Monday, December 7, 2009

Butyric Acid: an Ancient Controller of Metabolism, Inflammation and Stress Resistance?

An Interesting Finding

Susceptible strains of rodents fed high-fat diets overeat, gain fat and become profoundly insulin resistant. Dr. Jianping Ye's group recently published a paper showing that the harmful metabolic effects of a high-fat diet (lard and soybean oil) on mice can be prevented, and even reversed, using a short-chain saturated fatty acid called butyric acid (hereafter, butyrate). Here's a graph of the percent body fat over time of the two groups:

The butyrate-fed mice remained lean and avoided metabolic problems. Butyrate increased their energy expenditure by increasing body heat production and modestly increasing physical activity. It also massively increased the function of their mitochondria, the tiny power plants of the cell.

Butyrate lowered their blood cholesterol by approximately 25 percent, and their triglycerides by nearly 50 percent. It lowered their fasting insulin by nearly 50 percent, and increased their insulin sensitivity by nearly 300 percent*. The investigators concluded:
Butyrate and its derivatives may have potential application in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome in humans.
There's one caveat, however: the butyrate group at less food. Something about the butyrate treatment caused their food intake to decline after 3 weeks, dropping roughly 20% by 10 weeks. The investigators cleverly tried to hide this by normalizing food intake to body weight, making it look like the food intake of the comparison group was dropping as well (when actually it was staying the same as this group was gaining weight).  This does cast some doubt on the health-promoting effects of high-dose butyrate.

I found this study thought-provoking, so I looked into butyrate further.

Butyrate Suppresses Inflammation in the Gut and Other Tissues

In most animals, the highest concentration of butyrate is found in the gut. That's because it's produced by intestinal bacteria from carbohydrate that the host cannot digest, such as cellulose and pectin. Indigestible carbohydrate is the main form of dietary fiber.

It turns out, butyrate has been around in the mammalian gut for so long that the lining of our large intestine has evolved to use it as its primary source of energy. It does more than just feed the bowel, however. It also has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. So much so, that investigators are using oral butyrate supplements and butyrate enemas to treat inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Some investigators are also suggesting that inflammatory bowel disorders may be caused or exacerbated by a deficiency of butyrate in the first place.

Butyrate, and other short-chain fatty acids produced by gut bacteria**, has a remarkable effect on intestinal permeability. In tissue culture and live rats, short-chain fatty acids cause a large and rapid decrease in intestinal permeability. Butyrate, or dietary fiber, prevents the loss of intestinal permeability in rat models of ulcerative colitis. This shows that short-chain fatty acids, including butyrate, play an important role in the maintenance of gut barrier integrity. Impaired gut barrier integrity is associated with many diseases, including fatty liver, heart failure and autoimmune diseases (thanks to Pedro Bastos for this information-- I'll be covering the topic in more detail later).

Butyrate's role doesn't end in the gut. It's absorbed into the circulation, and may exert effects on the rest of the body as well. In human blood immune cells, butyrate is potently anti-inflammatory***.

Butyrate Increases Resistance to Metabolic and Physical Stress

Certain types of fiber reduce atherosclerosis in animal models, and this effect may be due to butyrate production produced when the fiber is fermented. Fiber intake was associated with lower blood markers of inflammation in the Women's Health Initiative study, and has been repeatedly associated with lower heart attack risk and reduced progression of atherosclerosis in humans. Butyrate also sharply reduces the harmful effects of type 1 diabetes in rats, as does dietary fiber to a lesser extent.

Butyrate increases the function and survival of mice with certain neurodegenerative diseases. Polyglutamine diseases, which are the most common class of genetic neurodegenerative diseases, are delayed in mice treated with butyrate (1, 2, 3). Many of you have probably heard of Huntington's disease, which is the most common of the class. I did my thesis on a polyglutamine disease called SCA7, and this is the first suggestion I've seen that diet may be able to modify its course.

Yet another interesting finding in the first paper I discussed: mice treated with butyrate were more cold-resistant than the comparison group. When they were both placed in a cold room, body temperature dropped quite a bit in the comparison group, while it remained relatively stable in the butyrate group, despite the fact that the butyrate group was leaner****. This was due to increased heat production in the butyrate group.

Due to the potent effect butyrate has on a number of bodily processes, it may be a fundamental controller of metabolism, stress resistance and the immune system in mammals.

