Butyrate Series, Part 5

It’s only voodoo until you understand the sense (science) behind it…so what’s the sense for fiber?


Part 4 of the Butyrate Series summarized naturally occurring sources of butyrate in food.  Today’s post explains another source of butyrate in the diet: fiber. (More correctly, fiber is a source for our colon’s bacteria to make butyrate for us.) Today we will cover:

  • What fiber is
  • Different kinds of fiber
  • Fermentability of different kinds of fiber
  • Which fibers bring about butyrate

(And if you think this sounds boring, you are probably quite right.)

There is a book out there called Fiber Menace by Konstantin Monastyrsky which demotes fiber.  I’ve not read it, but I’d have to say in my former Caterpillarseating life, I tried adding in high amounts of fiber: peas, hummus, beans, lentils, Shredded Wheat Cereal, Grape Nuts Cereal, Metamucil, and Fiber Con. I always swore in my head that this fiber did nothing but make my GI symptoms worse; however, this seemed like an insane fragment of my overactive imagination until 2011. In 2011, I read a little blurb in my American Family Physician journal about fiber not helping slow transit constipation and then found sources stating fiber may actually worsen slow transit constipation.  From a World Journal of Gastroenterology article:  “Muller-Lissner emphasized that a diet poor in fiber should not be assumed to be the cause of chronic constipation. In contrast, they found that many patients with severe constipation deteriorated when dietary fiber intake was increased.” (1)  Hmmm. Is that right?

In the past, I’ve tried high fiber and I’ve tried low fiber; I didn’t know what to think. Guess I still really don’t. Today, studies say that fiber helps this or that. Tomorrow they will say that it doesn’t. Depends on the wind. But considering how important short chain fatty acids (including butyrate) are, I’m thinking fiber may be pretty helpful, but not in the way I was trained to think.  It has nothing to do with the bulk or the drawing of water into the gut.  It has to do with good bacteria, what they like to eat, and what they make for me when they eat.  So for myself, in order to increase my butyrate naturally, I will keep vegetables and some fruit a priority.  I will watch my symptoms closely and adjust as indicated.

What I want you to know (because the rest of this post is like broccoli with no dip—pretty dry):

  • “Fiber” is an oversimplified, generic word for a hodge-podge of substances from plants. The words soluble and insoluble do not even come close to explaining the types of fiber.
  • Fiber is basically carbohydrates that humans cannot digest. There are many kinds of fiber which get “eaten” by the bacteria in different amounts and at different rates in our colon.  (More below.)
  • Some fiber, like cellulose (think of the stems of broccoli and the peel of an apple), gets fermented very little and very slowly.  Other fiber, like inulin (think onions) gets fermented very completely and very rapidly.
  • Each vegetable or fruit will contain several types of fiber, not just one type. Broccoli is not ONLY cellulose! Each vegetable or fruit has its own complex fiber identity! Find some that you tolerate.
  • I think to optimize butyrate production throughout the entire colon, it is good to eat a mix of vegetables and fruits. The quickly fermented fiber will bathe the first part of the colon in short chain fatty acids, and the slowly fermented fiber will make it to the end to bathe the final part of the colon.
  • Please don’t buy fiber in a box or plastic container. Please? Eat the real deal. Why? Because remember that vegetables and fruits contain multiple kind of fibers in one package, and they ferment at different rates. This provides valuable short chain fatty acids throughout the whole colon. In addition, different fibers have been found to influence the fermentation of other fibers, promoting more butyrate production than the given fibers alone. Not to mention all the vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients.  Again I say, find a mix of vegetables (and fruits) that you tolerate.  (2) (3) (6)  (And I still say, vegetable, fruits, and meats.  Wheat is a treat. Don’t get your fiber from wheat. My personal opinion.)
  • Good bacteria can be cultivated. Drugs that cultivate good bacteria are called PREbiotics, but foods can do the same thing. Vegetables and fruits carry fibers that are prebiotic. By eating vegetables and fruits, you are not just allowing the bacteria you have to make butyrate, you’re actually promoting their growth.  (4)

Caterpillar making attachmentReminder: All the information in this blog is information I have gathered and assimilated for my own purposes. I enjoy sharing it, but I certainly expect you to use it as fodder for learning and questioning, not as diagnosis and treatment.  Every individual is unique and may react differently (and badly) to what others find beneficial and helpful.  For your safety, present the information to your favorite trusted healthcare provider before making any changes. 

You know it’s bad when there’s a glossary:

Carbohydrates:  Carbohydrates are made up of polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, and sugars.

Sugars:  Sugars are monosaccharides or disaccharides.  Examples:  glucose, fructose, lactose, sucrose. They are usually completely absorbed in the small intestine. (But if they are not, they can continue to the colon to be fermented.)

Polysaccharides:  Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates made by linking many, many, many sugars together. They can be starch polysaccharides or non-starch polysaccharides. Starches are commonly used as energy storage; amylose and amylopectin are two very common starches.  Non-starches are usually used for structure, like cellulose.

Oligosaccharides:  These are smaller chains of sugars linked together. They’re bigger than sugars and smaller than polysaccharides. They can be found in onions, jicama, and wheat. They are things like inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS—often a part of prebiotics).

Starches (amylose and amylopectin):  Starches are polysaccharides, which means many sugars strung together. Common starches in plant matter include amylose and amylopectin. Amylose has its glucoses linked linearly in a very compact structure, making it digest more slowly. Amylopectin has its glucoses linked in a large, branched structure, allowing more easy penetration of digestive enzymes. We used to think that all starch was digested and absorbed in the small intestine. We now know this is false.  Starches are in things like flour, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  (Aside for SCD followers:  Breaking the Vicious Cycle’s explanation of amylose and amylopectin is incorrectly reversed.)

Non-starch polysaccharides:  A very hodge-podge group. It’s what you think of as classic fiber. Cellulose, pectins, gums, and more fit in this category. They often provide structure to plant cells. The small intestine can’t digest them.

Fiber:  Usually defined as plant matter that escapes digestion by the small intestine and continues undigested to the colon. But a true definition is evasive because calling something “fiber” is like saying a shoe is a shoe is a shoe. Well, stiletto boots are a far cry from my New Balances. Non-starch polysaccharides make up a huge chunk of “fiber.” Also included, depending on who is writing the definition, are resistant starch and oligosaccharides.

