Tag Archives: butyric acid

The Unglorious Call to Action

IntestineThat is a personal problem.  Not a medical problem.

Here’s the poop.  No.  No.  I mean scoop.  My call to nutritional voodoo was, well, to say the least, not a glorious one.  Other nutritional blog hosts–oh such extraordinary, amazing recovery stories from horrible illnesses like multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.  Motivating and inspiring us all to higher eating!  My issue–hmmm.  Right.  Not so inspiring.  Considered by the uninformed to be a personal problem, not a medical problem.  Ah, well.  Even if I arrived in Nutritional Nirvana via a clumsy fall on my derriere, I am here all the same.  My gut is working.  And the pursuit of that goal is pretty much what started this blog.

My History

I’m a 39 year-old female.  I have had chronic constipation all of my life.  Although not a common issue, I can remember twice in high school when I had horrible stomach cramps prompting me to head to the nurse’s office.  On the way, the visceral pain overcame me, and I passed out leaning against the lockers in the hall.  As a sixteen year-old girl I did not make the connection between constipation and these symptoms.  Neither did anyone else!  “You just need to eat more.”  Mmm-kay.  It never dawned on me that my gut was trying to move against a brick and it hurt!  I thought bricks were normal.  I mean, nobody talks about bowel movements at 16!  (I suppose I’m not supposed to talk about them ever.  But since I’m a medical doctor, no orifice or function makes me blush.)

Each decade, my GI function worsened, and I did finally realize in pharmacy school that my gut was abnormal.  The next ten years brought rounds of different fiber preparations (I can make darn tasty desserts with Metamucil wafers), docusate, milk of magnesia, magnesium supplements, suppositories, Miralax, yogurt, probiotics, prunes, shredded wheat (half a box a day), and finally, despite my attempts to only use them sparingly, daily stimulant laxative became required.  Mind you, even with those stimulant laxatives which were needed at doses which would kill a normal human being, my bowel movements still only occurred about every five to ten days and still were not easy to pass.  My gut was slowing down from slow to stop and becoming refractory to everything I knew to try.  I visited several doctors through the years and I always got the same answer:  more fiber and water.  Got a colonoscopy.  Pretty negative.  Got checked for low thyroid and celiac disease.  Negative.

I decided to think outside of the box and took to the wilderness of internet medicine.  Talk about crazy.  How do some of these people say these things without a license?  Guess I’m glad they can because it tipped me off in the right direction, and I embarked on the odd diet called GAPS (at least that founder has a medical license)–before I knew about Paleo which sounds way cooler than GAPS.  (Ha!  Ha!  I actually have landed on a diet which has no name but uses the templates of several diets.)  GAPS helped me identify food intolerances and taught me how to eat a nutrient dense diet.  It got my gut usually responding again to high dose magnesium (Natural Calm), but I don’t think high dose magnesium is good to take for the rest of my life.  So my endeavors persisted.  My goal is NO supplement for my constipation.  For myself, I try to use supplements as a bridge to achieve my health goals.  Once my health goal is achieved, I’d like to try to maintain it with food choices if I can.  However, I recognize there are conditions which will require lifelong dependence on medicines and/or supplements, not to mention declining content of certain nutrients in our food sources.

Achieving Success

This week I’ve lived large, taken a chance, and dropped the magnesium which sustained me through pregnancy.  My gut is working daily!  Back in November 2013, my gut was also working very well daily, and I was set to write this post back then.  I had started butyrate (butyric acid), and although it isn’t supposed to make it to the colon, it worked like a charm on my gut.  My GI tract moved daily and even my stupid food intolerances seemed diminished just in time for Thanksgiving.

But I hate supplements (please know that I do take some). I wanted to allow my body (I consider those bacteria in my gut to be part of my body.) to make its own butyrate, so  I tried to incorporate green bananas, green plantains, cold potatoes, occasional bites of raw potato and sweet potato, some legumes, and potato starch slurried up in water each night to get my own gut bacteria to make butyrate.  Things were going great.  Just great!  I was able to stop my butyrate and still have the same effects.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.