An Ancient Line of Communication Between Symbiotic Organisms

Why does butyrate have so much control over inflammation? Let's think about where it comes from. Bacteria in the gut produce it. It's a source of energy, so our bodies take it up readily. It's one of the main molecules that passes from the symbiotic (helpful) bacteria in the gut to the rest of the body. Could it be that the body receives butyrate as a signal that there's a thriving colony of symbiotic bacteria in the gut, inducing immune tolerance to them? The body may alter its immune response (inflammation) in order to permit a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and its symbionts.

Sources of Butyrate

There are two main ways to get butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids. The first is to eat fiber and let your intestinal bacteria do the rest. Whole plant foods such as sweet potatoes, properly prepared whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit and nuts are good sources of fiber. Refined foods such as white flour, white rice and sugar are very low in fiber. Clinical trials have shown that increasing dietary fiber increases butyrate production, and decreasing fiber decreases it (free full text).

Butyrate also occurs in significant amounts in food. What foods contain butyrate? Hmm, I wonder where the name BUTYR-ate came from? Butter perhaps? Butter is 3-4 percent butyrate, the richest known source. But everyone knows butter is bad for you, right?

After thinking about it, I've decided that butyrate may have been a principal component of Dr. Weston Price's legendary butter oil. Price used this oil in conjunction with high-vitamin cod liver oil to heal tooth decay and a number of other ailments in his patients. The method he used to produce it would have concentrated fats with a low melting temperature, including butyrate, in addition to vitamin K2*****. Thus, the combination of high-vitamin cod liver oil and butter oil would have provided a potent cocktail of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D3, K2), omega-3 fatty acids and butyrate. It's no wonder it was so effective in his patients.

* According to insulin tolerance test.

** Acetate (acetic acid, the main acid in vinegar), propionate and butyrate are the primary three fatty acids produced by intestinal fermentation.

*** The lowest concentration used in this study, 30 micromolar, is probably higher than the concentration in peripheral serum under normal circumstances. Human serum butyrate is in the range of 4 micromolar in British adults, and 29 micromolar in the hepatic portal vein which brings fats from the digestive tract to the liver (ref). This would likely be at least two-fold higher in populations eating high-fiber diets.

**** Due to higher mitochondrial density in brown fat and more mitochondrial uncoupling.

***** Slow crystallization, which selectively concentrates triglycerides with a low melting point.


Todd Hargrove said...

Awesome post. Reminds me of some interesting info Barry Groves posted recently about gorillas actually eating a high fat diet, when you consider that most of their energy comes from the short chain fatty acids that their gut bacteria produce. I find it fascinating that many species eat not to feed themselves but to feed the little critters in their guts, who will in turn feed them with what they secrete. Frank Forencich at the Exubert Animal blog wrote an interesting piece today on similar themes called No Body is an Island.

Todd Hargrove said...

Maybe this helps explain the Sikhs. Butter would be the perfect antidote to a gut busting gluten diet ...

David said...

Somewhat related - about a month ago you posted a study that showed that fatty acid levels in erythrocytes predicted heart attack risk. In particular, omega 3's were inversely associated with risk and arachidonic acid was positively associated with risk, leading you to conclude that we should consume omega 3's and avoid omega 6 vegetable oils.

Well, below are two other studies, showing significantly reduced heart attack risk and carotid imt and gensini scores with higher linolenic acid (i.e., the primary omega 6 fatty acid in vegetable oils) in erythrocytes. In fact, in the former study, linolenic acid had a greater inverse association with heart attack risk than any of the omega 3's.


David said...

and by "former study," I meant the first (i.e., the one looking at fatty acid in erythrocytes and heart attack risk) said...

I guess it's the picky proofreader in me, but one of your links doesn't work.

There are some extra characters in the URL for "decreasing fiber decreases it (free full text)" so it leads to an error message.

LeenaS said...

Stephan, take a second look on the pig study mentioned in the reference, where they claimed the 5-10 E% intakes of fibres.

It sounds convincing, but I happened to calculate the numbers out some time ago, and according to this the amount of butyrate formend in humans would be negligible. Especially if compared with butyrate available from dairy. Sorry.

Gorillas can still do it. We are no longer very good at this, thanks to the big brains and expensive tissue hypothesis...


Ed said...

I thought humans lacked the gut ecosystem to ferment the fiber into nutrients we could use? We know gorillas do it, but I thought the gorilla example was raised as a contrasting point to humans, since our digestive system has diverged from theirs.

I wonder how fermented foods play here? Sauerkraut, idlis, etc.

Mark said...