Resistant starch:  There are several kinds of resistant starches, but basically they are all starches that manage to escape digestion in the small intestine, and therefore they act like fiber. (5)

Eating for butyrate production by bacteria

Ok.  So the goal is to produce butyrate by eating food.  (The bacteria will do the work for me.)  Let’s take a moment to remember why anyone should care.  Studies indicate butyrate may—

  • Heal leaky gut, and therefore improve food intolerances
  • Stabilize blood sugar responses, even to carbohydrates
  • Lessen hunger and help weight loss
  • Stimulate bowel motility
  • Help damaged nerve cells to function again
  • Cure and fight cancer
  • Other unknown functions (7)

(I take a butyrate supplement. I have noticed a huge improvement in my peristalsis and in my ability to eat nuts and eggs baked in pies. Although my supplement seems okay, a person can never tell what impurities are in their supplements or how much of the nutrient the body needsToo much of a good thing can potentially turn on you. So I want off of my supplement, and this is where this butyrate series came from.)

What foods do bacteria use to make butyrate?  Fiber and resistant starch are the best ingredients for bacteria to make butyrate in your colon.  (Bacteria can make butyrate from proteins, mucous, and sloughed cells, but these ingredients lead to the formation of chemicals detrimental to your colon, like ammonia.)  We will talk about fiber today and resistant starch next time.


You’ve heard of fiber. But what is fiber? Do you want functional fiber? Physiologic fiber? Soluble fiber? Insoluble fiber? Resistant starch “fiber?”  Caterpillar made cocoonViscous fiber? Fermentable fiber? Microfiber???? (No.)

Fiber is a hodge-podge (word of the day) of chemical substances.  Like my shoe analogy up there in the glossary: work boots, snow boots, running shoes, basketball shoes, platform shoes, and stiletto heels. They all go on the feet. They all have a similar function. They are all shoes. But you can break them down into boots and shoes. Or active wear and formal wear. Or open-toed and closed-toe. Or open-toed formal and closed-toe formal.

Fiber may be fiber, but it can be classified many ways.  My little ditty of a definition for fiber in the glossary– “plant matter that escapes digestion by the small intestine and continues undigested to the colon”—keeps it about as simple as it can get. (Shoe. Fiber.)

Maybe you have heard of soluble and insoluble fiber, this is NOT the only way to classify fiber.  (In fact, experts are trying to phase out the terms soluble and insoluble. They have come to realize that the function of the fiber does NOT depend on its solubility.) (8)

Bottom line: Fiber is a complex issue. The Paleo Mom has a great fiber series that she published recently The Fiber Manifesto.

Let’s look at the types of fiber—the ways to categorize fiber.  I’ll warn you, categories overlap.  Just remember that fiber is plant matter (usually) that makes it to the colon undigested:

Fiber can be classified based on solubility, fermentability, viscosity, whether or not it is a starch, or whether it’s a synthetic fiber with physiologic function.

Different ways to classify fiber:

Soluble fiber:
Pectin, mucilage, gums,   psyllium, wheat dextrin
Insoluble fiber:
Cellulose, lignins, some   hemicelluloses, some pectins
Oligosaccharides like FOS and inulin, gums (guar), pectins, wheat dextrins
Cellulose, hemicellulose,   lignin
Viscous (gel-forming) fiber:
Pectins, gums (guar gum), psyllium
Non-viscous (non gel-forming) fiber:
Resistant Starch:
Polysaccharides made of starch
Non-starch   polysaccharides:
Celluloses, hemicelluloses,   pectins, and gums
Functional fiber (designed or extracted fiber):
Inulin, psyllium, FOS, some   resistant starch
Dietary fiber (fiber found naturally in food)

(9) (10)

Now, you can take just about all of those and mix and match them!!!  For example, you can have:

  • Soluble, fermentable (example:  pectins)
  • Insoluble, fermentable  (example:  resistant starch)
  • Soluble, non-fermentable (examples:  alginates, carrageenans)
  • Insoluble, non-fermentable (examples: cellulose and lignin—cellulose is actually a bit fermentable, see below)
  • Resistant starch, fermentable  (example:  resistant starch)
  • Non-starch polysaccharides, fermentable  (examples:  FOS and inulin)
  • Non-starch polysaccharides, non-fermentable  (example:  cellulose)

You can keep going with this, but I’m stopping. Just remember, foods are composed of several types of fiber in one package—so a banana is NOT completely made up of soluble fiber! It also has (at least) resistant starch (an insoluble fiber!), pectin, and hemicellulose.  And it gets even more complicated than this because a ripe banana will have a different fiber composition than a green banana. Ahhhh!)

To make butyrate, we are mostly concerned with the fiber that is fermentable.  Solubility has nothing to do with it.

The table below summarizes the fermentability of the different fibers mentioned above. Percent of fermentability is important. Butyrate isn’t made unless the bacteria in the colon have something to ferment. Less butyrate will be made from cellulose (20-80% fermentable) than inulin (100% fermentable). HOWEVER, all the inulin will be probably be used up early in the colon, as soon as there are bacteria to feast on it. Since less cellulose will be fermented early on, more will be available throughout the whole colon, not just the beginning—like a “slow release” formulation.

Please note that our bacterial microflora are exceptionally unique and therefore our tolerability to different fibers will be unique. In a study on the fermentation of cellulose in the cell wall of spinach, one group of people fermented the spinach with one group of bacteria–while the another group of people fermented it with another kind of bacteria. (11)  Since we have different bacteria with different capabilities and metabolite production (such as gas), perhaps this is why some of us do well with fiber and not others?

Colonic fermentability of dietary fibres in humans

Dietary   fibre

Fermentability   (%)







Guar gum




Wheat bran


Resistant starch


 Inulin, oligosaccharides

  100 (if they are not in excess)


So now you know that fermentable fibers make butyrate best. You can see above which fibers are fermentable (remember it’s probably good to mix and match high and low fermentable foods). But which fibers make a higher percentage of butyrate? Cellulose, inulin, raffinose (in beans), and resistant starch made higher percentages than guar gum, lactose, pectin, and sugar beets sources.  Oat beta-glucans were pretty high and so was wheat bran. (6) I’ve not tried to tease out grains, mostly because I don’t eat them. They are problematic for me and for many other people as well  Studies using them for fiber sources give so many mixed messages too.

Fiber acts as a prebiotic for good bacteria and also inhibits the growth of bad bacteria:

By eating vegetables and fruits with fiber and resistant starch, you are also promoting the growth of “good bacteria.”  Many of the good bacteria make butyrate for your body. You have commonly seen the term PREbiotic (not to be confused with the closely related term PRObiotic). All prebiotics are considered fiber. For a fiber to be a prebiotic, it must have the following characteristics:

  • “Resists gastric acidity, hydrolysis by mammalian enzymes, and absorption in the upper gastrointestinal tract;
  • Is fermented by the intestinal microflora;
  • Selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of intestinal bacteria potentially associated with health and well-being.”

