Your Gut Bacteria's Superpower: Butyrate

Deep inside your large intestine (at the bottom) is a community teeming with trillions of bacteria called your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome contributes to many different areas of health, and is important to understanding what roles your gut bacteria play and how they produce important substances for your health. One of your gut bacteria’s ‘superpower’ substances is butyrate – a short chain fatty acid (SCFA).

What is butyrate?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced by some types of gut bacteria when they break down or digest fibre. Fibre is found in plant-based foods and is largely indigestible, meaning humans do not have the enzymes to digest and absorb fibre, thus passing through to the colon or large bowel. In your colon, the fibre is fermented by your gut bacteria to produce SCFAs.

The key to a gut-friendly diet is eating foods known as prebiotics. Prebiotics include types of dietary fibre that act as a fuel source for health-promoting gut bacteria which produce beneficial substances like SCFAs. Besides butyrate, other SCFAs produced in the gut include acetate and propionate, and while all SCFAs have scientifically proven health benefits1, butyrate is the most well researched.

Why are prebiotics important for your gut health? Learn More.

Why is butyrate so important?

Butyrate supports your gut health and may also provide protection against some inflammation-based diseases. The “superpower” qualities of butyrate include:

– Maintaining our gut barrier by feeding our gut cells2

– Suppressing inflammation in the gut3,4

– Boosting the immune system’s defence against disease-causing bacteria5

– Reducing appetite6 which can help maintain a healthy body weight

– Maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels7 which can help reduce diabetes risk.

Not surprisingly, reduced butyrate levels (and/or reduced bacterial ability to degrade fibre) have been associated with inflammatory bowel disease8-11.

Specific types of prebiotic fibres such as resistant starch, wheat bran and rye have demonstrated the ability to increase the number of butyrate producing bacteria or blood plasma levels of butyrate. Insufficient butyrate production by the gut microbiome could contribute to gastrointestinal, immune or metabolic issues, as stated above.

Microbial diversity can improve gut health. Click here to see how microbial diversity is reported in the MetaXplore testing range.

What can you do to increase butyrate?

The best way to supercharge your gut microbiome to produce butyrate, is to eat a high-fibre diet that includes sources of resistant starch, wheat bran and/or rye. Additionally, some studies have demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet can increase circulating butyrate levels in the blood plasma (DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.05.025). This means eating a diet rich in plant-based foods such as wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds and legumes. You can also increase the resistant starch content of foods such as potato, pasta and rice by cooking and then cooling them overnight for use in salads.

Below is a sample plan bursting with prebiotics that can boost your butyrate-producing potential. Resistant starch sources are in green and pectin sources are in blue.

Breakfast: Rolled oats with berries – cooked or raw; make room for rolled oats at brekky. Raw oats can be topped with a low-fat smoothie made with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries or added fresh to your porridge.

Lunch: Mediterranean pasta salad – bring your plate alive with colour. Toss together some cooked and cooled pasta leftovers with roasted sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and a few teaspoons of pesto.

Dinner: Lentil and mince cottage pie – try replacing half the beef mince in your traditional cottage pie with lentils and adding vegetables like onion, carrot, peas and corn, as well as the usual canned tomato/passata and herbs. Top with mashed potato and bake. Serve with steamed green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli for an additional prebiotic punch!

Hint: boil additional potatoes to keep in the fridge for potato salads (skin on), also do this with pasta when making your spaghetti bolognese!

Snacks: don’t forget your snacks to boost prebiotic intake between meals and help increase butyrate production. Go for hummus and carrot sticks, or try pectin-containing fruit such as a kiwi or orange.

To understand your gut microbiome’s potential to produce butyrate and for personalised dietary suggestions, we recommend discussing the Co-Biome MetaXplore range with your healthcare professional or finding a Co-Biome Certified Clinician to learn more.


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