Thank you for this post. I think this is very important. It gives the use of green veggies a real backing outside of polyphenols and just adds to the reasons why fruit should only be eaten sparingly.

While the model is not something that is usually done for a long time, I like looking at the diet a bodybuilder uses to get a good frame of reference. To get down to 5% and under, the typical bodybuilder diet is lean meats, oats, sweet potatoes, and veggies. Along with some extra cardio, it seems to work for them in shedding fat.

Thanks again.

caphuff said...

so ... do we now start eating wheat again, or should we just stick to butter?

Also, if butyrate is so beneficial, is it worth supplementing?

zach said...

I wonder if this is why kefir (real kefir) is so beneficial to the gut and in helping inflammation? Nothing in the world, to my knowledge colonizes the gut with good bacteria like real kefir. Very interesting post, Stephan.

Richard A. said...

Consuming medium chain triglycerides apparently generates beta-hydroxy butyrate.

Coconut and palm kernel oil cotains some MCTs. You can buy pure MCT oil for about $15 a quart.

Todd Hargrove said...

Do you have any idea how much butyrate a high fiber vegan gets relative to someone who eats a lot of butter and very little fiber?

Aaron Blaisdell said...

It seems like a number of commenters are picking up on the issue of how appropriate other species are as models for human nutrition. Although rats are omnivores, their diet is much more heavily plant and seed based than is that of humans who are adapted to much more animal sources. Likewise, although gorillas and chimps are our closest living relatives, they are also adapted to a much higher plant-based diet (especially the gorillas) than are humans who have specialized into the dietary niche of the carnivore (not completely, but to a greater extend than chimps). Thus, I'd call rats a vegetation-based omnivore and humans a carnivorous-based omnivore (including seafood and land invertebrates under the umbrella of carnivory).

Your post is fascinating and really causes me to wonder to what degree fiber is an important contributor to health in humans, but I'm also keeping my skeptic's hat on given the caveats about the appropriateness of non-human animal models for human-animal diet, nutrition, and health. The clinical study you site is perhaps the strongest evidence.

But the evidence does confirm Weston Price's methods, and I'll continue to take my high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil every day!

Thanks for the terrific leg work that went into your post.

TedHutchinson said...

It looks like buytrate is closely linked to carnitine.
Neuroprotective effects of L-carnitine in a transgenic animal model of Huntington's disease

The connection with Vitamin D3 is also interesting
Control of the innate epithelial antimicrobial response is cell-type specific and dependent on relevant microenvironmental stimuli

Ed said...

The intarwebs are interesting.

First up, Wikipedia on Butyric Acid. Things I note:

[begin quote]
Butanoate is produced as end-product of a fermentation process solely performed by obligate anaerobic bacteria. Fermented Kombucha "tea" includes butyric acid as a result of the fermentation. This fermentation pathway was discovered by Louis Pasteur in 1861. Examples of butanoate-producing species of bacteria:
Clostridium acetobutylicum
Clostridium butyricum
Clostridium kluyveri
Clostridium pasteurianum
Fusobacterium nucleatum
Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens
Eubacterium limosum
[end quote]

[begin quote]
Highly-fermentable fibers like resistant starch, oat bran, and pectin are transformed by colonic bacteria into short chain fatty acids including butyrate. One study found that resistant starch consistently produces more butyrate than other types of dietary fiber. [ref: Cummings JH, Macfarlane GT, Englyst HN. Prebiotic digestion and fermentation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(suppl):415S-20S.]
[end quote]

Next up, Nutrition Data (I believe butyric acid is noted as 4:00) Foods highest in 4:00 per 100-gram serving. Here is a selection out of the top 15:

Rank Food Name
1 Roast beef spread 4:00: 6399mg
2 Butter oil, anhydrous 4:00: 3226mg
3 Butter, salted 4:00: 3226mg
8 Cheese, goat, hard type 4:00: 1784mg
9 Cheese, parmesan, grated 4:00: 1510mg
11 Cheese, goat, semisoft type 4:00: 1496mg
13 Cheese, romano 4:00: 1355mg
15 Cream, fluid, heavy whipping 4:00: 1200mg

Now, Kefir isn't listed in the database at all. What the heck is Roast Beef Spread? I've never heard of that.

Searching for butyrate on Amazon produces a handful of supplements, typically with calcium and magnesium.

randyfeingersh said...

Hi Stephan,

Couple of comments. My understanding is that only soluble fiber can be fermented in SCFAs. So the type of fiber is important.

