Butyrate

I have personally found butyrate and butyrate-producing foods to benefit my GI tract greatly, particularly in the area of improved, faster motility and also in minimizing my food intolerances.  But research touts that it has far-reaching effects above and beyond that, from cancer to diabetes to beyond!  Manufacturers of food have considered ways to boost the butyrate or butyrate-producing power of their processed foods because of its health-promoting power.  I don’t like processed foods; they’re a deforested, barren land.  I much prefer real foods.  My series on butyrate intends to explain butyrate and how the body can get improved butyrate access and/or production.  Real food matters.  Plant matter is the optimal fuel to create butyrate for our bodies, at least as I understand it now.  (I allow myself an “out” because protein and things like mucin can be used by bacteria to make butyrate.  It is not quite understood fully how effective and beneficially these sources are for us.  Time and research may tell.)

Part 1

Begins to discuss butyrate.  Focuses more on introducing the concept of bacteria in our body which need plant matter to produce butyrate–but it does so in a real-life, approachable way.  Uses examples from my life and imagination to help explain.  (Reaching out to parents and kids to improve diet is important to me.)

Part 2

Recaps part one a bit.  Introduces the concept of short chain fatty acids.  Explains the digestion of carbohydrates which is important to understand later on.

Part 3

Includes a recap.  Then, discusses that plant matter is not making it to the terminal colon and why that could be detrimental.  Reminds “low-carbers” to make sure and still get enough plant matter for good health/colon health.  Sets the reader up for the question, “But how can we get butyrate to our GI tracts?”.

Part 4

“Fun” quiz at beginning about butyrate.  Discusses foods which actually contain butyrate in them.

Part 5

Discusses what “fiber” is.  Very important concept which has been detrimentally oversimplified.  Discusses what fiber is, different kinds of fiber, fermentability of different fibers, and which fibers bring about butyrate production.

Part 6

Reminds us that there is no one, single diet best for us all.  Discusses resistant starch.  Shows some resistant starch content of various foods.  Discusses the complexities of determining resistant starch content of foods.

Part 7

A little, personal ditty.  A tiny recap.  Discussion of supplements, in general.  A list with links of readily available butyrate supplements.  (Remember, for me, my goal is to always get OFF of supplements!)  A list and description of non-readily available butyrate products.

Part 8:  This will discuss how bacteria “cross-feed” each other.  So probiotics can help increase butyrate and also cultivating bacteria which make by-products that will feed the butyrate producers.  I have many of the articles pulled, but getting the article written has been interrupted by research on what is more pressing and expedient in my life.  As of 12/25/15, I am still working on this ever so slowly.

Butyrate and Constipation

Title summarizes post.

Butyrate Is Important for You

Summarizes the known effects of butyrate, and they are many!  Read to see what butyrate has been purported to help with.

A Kid’s Conversation on Butyrate (Fiber–To Way Oversimplify)

A little conversation I had with my kids to explain how bacteria eat “fiber” and turn it into butyrate to help us.  A motivational post to encourage us to eat for our bodies and help our kids do the same.

An External Link to Another Series

Here is an interesting short chain fatty acid (Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid.) series that I was just sent a link to. I think it’s always good to read all kinds of opinions when learning about something. SCFAs: Part 1. The author in Part 3 discusses the butyrate paradox that always prevented me from being an all-out butyrate supplement supporter. I still don’t feel like I understand the paradox (when increasing butyrate seems to be detrimental), but we cannot deny that research suggests that it exists! (Try to eat real food rather than supplement a weak diet, please.)

17 thoughts on “Butyrate

  1. Christian

    I am very happy to have found your site. Well written and referenced. Of course I read many other sources regarding resistant starch as well and I was wondering if you have ever run across info regarding digestive enzymes. I often take a Pancreatin enzyme which contains Amylase. Would taking this with meals containing fiber and resistant starch negate the benefits by making the resistant starch more digestible?

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Christian,

      I do not think that the amylase in your Pancreatin will be able to break down the RS that you eat very much at all. The way I understand it, the amylase (whether the amylase our bodies make or the supplements we take) can’t “get at” the bonds it needs to “work on” due to the physical structure of the resistant starches. Amylase just doesn’t have the physical access to do its chemical job! It appears that RS3 (reheated potatoes, legumes) is really not able to be affected by amylase at all because of the retrogradation. RS2 (raw potato, green banana) may be affected a little but not much.

