will keep looking to get my colon moving on its own.

      I still work to increase butyrate in my GI tract naturally. The supplement did help me, but I add it in and take it back out as I try to get things working on their own. To increase butyrate naturally, I eat navy beans, lentils, chickpeas, green bananas, green plantains, cooled potatoes, occasional bite of raw potato and sweet potato, occasional cooled rice and I eat aged cheeses which agree with me (not many–usually hard, aged goat and sheep cheeses). I am cautious to not over-do the legumes, as I do find a bit of increased bulk and hardness (but also an increased urge…so it’s all a balance for now…goal is to have an urge and have it soft–right!? 🙂 ). I also think that butyrate bacteria can be increased by other types of “fiber” besides RS. So I do not neglect berries, broccoli, greens, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits I tolerate. (I am FODMAP sensitive.)

      Okay. That was a long answer to your questions. Butyrate works by promoting the health of the colon cells and the health of the supporting cells of the colon. I did not see butyrate at my health food store. I bought it from Amazon. I also think it helps my food intolerances, but again, I want my body to do this stuff on its own. I can try to help you understand what all this mumbo-jumbo stuff (Paleo, GAPS, FODMAP, new ideas on “fiber,” SIBO, etc) is saying, and I don’t mind at all. Ask away. If you don’t understand, there are many others who don’t either. Most of the changes are safe, but make sure and run it by a doctor just in case there’s something in your health history that would indicate otherwise! Also, have you read on SIBO? I think it is important.



  12. bacarney

    Just found your website – loving it! I understand that butyrate helps the colon specifically, but I’m curious about your non-enteric coated supplements: do you think they might have some action in the stomach as well? Any reason to think they may be helpful for a person with constipation prone SIBO and very slow stomach emptying?

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Well, I wish I could tell you. I have found they are beneficial personally with food intolerances (which I believe stem from SIBO) and with improving my motility. I have corresponded with another who felt the butyrate helped motility, but I’ve corresponded with others who felt it did not. I think I need to do some more reading, but I’ve been interrupted by life (and a baby 🙂 ) and just haven’t gotten back on the butyrate track. Hopefully, one day, I will again, though. And how does slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis?) factor into all of this? Can’t say. But good luck! Thanks for reading!

  13. Mikenone@yahoo.com

    Please correct the text in your article: “Resistant starch would be high in diets rich in lentils, beans, tubers, etc”. Resistant starch is high in only certain foods, and the type in lentils and beans is a different form of resistant starch than that found in cold cooked potatoes and cold cooked rice – and acts differently in some people.

    And the generic word “tubers” doesn’t even belong in this sentence, there are only a few tubers with a decent amount of resistant starch: like potatoes but only if prepared a certain way, and jerusalem artichoke root. Not sweet potatoes. Not turnips. Not most other tubers.

    The site another commenter referred you to, Tim Steele’s blog, has more accurate descriptions of resistant starch food sources, to help your corrections.

    The sentence you have has the same flaw that medical doctors fall into, that you yourself complain about: of “all xyz broad food category is the same and is going to work”. Nope. Legumes and beans are different kinds of resistant starch than cooked and cooled potatoes, or cooked and cooled rice. Lumping them together is irresponsible to readers.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Mike,

      Thanks so much for dropping a comment! I love feedback, and I love to learn!

      I think that I address each of the points you set out in a later post. I’m not sure if you noticed the page in the menu called “Butyrate.”

      (Not that you should have.)

      Part 6 of my butyrate series addresses resistant starch (hopefully) pretty thoroughly, and here I mention the types of resistant starch and list (via someone else’s hard work) the amounts of resistant starch in different foods. (In contrast to what you have learned, I learned here that raw sweet potatoes have lots of resistant starch, although not the RS type 3. If you find that raw sweet potato does not have resistant starch, could you come back and let me know?)

      Tim Steele’s blog is great. He has provided me immense information. For other readers of comments, it’s called Vegetable Pharm.

      I’ve edited this post here (Butyrate and Constipation) and have now added a link from this post to the Butyrate Series, Part 6 which addresses resistant starch specifically and foods with it. This post here (Butyrate and Constipation) was written early on as I began to learn about butyrate/RS. The beginning of wonder. The whole Butyrate Series really breaks down fiber, resistant starch, short chain fatty acids, etc. I did my best, and it does a better job of pointing out all that you say. I hope, Mike, if you read all the Butyrate Series, you will no longer think me irresponsible or remiss. I would feel bad and endeavor to improve what I could.

      I hope your health is great! Did you find that resistant starch, type 3 made a difference for you personally? And that type 2 worsened things?

      Sorry for the weird looking link lines. Don’t know what’s up with that!



  14. Debbie

    Hi Terri,

    I want to say that I love your response to Mike; we’re all trying to just learn, after all. I love that even though you’re a scientist, you respond with such humility and openness, not a trace of annoyance. Unusual!