Institute of Medicine estimates soluble fiber has a calorie content of about 1.5 - 2.5 Kcal/gram. So 50 grams of soluble fiber (a pretty high amount) would result in about 16 to 8 grams fat production.

Buytrate producing gut metabolism has been study in low carb diet and found to be serverely lacking.


Reduced dietary intake of carbohydrates by obese subjects results in
decreased concentrations of butyrate and butyrate-producing bacteria
in feces.Duncan SH, Belenguer A, Holtrop G, Johnstone AM, Flint HJ,
Lobley GE.
Microbial Ecology Group, Rowett Research Institute, Greenburn Road,
Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK.

Weight loss diets for humans that are based on a high intake of
protein but low intake of fermentable carbohydrate may alter microbial
activity and bacterial populations in the large intestine and thus
impact on gut health. In this study, 19 healthy, obese (body mass
index range, 30 to 42) volunteers were given in succession three
different diets: maintenance (M) for 3 days (399 g carbohydrate/day)
and then high protein/medium (164 g/day) carbohydrate (HPMC) and high
protein/low (24 g/day) carbohydrate (HPLC) each for 4 weeks. Stool
samples were collected at the end of each dietary regimen. Total fecal
short-chain fatty acids were 114 mM, 74 mM, and 56 mM (P < 0.001) for
M, HPMC, and HPLC diets, respectively, and there was a
disproportionate reduction in fecal butyrate (18 mM, 9 mM, and 4 mM,
respectively; P < 0.001) with decreasing carbohydrate. Major groups of
fecal bacteria were monitored using nine 16S rRNA-targeted
fluorescence in situ hybridization probes, relative to counts obtained
with the broad probe Eub338. No significant change was seen in the
relative counts of the bacteroides (Bac303) (mean, 29.6%) or the
clostridial cluster XIVa (Erec482, 23.3%), cluster IX (Prop853, 9.3%),
or cluster IV (Fprau645, 11.6%; Rbro730 plus Rfla729, 9.3%) groups. In
contrast, the Roseburia spp. and Eubacterium rectale subgroup of
cluster XIVa (11%, 8%, and 3% for M, HPMC, and HPLC, respectively; P <
0.001) and bifidobacteria (4%, 2.1%, and 1.9%, respectively; P =
0.026) decreased as carbohydrate intake decreased. The abundance of
butyrate-producing bacteria related to Roseburia spp. and E. rectale
correlated well with the decline in fecal butyrate.

Daniel said...

That list of bacteria is interesting because I don't remember ever seeing any of those strains listed in the probiotic supplements I have purchased. Does anybody know why these strains are not included?

DancinPete said...

Does anyone know if there is a difference between butter oil, and ghee?
If so, is ghee a close enough approximation, as it's readily available where I live.

zach said...


There is a difference. Can't recall all the details right now.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi David,

I know that several observational studies have found results like that. The reason I'm skeptical is that the results from controlled trials overall haven't supported the observational studies. Whereas for omega-3, both are relatively consistent when taken as a whole.

If we assume for the sake of argument that the association between LA and lower heart attack risk in some of these observational studies is real, there is actually a somewhat perverse mechanism that could account for it. Excess PUFA impairs the metabolic pathways that elongate fatty acids, so if you load up on LA to an extreme degree, you end up reducing AA synthesis along with EPA and DHA. That was one of the original reasons scientist were investigating the high-LA approach to preventing heart disease. In my opinion, impairing those metabolic pathways with unnatural doses of LA is not a path to health.

Hi Leena,

Thanks, I'll have to take a closer look.

Hi Ed,

We do some hindgut fermentation, just not a lot compared to herbivorous species. The fermented food question has been on my mind too, but I haven't looked into it yet.

Hi caphuff,

I can't recommend butyrate supplements. Better to get it the old fashioned way. My position hasn't changed on wheat.

Hi Richard,

I don't think beta-hydroxybutyrate acts in the same way as butyrate. The former is a ketone, while the latter is a fatty acid.

Hi Todd,

It depends on fiber intake. A vegan eating nothing but processed foods might have low levels of butyrate, while someone on a low-carb diet might have high levels if they eat a lot of vegetables.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Aaron,

I agree with your point about animal studies. I'm not taking the first study to mean that butyrate will have the same metabolic effects in humans. But there is evidence it has effects on inflammation in human cells and in inflammatory bowel conditions in humans, so I think it's likely to play a role with us as well. It may be largely responsible for the different effects of refined vs unrefined carbs. on metabolism.