      Thanks for the question. I tried to Google a source for you quickly because its nice to have sources. Here’s an article which kind of explains this. I don’t think it’s a “great” article, as I saw a couple of typos in the section “Starch and its classification.” But if you read pages 2, 3, and 4, it states what I stated above. There are probably better articles, but for sake of time, I’ll just link to this. 🙂

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2006.tb00076.x/abstract

      Terri

      Reply
  2. Christian

    Thank you Terri for your time and effort. Yes it does seem that the enzymes will not negatively impact any of the major benefits of introducing resistant starch into the diet. I feel better knowing that my digestive enzymes will provide benefits in breaking down much of the food but leave me with the benefits I was looking for in the starch realm.
    Thanks again for your time!
    Christian

    Reply
  3. Hélène

    Its prob up above but what is R1 if raw potato and plantain are R2 and reheated potatoes, beans and, I assume, rice are R3?

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      RS type 1 is what’s locked up inside the cell wall of a whole seed or grain, like a kernel of wheat.

      Keep in mind that a food may have a combination of the different types of RS and even different levels of the same kind. RS is not a number’s kind of person’s favorite substance to tally and keep track of. 😦

      Depending on the type of potato it is determines how much RS it has. How the potato is cooked determines how much RS it has. If the potato is raw, it has RS type 2, and if it’s cooked and cooled it has RS type 3. Beans can have RS type 1 (cell wall) and 3. It’s a mix, depending on the food, hybrid, how it’s cooked, if it’s cooled, what part you’re eating.

      It’s a mix and match kind of thing.

      Reply
  4. Linda of Pittsburgh

    What an amazing amount of work you have put into these articles. Thank you so much. Having had gastro issues from being put on antibiotics (12 years old) for acne many years ago, (until 25 years old) began suffering constant upper respiratory infections (yes, taking even more antibiotics). March 2016, gastro doc had me do the hydrogen breathing test, which showed SIBO. Previously had been treated for IBS, C and D, and diverticulosis (big-time antibiotics) for years. After the hydrogen test, was told had SIBO, and put on Rifaximin. Two bouts of it, and it did help, but not enough. My gastro didn’t know about FODMAPS. (Just as an aside: after one too many bouts of diverticulitis, or maybe was not diverticulitis, he told me diet had nothing to do with stomach issues.) However, am very grateful he decided on testing. Began researching SIBO big time, and FODMAPS were the beginning. Cut out mushrooms (ate almost every night!) and onions, cut down on amount of nightly broccoli, limiting to 1/2 cup each night. (I still go overboard with broccoli from time to time, and then suffer) Then an article about resistant starch lead me to believe that may hold part of the answer. Eating a pat of high quality butter from Ireland, about 3x a day, and a cold, cooked potato every night, has been my new medicine. Still have issues from time to time, but am learning something new every week, something else that effects the gut. Trail and error, but it’s working. And so much to digest (lol) from your extensive research. Wonderful. Thanks so much again for this series. Wish a copy could be left in every waiting room for people with gut issues to read. Blessings HSD!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Linda, Thanks for the words! As I am a live studio, they are always appreciated! You’ve had quite a path! Oh, my goodness! SO many antibiotics!!!! Thanks for sharing your story. I hope your GI tract responds well to all your doing for it!

      So the butter is helping? The potatoes are helping? That’s awesome, if so! Tim Steele, nicknamed Tater Tot, would be happy to hear, if so.

      I was doing great on RS whole foods until I had a surprise pregnancy really no supplements at all needed. Getting my gut motility back since then has been tough, but I am confident. Pregnancy and motherhood of a young children must take a toll, as I wasn’t able to simply repeat my steps and get back spontaneous motility like I thought I could/would! For me, butyrate production has been key, even still. I know that not everyone will respond to butyrate and/or foods thought to be butyrate-producing. But, I do! Our GI tracts are uniquely different, and there is NO one-size fits all prescription!!! I do want to write up why, eventually. But my kids, family, and friends come first. So I just strongly encourage people to find plant foods/prebiotics/fibers (RS, inulin, baobao, beta glycans, whichever!!!) that agree with them. At first, our GI tracts are so dysbiotic, it may feel like nothing agrees! But time and patience and trial and error and knowledge and seeking usually trump. (Perhaps I should have chosen a better word, but I refuse to let politics and arguing to determine my language. Refuse. 🙂 )

