Butyrate Series, Part 1


diagram of a human digestive system

diagram of a human digestive system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It all sounds like voodoo until you can find the sense (science) to understand it.


A Working Goal of my blog:  Inspiring all people, but particularly parents with school-aged children, to understand that it is a true medical necessity to return our diets to a whole foods diet, free of processed foods, and lower in overall sugar (sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, juice, corn syrup, date sugar, rice sugar, we-can-make-sugar-out-of-anything-sugar, and we-can-make-anything-taste-good-with-enough-sugar sugar).

What the upcoming series of posts will be about and why it is important to you:  The upcoming series of posts is going to be about butyrate.  It is a very important chemical that our body needs in order to function properly.  You probably haven’t heard about it, but it is important.  I guess if I had to try to compare it to something that you did know about, I’d liken its importance to vitamin C.  I am not saying it is vitamin C, but I am trying to relay the importance of the stuff.  The best source of butyrate comes, not from food, but from bacteria in the colon working on vegetable and plant matter.  It comes from bacteria that live naturally in your colon which ferment vegetable and plant matter and turn it into butyrate, which your body in turn uses to maximize health and function in many splendid ways.

Butyrate, then, is one specific retort to the statement and question:  “I don’t like vegetables.  Why do I have to eat my vegetables?”  You now have something concrete to say besides, “They’re healthy.”

Try this for a change:  “Aw, sweetie.  I know you don’t.  But the bacteria in your colon do!  And they will gobble them all up for you and turn them into butyrate.”

Or, “Tough.  I don’t care.  Eat them anyway.  Your bacteria do (like them).  You’ll be low on butyrate if you don’t.”

Blurb on my failure leading into a discussion of the body’s interconnectedness and “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria in the gut:

We used to eat junk.  (Society and medicine would label me “physically fit,” but we ate junk.)  When my first daughter was 5, she started crying about tooth pain.  I saw the black cavities, the rot.  That should have been enough to grab me.  Nah.  It just served to make us more diligent about brushing and flossing after the tooth was pulled and the others filled.  It was going to take more than black teeth to interfere with our food chain.  If you think cavities are no big deal, I’d say, “Sure.  They happen to all of us.  Don’t fret.”  But now I’d also say, “There’s too much sugar coming in from somewhere:  breakfast cereals, pancakes with syrup, Pop Tarts, muffins.  Breads, ketchup, milk, and Fruit Roll Ups.  Crackers, juice, and cookies.  Soda pop.  Sports drinks.  Candy and ice cream.”

Dear reader, cavities are simply a sign of microbiology gone awryIf bad bacterial growth is happening in the mouth, there’s a sure bet bad microbiology is going on in important other places!  By feeding too many processed carbohydrates, starches, and sugars to your children and yourself, you are creating one nasty Petri dish (what bacteria are grown on in microbiology labs).   You must remember the body is an interdependent system.  What happens in the mouth doesn’t stay in the mouth (!!!!!!).

A Pause for a Song to Appease My Humor (My daughter thought it was funny):

‘Dem Good Bacteria
Singing to the tune of “Dem Bones”

The mouth hole is connected to the throat tube…the throat tube is connected to the stomach bag…the stomach bag is connected to the small tube…now hear the word of the Lord (or if you prefer, now shake them bac-ter-i-uh…)

‘Dem bacteria, ‘dem bacteria, ‘dem bac-ter-i-uh…’dem bacteria, ‘dem bacteria, ‘dem bac-ter-i-uh…’dem bacteria, ‘dem bacteria, ‘dem bac-ter-i-uh…now hear the word of the Lord (or if you prefer, now shake them bac-ter-i-uh…)

The small tube is connected to the large tube…the large tube is connected to the bacteria…the bacteria are connected to your health (or insert a problem you may be dealing with—headaches, tummy aches, cavities, acne, eczema, bloating, etc)… now hear the word of the Lord…

Repeat chorus.

Health has a lot to do with balance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria:  Health literally does start in your colon, your large tube—large intestine.  You have billions of bacteria wanting to be fed in your gut.  It’s okay and completely normal.  If you eat good foods (vegetables, fruits, and meats) that are not processed and full of types of sugars, the “good” bacteria are fed.  They grow.  They make wonderful chemicals that our bodies will absorb from them and use to help with all kinds of things: our blood sugar and weight, fighting off infections, fighting off food intolerances, and so much more!   If the “good” bacteria are not fed good food, they will not be strong enough to outgrow the “bad” bacteria.  The bad bacteria overgrow in a sugar-rich diet.  They do not make the nutrients we humans need so well and they also make “toxins” that are bad for us (later in the series I will give names to those “toxins.”)   I used Narnia as an example for my kids.  That wicked Snow Queen (sugar) and her snow and servants and how winter just got deeper and deeper and colder (bad bacteria overgrowing).  In contrast, the green grass, the sun, the warmth and goodness in contrast is the equivalent of vegetables and good bacteria.

Your “good” bacteria regulate your immune system, your cancer fighting system, your bone strength, your mental health, your just about everything—ALL FROM THE COCKPIT OF YOUR GUT.  The brain is great, but it loves its friends found in the gut.