Hi Ed,

Mmm, roast beef spread... where can I get some of that?? Just kidding.

Hi Randy,

Insoluble fiber is fermented into butyrate as well. When you feed people cellulose, it increases their butyrate levels.

I agree with your concern about butyrate production in LC diets, but this all depends on fiber intake. Someone on a LC diet could have more butyrate than someone on a HC diet if their fiber intake were higher.

Hi Pete,

Weston Price-style butter oil is a concentrated version of butter that is not the same as ghee. You can get it from Green Pastures.

Aaron said...

I've never really bought into the argument that fiber is a net-negative. Almost all hunter gatherer groups had large fiber intake. Just have to look at their fossilized coprolite.

I think HG groups knew there was some kind of "goodness" in eating plant material. If not, why would they bother eating plant material if the majority of their calories were coming from easy to digest animal foods. Superior gut health and the resultant effects would explain this.

I had a major problem with the Grove's article (in response to Todd Hargrove) in that it argued that the best diet for most mammals was a high fat diet -- he would have been right if he had specified SCFAs and not long chain fatty acids or MCTs.

I suspect way more studies to be coming out on prebiotics -- and expect them to off superior beneficial effects over that of probiotics.

Anna said...

So, an ample serving of broccoli with grass-fed butter or homemade hollandaise sauce, right?

notrace said...

Should I be concerned about growth hormone in butter? or ghee? I assume all milk contains hormones whether the cow received additional injections or not.


randyfeingersh said...

Hello Stephan,

From what I've read insolubles(including celluose) fibers are much less efficient in producing buytrate than solubles. See references below.

Equivalent fiber intakes in very low carb and high carb diets might produce the same buytrate but I've never seen this demonstarted. Only study that came close compared low carb to high carb and there were significant differences.

The reason I mention this is becasue resistant starches (and non resistant starches) full alot of fermentation that might be lacking in a low carb diet supplemented with fiber.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. On occasion I will break some of my 24hr fasts with a bunch of green veggies with some olive oil and vinegar. What I find is that my body temperature on those days shoot through the roof. I always attributed it to the SCFA but never did any research. Now your article makes everything make sense.

Matt Stone said...

Thanks Stephan. I feel a big sigh of relief reading this post. I was just reading about butyrate produced from fiber last night.

It's fun and exciting to think that all the promotion of fiber out there is a bunch of nonsense, but the more I look into the matter, and the more well-balanced my own perspectives become on health and nutrition, the more I realize that the anti-fiber brigade is way off the mark.

I'm not ready to agree wholeheartedly with Burkitt and Trowell yet - who concluded that fiber was a necessary part of a healthy human diet. Once again, that wasn't the theme in Price's studies. But a diet with a lot of plant matter and a lot of non-lactose source carbohydrates simply must be high in fiber and the nutrients that accompany high-fiber foods to deliver health long-term.

Greta from said...

Here is what has happened to me by following a diet with 35% of the calories coming from fat, about 40% from protein, and the rest from high fiber carbs (mainly vegetables and whole grains):

Weight went from 253 to 188 (so far). Body fat went from 49% to 31% (so far). And...even more interesting:

October 2008
Total cholesterol: 155 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 90 mg/dL
HDL 55 mg/dL
LDL 82 mg/dL

October 2009
Totalcholesterol: 130 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 37 mg/dL
HDL 60 mg/dL
LDL 63 mg/dL

Fiber, esp in the form of veggies, really is essential I think...and your post really is fascinating. Thanks! It really is all about finding the right balance.

JLL said...

Very interesting. I've been in the fiber-hating camp for quite a while now, but recently I, too, have been reconsidering my position. At least inulin and oligofructose seem to be quite beneficial for gut bacteria, and your post suggests that there may be more to fiber than we thought.

Still, I feel that the old idea of "you have to eat fiber or you'll get constipation" is wrong, as made evident by the Inuit and others.

Unknown said...

Wow. Great post. This is a good reminder to me not to take things to extremes, like eating absolutely no veggies to avoid lectins, fructose, etc. You just never know what you don't know.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Aaron,

I agree with you about Groves' article. It's an interesting observation, but it doesn't necessarily follow that eating bacon will have the same effects.

Hi Randy,

The study you cited was done in vitro. The study below showed that feeding humans cellulose increased fecal butyrate. It did so more than feeding pectin, a soluble fiber.

