Butyrate Series, Part 4


We have had a most wonderful Thanksgiving week!  A warm thank you to my family for coming so far to visit and eat a gluten-free, dairy-free whole foods Thanksgiving dinner!  But let’s get this butyrate series rolling again.  Today’s post will start explaining dietary sources of butyrate after a few miscellaneous points.

1.  What does butyrate smell like?

Stravecchio Parmesan Cheese

A.  Chocolate
B.  Sauerkraut
C.  Stinky locker rooms
D.  Parmesan cheese
E.  A and C
F.  C and D
G.  All of the above
H.  None of the above

The smell of butyrate is quite characteristic.  I’ve heard it described as a vomit smell and a parmesan cheese smell.  Go figure.  My nose luckily errs on the side of parmesan cheese.  Today I opened a jar of ghee (ghee is clarified butter with the milk proteins removed and only the fat left behind) and a bottle of my butyric acid supplement capsules and had my sister smell them.  That distinct smell that greets you from a jar of ghee (or from butter if you have a good smeller) is butyric acid.  I wonder if I could sprinkle my supplement on my pizza meatballs… anyhow… butyric acid is what makes the locker room smell, stinky shoe smell, and certain cheesy smell.  So the correct answer is F (both C and D).

2.  How do you pronounce butyrate?

A.  Butt-eye-rate
B.  Byou-ter-ate
C.  Butt-er-rate
D.  Butt-yuh-rat

Butyrate:  byou-ter-ate
Butanoate:  byou-tan-oh-ate
Butyric acid:  byou-teer-ic acid
Butanoic acid:  byou-tuh-no-ic acid

The answer is B.

3.  Why do research articles use butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid interchangeably?

A.  Because they made mistakes in their writing and the editors missed it.
B.  All scientists, especially in nutrition, want to confuse everybody.  Like The Tower of Babel.  (Pssst.  Don’t let them do it.  Just eat real, whole foods.  Healthy food.)
C.  Because the terms apply to the same basic functional structure which the body can convert from one to the other with no difficulty at all.
D.  After lipase works on the short chain fatty acid butyrate, butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid are all made.  Although varying in structure, they do the same things in the body.

Butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid are interchangeable terms for our purposes.  In fact, butyrate and butanoate have exactly the same structure.  Butyric acid and butanoic acid have exactly the same structure.  And the only difference between butyrate/butanoate and butyric acid/butanoic acid is a hydrogen atom.  They all have the same structure plus or minus a hydrogen atom, and the body has no problems converting them back and forth.

The correct answer is C.

Back to Boring.  How Can You Get Butyrate?

There is no dietary guideline for butyrate, and you won’t see it mentioned on the nutrition label.   The best sources for butyrate come from eating certain foods that the bacteria living in your colon like to also eat (fiber and resistant starch).  However, this is not the only way.

I see 4 potential sources of butyrate for the body:

  • Eat butyrate containing foods
  • Eat butyrate producing foods
  • Take butyrate supplements
  • Take probiotics which contain bacteria known to make butyrate

Today we will look at “Eat butyrate containing foods.” 

What foods contain butyrate?

A.  Butter and cheddar cheese
B.  Bacon and ham
C.  Potato and sweet potato
D.  Beans and peas

There are not many food types with butyrate in them.  It pretty much comes down to food made from the milk fat of animals who eat grass, for example cows, sheep, and goats. These are called ruminant animals: animals who eat grass, have hooves, chew their cud, and have specialized stomachs.  The bacteria in their guts are very effective at making butyrate. (1, 2, 3)  So the correct answer was A.

Milk fat foods with butyrate:  Listed below are the butyrate contents for milk fat foods that I found on-line.

(Two asides:  1.  Here is a cool graphic “poster” glorifying the attributes of BUTTER:  Bulletproof–Grass-fed Butter in Bulletproof Coffee Review2.  If it is helpful at all as a useless reference, BodyBio makes a butyrate supplement.  BodyBio recommends a dose of 3600 mg daily of its butyrate supplement.  That may help you put the amounts I list below into some sort of perspective.)