Then, we were blessed with pregnancy.  Let me rephrase that.  We were blessed with a baby.  Pregnancy is no sleigh ride with jingle bells. (Increased constipation has always been in an issue in pregnancy.  This time was much better.  There was a time at about 14 weeks along where my gut completely stopped and nothing I did made it move.  I got worried, but after a couple of weeks, that lifted and magnesium helped again.)  However, I worked through all the food and supplement aversions and stomached magnesium, which I needed again every single day in excessive doses.  I bid “good-bye” to butyrate and resistant starch foods, which sounded disgusting during this time.  I delivered in July a beautiful, healthy girl.

About two weeks ago, I decided it was again time to get rid of that excessive magnesium and all that it was probably doing to my calcium balance.  Besides that, the magnesium didn’t always work daily.  I decided to take butyrate again and started incorporating resistant starch foods into my diet.  Would the experiment work for me again?  I was nervous since I had proclaimed success with butyrate in fall of 2013.  What if it failed?  I would have reported it, you know.  But I would have felt very stupid because I never want to lead anyone astray.  The experiment for me has successfully repeated itself.  Now all that needs to happen is to continue the resistant starch foods and see if I can taper myself off of the butyrate supplement.


So you see, mine is not the most glorious nutritional conversion story there is.  But it’s real.  It has convinced me that eating a nutrient dense diet, excluding inflammatory foods, and supporting the body’s bacterial flora is key to health and curing disease.  I am pretty much 100% convinced that this experiment would never have worked two and one-half years ago in the gut that I had then.  I’ve worked very hard and tried a lot of things to rehabilitate my broken colon.  In the next post, I am going to list what I feel has been most important for getting my gut peristalsis in working order.  I will report what worked for me.  Don’t assume that what works for me will work for you.  I want to make sure you seek the advice of your doctor; I don’t want you to overlook serious health conditions because you’ve given up on conventional medicine.  Don’t use my story as medical advice.  That it is not.  This is my story.

Photo credit:

Originally from en.wikipeida.  Author Dflock.  Now public domain.

Butyrate Series, Part 7


We have made it to butyrate supplements.

Diet-wise, I follow the GAPS diet with modifications resembling a Paleo Diet/Autoimmune Paleo Diet –with some low carb stints thrown in to try to achieve my health goals.  I don’t have any lofty goals of looking like a runway model or movie star.  I’m still a little young to be much scared about cancer.  I don’t hang out with a fitness crowd to bring out my competitive inner edge.  My labs and ideal body weight have always checked out ideal.

I started the GAPS diet for exceptionally severe, idiopathic constipation and tweaked it here and there based on my research.  The symptoms I have changed include headaches, chronic allergy symptoms, fatigue, dry eyes, strange premature hot flashes, and I could go on.  My gut improved, but I still thought it could work better.  Several months ago, I started following some leads on nerve regeneration in the gut, and they lead me to butyrate.  I decided I would try an oral butyrate supplement, despite the researchers all saying a delayed release product was probably necessary.  If, by some chance, oral butyrate helped me, I would then focus on tweaking my diet some more to obtain butyrate naturally through food.  I was amazed when oral butyrate worked for me, particularly as I didn’t even choose a sustained release formulation.  If I stopped butyrate, my symptoms returned.  When I resumed it, my symptoms resolved.  So I’ve been working to try to increase forms of fiber and resistant starch that I tolerate–I’ve defined these in previous butyrate posts.

Ways I see to increase butyrate:

1. Eat foods with butyrate (butyrate-containing foods), like high fat dairy products such as butter. (Part 4)
2. Eat foods that your bacteria can make butyrate from (butyrate-producing foods), like fiber and
resistant starch.

3. Take butyrate supplements.
4. Take butyrate producing probiotics and prebiotics.

A bit about butyrate production.

Aside from the pharmaceutical industry, butyric acid is also used in the manufacture of plastics, varnishes, disinfectants, perfumes, and cosmetics. (Butyric acid and butyrate are interchangeable terms for our conversation.)  The American Food and Drug Administration has even approved it as an additive to food, beverages, and flavorings in the form of tributyrin. (1)  You’ll see more on tributyrin below.  (Humorous:  I also found it is used in fish bait: Carp Fishing Pellets.  Nice.)