You can buy prebiotic supplements, and some probiotics come with prebiotics mixed in. However, prebiotics occur naturally in foods such as leeks, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, wheat, oats, and soybeans. (Eat real food.)

(By the way, have you ever wondered what makes a bacteria a “good” bacteria? I have:  “Generally, bacteria having an almost exclusive saccharolytic metabolism (i.e., no proteolytic activity) can be considered potentially beneficial. Such a metabolic profile is typical for lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.”  Quote is just basically saying that good bacteria can’t break down protiens.) (9)

Prebiotics (including types of fiber) also inhibit the growth of bad bacteria! As the good bacteria ferment fiber, they produce short chain fatty acids and make the inside of the colon more acidic. A more acidic environment in the colon reduces breakdown of peptides (proteins), resulting in less formation of toxic compounds such as ammonia, amines, and phenolic compounds. Also, the more acidic environment decreases the activity of undesirable bacterial enzymes. So again, looks like eating real food that is fermentable will act as a prebiotic to encourage the growth of good bacteria and discourage the growth of bad.  (9)

What I wish I understood more:

1. The Inuits lived on a primarily fat and meat diet. Yet they had low rates of disease. Where did their butyrate come from? Did they forage enough when possible to get some? Did they ferment some of the plant matter when it was available for use later when it wasn’t available? Did the fermented meats they made provide them with butyrate? (Here we go again; I just can’t find good information on quantification of fermented food content. Anyone?) Does subsisting only on high quality animal protein and fat change the environment of the colon and body such that lower butyrate production is needed? Did their unique diet cultivate a unique micro flora that maximized butyrate production?

2. If grains and isolated fiber are removed as fiber sources from studies, how would this affect results?


Man. Thanks for reading. If you have FODMAP problems and you just can’t tolerate any vegetables, come back next post. Next post we will move on to resistant starch, a huge producer of butyrate.  Only about two butyrate posts left to go. As always, comments, constructive criticism, and pointing out of typos is always welcome.


Part 6


1.  http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/13/4161.pdf

2.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1374147/?page=6

3.  http://gut.bmj.com/content/34/3/386.full.pdf

4.  Starches, Resistant Starches, the Gut Microflora and Human Health.  Bird, Brown, and Topping.  Curr. Issues Intest. Microbiol.  2000.  1(1):  25-37.  http://www.horizonpress.com/backlist/ciim/v/v1/03.pdf

5.  Health properties of resistant starch.  Nugent.  Nutrition Bulletin.  2005.  30: 1(27-54)

6.  Short-chain fatty acid formation at fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates.  Henningsson, Bjorck, and Nyman.  Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition.  2001.  45:165-186.

7.  Review article:  the role of butyrate on colonic function.  Hamer, Jonkers, Venema, Vanhoutvin, Troost, and Brummer.  Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.  2008.  27: 104-119

8.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/1/1.full

9.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/

10.  http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/fiber/

11.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20662929

12. http://www.fao.org/docrep/w8079E/w8079e0l.htm

59 thoughts on “Butyrate Series, Part 5

  1. Cs

    I have two boys who have suffered from intractable constipation (with fecal loading) for over 1.5 years. One child has never been cleared out despite every Laxative known to man including colonic lavage. He instantly clogs up again. Both boys eat all homecooked foods. Their diet is fruits, meats, veggies. They eat no sugar, only 1 tsp on average per day of xylitol or honey. And yet we’ve not been able to clear their bowels despite 2 poops a day. It’s as if the poop has cemented to the bowel walls. It is a complete mystery to us and the dozens of docs we’ve seen. I have begun to suspect that there is something wrong with nerves down there–the ChAT neurons you mentioned. But here is my question: what if they already do eat a lot of natural fibers and butyrate-stimulating foods???

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      It sounds like you are doing all you can be doing and everybody is at a loss. I’m sorry. What a difficult situation!

      Was this a congenital problem? Did they have it when they were newborns? Or when nursing, if you nursed? Or did it develop later? Do other people in the family besides them have issues? I’m sure they’ve been worked up extensively then with celiac diagnoses, dairy intolerances, colonoscopies/biopsy (for something like Hirschsprung)?

      I’ll keep my eyes out for articles I may come across on intractable constipation in kids that may differ from adults. Hang in there. You sound like you’re doing the right things.

      1. Cs

        No, it was not a congenital problem. There is celiac in the family, but my younger one has been gluten free/dairy free since age 1, and my older one went gluten free/dairy free over a year ago. They also did GAPS for about 5 months (now doing GAPS + rice only), but ran into adrenal problems with that. Interestingly, both boys started developing problems around the same time, which makes me suspect parasites. The only problem is the diagnostics for parasites are awful and most docs don’t believe parasites are a problem in the 1st world (so not true, especially since we live in Singapore which is in the tropics, prime breeding ground for parasites), especially without lab results to confirm. We’ve done tons of testing including the Metametrix which did find blastocystis in one kid, but blasto is controversial and we decided not to treat it. Meanwhile, symptoms got better and worse with no apparent pattern. I haven’t been able to find a GI who is willing to do a scope. Most have tried to tell me that constipation in children is normal and a little bit of pain seems ok to them. It’s very frustrating. I found one article about using electrical stimulation (by docs in Australia) to help slow transit constipation but still need to track down the doctors who did it.

        In any event, I appreciate your reply and I wanted to tell you that I think you have a great blog. I actually meant to say this in my original post (but at the time was typing on a phone). I like that your blog is very intelligent and at the same time humble–you are willing to question your training and accept that you might not have all the answers. I have only come across 1 or 2 docs like that in my entire life.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Dear Cs, Your comment elicits so many questions and thoughts (none of which are all that helpful to you).

        First off, I have a quote from an article. The fact that so many kids don’t outgrow this problem is incorrect! From The Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility— “Contrary to the common belief that children outgrow constipation as they grow up, a sizable percentage continue to have symptoms beyond puberty.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042216/) This is a problem that may not go away.

        Secondly, you’re right about parasites and what MDs think. I’m not clear on what I think about them myself, but in Singapore it seems like you’d have a much higher risk for all kinds of things I didn’t have to learn much about. We didn’t spend much time on tropical medicine at all. When immigrants got admitted to the hospital, it was a crash course in figuring out what could be wrong with them!