      Since these articles, I’ve learned that I am what is called an FUT2 non-secretor. As I am very healthy aside from constipation and necessity for a eating a low inflammatory diet, for me this is really not the issue that you’ll find on the internet if you Google it—well, unless people are eating “standard American diet.” BUT it could help explain why I have to be very strict with eating right to keep things working properly. It contributes to lower amounts of normal flora. I do have the normal flora, but in lower amounts. I know this because I’ve gut tested. Interestingly enough, after a month of very high fiber, the flora did respond positively. So I feel I just have to work harder to feed them properly.

      Butyrate still helps me when I am having flares of my bad motility. I am currently trying some tributyrin I was able to source, but it has only been a week of that. But my goal in life still is to be mostly supplement free as my diet allows. Well, that’s the update here, if anyone is reading. Oh, yes, and I did try some Clostridium butyricum; it didn’t help me at all, at least that I noticed. Maybe I didn’t give it long enough.

      Warmest wishes to all!

      Terri

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Maddy! How are ya’!? I ordered some tributyrin from the site below. I do not want to endorse them in any way—nor do I mean to non-endorse. I was simply curious and wanted to try. Motility has been great this first five days. No magnesium needed last night! But side effect has been headache, which I also had when I started butyrate for the first time back when I wrote my initial string of butyrate posts.

      https://eliehs.com/shop

      Reply
  5. Kelsey

    Hello Terri!

    Do you think there is something to be said about directly supplying the butyrate (from butter or other dairy sources) versus indirectly supplying the butyrate for our colonocytes by feeding the intestinal bacteria fibers to allow their production of the metabolite? I have seen many people raving about butyrate and taking on trends such as “bulletproof coffee” which is advertised to be so beneficial due to the butyrate in butter.

    It seems as though the most benefit comes from allowing our gut biome to ferment to give us the butyrate, so as to not only support our own health, but to also support the health of the bacteria. What do you think? I would love some recommendations to resources you trust. Thank you so much!

    Warmly,
    Kelsey Barnett
    Naturopathic Medical Student Year 1

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Kelsey,

      I wish you the absolute best in naturopathic school and eventually in practice. I hope it is a wonderful experience.

      On taking butyrate directly: I have not, up to this point, found much at all which explains what happens to the butyrate once it’s absorbed across the enterocytes early in transit. It goes to the liver, and then I lose what happens. Most articles just say, “Oral butyrate is not helpful because it’s absorbed too early.” However, it must do something as it is one of the few compounds (phenylbutyrate) to have done anything for ALS. (It hasn’t done much, don’t get me wrong and it may not translate/is not translating to humans. But it suggested something where most things suggest NOTHING for ALS. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03077.x/pdf) I would eventually like to learn more of the metabolism/physiology of butyrate post absorption across the enterocytes/colonocytes. If anyone reading knows, do enlighten me!

      The butyrate in butter/high fat dairy is tributyrin. It, I believe, is absorbed more slowly than plain butyrate salt (like sodium butyrate). So will make it further to promote better intestinal health (and if absorbed, do whatever systemic effects butyrate does that I just don’t have a great grip on). It, from my reading, is absorbed before the colon, so it is often called “useless.” But as I pointed out above, I don’t think it’s useless. Finding what it (butyrate) specifically does post-absorption, though, is challenging.

      On getting butyrate via fermentation: I agree that getting butyrate via fermentation is the best idea. Eating prebiotics/fiber allows butyrate production directly and indirectly. Lactate and acetate (as by-products of prebiotics/fiber) very often get converted to butyrate in the colon. By feeding the bacteria which like the prebiotics/fiber, then you get more bacterial producers of butyrate and lactate and acetate. You get a better pH environment. And so on.

      So by eating food rather than just taking butyrate, then you’re getting “more” bang for your buck. The problem comes in when patients have severely dysbiotic/dysfunctional guts. I think for them to eat prebiotics/fiber can make them very uncomfortable and more symptomatic! So maybe in these people, or people who just need more butyrate to overcome a problem, butyrate supplementation is a great thing, hopefully allowing them to have better GI health so they can add in real food for natural butyrate production.