The organic structure of butyrate is simple. It is just four connected carbons saturated with hydrogens with a carboxylic acid on the end of the chain. The manufacture of butyric acid is mainly from chemical synthesis using crude oil extracts. Crude oil extracts provide cheap, readily available ingredients. Butyrate can be extracted from butter, but the process is reportedly more difficult and expensive. Another way to obtain butyrate is through bacterial fermentation (the way we naturally get it from resistant starch and fiber in our colons). Bacteria are given the appropriate matter, and they ferment it to make butyrate. The fermentation method interests manufacturers because of the growing interest in “natural” sources for foodstuff. (1)  Butyric acid itself is a bit corrosive, and in supplements it will be found as a salt form.

My concerns with oral butyrate supplementation–and supplements in general.

My concerns with oral butyrate supplements are not unique to butyrate; they are the same concerns I have with supplements in general. Butyrate seems to have a pretty good track record. I mean, as I mentioned above, it’s even approved by the FDA for flavorings. But any time I take a supplement I ask myself a battery of questions. Could there be impurities, such as heavy metals? What is the proper dose? Does the supplement contain the amount of active ingredient it says it does? What if people take enormous amounts? Should there be a concern with unopposed supplementation? (What I am thinking of here pertains to “ratios.” For example the ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium supplementation. Or the ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.) What are the side effects?

Butyrate seems pretty non-toxic as long as the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines are adhered to.  One study found that escalating doses in mice lead to kidney swelling– in humans the equivalent dose would be 7-8 grams in humans.  (2, 3)  To put it into perspective, the butyrate supplement I tried recommends a dose of up to 3.6 grams.  Another study specifically points out that in vitro, butyrate has positive effects until a certain point at which it has an opposite, detrimental effect:

“We conclude that the effect of butyrate on the intestinal barrier is paradoxical; i.e. whereas low concentrations of butyrate may be beneficial in promoting intestinal barrier function, excessive butyrate may induce severe intestinal epithelial cell apoptosis and disrupt intestinal barrier.” (4)

And finally, here is a nice toxicology report on butyric acid from the Environmental Protection Agency,  “Screening Information Data Sets” (SIDS). The report was accumulated for the SIDS Initial Assessment Meeting, referred to as the SIAM, in 2003.  It goes over just about anything you’d want to know about butyric acid, from its different uses to its stability in water to its effects on rats and their fetuses. For those interested in the toxicity profile as it at least relates to rats, scroll down a ways. It will talk about effects on male rats, female rats, pregnant rats, developing fetuses, chromosomes, etc. (5)

What are some commonly available butyrate supplements?

I Googled some supplements, and I will list those that I found. By listing them, I am not recommending any of them!  (Neither am I dis-recommending any of them.)  I’m simply listing in one spot just about all the supplements I could find and available consumer reviews.  If you think butyrate may be right for you, run it by your favorite healthcare provider. Maybe print off a couple of the studies I’ve linked to in my article and the EPA report above to help the provider understand toxicity, perhaps highlighting the sentences of interest to facilitate quick reading for them. I’m not in the situation to recommend anything, but I am happy to share my own personal experiences and research that I’ve come across.

Keep in mind the success of butyrate supplementation is going to vary from person to person. The pills will release their contents differently because of inter-individual differences in the pH of a person’s gut and transit time.  These supplements are salts, and the butyrate provided by these supplements will probably be absorbed very early in the GI tract, perhaps offering no benefit. There are other forms of butyrate used out there but not over the counter. I will mention them later.

P.S.:  Thank Amazon for the photos.  I didn’t realize the links came with photos.  Well, that saves you from my very bad drawings and “bubble-gum” photos.  (Sorry.  “Bubble-bum” is the word my dad used to describe the music I listened to as a kid.)   Rest assured this is still a hobby; I make no money from it.

BodyBio/E-Lyte Butyrate 600 mg (Calcium/magnesium complex): This one has five reviews you can read on Amazon. The reviews revolve around fibromyalgia, collagenous colitis, excess ammonia, and multiple food sensitivities.


BodyBio/E-Lyte 600 mg (Sodium Butyrate): This one also has five reviews on Amazon, around cancer, bipolar, substance addiction, and more nebulous issues. Quite interestingly enough, this also has medium chain triglycerides in it!