        Thirdly, food intolerances play a role in constipation and some studies have success doing a strong elimination diet. I know you probably know this, but others just starting this path may not. (I pore over comments on blogs to get leads! 🙂 ) So here are two links to support that:

        1. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00431-011-1417-6 (You can click on “Look Inside” and read the introduction, where you’ll see eggs and wheat were most common in this study. Although, other studies show dairy a lot!) and
        2. http://www.crn2.org.br/pdf/artigos/artigos1285071471.pdf

        Fourth, I think chronic low motility sets you up for other issues, like small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) because the normal flushing just isn’t happening. So trying to get to the bottom of this is important.

        Fifth, the idea that symptoms fluctuate at times is so curious. I think this is true for many of us with STC. What makes this fluctuation? It is good news because it means the GI tract CAN do it. But what makes it NOT?

        Well, research is slow, but it does seem to be finding out more on this issue finally. Especially as we are finding health really does start in the gut with the microbiome project. Thank your for your very kind, encouraging words. They are appreciated greatly. If you have any breakthroughs, post back! (And for that matter, post back anytime! On any account!) ~~Terri

      3. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author


        How are you guys down and over there?

        I do not know about Arabinex. I read around very briefly on it. I have read of several prebiotics which increase butyrate, but I have never seen the breakdown of which one does so in the highest numbers. That would be fun to have! It does seem to create some other beneficial actions besides increasing butyrate which is always a plus. But I don’t know how it holds up to say, pectin.

        I do not follow the Eat Right for Your Blood Type stuff or Peter D’Adamo, but he has a nice write up on it with his sources listed if you wanted to check it out. http://www.dadamo.com/science_larch.htm

        (I’m always giving you links, you know! Ha! Ha! You can’t leave a doctor empty-handed–that’s why they hand out antibiotics like they are candy.)

        I would go super slow with this just because of the risk of uncomfortable bloating.

        Enjoy your day! ~~Terri

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yep, I would! Amazing what technology can do nowadays! The whole book! Thank you very, very much. I’ve only read excerpts and commentary up to this point! For those who don’t know: Stefansson (and a partner) lived with the Inuit (Eskimo) people and only ate meat and fat, mostly. Many of their health maladies resolved (one had GI issues). When he came back to home, he was offered to do a medical experiment for a year where he ate only meat and fat. Again, his maladies resolved. Or something like that story. Don’t quote me.

      1. mjohnson9706

        That’s about as far as I am, the gist of it from clips and such, as for the book, I’ve almost made it through the opening comments, haven’t gotten to the chapters yet.

  2. All Seasons Cyclist

    Wow! A long article that gave me a lot to digest (pardon the pun). Last Sunday at church I was talking to a pharmacist about coconut oil and somehow the subject matter changed to digestion, then to butyrate — she was amazed by two things: First, that I even knew what it was, and second, that I could pronounce it (only due to your last article).

    As for the Inuit people and their diet — I am guessing that their consumption of edible seaweed, along with berries and roots, took care of their butyrate needs (just a guess).

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Ha! Super great! I pulled some articles on coconut oil as I was reading; I was hoping it would have butyrate in it and tie things together for me. It has beta-hydroxybutyrate in it. I tried to connect that to butyrate to see if they could mimic each other/stimulate same receptors, pathways. At first reading, it appears not. It was taking too much time to figure out why. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a ketone and butyrate a short chain fatty acid. Wish I knew a good biochemist.

      http://www.myiabetesandme.wordpress.com sent me a link to download the Inuit explorers book. I’m pretty excited. (I have also started the homocysteine book you recommended.) Good point with the edible seaweed! Berries in season I had read about. And I’d like to see how much root they did ingest.

      Isn’t this fun!?

  3. hryan77

    hi!!awesome post as usual 🙂 I’m thinking a supplement is my best route for now…i know i asked this before so forgive me, but which one are you using? I value your opinion on it all!!!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Ok. Here’s the scoop. Butyrate appears safe and non-toxic, but:

      “At 4 g per liter, sodium butyrate had a markedly favorable impact on physical performance, survival, and maintenance of body weight; likely, this reflected an important impact on histone acetylation. Surprisingly, this agent had an adverse effect in these mice if the dose was further increased to 16 g/l. In the 4 g per liter group, the mice were ingesting approximately 16 mg of sodium butyrate daily; adjusted for relative body size by using the three-quarter power of relative weights, the corresponding human dose would be about 7-8 grams daily.” (http://catalyticlongevity.org/prepub_archive/Tributyrin-AD.pdf)

      Tributyrin is what is used in studies as the pharmacokinetics of butyrate indicate a very short half-life. Quotes:

      “The Problem with Butyrate: ‘The sodium salt of butyric acid, sodium butyrate, has potent effects on a variety of cell lines in vitro, including both malignant and normal mammary epithelial cells Despite its potency in vitro, butyric acid is rapidly metabolized in vivo, making it difficult to achieve and maintain effective levels in the serum, even when its sodium or arginine salts are administered by continuous i.v. infusion. Moreover, i.v. infusion carries with it the possibility of complications due to concomitant elevations in serum sodium or arginine. Therefore, the effectiveness of butyric acid salts as a chemotherapeutic or chemopreventive agents is compromised.’ Heerdt 1998

      Tributyrin is the Solution: Tributyrin, a triglyceride analogue of butyric acid (butyryl triglyceride), is similar in structure to 95% of the fatty acids found in foods, can be p.o.(orally) administered, is well tolerated even by young children, and is an approved food additive in the United States. Moreover, because tributyrin contains three butyric acid moieties esterified to glycerol, when completely hydrolyzed by cellular lipases or esterases, it yields 3-fold more butyric acid than sodium butyrate, producing and maintaining higher serum butyrate levels than p.o.-administered butyric acid salts.’ Heerdt 1998


      So I guess what I’m saying is that sodium and magnesium/calcium forms have not really been studied to see if they are helpful and who knows if too high of doses may be bad. In that rodent study mentioned above, there was toxicity with high-dose sodium butyrate. In addition, any supplements we have access too may have impurities that could be undesirable. I think it’s very important that people know that.

      I take Body Bio Cal Mag Butyrate. I’d like to say I found so much information on it and was reassured, but I didn’t. I chose it because I was going to drop my magnesium and thought the magnesium form would at least give me a little magnesium rather than a sodium complex. This is where practicing healthcare providers who use this will have good information to share with their patients on what they use.

      Does this information help? I never, ever want to cause harm with my blog and what I do. That’s why I try to present all sides and as much information as I can so people can maybe copy off sources to take to their healthcare providers. So much of this alternative medicine stuff is just such uncharted territory. I’d hate to just present the tip of the iceberg and have danger lurking beneath!