You can eat fiber until it's coming out of your ears on a low-carb diet if you want. Low-carb does not necessarily imply low-fiber or low-butyrate. I can't say I'm sold on resistant starch at this point. I don't like the idea of having large amounts of starch passing into the colon.

Hi Matt,

I agree with you that there are observations that the fiber theory can't explain. On the other hand, I'm coming to realize that the Inuit may not have been as healthy as certain other non-industrial groups.

I'm closer to Burkitt and Cleave than I was, but I still think it's a bad idea to supplement bran, and I still think fiber can be overdone.

Unknown said...

Greta wrote:
October 2008
Total cholesterol: 155 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 90 mg/dL
HDL 55 mg/dL
LDL 82 mg/dL

October 2009
Total cholesterol: 130 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 37 mg/dL
HDL 60 mg/dL
LDL 63 mg/dL

An impressive change Greta, it is even more impressive when you put the above values in my

Free Cholesterol Calculator

and see how the "calculated" LDL changes.

October 2008
LDL = 82 mg/dL Friedewald
LDL = 90 mg/dL Iranian

October 2009
LDL = 63 mg/dL Friedewald
LDL = 36 mg/dL Iranian

I haven't seen such a dramatic change between the two different methods of calculating LDL before!

Perhaps us low carbers might earn some extra cash as "hush money" paid out by the statin manufacturers ;-)

Regards, Kiwi Geoff.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

I thought that cellulose was soluble fibre/fiber.

Isn't cellulose what wallpaper paste is made from?

randyfeingersh said...

Hi Stephan,

It's well established that soluable fibers are much more potent for generating SFA during ferentaion than insoluble fibers. Insoluble fibers don't ferment much at all


I'm surprised your not aware of this.

I disagree with your interpetaton of this study.

The results showed that more SFAs were absorbed(not excreted) by the pectin than the cellouse group.

From the paper:
"Volatile fatty acid changes with placebo and cellulose paralleled changes in fecal
weight, thus fecal volatile fatty acid concentration did not change.

Conversely, volatile fatty acid
increase of the pectin group was not paralleled by fecal weight increase, signifying an increase in
volatile fatty acid concentration (P < 0.05) of possible physiological significance. Some volatile
fatty acids are probably absorbed, a fact worthy of further investigation investigation."

Although this paper is rather dated even they were aware at the more efficeint fermination of soluble fiber.

The authors state:

"These two polymers were chosen
because cellulose is known to be only partially
digested by colonic bacteria while pectin
is practically totally digested (6-8)."

I only bring this up because I agree with your points about the benefits of generating SFAs. I just want to point out soluble fibers are much much more efficeint at doing this that insoluble fibers.


Aaron said...

I worry that there can be other undesirable traits coming from the ingestion of resistant starch -- I'm not so sure our bowels are adequately equipped to handle lots of starch fibers. Plus, I don't have to go into the argument against most grains here.

I do believe we are equipped to handle a decent amounts of fibers in the class called inulins (polysaccharides). In fact, we probably ate plenty of them in our past. They are a soluble fiber, and probably increase probiotic numbers to a much larger degree than cellulose.

I'm also suspect of consuming inulin in a refined state outside of its usual vegetable matrix. That state seems much more likely to possibly cause undesirable characteristics or allergies.

I've seem many low carb groups around the web eschewing vegetables. As humans, we've practically bred out most of the toxins that make them taste bad or cause imbalances in our body. Without plant material, you aren't going to get all of these interesting polysaccharide compounds. Who knows what that means for the long term.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Randy,

I don't agree with your interpretation of that study. Total butyrate production clearly increased in the cellulose group, more than the pectin group. The only thing that didn't change was the concentration of butyrate in feces, and that was only because fecal volume increased. Total butyrate production, which is what we're concerned with here, increased with cellulose feeding.

It's possible that it would have increased even more with some other type of soluble fiber, but cellulose is clearly turned into butyrate by human intestinal bacteria.

Hi Aaron,

I'm somewhat suspicious of inulin, because it gives you gas. Why do you say we're accustomed to having inulin in our diets?

Russ said...


"Forty-two healthy male and female adults were fed low-residue diets for 2 weeks, followed by 3 weeks on the same diet plus either 14 g/day cellulose or 6 g/day pectin or a sucrose placebo."

For an apples-to-apples comparison, you'd need to adjust for the quantity of fiber.