      I have my citations at the end of each butyrate post; I’ve lost count of how many there are (and I’m working on another or two—-but it will be a long time before I get them posted). I just try to read everything I can and then keep an open mind. No one person seems to have it all right. So I don’t really “trust” anyone. (That’s a sad state to live in, eh? Never trusting anyone. 🙂 ) But on hand, I don’t have any other resources. I just like to Google every component. Like:

      butyrate and ALS
      acetate and butyrate
      lactate and butyrate
      butyrate and pH
      butyrate and SIBO
      butyrate in the liver
      absorption of tributyrin
      production of butyrate from resistant starch
      production of butyrate from inulin

      …and so on. That’s how I search. Then, when I read all these links that turn up, I get a thousand more leads! And on goes the rabbit hole! I know you don’t have time for that though!

      GOOD LUCK with everything!!!! Study hard!!!!

      Terri Fites

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Lucy,

      Thank you so much for the link to your series AND for all the work you have put out there for all of us to see on the internet. I’m so glad you’re doing this series. It is great. And your site is so neat and clean and tidy. Like it a lot! I wish you ALL the best in your MD/PhD training. You are so lucky to know this “alternative stuff” BEFORE med school! Then you can truly integrate it. I’m so excited for you. Go affect your world!

      The butyrate paradox always scared me when writing my series. I tried never to ignore it as I developed my writing, even if I wasn’t explicitly pointing it out in each paragraph or post. That is why I always tried to encourage people to look for some form of real food that they could tolerate which would encourage butyrate producers/butyrate production. The “What if?” was consciously there. Whereas, if a person tolerates onions or homemade potato salad, then come on, who can argue with that? So I loved reading your post.

      I’ve had many questions and comments about butyrate in certain cases being “bad,” and your post can help people wade the waters better. Thank you.

      I look forward to following along! I’ve updated my “Butyrate” page with an external link to your series. I think anyone who stumbles across my blog would enjoy reading your series.

      Have a good one—

      Terri

      Reply
  6. Natalie

    Hi Terri! Thank you so much for writing about butyrate! I have been searching for more info about it from a qualified source. I haven’t read the whole series yet (I’m a mom of 3, teacher, wife, and terribly busy as I know you understand!). I started having pain down there this past March. After a painful 6 months a 2 colonoscopies later, my final dx was colitis/procitits. That’s why it hurt down there so much, Terribly painful, but thankfully no blood or diarrhea, just pressure and canker sore like pain. My GI started me on sulfasalzine back in October. I decided to try this sodium butyrate from BodyBio I found on Amazon and after a few days my taste changed. My gastro was not happy that I tried this stuff from Amazon, but he did think the taste change was probably due to the sulfasalazine. Now I have been on Lialda for about 6 weeks and my taste is almost back to normal, but still a little off. I haven’t done the butyrate since I started Lialda but I really want to try it again, but I’m scared. I thought about why it’s taking so long to heal down there (because I’m not that much, better, a little bit but still lots of pressure and pain). Maybe I need to try to do a butyrate enema? Seems like I need to get medicine directly down there. I tried Canasa suppositories, but they didn’t help that much either. Anyways, do you know where I can find butyrate suppositories or enema? My gastro is still skeptical but I’m willing to try anything to be normal again. I have lost 30 pounds and have suffered from anxiety and insomnia because of this terrible proctitis. Prior to this year, the only medicine I had ever taken was Tylenol and Motrin. This has been a nightmare! Thanks for any advice. Happy Holidays!!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Natalie,

      I’ve enjoyed writing about butyrate. Thanks for reading. I’m sorry you’re going through this terrible pain and discomfort AND still trying to lead a normal teaching, mom-ing, wife-ing, and just being! I don’t know that I can relate to your pain totally, but I remember times when I’d have sharp, shooting pain and urgency but no real gut movement. Just pain and urgency. (Tenesmus is the medical word.) My colonoscopy showed nonspecific colitis. Who even knows what that would have been. But anyhow, I try to imagine going through my daily activities with that pain being persistent and even stronger than it was for my rare moments, and all I can think is, ouch. And be strong. Be strong. You’ll make it through this.