      1. hryan77

        Ok so I’m beyond confused now. I have fodmap issues and all that so I can’t really do the foods. Now it sounds like I shouldn’t supplement. Oh well. Nevermind

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I agree! It is frustrating. I just think it’s important for people to know that as safe as it may be, too high of doses or something in the formulation may not be good for you. There’s just not enough information. I just want people to be informed. Risk versus benefit!

  4. Tricia Tetrault

    How much should I take? Should I take it at night or am? Just took my 1st dose hoping its as awesome as it seems! Thank you for all your hard work you sound just like me:) Tricia

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      There is nothing out there regarding this! I just followed the dose on my bottle. It works for me, but I know it is wrong to mislead anyone into thinking it will work for them. And as far as side effects and negatives, I could only find information on animals given high doses for anything toxic. Normal doses and in humans seems fine. But again, there’s just not much out there!

      Here’s an interesting comment on Amazon reviews for a butyrate product: “By Rosei on November 5, 2011 Amazon Verified Purchase
      Excellent product! Thanks! Used to heal lower GI track, took two after every meal. Did the trick. Constipation gone! Thank god~ ” (http://www.amazon.com/Pharmax-Butyrate-Complex-90-vcaps/dp/B0037V3WTA)

      So I’m definitely not completely alone in the success camp! I used Body Bio cal/mag. It says one-two with each meal (assuming meals three times daily). I stuck with that (two capsules three times daily), except sometimes I’d take the last dose before bed.

      Take care and have a great Christmas season!

  5. Pingback: Butyrate Series, Part 6 | The HSD

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      You never fail to make me laugh–wherever you show up! Printing the article now to read for later. I love having my questions answered. I was just thinking this morning how I need to get my questions together, take them over to one of the sites you are on, and see if you and your comrades in crime have any answers. I’ve been enjoying the taste of potato in my potato slurry. 😉

      1. Tim

        Ha Ha. Love this series, seriously! The new RS post is all I could have ever hoped to see. You got everything right and put your own spin on it. Dr. Oz had a guy on talking about RS and the whole thing was a steaming hot mess. So much misinformation it made me want to scream.

        Anyway, have you seen my infamous ‘Potato Diet’? http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread96746.html People love it, but the biggest thing it does is flood the intestine with butyrate like no ones ever seen. We eat 2-4 pounds of potatoes a day and lose about 1 pound a day. CICO has no impact on the potato diet. Most of the potatoes are of the cooked and cooled variety, and this diet provides somewhere between 30-60+g/day RS. Low carbers who haven’t had any RS go wild with this diet.

        Look into it, just for the butyrate connection. It’s so counter-intuitive it’s unbelievable, but it works amazingly well.

        Thanks again…I may steal some of your pics one day…

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Dear Tim (For those who may read comments, Tim is an infinite source of information regarding resistant starch. His work is all over the internet, and I am grateful because his conversations helped me a lot. But, reader, all things must be measured in relation to your own health and your own story.)

        1. Does “CICO” mean calorie in–calorie out, by chance?
        2. I re-read today, and had already read while researching, the thread on the potato diet. Interesting. Reminds me of Dr. Haas keeping his pediatric “celiacs” (before they had scopes, so probably a mixture of GI illnesses) on a “banana” diet. Perhaps the resistant starch in these two foods is a key.
        3. I wonder what you mean when you say “Low carbers who havent’ had any RS go wild with this diet.” I wonder what you’re referring to. Improved GI health? Improved energy? Improved mental clarity? Improved roundedness of their diet?
        4. My humble pics? Just a sampling of a homeschooling life!

        Take good care and keep learning and sharing!


  6. Lindsay

    I’m finding this all fascinating! Makes me wonder if I should start eating seaweed snacks again. I stopped once I realized they weren’t GAPS/SCD. Maybe it’s time to branch out…

    Also- my two-year-old eats 2-3 bananas every day. She is somewhat obsessed. Maybe she knows something I don’t. This whole butyrate/resistant starch thing is mind-boggling!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Good morning, Lindsay!

      It is so fascinating! I’m grateful for GAPS/SCD because it really helped my health a lot, but now that I’ve plateaued, it is nice to branch out! We do eat and like seaweed snacks a lot. In this instance, seaweed is GAPS legal but not SCD legal. Elaine was concerned with carrageenan so I think she lumped them together. It does look like some seaweed, probably some more than others, will produce short chain fatty acids:



      But, man! That stuff is so thin; how much would you have to eat? Regardless, it’s great for iodine! Mmmmmm.

      Funny about the bananas! Watch her eat…maybe we can learn more from that than scouring all these blogs!


  7. Nishka

    So grateful for your blog! I started the butyrate complex per my naturopath 3 days ago and so far just a lot of gas but I think I started out pretty constipated so we shall see. Excited to introduce more resistant starches in my diet. You’ve saved me so much time looking this information up myself 🙂 I have to say the butyrate piece might definitely pertain to me because shortly after this nightmare started for me (when I had the colonic obstruction at age 32; 3 months postpartum) they did a colonoscopy and found a tubulovillous adenoma rectal polyp. No history of polyps or colon cancer in my family. I wonder how antibiotics effect butyrate levels because I was on a lot of them growing up… Would love to not have to rely so heavily on the miralax and magnesium. Fingers crossed!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      No doubt! Fingers crossed. Worth a try! Antiobiotics definitely decrease butyrate and short chain fatty acid production. Here is a quote from H. pylori treatment antiobiotcs (amoxicillin and clarithromycin–but also a proton pump inhibitor):

      “Then we found that the total bacterial counts started to decrease…especially, obligate anaerobes, which are the dominant bacteria, were markedly reduced…these bacteria are know to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA)…previous studies have demonstrated a close correlation between a decrease in the viable count of anaerobes and a reduction of SCFA content…” (Effect of Clostridium butyricum on fecal flora in Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy. Shimbo. World J Gastroenterl. 2005.)

      The counts did come back up after about a month. The antibiotic also allowed more yeasts to grow. So antibiotics really seem to contribute to “dysbiosis.”

      The starch seems to be so slowly maybe working (?). Not as clear cut for me as butyrate was/is. In my mind, it’ll take maybe 1-2 months to see effects of the starch. I have nothing to back that up. Except I think in rats or mice they reached peak butyrate production at a month.

      I am trying to get together the next post but it’s moving so slow! Always so much information and then trying to figure out what to say in an organized fashion!

      I do so hope this works for you!!! But if not, I know there are still other factors to be considered and looked up!