BodyBio/E-Lyte 500 mg (Sodium-Potassium Butyrate): One review regarding autism.


Pharmax, Butyrate Complex: Three reviews. Constipation, yeast, and a nothing.


Nutricology/ Allergy Research Group ButyrAid: 5 reviews. IBS, dysbiosis.


Cal-Mag Butyrate: 1 review. Leaky gut.


T.E.Neesby – Butyrex Cal/Mag, 600 mg, Micro encapsulated design: Two reviews. GI related and insomnia.



Butyren, Allergy Research (Nutricology): “ButyrEn, from Allergy Research Group, is an enteric-coated tablet of the calcium and magnesium salts of butyric acid, providing 815 mg of butyrate and 100 mg of both calcium and magnesium…the enteric coating is designed to provide delayed release in the intestinal tract.” Two reviews which don’t offer much.


BioCare Butyric acid complex (magnesium and calcium): No reviews.


Digestix: Two fair reviews.


Forms of butyrate not available over the counter, per se:


In many butyrate research studies, tributyrin is used. Isn’t it fascinating that it is tributyrin which naturally occurs in butter? (6) Tributyrin serves as a delayed-release source of butyrate, and hence achieves more sustained plasma levels. It is made of a glycerol backbone with three butyrate molecules attached.  However, even still, it is absorbed before the colon:

“Oral tributyrin (glycerol tributyrate) is absorbed in the small intestine and at high doses increases free butyrate concentration in peripheral plasma for up to 4 h. However, the hepatic uptake of intestinal butyrate is known to be almost complete, suggesting that systemic delivery of butyrate to the colon would be limited.” (7)

Tributyrin has been used in many studies including, but in no way limited to, cancer studies, metabolic studies, and neurological disease studies.  Oncologists were hopeful that it could achieve the cancer-slowing benefits in vivo as is seen with butyrate in vitro; about 20% of cancer patients achieved long-term disease stabilization when receiving 200 mg/kg 3 times daily in a pilot trial. In diabetes and obesity, reports suggest tributyrin has the ability to suppress the induction of obesity and insulin resistance in mice fed a high-fat diet. Researchers speculate there may be an impact of tributyrin on the cognitive function of patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, although they express concerns:

“From the standpoint of practicality, however, it would be necessary to incorporate tributyrin into a functional food, as it would not be feasible to require the ingestion of many dozens of capsules daily.”  (3)


Phenylbutyrate is an “orphan” drug used in rare conditions. What in the heck is an orphan drug?  An orphan drug is one that has been pushed through the typical drug approval process usually because the disease it treats is so rare. Phenylbutyrate has activity similar to butyrate (induction of apoptosis and histone acetylation) and is used for urea cycle disorders. I have listed it here as its actions seem similar to butyrate, and if one is exploring butyrate, they can also pursue study of phenylbutyrate. (8)

Butyrylated Starch:

Some studies have started using high amylase corn starch with butyrate attached.  You’ve seen high amylase corn starch mentioned in this series before when I discussed resistant starch. (7, 9)  Potentially, they’d like to consider adding butyrylated starches to food products to promote health.  (Darn it, folks.  Why do we keep letting ourselves be manipulated this way?  Instead of a cheap study looking at the safety or toxicity of raw potato to deliver resistant starch to the colon to bolster butyrate production and butyrate promoting bacteria, they’re coming up with more ways to modify your food source.  Why can’t we get it together?  When is enough enough?  Stop eating processed foods.  Even gluten-free ones.)


These may be helpful in ulcerative colitis. Research results are mixed.  The one formulation I found pre-prepared had been discontinued.  I read some forums, but I couldn’t really find any strong leads here.  It seems that to get these, you have to take your prescription to a pharmacy which compounds (makes) them specially for you. The smell and delivery mechanism are undesirable I read–not to mention the exposure time of the colon epithelium to butyrate will be brief.  If you have anything to leave in the comments regarding these, some Googlers may find it helpful in the future.


Thanks for reading.  I’m sorry this has taken so long to prepare.  I hate that I pretty much came to a halt on a series.  I’m in my first trimester of pregnancy.  I’m not a very pleasant pregnant person.  Give me a baby.  Give me a kid.  Don’t give me pregnancy or a toddler.  (Joke.)