"volatile fatty acids decreased with placebo (-1.2 g/7 days), but increased with cellulose (+ 1.3 g/7 days) and pectin (+0.6 g/7 days)"

Note that the ratio between stool VFA content - 1.3:0.6 - is nearly the same as ingested fiber - 14:6. The obvious caveat here is that this is *stool* VFA, not the total amount produced. I would speculate that the 2.5 day decrease in transit time from cellulose would result in:
1) more undigested cellulose and
2) more unabsorbed VFA,
but that's just my speculation.

As far as butyrate levels go, the values in Table 2 are listed as being "total amount of individual VFA’s in feces", which should be unaffected the total quantity of feces.

Cellulose: 0.5, 0.8, 0.7
Pectin: 0.5, 0.7, 0.6

Given that they were fed two and a third times as much cellulose as pectin, this seems like a clear win for pectin to me.

I was actually surprised to hear of any cellulose decomposition in the human gut - my previous understanding was that it passed through untouched. "Cellulose and the human gut" ( ) seems to imply that the breakdown of cellulose in the gut is affected by factors such as the particle size and lignin content. Do you know of more recent research that explains this in more detail?


Russ said...

Actually, I forgot to consider the increase over placebo, so now I'm really not sure what to think. It seems difficult to reach any conclusions when dealing with differences of 0.1-0.3g on figures with precisions of 0.1g and stated ± of up to 1.0g.


Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Russ,

Fair enough. I hadn't noticed that they fed the two groups different amounts. It would be nice to know how much butyrate was actually absorbed in each group, rather than excreted.

Aaron said...


I wouldn't be surprised if other HG groups ate inulin- or other prebiotic carbohydrates all over the world. Of course, recent farming practices has narrowed the the variety of veggies we consume.

Also, I don't always think having gas is a bad thing!

Pasi said...

Damn, I almost missed this post and discussion. I see you've finally come closer to intestine and its role in metabolic function. :)

I think at the moment that butyrate fermented by gut microflora is irrelevant for metabolic disorders and that increasing butyrate by supplementing bran is stupid (loss of fat soluble vitamins).

You should get your butyrate and other short and medium chain fatty acids through diet and that's where coconut (no butyrate though) and especially dairy fat comes to the picture.

Butyrate activates vitamin D receptor and increases the function of innate immunity system against pathogens. 1,25-OH-D3 and butyrate are like Batman and Robin.

MCFA's are also important and they have quite interesting effect in the adipose tissue. Since (omental)adipose tissue may be the main place where metabolic syndrome begins I find this adipocyte effect extremely interesting.

Butyrate hasn't been, as far as I know, connected to the positive effects of probiotics which main end product in the gut is lactate. Certain kind of probiotics seems to be benificial for gut health.

Increasing gut fermentation and hope that something good will come from it is a kind of risky business. Interesting examples can be found from pubmed; increased gut fermentation related to poor digestive tract function may be one reason behind autism epidemic in the US.

Pasi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pasi said...

It has been quite difficult to find answers to the questions related to gut fermentation and SCFA absorption. If butyrate is absorbed it sure has effects on liver metabolism like in Dr. Jianping Ye's research.

Acetic acid is also formed in the gut and here's one on acetic acid:

Whole grain seems to be part of healthy diet according to Harvard but I don't think that bran is. Positive health effects of whole grain has to be related to other parts of grain but bran.

randyfeingersh said...

Hi Stephan,

You may disagree with my interpetation of the study, but you also disagree with the authors of the study as they clearly reach the same conclusion as was illustrated in my last post.

What your missing is the relavence of the concentration of the SCFAs vs the total amount in a larger sample size.

As an analogy lets say I get my blood glucose tested at Lab A and they report a result of 100 but they use twice the volume of blood than is standard. Even though they report 100, my real value is 200.

It's well established that soluble fiber is much more fully digested by gut bacteria than insoluble fiber, as this dated study shows and 30 years of additional research.

In fact the FDA allows food manufacuters to report 0 calories in for insoluble fiber in recognition of this fact.


JBG said...

I know very little about this whole area, but I recall reading about a recommended treatment for inflammatory bowel conditions--

Locate a person (a) who eats much the same diet as the patient (say, a family member), and (b) who is known to have very healthy gut function.

Obtain a fresh stool from the healthy person, liquefy it, and squirt a good dose of it up the backside of the patient.

People I mention this to tend to react with nervous laughter or unqualified revulsion, but the idea makes perfect sense to me.

caphuff said...


YIKES! That certainly puts the BUT in Butyrate!

Justin said...