Closing part 1:  If you are armed with understanding, you can stand firm in your conviction to help you and your family eat better.  If you don’t understand, you will never feel the necessity for change and staying-power in your heart. You will throw your hands up and say, “Healthy.  Whatever. They just keep changing it on me!”  Next up is an introduction to short chain fatty acids.


Part 2

29 thoughts on “Butyrate Series, Part 1

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      It describes lots of us, doesn’t it? If we actually stop to take inventory. I am glad we stopped to take inventory and discovered how to “eat to live rather than live to eat.” I carried that slogan around in my head for so many years, but I never knew how to get there. Now with Paleo/SCD/GAPS/whatever you want to call it, I feel like I’ve got a good lifelong plan. (Did you get the tune out of your head yet? Silly song. 🙂 )

  1. Pingback: Butyrate Series, Part 2 | The HSD

  2. Valerie

    Wow, Terri. This sounds great! 😀 I do need conviction so I can be strong in my requirement of veggies for my kids. Thanks for being so dedicated!!!!! P.S. Love the song

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      You don’t think God minds the distortion of the song for my own purposes, do you ? (Wink.) I read this post to my kids as a health lesson. I wanted it to reinforce why I am choosing for our family to eat this way. I wanted to see they are not eating just for their taste buds! But their body and those bacteria are counting on them to make the right choices! XXX

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    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Nice list! I eat many of those and others I don’t do so well with (point being I really believe there’s something for everyone!). My kids liked the shirataki noodle “pasta.” I can’t say there was much left over for me. Ah, well.

      Have a great day.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I don’t know. I’m just not a big fan of using psyllium to bake. It seems contrived to me. But each person has to find his or her own way. I’ve also come to believe that baked goods probably ought to be treats. Now, cabbage! Serve me up some in any form. (But again, I DO know that cabbage doesn’t suit some people.)

      1. twhite48

        Contrived like baking powder or baking soda? Like adding spices and herbs to foods? Like peeling a banana rather than eating it skin and all? Of course it is your choice to define natural, contrived, synthetic, artificial. But your contrived seems contrived to me. I add combinations of psyllium, wheat bran, ground flax and sometimes marshmallow leaf along with pumpkin pie type spices and sometimes turmeric to oat porridge. What a concoction you must think it.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Ach. I didn’t seem to come across negative or flippant. I’m not dogmatic. I’m fluid. I’ve tried psyllium personally several times for some GI issues. It didn’t help. But I have read plenty of GI constipation relief reports after psyllium. So it clearly helps some people and their constipation.

        Your comment prompted me to look up psyllium more, as I assumed it was a “processed” supplement. It seems to be just mechanically ground up with little processing. Interesting! That would put it, in my “contrivance” :-), as a minimally processed food. Like the wheat bran and ground flax. (Although, if I relied on those heavily, due to oxidation concerns, I might find a grinder to grind them myself.)

        I have read reports of increased risk of colon cancer with psyllium. That is concerning. Which leads me back to what I said first, “I don’t know what to think about adding psyllium…”

        Calcium and fibre supplementation in prevention of colorectal adenoma recurrence: a randomised intervention trial. European Cancer Prevention Organisation Study Group.


        Thoughts? Because, honestly, I just don’t know! But for me, it made my constipation worse, so it’s a no-go here for me.

        Take care. Keep typing.

  9. twhite48

    Given the trade-off with many dietary fiber sources, fiber benefit vs. collateral glycemic load: Wheat bran is also a very effective fiber in small qty spoonful doses similar to psyllium increasing the butyrate yield of food. But definitely should be Organic because conventional Big Ag practice is to spray wheat with Roundup shortly before harvest! If those concentrated fiber sources seem too contrived to be “natural,” there is always cabbage.

  10. twhite48

    Easiest way to grind flax is small electric high speed blade coffee grinder. Psyllium husk is better purchased not as powder but in the form “husk” as removed from Plantago/Plantain seed, still not very large particles and equally viscous mixed in water or dough.
    More leads: “Antimicrobial peptides like human β-defensin-2 (HBD-2) play an important role in the innate immune system protecting the intestinal mucosa against bacterial invasion. The dietary histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors sulforaphane (SFN) and butyrate have received a great deal of attention because of their ability to simultaneously modulate multiple cellular targets involved in cellular protection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2561129/
    About Ca supplements, of course it’s all circumstantial and the exact circumstances for each person are different and the inter-reactions of individuals, foods, environment are complicated. For myself I believe Ca is not a worthwhile supplement if a diet is adequate. Mg is more important both to directly and indirectly spare Ca so that any removed from bones is predominately reintegrated back into bones, and for its own right and effects.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you for the article. That was interesting for me, as I’m starting to see so many ideas overlap.

      For anyone reading, sulforaphane is high in broccoli and especially broccoli sprouts. (Sprouts are fun to grow, especially if you have kids.) Butyrate can be produced by eating reheated potatoes or green/greenish bananas.

      Yes, I think that calcium supplementation has been overblown and that our bone situation can best be supported not by maxing calcium, but by making sure the body has access to a wide variety of minerals and vitamins. (Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, boron, mag. calcium, and so on).


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