The next Butryate Series post will revolve around using probiotics to increase butyrate in the gut.  But I may have to write some “bubble-gum” posts in the meantime, if I can even type up anything at all.  I’m about shot.  Please point out typos and mis-information, please.  I appreciate it.  ~~Terri

Sources:  There are some interesting sources today.  Read and scrutinize carefully.

1.  Acetate adaptation of clostridia tyrobutyricum for improved fermentation production of butyrate.  Adam M Jaros, Ulrika Rova and Kris A Berglund.  2013.  SpringerPlus 2013, 2:47.  http://www.springerplus.com/content/2/1/47

2. Minamiyama M, Katsuno M, Adachi H et al. Sodium butyrate ameliorates phenotypic expression in a transgenic mouse model of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy.  Hum Mol Genet 2004 June 1;13(11):1183-92.  http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/11/1183.long

3.  Tributyrin May Have Practical Potential for Improving Cognition in Early Alzheimer’s Disease Via Inhibition of HDAC2.  Mark F. McCarty.  March 2013.  Catalytic Longevity.



4.  Effects of Butyrate on Intestinal Barrier Function in a Caco-2 Cell Monolayer Model of Intestinal Barrier.  Peng, He, Chen, Holzman, and Lin.  Pediatric Research (2007) 61, 37–41.  http://www.nature.com/pr/journal/v61/n1/full/pr20079a.html

5.  SIDS Initial Assessment Report.  For 16th SIAM.  May, 2003.  http://www.epa.gov/hpvis/hazchar/Category_ButylSeriesMetabolic_HC_SIAR_0108_Interim.pdf

6.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butyrin

7.  Butyrate delivered by butyrylated starch increases distal colonic epithelial apoptosis in carcinogen-treated rats.  Clark et al.  Carcinogenesis. 2012 January; 33(1): 197–202.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276328/

8.  A Phase I Clinical and Pharmacological Evaluation of Sodium Phenylbutyrate on an 120-h Infusion Schedule.  Carducci, Gilbert, et al.  Clin Cancer Res.  October 2001.  7;3047.   http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/7/10/3047.full

9.  Butyrylated starch increases colonic butyrate concentration but has limited effects on immunity in healthy physically active individuals.  West et al.  2013.  EIR.  102-119.

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

Butyrate Is Important For YOU

Aside:  If you skip my article, fine.  It seems all the world is vying for your attention.  But please take just a second to scroll down to butyrate’s benefits so you can say you’ve heard of it all if butyrate ever makes it big.  And please note, the food industry is trying to help your butyrate production by adding substances to your processed foods.  So somebody thinks it’s important.

I have combed the great halls of flowering internet minds.  I believe there can be no doubt:  Butyrate is important for all humans.  The rosebuds of the internet, however, cannot agree on where the source of butyrate should come from (butter? sweet potato? beans? potato?) and how much a person really needs or gets.  The research and medical community provide no help; all that they (we) seem to know comes from our close relatives, the pigs and rats (joke).  Medical studies suggest that butyrate is nothing short of miraculous, but I had trouble finding good human studies to support that. 

Butyrate is a substance that our colon cells rely on for producing their energy.  Colon cells will use it preferentially over glutamine and glucose.  We humans don’t really have the ability to make much butyrate, but the BACTERIA Structure of butyratein our colons DO.  They make it for us from fermentation.  (Gut bacteria and humans rely on each other.  It is crucial that a human body have an appropriate, flourishing bacterial ecosystem in their gut–and also other places of their bodies.)  Butyrate is also present in butter and what I call “stinky cheeses.”  However, the vast majority of our butyrate seems to come from the bacteria “eating” (via fermentation) a certain type of “fiber” (but not really “fiber”) called “resistant starch” that we ourselves cannot digest.  Basically, this certain type of starch escapes (resists) our small intestine’s digestive processes, but the colon bacteria are there to salvage the starch for their own benefit and ours.  They produce “short chain fatty acids” called butyrate, propionate, and acetate (or butyric acid, propionic acid, and acetic acid) which we then use for various functions.  Please note that it is possible for the bacteria to also make butyrate from degradation products of our cells and mucous, and the end of the colon relies more on this for its butyrate, rather than food intake.  We will look at butyrate as it seems to have “the most” impact, particularly when I get around to tying this into constipation.  I’m sure the other short chain fatty acids are just as important, but for the time being that is not quite so apparent.