  8. Nishka

    Interesting about the antibiotic, thank you! And by the way I don’t think the series are too long, I find them very organized and easy to understand and EXTREMELY helpful.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yeah! That was my goal for the series! Thank you SO much!

      (I just conveniently had that article next to me because I’m looking at butyrate increasing probiotics and that article was looking at that topic. It’s probably not the best, but it was handy.)

  9. Nishka

    I’m curious about your thoughts on something… I just thought about this after reading part 6. I take Panplex digestive enzymes because I tested low in pancreatic enzymes and I’m wondering if it will make the resistant starches less “resistant” by possibly breaking them down too much in the small intestine?? I’m wondering if it’s better not to take them when consuming resistant starches or even the butyrate for that matter since I take that with meals as well… So many questions 🙂

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      What a good question! I’m thinking if the starch is resistant and our amylase can’t get in to do its job anyhow, then probably the amylase of the digestive enzymes shouldn’t be able to get in either.

      As far as the lipase in the digestive enzyme, it actually works on what’s called a triglyceride (forgive me if you know all of this) to liberate the three fatty acids attached to the glycerol backbone. Since butyrate is already in its fatty acid form, the lipase should not pertain to it or cause it to be broken down. However, if somebody was taking tributyrin (a form I haven’t seen available but I’ve seen used in studies), I could see an issue. And come to think of it, that’s what’s in butter. So back to pointing out what a good question! And this wouldn’t necessarily decrease the butyrate available from tributyrin–just change where it was absorbed at–which studies seem to focus on.

      So I can’t see where it should interfere with resistant starch and as for supplemental butyrate, I can’t see where it would matter either. For those optimizing butyrate via high fat dairy, I could see an interaction if the two were “taken together.” This all make sense?

      Do the enzymes help a lot? I tried them over and over with different brands and such. I never noticed a difference for me. But I know for some people they are really helpful!

  10. Nishka

    Oh my goodness, that makes perfect sense! Thank you for clearing that up and I’m so glad you mentioned the connection with dairy because I’ve been thinking about adding butter, ghee or butter oil just not sure which and will have to make sure I space it out accordingly from the enzymes. I had also tried a few other enzymes on my own which did nothing but the naturopath recommended I try Panplex based on my test results and it helped a lot. It helped a little with the constipation but a lot with the cramping and bloating. Thank you again!

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

  12. Boundless

    > The Inuits lived on a primarily fat and meat diet.
    > Yet they had low rates of disease.
    > Where did their butyrate come from?

    Turns out there’s a lot of glycogen in those marine mammals.

    I suspect that we have a lot to learn yet from such still-existing cultures. Several of the contributors to the freetheanimal blog are doing considerable research on the Inuit. They may have some insight on the butyrate question. They’re pretty sure they’ve debunked the common assumption that the Inuit are even part-time ketotic. They counsel specifically against reading too much into Stefansson:

    > Wheat is a treat. Don’t get your fiber from wheat.

    Modern runt mutant goatgrass (misleadingly sold to you as semi-dwarf hybrid wheat), is a multiple-threat human toxin, and heirlooms are not much improvement (eat authentic paleo grains, get authentic paleo bad teeth). Many people report relief from ailments such as you have listed by zeroing out consumption of gluten-bearing grains (wheat, rye, barley – and gluten may not even be the main problem). Either Dr. Davis (Wheat Belly) or Dr. Permutter (Grain Brain) would be the place to start on that topic. Our family ditched wheat 3 years ago.

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

  14. JL

    I’m amazed at the wealth of knowledge here! Thank you for such a clear concise explanation of butyrate and the digestive system and most importantly FIBER! I’m here doing research on digestive health because recently my husband has had some weird issues. It began two months ago with hemorrhoids. He increased his daily intake of metamucyl, began eating fruits and veggies every day, limited his intake of dairy, and stop eating red meat all together. At first, he got better, the hemorrhoids went away for the most part and he has been free of them for the last 6+/- weeks. During the last two months his diet changed drastically. He’s a meat eater, although eats diversely and always ate some fruits and veggies (we also eat junk food a few times a week and “healthy” processed foods – I know, oxymoron). He began to eat triscuits every day (to increase fiber) and ate at subway a few times a week (the only “healthy” food on the go). The weird thing; the past few weeks he began to feel the sensation of having to go to the bathroom, 24/7. He would have to use the bathroom dozens of times a day, and if the feeling went away, it was back in a half hour. This has been debilitating for him. He saw a GI Dr who encouraged him to take a slew of tests that we are picking off one at a time (self pay, no insurance) although things keep getting worse. He also encouraged the FODMAP diet but didn’t offer any assistance in how to. You mentioned that fiber supplements made your symptoms worse, and I’m curious if they are making his worse too. He stopped taking it two days ago, and also finally made the plunge to go gluten free (which I know takes a while to get the hang of). I am so curious about how and why these fiber supplements are helpful for people. Do the good bacteria in our colons convert it to SCFAs including and especially butyrate? I was thinking about discussing butyrate supplements with him, however now I’m not convinced and believe that eating a healthy diet is better. But is it enough to cleanse his digestive system or is it more beneficial once the cleansing is complete? Thanks for listening to me blab. Doing my own research helps me make educated decisions about what to discuss with him and of course, about my own health.

    I recently took an Anthropology class “food and nutrition” and was hoping to learn more about the science but alas, it was mostly on culture. I did learn about many interesting example about western diet being introduced to indigenous peoples and how their health hit a steady decline (ex: Pima people in SW USA and their obesity and diabetes epidemic). My professor did talk at length about the Inuit peoples and how they are able to eat a diet primarily of meat because their genetics have evolved to adapt to this diet, much like Neanderthals were thought to have. And much like Neanderthals, they probably did eat seaweeds and other plant matters that were typical of the scarce landscapes they inhabited. The professor never mentioned where they got their butyrate from (surprised!?) but he did mention that because of their genetic difference they were able to avoid ketosis.