    Anyway, I was wondering how your own constipation has been? I am relatively okay, in that there is a movement almost daily, but I do a whole bunch of things for that, I’m not sure which – or all? – are helping, and there is still straining involved often. I’m tempted to say sorry for TMI, but I guess we’re all past that on this site (I hope – don’t want to offend).

    I was told after some blood-work done recently that my magnesium was low, so I’ve been taking that daily, along with potato starch, fermented vegetables, fermented vegetable JUICE – which I believe has been the most beneficial in general – after starting it my energy has improved greatly. And let’s see, what else – a fairly simple diet including sweet potato and komucha squash – my little addiction – oh, and the BM usually occurs in the AM directly after consuming a cup of strong coffee. So, who knows?

    I am on Day 2 of the new probiotic I’m sure you’ve heard of, Elixa. So far, no real change. No cramping, same BM in the AM. But I have a history of eating disorders going way back, and my thinking is there is some kind of permanent nerve damage.

    Take care!



    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi Debbie!

      Yes. I agree regarding Tim Steele. He has been very helpful to me!! Beyond!

      One thing about blogging: It’s hard to see new information, more recent information, or changes in opinion. As Mike alluded to, if one only read that certain post I wrote, he or she would have missed so much depth on resistant starch/butyrate/fiber. Not my intention and I hope it doesn’t happen.

      My own constipation has been flaring. I will write a post soon. I’ve been constructing it in my head, but I haven’t had time to get it written. My dose of magnesium is escalating lately and sometimes not successful. I’m a little edgy wondering if I’m reaching the end of its usefulness. You know how in chronic constipation, some things work for awhile–and then they stop!? I hope I’m not there. There are more things to try, though. So this is just a “Who Moved My Cheese?” moment. 🙂 I just know that right before I got pregnant, everything was like stone-cold-normal-person-normal! But I can’t get back there! If I hadn’t had that, I’d be wondering about permanent nerve damage too and just settle.

      Well, I must go. Thanks for your update! I’ll write up my post as soon as I can. I’ve actually tried a lot of interesting non-pharmacological stuff!


      1. Debbie

        It must be so frustrating NOT to know what on earth was making it work before! I have no memory of going to the bathroom before my life after eating disorders, so I have to assume it was normal, as in: no reason to notice. But, you know, I feel lucky there is so much action happening on the gut biome, etc. now, so we can try all these things. Looking forward to that post you’re going to write. Take good care – boy, I understand, and it’s nice to be able to know I’m not the only one.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I very much wonder about hormones on my gut and have a couple of articles pulled to read up and write about one day, both estrogen and progesterone slow down motility–whereas they used to only talk about progesterone.

        I am very sorry that you had to suffer through the eating disorders. Is it going okay now? Do you have to watch grains immensely? I do. For the most part, they’re better out of my life.

    1. Debbie

      Oh yeah, I don’t eat grains at all. My years of eating disorders – binge vomiting and a very short period of anorexia – were my twenties, and I’m going to be 60 this year. I stopped vomiting for good when I was 30 – and lost the weight for the last time a year later. But my diet, even though I kept the weight off, was all over the place. There were the years of eating massive amounts of vegetables, then the years of eating a bag of hard candies for dinner. Now I basically eat lunch and dinner; lunch is small, and dinner is too much of an event. Food is still too important; dinner is too important.

      1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        So hard on a body. And a brain. I feel like I’ve reached a much healthier relationship with food than I was given, and I hope to pass that on to my daughters. I don’t ever want them to have to suffer through an eating disorder; I had two years enough of that to teach me the hard way that it’s no way to live.

  15. Anonymous

    Have you got any researches about the influence of butyrate to DNA and genes work in colon? Could the low butyrate levers in colon cause gene mutations and diseases or could butyrate help those who have a gene mutation which causes IBD?

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I don’t have one specific good article(s). However, when I Google terms together like “effects of butyrate on colon cells” or “butyrate physiology colon cells” then I pull up many articles which then have explanations of how butyrate affects the cells at the molecular level, including its effects on DNA.

      This was a fun read I just found:


      And if you look in the discussion of the article below, it may offer clues to link how butyrate may work in general, and then with what you know about the congenital chloride diarrhea, maybe that would give you clues to how/why butyrate works for some and not others and make you think of something which would maximize the therapy for people with this disorder.


      But I’m sorry I don’t have a good article on butyrate/DNA/genes in general. On your question in your comment, “Could the low butyrate levels in colon cause gene mutations and diseases or could butyrate help those who have a gene mutation which causes IBD?” I think butyrate probably more alters expression of genes. It may do this directly or indirectly. For IBD, it has to be a combination of bacteria, environment, genetics, I think. So can butyrate help? I think helping to improve the environment for the natural production of optimal butyrate would help–then you’re correcting intrinsic pH, intrinsic other bioactive chemicals that a good microbiota makes and the body loves, eating nutrient dense and nutrient productive food choices, you’re decreasing stress compounds, etc. A holistic approach which will have maximal benefit.