  • 100 grams (one stick) of butter has 2700 mg
  • One pat of butter has about 216 mg (a pat of butter is 10 grams, 1/3 of an ounce, or 1/2 tablespoon) (3, 4, 5)
  • 100 grams (a little less than 1/2 cup) of cream has 1500 mg
  • 100  grams of whipping cream has 1200 mg  (I don’t know the difference between cream and whipping cream)
  • 100  grams (about 3.5 ounces) of cheddar cheese has about 1100 mg
  • 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of Camembert has about 780mg
  • 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of parmesan has about 730 mg
  • 100 grams of full fat ice cream has about 370 mg
  • 100 grams of “regular” milk has about 120 mg
  • 100 grams of whole milk yogurt has about 100 mg (5)

That’s it?

Well, that’s “pert near” about it.  Some fermented foods are claimed to have butyrate, but I couldn’t find Fermented foodsquantification of this, nor could I find any good list of sources from people who claimed this.  I spent hours searching, and I tried about a dozen or more different search terms.  I’ll list what I could find that showed/didn’t show butyrate in fermented foods.  If you have anything to offer in this area, please do!

Fermented Foods:

  • A study on commercial sauerkraut which showed no butyric acid in sauerkraut:  Chemical and Sensory Characterization of Commercial Sauerkraut. (6)
  • I found a rat study looking at the effect of fermented sugar beet fiber on cholesterol.  To make the rats’ food, they fermented sugar beet fiber with rat cecum bacterial contents in a fermentation jar.  The fermented “food” they made for the rats had higher levels of short chain fatty acids (including butyrate).  (Umm.  Is that how you make your sauerkraut?  Maybe we need to use their starter?  Makes you look at a Pickl-it-Jar in a whole new way…)  (7)
  • Kombucha.  I found a site called Happy Herbalist with a  post called “Analysis of the Kombucha Ferment.”  It lists butyrate (butanoic acid) as a potential substance in kombucha.  But I couldn’t determine the source of this information.  If you’re interested in kombucha, here’s a link to a research article about it.  Nothing about butyrate in it, though:  Changes in major componnets of tea fungus metabolites during prolonged fermentation.  In addition, I found something called “Teapedia.”  It also lists butyric acid as a potential component of kombucha:  Kombucha. 

So as far as fermented foods and butyrate go, I think there is probably a tad in some. Not much, if any, in the sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles I eat. If there’s a strong smell like parmesan cheese or stinky locker room, there’s probably a good chance there’s butyrate there. Trust your nose.

Final Thought

Does the presence of butyrate in what you eat even make a difference?  If you surf around regarding oral butyrate (either via food or via supplements), you’ll see concern about how butyrate does not make it to the colon.  It seems to be important to have butyrate actually physically in the colon. (8,9,10)  Many human studies on oral butyrate use an enteric coated formulation so it can make it all the way to the colon (11).  Two things cross my small mind here:

  1. Although most butyrate seems to be absorbed by the small intestine, the absorption of butyrate is “saturable,” meaning at some point the transport of butyrate will become overwhelmed, and butyrate can scoot on by to make it to the colon without being absorbed.  (12,13)
  2. It appears that the butyrate that is absorbed makes it to the blood for beneficial effects, even on the colon, and this seems beneficial to the body too.  From a study looking at short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and butyrate on mice with induced colitis: “It is now clear that the trophic [positive growth] effect of SCFA is due not only to the simple provision of energy to the host but also to the combination of local action and systemic metabolism of SCFA… We have demonstrated that this protection can be obtained by oral doses of SCFA.” (emphasis mine) (14)

Point one makes me think that if enough butyrate is taken through foods, there is a point at which absorption is overcome, and so some butyrate does actually make it to the colon.  Point two makes me think that even if it does get all absorbed, even that which is absorbed makes a difference both to the entire body and to the colon.

If you can’t eat dairy.  Don’t despair.  The next post will look at butyrate producing foods we can eat.

Take good care.


Part 5

Sources:  (Most sources can be found in entirety or in significant portions on-line if you look for links to PDF files or look for little boxes that say “Full text.”)