    Thanks again, your blog is amazing!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      1. Tick through any tests that rule out bad stuff, for sure. Abrupt change in bowel habits without a predisposing, known factor is concerning. You didn’t mention how old he was or if he was having blood or anything. But I’m sure his GI MD told you all that.
      2. Isn’t it crazy how he switched from one pattern to another? Now does sound like IBS/FODMAP. SIBO is something to check out too which goes along with same picture. Here is a nice little FODMAP link: https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-clinics/nutrition-services/resources/low-fodmap-diet.html.
      3. Yes, I think those fibers do help SCFA production for people. In fact, I read just the other day that psyllium (what’s in Metamucil) increases butyrate further down in the distal colon. Maybe why it helps and if you don’t have those bacteria it won’t? Dunno. Interesting. I don’t know what to think about butyrate supplements, as a few people seem helped (me), but not others. Food route is much preferable to increase butyrate and all the other good things good bacteria make. I’m a firm believer in food.
      4. Gluten, dairy, and processed foods of any sort cause confusion in people with GI issues. Of course, he may get frustrated because if all that is taken out AND FODMAPS, well, he’ll be back to just about meat only. 😦 It’s tough because food shouldn’t bring angst but for GI sufferers it does. If you keep looking and sorting, I think you’ll pinpoint it! (Of course, always watch for new symptoms that should prompt re-evaluation. I just don’t want anyone to miss a tumor or inflammatory bowel disease.)
      5. On the Inuit, I have recently read they may not have been in ketosis because they ate liver and blubber, which are high in glycogen–which would keep them out of ketosis. Plus the berries in the summer. Not my area, but fun to read. I was watching Andrew Zimmern once up in Alaska with people of native heritage and cooking. They had this fermented meat of some sort, and I wonder if they got butyrate from fermented stuff. Again, don’t know. Just wondering. It was so smelly, even he couldn’t eat it. The elder native shrugged his shoulders and dug in!

      Certain probiotics are useful for increasing butyrate production. I need to dust off my butyrate file and type that up, but I sadly know it will be some time before I do. Probiotics are just useful anyhow for many.

      Well, I wish you good luck! And your husband! Best wishes–


      1. JL

        Thank you so much for the reply!!! My husband is 39 and so far no blood! All of your response was great. Thank you. He’s going back to the GI Dr today with a list of questions for his new symptoms.
        I also asked my husband to ask his GI about butyrate to see what he says. Since he stopped the Metamucil last week the painful pressure has decreased a little but still has the sensation to “void” almost 24/7. He’s also been gluten free for a few days so that may be helping too.

        It’s such a long journey to figure out which foods are bothersome and which are basically poison. I personally have been on this journey for the past 12 years and in the last 4 years I have been feeling amazing (when I stay away from red meat and all dairy). More recently I’ve been cutting out processed foods because of what I’ve learned about how the body processes them. Needless to say, I’m thankful I started young! I loosely follow the Blood Type Diet because my mom has had amazing results. We are both type A. Some years ago she was 80+lbs overweight and had dangerous cholesterol. After just 6 months on the type A diet she lost almost 30lbs and her cholesterol was back in the safe zone. She still follows it mostly and has come down another 20-30lbs and feels great when she stays away from her “poison” foods. I think the main lesson for me is to eat the most naturally I can and leave the rest alone!

        Back to the Inuit, that is interesting about the blubber and liver preventing ketosis. I think I remembered learning something like that in the class I just took. I’m reading a handy guide: Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and there are dozens are leafy plants, roots, and berries that the native peoples ate. Some they canned and fermented so I wonder about which of those plants might contribute to the creation of butyrate.

  15. Aviva

    What an interesting article, and i have’t read all the others yet. I also don’t find all the time I would want for reading and researching…
    I got to your site in research for more information on the butyrate. It seems i found the right place. Ti wonder if there is no mistake here ““Generally, bacteria having an almost exclusive saccharolytic metabolism (i.e., no proteolytic activity) can be considered potentially beneficial. Such a metabolic profile is typical for lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.” Quote is just basically saying that good bacteria can’t break down protiens.) (9)
    The good bacteria lives on sugars? If so, aren’t we starving the good bacteria when we go on Gaps/SCD/Paleo? Or are the fermentable vegetables enough for these bactria to thrive?
    I got her since my daughter has Crohn’s disease and I am checking if butyrate could help her out of the flare she is in now (bloody diahrrea, sorry).
    I’ll be reading everything here/

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Aviva, Hello! And thanks for the question. The quote is accurately stated, but of course, it is a broad over-simplification. However, the bacteria in the GI tract DO need carbohydrates, although not so much simple “sugars” (and anyhow those should be, when GI works right, mostly absorbed early on and used by the body rather than the bacteria). Some experts are critical of GAPS/SCD/Paleo because they think they remove too many carbohydrates and then are detrimental to the bacteria and the body. A WELL-DONE GAPS diet/SCD diet can totally have enough carbohydrates to promote butyrate (and other short chain fatty acids) and give plenty of carbohydrates to break down–navy beans, lentils, peanut butter, nuts, peas, winter squash, fruit, and abundant vegetables (which is highly advocated). Paleo also has its sources: sweet potato, plantains, nuts, seeds, fruit, winter squash, and abundant vegetables. I think, if these foods are eaten, it is enough for the GI bugs. Unfortunately, many people see these diets as meat diets. I didn’t read them that way and interpret them that way. If we don’t eat these things and only eat the meat and fats, I believe we are disturbing the balance needed. Campbell-McBride and Gottschall didn’t intend their diets to be permanent. They encourage a branching out of diet as tolerated after a stint on the diet, even onto grains! My take is to eat as broad of a real food diet as a person desires and can tolerate and still feel good and function well. To heal, the diet may initially have to be bare bones (like GAPS intro) and supplements relied on. I think in this period you’ll “lose” both good and bad, but hopefully not the deep-seated “good” and you’ll be putting in supportive “good” in the ferments. The ferments are more for providing bacteria known to be good for the gut and that make good things for the gut environment. They, of course, also provide some “fiber” for “good” fermentation (but so would plain cabbage or carrots or broccoli, etc.) So in essence you’re starving out good and bad but providing optimum food for the good with the more complex carbs from the foods I listed AND putting in the ferments which provide the necessary metabolites and bacterial type to support a gut environment But eventually, a person should be able to branch out. If they can’t something is being missed which needs explored more deeply. I don’t know if this all made sense or not or addressed your question. My four kids are dinging me like a bell right now and just broke a porcelain duck figurine. So, ask back if needed! 🙂 Life is good! ~~Terri

      1. Aviva

        Hi Terri,
        I somehow missed your answer, and just found it. We were very busy since my daughter became very ill with what seems to be a medicine (Sulfazamine) allergy or “just” the side effects of that medicine. She is in the hospital for ten days now and now, after a transfusion and stopping her medicine she seems to recover.
        Thank you for your answer on the butyrate issue. When my daughter is out of the hospital we will start rebuilding her gut flora which for sure was damaged by the antibiotics she received. I ordered from USA the Cal-Mag Butyrate from Biotics and start using it with the probiotics. By the way, I was wondering if you can take 2 kinds of probiotics.
        I have read your post about your identity, and it is so true. Not only toddlers make you lose yourself, I feel it now with the hospital – the life just stops and it takes time till you can do other things or even think of other things. I really symphatize with you and find your posts heart-warming.
        Thanks again,

        P.S. You are talking to a Naturopath 🙂

  16. Roger B

    “And if you think this sounds boring, you are probably quite right.” Nothing that you write is boring, neither in content nor delivery.