      Butyrate enemas and suppositories are different because no manufacturer makes them up pre-made, and they would need to be compounded by a pharmacist. Most pharmacies now-a-days do very little compounding. So I’d ask your normal pharmacist to refer you to the compounding pharmacy that they usually recommend to patients who end up needing specially compounded prescriptions. Your doctor would need to write the prescription for it, but then this compounding pharmacy would mix it up for you. If your doctor is not familiar with it, it might be helpful to have a reference to a an actual study that used butyrate enemas with a description in the material and methods of the enema (If you look in the materials and methods, you can see what form of butyrate they used, the concentration, what it was diluted in, etc.). I tried to find that quickly for you, but you know how it is when you search for studies—so often all you can get is the abstract, so you have to dig hard to get more. Or conversely, if you got the name of the compounding pharmacy, then you could call them and ask them about compounding butyrate enemas and what your doctor should write on the prescription then you could discuss it with your doctor. Does this all make sense?

      I’ve also read of people just diluting the contents of butyrate capsulses and giving enemas that way. I’ve never tried that, and I don’t know about that. I just worry about contaminants in supplements. The rectum is a special place to deliver drugs through due to its unique blood flow, so ideally, really pure, appropriate ingredients are indicated. I also understand, though, that these peole are desperate for relief and most have exhausted the resources of their conventional medical doctors. I also think that there are naturopaths out there who use butyrate enemas/suppositories and they’d have more experience to share on how they use it rectally.

      I know for myself, following an autoimmune type of diet relieved the bouts of tenesmus that I described above (my main purpose, though, was slow transit relief but at times I did have these symptoms I described above). I did an elimination diet (using whole, real foods, no processed foods) and was able to identify which foods make my colon aggravated. For me, eggs were a very surprising culprit. Eggs seem to bring back tenesmus. Weird. I know. But I know that for controlling my symptoms, I was very, very relieved to find autoimmune protocols (Terry Wahls, Paleo, and others) which allowed control of my symptoms—and then I have slowly played with the diets and worked on overall health (sleep, exercise, stress, mindset, foods, relationships, reducing exposures to plastics, chemicals, etc.) until I can eat a much more normal diet and feel and fuction pretty well just all around! So I always recommend to people to eat whole, real foods exclusively in flares and then tailor it even more strongly if that’s not helping—by eliminating dairy, eggs, grains, nuts, legumes, or anything they suspect.

      I have found that butyrate helps me. It’s a longer story than that, but that’s the gist of it. There are foods that the bacteria eat in your colon which they make butyrate out of. Leftover potatoes, green bananas, beans/lentils, leftover cassava root, green plantains (leftover cooked green plantains—called mofongo in Puerto Rico). I hate to use supplements, but when I found that butyrate helped me, I switched to using Bob’s Red Mill potato starch (NOT potato flour) as a slurry in water. I have found that very helpful for slow transit. (Again, there’s a longer story to that, but again, that’s the gist of it with some caveats.) That is one of the most powerful butyrate “produces” there is.

      Well, I could write all day. But my kids are all up, and they’re buzzing for Christmas. I’m listening to a story about our little elf right now.

      I have another buytrate post I’m trying to get teed up (working on the citations—the most tedious, dry, terrible part). It discusses the probiotic Clostridium butyricum which is known to increase butyrate in the colon. You might enjoy reading and learning about that (in all your free time, right!?!?).

      Bottom line of all that—it might be helpful to try a butyrate enema, but they’re more difficult logistically to obtain. Some people benefit from them greatly and some don’t. Depends on which study you look at. If only we knew which would make some responders and some not, that’d be awesome. You’re clearly in a position of physical misery (a 30 pound weight loss?? persistent tenesmus??), so I’d like to think that a reasonable doctor is up to trying something that is financially feasible, known to be safe, and even has some studies behind it. But due to the pressured environment of medicine today (more and more patients, more and more documentation required, more and more law suits, more and more guidelines that are mandated to be followed regardless of patient individuality, etc), you’re probably going to have to work extra hard to go outside the box.

      I wish you well. Merry Christmas to you and all your family. God is good, and I always know (even if I’m mad about it and don’t like it), that God is leading me somewhere. I hope you come out stronger and wiser on the other side of this physical challenge.

      Terri F

      Reply

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