  1. Milk Fats:  http://www.cyberlipid.org/glycer/glyc0073.htm
  2. Understanding the Ruminant Animal Digestive System from Mississippi State University Extension Service:  http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2503.pdf
  3. Foods High in Butyric Acid:  http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/butyric_acid/foods/high/
  4. The Ambiguity of a Pat of Butter:  http://www.ochef.com/1460.htm
  5. Butyric Acid Content of Food:  http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/butyric_acid/foods/
  6. Chemical and Sensory Characterization of Commercial Sauerkraut.  Trail, Young, Fleming, and McFeeters.  Journal of Food Quality.  1996.  19:  pp. 15-30.  http://www.ncsu.edu/foodscience/USDAARS/Acrobatpubs/P254-286/P258.pdf
  7. Fermentation Products of Sugar-Beet Fiber by Cecal Bacteria Lower Plasma Cholesterol Concentration in Rats.  Hara, Haga, Kasai, and Kiriyama.  The Journal of Nutrition.  April 1998.  128:4 (688-698).  http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/4/688.full
  8. Butyrate and the Colonocyte.  Velazquez, Lederer, and Rombeau.  Digestive Diseases and Sciences.  April 1996.  41: 4(727-739).  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02213129
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/  Potential effects of butyrate on intestinal and extraintestinal disease.
  10. Short-chain fatty acid formation at fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Henningsson, Bjorck, and Nyman.  Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition.  2001.  45: 165-168.
  11. Oral butyrate for mildly to moderately active Crohn’s disease.    Sabatino et al.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Nov 1;22(9):789-94 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16225487
  12. Absorption of short chain fatty acids from the human ileum.  Schmitt, Konrad, et al. Digestive Diseases.  1977. 22:4 (340-347).  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01072192#page-1      STEFF, MEMS
  13. Absorption of short chain fatty acids from the human jejunum. Schmitt, Soergel, and Wood.   Gastroenterology.  February 1976.  70: 2 (211-215).  http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(76)70032-5/abstract
  14. Protection by Short-Chain Fatty Acids against 1-B-D-Arabinofuranosylcytosine-Induced      Intestinal Lesions in Germfree Mice.       Ramos, Bambirra, Nicoli, Cara, Vieira, and Alvarez-Leite.  Antimicrob Agents Chemother.  April 1999.  43:4(950-953).  http://aac.asm.org/content/43/4/950.full

34 thoughts on “Butyrate Series, Part 4

  1. Natalia Holcomb (Tasha)

    Another great write-up 😀 I just started taking a mag-calc butyrate (which I now know how to pronounce) and yes it DOES smell like parmesan. I haven’t had ghee in ages, but now that you mention it, it’s a similar smell. With the holidays and not eating 100% gluten-free and eating more processed foods than usual (mostly ham), my gut isn’t too happy, but it’s actually better than usual in that I at least have motility of a sort.

    Was the word choice intentional here?:
    “The next post will look at butyrate producing foods we can *food*”

    It made me giggle.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Ah-ha-ha-ha! Nope. Typo made while sitting around the breakfast table with my visiting sisters. They had already proofread it for me, and then I went and snuck that in there at the very end so it missed their proofing! That shows me! I’ll “fix” it. Thank you, although I like “we can food” considering all the “we can’ts.”

      I’m so glad you’re finding something in the butyrate posts; motility of some sort is more than I had two years ago! Sorry about the food issues this holiday, but like you, I am finding it’s not so bad! I had eggs, nuts, and a small bit of ghee and have had less “head” reactions (so much is all in our heads, you know 😉 ). Butyrate is keeping my GI tract in the ballgame still! Or something is. Not perfect as the first 20 days, but certainly acceptable with only as needed magnesium. Hormones (progesterone) are definitely going to get attacked after butyrate. The connection (for my physiology, anyhow) is becoming apparent now that I’m getting gut stuff in order (slowly and surely).

      Take good care!

  2. All Seasons Cyclist

    My wife provided a wonderful “gluten-free, dairy-free whole foods Thanksgiving dinner” for our family and guests. It’s funny, but no one noticed that the ENTIRE meal was “gluten-free, dairy-free whole foods” until halfway through the meal my youngest son’s girlfriend asked where the dinner roll were at!

    I followed your link to the “Grass-Fed Butter” chart. I don’t think I’ve ever seen butter for sale that had come from grass-fed cows. Too bad!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Funny about the rolls. My brother-in-law told me he was very nervous about the “roll” but he liked it a lot! I made almond flour biscuits and provided strawberry jam. What can taste bad with homemade freezer jam? The yeasty flavor of a roll is a happy memory for me, though.