  17. Eli

    R.Q.O.B. (Reigning Queen of Butyrate – that’s you btw) – I’ve really enjoyed your writing and theorizing on all things Butyrate …with all the chuckles mixed in. Anyway, just this morning I got to thinking (not always a good thing with me… lots of dead ends) about an experience I had in the mid 90’s. At that time, (and I still do) I was having severe intestinal problems. Through many referrals I ended up seeing an alternative practitioner of medicine who was highly recommended. He was trained in Acupuncture and was also one of the first in this country to have a really competent grasp of Ayurvedic medicine. Anyway, I ended up seeing him in his “office”. He was very very VERY alternative, not just in his practice, but in his life as well. He also was very smart. I saw him quite a few times and he prescribed for me many herbal concoctions, did heat therapy, Acupuncture and stuff like that. All to no avail. Anyway, after not seeing him for maybe a year, I ran into him in an Indian supply store, and he handed me a piece a ripped dirty napkin, with what looked like a bizzare recipe for an enema. The recipe was a odd mixture of herbs all decocted in goat milk, which all was to be boiled before inserting into your you-know-what. The recipe and the guy who gave it to me were just so strange, that I never even considered doing it even for a moment.
    Now in light of all that has been uncovered about Butyric acid, I’m reconsidering at least the concept. I know that But. enemas is something that folks have considered and possibly even implemented, but what is most interesting about this recipe is that someone, somewhere back in time figured out that something in goat milk had some curative properties for digestive issues. I’m sure a goat milk enema had it roots somewhere in the places where goat milk is common, like say in Afghanistan or some such place like that.
    It’s interesting to see that sometimes folk medicine is actually ahead of science, or rather that science sometimes is simply uncovering what folk medicine has figured and known out long ago.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      R.Q.O.B.—I like it! Just call me “The Queen B.” 😉

      What you shared, that sounds like a scene out of a movie!

      But you’re right! Goat’s milk is higher in butyrate. And I think that some people throughout time have had some VERY amazing observational skills which allowed them to see these subtle, helpful qualities in certain things! Someone pointed out to me that butyrate is used in skin-care products! This is fascinating to think about given the historical idea that goat’s milk soap is good for the complexion!

      We have so much to learn, and it’s right in front of our faces!

      Have a great month! Thanks for reading!

  18. Sabrina

    I believe I have read somewhere, one way the Inuit people may have snuck a little more fiber into their diet, in addition to what others have said, was by eating the stomach contents of whatever animal they ate. So if they ate a deer that had already partially digested grasses, they ate them too.

    I would like to note though, that the Inuit people were not specifically healthy and did not live particularly long lives.

    J G Fodor, E Helis, N Yazdekhasti, B Vohnout. “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story: facts or wishful thinking? Can J Cardiol. 2014 Aug;30(8):864-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25064579
    P Bjerregaard, T K Young, R A Hegele. Low incidence of cardiovascular disease among the Inuit–what is the evidence? Atherosclerosis. 2003 Feb;166(2):351-7.
    M R Zimmerman. The paleopathology of the cardiovascular system. Tex Heart Inst J. 1993;20(4):252-7.
    J Dyerberg, H O Bang, N Hjorne. Fatty acid composition of the plasma lipids in Greenland Eskimos. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975 Sep;28(9):958-66.
    I M Rabinowitch. Clinical and Other Observations on Canadian Eskimos in the Eastern Arctic. Can Med Assoc J. 1936 May;34(5):487-501.
    E C Rizos, E E Ntzani, E Bika, M S Kostapanos, M S Elisaf. Association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk of major cardiovascular disease events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012 Sep 12;308(10):1024-33. doi: 10.1001/2012.jama.11374.
    R De Caterina. n-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2439-50.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Sabrina,

      Thank you so much for taking time to leave a comment. I have not visited this topic (the Inuit diet and health status) for quite some time now, so it was good to revisit it! I firmly believe it is ALWAYS good to challenge what we take for granted. In this case it would be the idea that Inuit ate mostly fat and meat and were healthy. (Please note that I advocate plant matter and finding carbs/prebiotics/fibers that work for a person that will also help promote gut health. I believe that can look different in different individuals. Most of us can never eat the way ancestral Inuit did, which would give them unique forms of “prebiotics”/”fibers.”)

      The Rabinowitch (1936) article had the biggest impact on me. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1561651/?page=6) It also noted exactly what you said about eating the stomach contents. In addition, the author describes that by this time (1936), some Inuit were dependent on the supplies the Europeans brought (others were not); some were employed by the police in the settlements (to me indicating a stark deviation from what I envision as an ancestral way of living); many Inuit in various locations had flour in their tents (often correlating with hunting conditions); hunters were “healthier” than trappers (Would trappers have more interactions with Europeans and their foods?); tooth quality improved the further north away from the Bay posts the Inuit were; and lastly, if I understood correctly, arteriosclerosis seemed less the further north and west away from the eastern Bay posts the Inuit were.

      I guess I’m thinking that even as early as 1936, we can no longer assess the ancestral diet. It seems the further north away from posts the Inuit person was, the “healthier” (as judged by teeth, coloring, arteriosclerosis) the person was according to this 1936 article–which would seem to imply that the more ancestral the diet, the healthier the Inuit. That, at least for these people living their particular lifestyle, suggests that their fats/protein/carbohydrate counts were adequate and health-giving for them.

      I did see references to “mummies” with arteriosclerosis and osteoporosis in this region. I would like to follow up on that one day for myself. And compare it to other “mummies” found at this time in different areas. I’ve also read that the arteriosclerosis may not have correlated with symptomatic cardiovascular disease.

      I feel like most of the articles you link to and those I read on my own (from Campbell and McDougall) really focus on the statistics from the 70s and after. I feel like that data will be skewed more to a Western profile. I do NOT want to be blind and have bias, so I’m welcome to any other comments!!! And I do at some point for myself need to follow up on the “mummy” findings.

      Well, time to go get off my butt and off this computer!

      Again, I thank you for giving me something to think about.

      Terri F

      Addition: I found this after typing reply…worth reading to help formulate opinion…



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