You may never have heart of butyrate but there is a very good chance that you have consumed it from time to time. Butyrate or butyric acid is a short chain fatty acid which helps your gut work more efficiently and is beneficial in a number of ways from protecting your gut from disease and improving immune function to weight loss and cancer prevention.
What is Butyrate?
Butyrate can be found in certain foods including ghee, butter, raw milk and certain plant oils and animal fats. Apart from being found in certain foods, it can also be formed in the gut through the fermentation of dietary fiber and carbohydrates.
According to research, butyrate aids digestion, reduces inflammation and enhances gastrointestinal health in general. More specifically, research indicates that people with chronic digestive issues like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome can benefit a great deal from butyrate. Studies have also revealed its potential in protecting against colon cancer. (1)
The Health Benefits of Butyrate
So, what exactly are the health benefits of butyrate and how should you take it? If you are interested in finding out more of the details, read on.
1) Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Butyrate can have a significant positive effect on your gut and a healthy digestive system has an enormous impact on your overall health. Short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate help to keep the lining of the gut sealed preventing leaky gut syndrome. It also prevents many related issues like the symptoms of IBS including abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.
A review of the studies conducted into the effect of butyrate on IBS was published in 2013. The review concluded that based on the studies to date, supplementing with butyrate held promise as a treatment for inflammatory bowel syndrome. (2)
In one study published in 2012, 66 adults with inflammatory bowel syndrome were either treated with 300 mg of butyric acid or given a placebo at the same time as their standard treatment. At the end of the first 4 weeks, the researchers found that the butyrate had a significant effect on their symptoms including a decrease in abdominal pain while patients were moving their bowels.
After 12 weeks of treatment, those who had taken butyrate experienced a significant decrease in the frequency of abdominal pain whether during a bowel movement or at other times. (3)
2) Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a fairly common inflammatory bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain, fatigue, severe diarrhea, weight loss and even malnutrition. Studies into the effects of butyrate on the disorder have been promising.
In one small scale study published in 2005, the researchers concluded that oral butyrate was well tolerated and safe and might help to induce remission or reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. (4)
Another more recent study published in 2013 demonstrated that butyrate could reduce gut inflammation and pain during a bowel movement. (5)
A growing number of studies have demonstrated that butyrate may be a helpful weapon in the battle against cancer, in particular colon cancer. Research indicates that butyrate can induce colon cancer cell death.
Experts believe this is why increasing your consumption of dietary fiber is linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer because a higher intake of fiber equates to a higher level of butyrate in your colon. (6)
A study published in 2011 stated that the role of butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids as a treatment for colon cancer had been studied extensively. According to the researchers, its ability to suppress tumors were because of certain intracellular actions. In this study, they found that treatment with butyrate induced colon cancer cell death or apoptosis. (7)
4) Insulin Resistance
According to research, butyrate may also be useful for people with diabetes or those at risk of the disease.
One study published in 2009 looked at the effect of butyrate on insulin sensitivity in rodents fed a diet high in fats. The researchers concluded that supplementing with butyrate could treat and prevent insulin resistance in mice. They also demonstrated that the butyrate supplements helped prevent obesity and and an increase of body fat in the animals. (8)
There is of course no guarantee that the same findings would apply ti humans but the signs are promising and more research is expected in the coming years.
5) Weight Loss
If you are one of the many people looking to lose some weight or at least get it under control, butyrate supplementation holds a fair bit of promise.
There is good evidence that obese and very overweight people have different gut bacteria composition compared to people at a healthy weight. Short-chain fatty acid like butyrate are thought to benefit this composition. Studies have showed that it can help prevent metabolic syndrome – a condition that is heavily linked to abdominal obesity. (9)
Butyrate and other types of short-chain fatty acid can also help to regulate the breakdown of body fats. In the animal study mentioned earlier in the article, as well as improving the insulin sensitivity of the mice, butyrate treatment for 5 weeks also led to a significant weight loss in obese mice of over 10%.
Again, it should be noted that the bulk of the research linking butyrate to weight loss has been conducted on animals but the results to date are promising.
6) Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Studies also indicate that butyrate has broad ranging anti-inflammatory properties that can help guard against a wide range of sickness. Inflammation is at the heart of many major diseases but not only can butyrate help protect against inflammation, it may also improve the body’s immune response. (10)
How to Use Butyrate
Our modern diets tend not to be very good and that is an understatement. Diets that are high in processed, high sugar and low fiber foods actually decrease the production of butyrate in the intestine.
For this reason, supplementing with butyrate might be a good option, especially if your diet is inadequate.
Butyrate supplements are widely available online and at many health stores around the country. They are usually available in either tablet or capsule form.
The recommended dosage varies depending on the product so be sure to read any dosage instructions very carefully. Some products recommend anywhere between one and six tablets following a meal while others recommend you take a single capsule or tablet three times each day with your meals.
If you would prefer to attain your butyrate from a food source, there are several good options. Foods that are rich in butyric acid include ghee, butter, parmesan cheese and raw milk. The fermented drink kombucha also contains butyrate as long as it was made properly.
The best quality butter is cultured and raw but if this is hard to come across, quality butter produced from grass-fed cattle is the next best thing.
It may also be possible to enhance the production of butyrate in your body by adapting your diet a little. If you increase your consumption of healthy prebiotic foods like dandelion greens, under ripe bananas and raw jicama and Jerusalem artichoke, it may help your body to produce more butyric acid of its own accord.
Research indicates that butyrate levels vary a great deal from person to person but eating certain foods especially those rich in resistance starches could increase butyrate levels and also help improve colorectal health.