      That Kerry butter with a silver (I think) wrapper and green shamrock (I think) is from grass-fed cows. Supposed to have all that K2 for you. Our little health food store sometimes has it. I just like his “poster.” I can’t wait to learn how to do those graphics.

      Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks, Victoria! I just feel like I’m making up for lost time. Maybe med school should be self-directed learning. You pick a problem in yourself you want to cure, read research about it, go to a research lab for it, and then train with the clinical experts in your chosen area! (Us homeschoolers have such strange ideas about learning, don’t we!? 🙂 )

  3. IrishMum

    You say sweet potatoe I say sweet potato 😉 Great info, I am glad we load up on the butter, though I do have one sensitive to dairy so I make him ghee. Boy do I miss Kerry Gold, best butter in the world.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks, you’re a doll! Real sweet.

      Can you not get Kerry gold butter there? And do you think your homemade ghee is more pure than what you can buy? We still have some ghee sensitivity issues in our family. But I haven’t wanted to make my own.

      1. IrishMum

        My pleasure 😉

        No Kerry Gold here but I buy my butter from a farmers market and it’s grass fed. I can’t get ghee from grass fed cows so that’s why I make my own. My son is very sensitive to dairy but he is fine with ghee, but I have been working on his gut health for years.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        So complex is the GI tract! Seriously, my GI lectures in school felt so short and rushed. I hope it has changed. Much success to you, your son, and the rest of your family. You are very diligent to make your own ghee. I use Purity Farms (says it’s pastured) and also get local grass fed butter.

  4. Pingback: Butyrate Series, Part 3 | The HSD

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  7. mjohnson9706

    Something I got to thinking about on the butter was if you have found anything in your research about the level of butyrate being lessor in regular butter vs grass-fed? The only grass-fed dairy anything I’ve found has been Kerrygold cheese (only during the holidays), so I use regular butter.

    My problem didn’t really start until May, when I was on antibiotics and steroids for an upper respiratory infection. Thanks for all you do.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I quickly scoured the internet on this topic. I could not find any mention of short chain fatty acids (one of which we are most concerned with being butyrate). Several other factors were mentioned which seemed of benefit, but sadly not that factor. (And I couldn’t find an academic source but grass fed milk fat will have more vitamin K 2, very valuable.)

      Increased concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in milk and platelet rich plasma of grass-fed cows.

      and here’s one on sheep milk where if you scroll down you can see the C4 (butyric acid) content was higher on pasture than “stall” food:

      Effects of ewe feeding s ys tem (gras s vs concentrate) on milk fatty acid
      compos ition

      That’s not much. There’s probably a little more out there. They talked a lot about other fatty acids, but not the short chains we’ve been talking about. Regardless, all real butter will have butyrate.

      Here is one for the actual meat, grass fed versus grain fed (not the milk, though). Grass fed for sure comes out ahead:

      A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef

      You’re welcome for anything that may be useful. 🙂 Sorry you had to take steroids and antibiotics. Bad combination but sometimes that’s what it takes. Must have been a miserable time! ~~ Terri

  8. Pingback: Butyrate Series, Part 7 | The HSD

  9. Lily Halim

    Thanks for clearly explaination. I have working in manage menu for my autistic son daily nutrition intervention. I have doing GAPS from november 2014 for my son. Sometimes I made almond cake from purity farm ghee, coz I must import it. I am difficult to get it my country. I got from my health practioner about butyrate, she suggested me to give it for my son. I have already ordered from TB Neesby. I looked your note butyrate from Bodybio, what is it the same? The reason I take butyrate is constipation. And I agree with you, if we take GAPS diet to get how the gut healing and the Goal is no supplement . In a month later my son was constipation, sometimes 1-2days off of poop. He always consume magnesium citrate on 800mg on everymorning in empty stomach ( suggested from health practione) and take Biokult probiotic 6 capsule per days (3 caps before breakfast and 3 caps before sleep). And take the sauerkraut juice everyday. I read your blogs that you consume magnesium calm at night before sleep with probiotic, such as in the morning going to bowel. I think its right idea. How about consume butyrate ? its for consume by small doses ( 1.2 gr) in the morning with empty stomach? How long does he consume?until no constipation ? So, May I change a taketime of magnesium citrate ? Please suggest…