      I don’t pretend to think this helped you. 🙂 I’m heading over now to check out your site on congenital chloride diarrhea: http://kloridiripuli.blogspot.fi/2016/01/blog-post.html#comment-form


      PS: I read the articles you linked to about the congenital chloride diarrhea. For those kids/people who responded, that is nothing short of a miracle! I am very happy for them to have found something to help which is so safe and cost-effective.

  16. Kelly

    There are many reports, online and also in actual studies, where people who took butyrate (often sodium butyrate) ended up with severe constipation. I’m one of them. Not sure exactly why this happens, but thought you should know.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Kelly! I do want to know! Please, do you have a link to a thread or study name? I Googled a few search terms in various ways after reading your comment. But I didn’t find butyrate causing constipation—but it is difficult because there are so many articles where butyrate improved constipation which floods out anything I could find on causing it. I want to have a well-rounded awareness of things, so please, if you could let me know where to read these studies/reports, I surely want to!

      I’m not sure why it would happen either. However, it does exert some anti-microbial effect, I believe. Perhaps some disruption in flora could be one hypothesis. But I wouldn’t stop at that one!

      As I Googled, I came across a thread on the Miyarisan probiotic (which is supposed to promote butyrate production). This seemed to give me more constipation, but that’s always a difficult thing for me to say with certainty. I see others also may have had this problem, like I did. I wanted to leave a comment on that thread I saw, but alas, no time.

      Thanks, Kelly. I’ll try to e-mail you too. In case you don’t see this.


  17. Anonymous

    hello, i do not have colon, was surgically removed. so i am stil constipated as before surgery, i used to suffer from severe idiopatic constipation before my colon was removed, so i tried sodium butyrate the normal and the encapsulated, bad idea, i got a blockage, i wait 2 days without defecation, so i use linzess a promokinetic drug to go again to defecate.So i am pretty confused regarding such a great information regarding sodium butyrate kind of therapuetic forconstipation but what happened is a mistery. I will try again en a few days to test again.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I am NOT happy that happened to you, but I am happy that you reached out to share so that we all can learn from it and consider all angles. Research indicates that butyrate helps motility and I’ve seen people (including myself) attest to that, but I have read anecdotal reports like yours where people state it stopped their motility and worsened constipation. We cannot argue with this experience. Each person is unique. Obviously, without a colon, your situation is even more unique. But this illustrates to strongly to me the idea that no one thing is a cure-all, fix-all and in fact, may be detrimental.

      So why could butyrate lead to constipation when “it’s not supposed to?” I don’t know. I’ve thought about it before and then again for this comment.

      I’ve read that it is anti-fungal, so maybe it leads to fungal cell death and then consequential release of metabolites/antigens that lead to slower motility. (AKA, “die off” type symptoms)

      I’ve seen that some of its effects (like length of villi) are different in different areas of the intestine, specifically I was looking at the small intestine. In the small intestine, the jejunum and ileum had improved villi length when exposed to the butyrate, while the duodenum actually decreased its villi length. So perhaps butyrate’s effects are different at each stage of the intestine, and this affects especially how someone with a colectomy would respond. What butyrate “does” in the colon may be different than what it “does” in the small intestine. And what it does in each section of the small intestine varies too.

      Butyrate affects the pH of the intestine, and perhaps this changes bacterial flora, leading to a change in symptom presentation and function of the GI tract in general. (aka, “die off” again)

      I saw where butyrate promotes absorption of water to help with something like cholera. Perhaps this mechanism is more pronounced in someone with a colectomy? I don’t know. I’d need to read up on the physiology/pathophysiology/pharmacology of butyrate extensively again to explain more or assure myself on this thinking.

      And probably other reasons I’m not thinking of or we may not even have the information to understand as of today.

      If you come back and see this…Was your colectomy for severe idiopathic constipation or other issues? Do you normally take Linzess daily? Had you been off of it? If you don’t take Linzess daily, do you normally have daily BMs? What made you want to try butyrate? Had your doctor ever heard of it? Did they recommend it?

      Sorry 🙂 I’m a question-asker.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! Here is a post with supplements. Also, there is one more supplement I have tried. It’s called Buty-caps. I’ll have a link to its site too.

      To anyone reading this, I must say (and I believe it too) that butyrate is not for everyone. My reading and correspondence show me that it can make certain conditions in certain people worse in an unpredictable way. It usually doesn’t, but it can. So please make sure you work under your favorite healthcare provider. If he or she needs a review study or two to skim so they can “bone up” on butyrate, I have my bibliography for all the butyrate posts. Take him or her a good review article so they can learn and help you better. Good luck!




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