Butyrate sounds like a big deal.  I’m trying to figure out why it isn’t.
On paper, butyrate (butyric acid) looks to be a “superdrug” that could help us all!

  • Prevents and fights cancer.
  • Lowers colon inflammation.
  • Prevents heart disease and atherosclerosis.
  • Controls blood sugars.
  • Controls hunger.
  • Lowers cholesterol.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Heals “leaky gut”  (kind of what we doctors call “increased intestinal permeability”).  (1, 2)
  • Affect genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis and blood disorders like thalassemia and sickle cell.
  • Help improve stroke outcomes.
  • Mouse studies imply an improvement in Huntington’s Disease outcomes.
  • Improve memory production and cognition. (2)

In cancer:  In in vitro studies (studies done in a lab’s “test tube,” not in humans), butyrate appears to protect against cancer and even “fight” cancer.

  • Causes cancer cells to die (apoptose). (1, 2)
  • Causes cancer cells to revert to more normal cellular activity, rather than out-of –control cancerous activity and cancerous propagation.   (1, 2)
  • Keeps cancer cells from spreading (metastasizing) and also from getting the blood flow they need to perpetuate. (2)

In inflammation:  Appears to lower inflammation, both in the colon and throughout the rest of the body. (Remember, for inflammation, start thinking type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.)

  • Stops active inflammation in the colon.  Reports are conflicting. (1, 2)
  • Develops the immune system.
  • May lower low-grade, chronic inflammation present in obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes, if you will), high cholesterol, and heart disease:
    • controlling blood sugars,
    • controlling hunger,
    • lowering cholesterol,
    • decreasing atherosclerosis. (2)

Helping the Immune System:

  • By affecting the movement of immune cells, their ability to stick in a particular area, and their ability to make inflammatory substances. (2)
  • By helping the body regulate cells which help recognize “good, self bacteria” from “bad, non-self bacteria,” decreasing autoimmune possibility. (3)

Improving Brain Neurological Function

  • Rat studies indicate improvement after “induced strokes” by increasing the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.  (2)
  • Mouse studies suggest prolonged survival and decreased atrophy of neurons in induced Huntington’s Disease.
  • May enhance synaptic plasticity and memory.  (2) 

Helping “Leaky Gut”

  • By stimulating mucous production and thickness in the colon.
  • By acting as the main source of energy for the colon cells.
  • By increasing substances which protect the GI lining from invasion by foreign bacteria.
  • Stimulating repair after mucosal injury.
  • Decreasing intestinal permeability, perhaps depending on its concentration. (1)

May increase satiety (make you less hungry). (1)

In summary, butyrate seems to be quite the substance.  More in the posts to follow.  As usual, this live production welcomes comments and is appreciative of any errors being pointed out, whether by e-mail, blog, telephone, texts, Facebook, written letters, or face to face.

As always,


Butyrate Series Page


1.  HM Hamer, D Jonkers, K Venema, S Vanhoutvin, FJ Troost, RJ  Brummer.  Review article:  the role of butyrate on colonic function.  Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.  2008, 27(104-119).
2.  Roberto Berni Canani, Margherita Di Costanzo and Ludovica Leone.  The epigenetic effects of butyrate: potential therapeutic implications for clinical practice.  Clinical Epigenetics 2012, 4:4.   http://www.clinicalepigeneticsjournal.com/content/4/1/4
3.   Nagendra Singh, Muthusamy Thangaraju, Puttur D. Prasad, Pamela M. Martin, Nevin A. Lambert, Thomas Boettger, Stefan Offermanns_, and Vadivel Ganapathy.  Blockade of Dendritic Cell Development by Bacterial Fermentation Products Butyrate and Propionate through a Transporter (Slc5a8)-dependent Inhibition of Histone Deacetylases.  The Journal of Biological Chemistry.  Sept 2010.  285:  36 (27601-27609).  http://www.jbc.org/content/285/36/27601.full.pdf