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I took butyrate, maybe for about 4-6 weeks if I remember. It really seemed to help my constipation (in addition to all the other things I was doing–very similar to what you describe), and I then transitioned to trying food sources for butyrate (potato starch, green bananas, etc), which worked well, too, until I became pregnant. For me, I followed the label recommendations for dosing as I am an adult and took them as the label said, too–three times daily, I think with meals but I can’t remember for sure (it was on the bottle). The Neesby brand you ordered and the brand I took seem to have the same ingredients and in the same amounts. Did the health practitioner suggest a dose for your son? Would the practitioner mind changing the magnesium timing? I think it’s worth a try to dose the magnesium in the evening/night; for me, I’ve found it works better that way. Every person is so different! What works for one sure may not work for another! (That would be too easy, eh!? 🙂 ) As far as how long it may take butyrate to work, if it works at all for someone, I just don’t know. For me, it was the first week that I noticed effects. Best wishes to you and your son. I hope you are finding improvements along your journey!

  10. vicki

    I just found your series and I LOVE IT. Just wish I had more time to read all you’ve done! I was just listening to a webinar by Dr. Pearlmutter (Grain Brain) and he was discussing studies of how Butyrate helps reverse metabolic syndrome. Since I suffer from both Metabolic Syndrome and constipation I plan to try your approach and get in supplemental form first, and then move to whole foods. HOWEVER, I must warn your readers against the BodyBio brand, as last year the FDA sent them an “FDA 483 letter” telling them they failed inspection. The supplement manufacturer regulations in the the US are already lax enough, so if a manufacturer fails these low level requirements I would never want to put them in my body. Is there another brand you can recommend?

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Vicki,

      Thanks for the great comment! I appreciate all that you said. Food always trumps supplement when possible, eh!?

      For people reading comments, I did some searching regarding the BodyBio and FDA form 483 (because of course I was alarmed!):

      1. What is an FDA form 483 letter? Check here– http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/Inspections/ucm256377.htm
      2. I found a letter from 2005 which warns regarding labeling issues on the butyrate (and other products): http://www.casewatch.org/fdawarning/prod/2005/elyte.shtml
      3. And I could find this regarding how often BodyBio had been inspected and how often they had received a form 483, most recent 2013.

      I could not find anything more recent. Vicki, if you visit back here by chance, do you know where I could find this information besides where I’ve been looking? Labeling issues, although I don’t like, pale next to contaminant issues–which I worry about with all supplements. However, I want to be “in the know.”

      Anyhow, I’ve also used two other brands, although I am not recommending anything. Simply trying for myself. I just wanted to see which works best for me. I have used Allergy Research Group Butyren and Nutricology Butyraid. Note that the Allergy Research Group Butyren has a lead warning (as does my toothpaste with clay in it as required by CA law, I believe?).

      Take care and I wish you much success with all things!


      1. Fortunato Romanesco

        BodyBio’s 483 concerned the use of supplements to address physical conditions, an approach the FDA dislikes. There was no concern about purity or efficacy of butyrate or any other product. BodyBio Butyrate is made by an outside vendor.

  11. Dr. Fortunato Romanesco

    There has been no FDA “reprimand” regarding butyrate written to BodyBio. That 483 addressed the use of supplements to treat specific conditions, an act disallowed by federal regulations, as misguided as they are. Vicki’s commentary is misleading at best. BodyBio did not fail an inspection. As for dosage, individuals will respond to butyrate supplementation differently from their peers and family. It is rare for recommended doses to excess 6 or 7 grams, except for the overzealous users who reap the rewards of their ardor. Suggested doses of less than 4 grams a day are unlikely to cause adversity.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hello, Dr. Fortunato Romanesco: Seems like what you say about the 483 jives with what I found when I searched on-line for what Vicki was referring to. For anyone reading, I put links in my reply to Vicki above so you can follow if you’d like to.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Terri Fites

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  13. NevadaSmith

    It seems that whole milk kefir, yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) may be good sources as long as it’s from grass fed cows. And likely cottage cheese and ricotta cheese.


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