That's funny. I vaguely remember a teacher I had in high school saying that doctors used to take a stool sample of a patient when they had a bad case of diarrhea and put it in some chocolate pudding to reintroduce flora into their digestive system.


Jonathan said...

This is a very interesting conversation, but there hasn't been much discussion of actual foods. What foods should one eat to get soluble fiber without getting the bad stuff (gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, phytic acid, excessive carb, etc.)? What foods should one eat to get cellulose without getting the bad stuff?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Aaron,

OK. There was also a lot of inulin eating in Pacific NW native Americans. They ate camas bulb, which is mostly inulin like jerusalem artichokes. Some groups ate a lot of it. Except they would bake it for a really long time, which breaks down part of the inulin into fructose. Still, I'm sure there was inulin left over.

I wonder how widespread that sort of thing was though. Cultures have gravitated toward starch-containing tubers more than inulin-containing ones. Jerusalem artichoke is a notable exception, but no one eats it as a staple that I know of.

Hi Westie,

Yes, I'm becoming extremely interested in gut function, microbiota and gut barrier integrity. I agree with you about supplementing bran, it's probably a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Anna said...

Don't remind me of Jerusalem artichokes! I hope this isn't TMI. My dad has been growing them for years in his garden and raves about how great they are, urging them on me "for my blood sugar". He eats them raw out in the garden, too.

I finally succumbed to his JA promotions during one of his visits. They were tasty enough, but OMG, talk about hot, noxious gas. Gas hardly ever bothers me since eating low carb and especially since giving up wheat/guten, so when it does rarely happen it's usually worse than in my high carb days.

And I don't know why there are so many recommendations that diabetics eat Jerusalem artichokes. My post prandial BG didn't go sky-high, but it was higher than than I like. Never again.

Bob Bejaan said...

another great post stephen. loved the series on malocclusion and as a celiac i would love to see you tackle the whole area of gut health in a similar fashion.

slightly on a tangent here, can anyone recommend a good diet/nutrition book for my mum? shes early 50s, overweight (probably 'obese' by BMI definition, i dunno), and has high cholesterol. obviously she's trying to do something about it, she goes out for walks, goes to the gym occasionally, and has started taking pills that inhibit fat absorbtion (a blunder i suspect).

she likes reading diet books (and the health sections of magazines etc) but unfortunately its all the usual rubbish about avoiding sat fats and eating more whole grains etc.

i try sending her links to sites like this but she's too busy to read them (and probably thinks if its on the internet its wacko jacko nonsense) so i thought if i get her a good book for chrimbo she will read it and make some changes that will actually work

i was gonna get cordain's "the paleo diet" but some of the reviews on amazon were not too favourable, eg:

"However, by page 25 it was clear that it was going to be downhill all the way. I was extremely disappointed to find it was a poorly-argued and badly researched work which, whilst supporting the overall concept of the paleo diet was wrapped intimately around at least 3 common myths. "The heart-diet myth" (fat myth), "The salt myth" and "The dietary fibre myth". This would be more forgivable if Laruen had actually bothered presented some semblance of a case instead of simply presenting her assumptions as a-priori fact which should not be examined."

has anyone read this book? is it any good? if not, what books do you recommend?



Swede said...


I would recommend:

The Schwarbein Principle I & II by Diana Schwarzbein. She gives great, easy to read explanations about metabolism and how all hormones affect it, not just insulin which is what most low carb and paleo books focus on.

However, she does make a few suspect recommendations about what to eat, mainly Canola oil. Other than that, I would say her book is pretty solid.

The other great book is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. It does not read like a diet book, but if reading that book doesn't change your eating habits, I don't know what would!


Dr. T said...

Dinosaur doo-doo (coprolite), gut microbiota and replenishing with poop enemias. *haaaaa* Oh my.

u guys r a RIOT.

Monica said...

Hi Bob,

I would recommend Nina Planck's Real Food: What to Eat and Why.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of grain promotion in there, but it is very limited, and the vast majority of the book is devoted to defending the healthiness of naturally and humanely raised meats, eggs, and milk. It is written in a way that the layperson should be able to understand. I can't recommend it highly enough. It is not really a diet book, though. However, Planck is a serious defender of real food, and she is down to earth and has gotten over her botanically-induced biases that so many of us farmers/plant scientists have struggled with... I hate to pick on Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma) but I find his writing style preachy and arrogant and while he may be coming around to the idea of the healthiness of animal products, he has a strong influence from the botanical side of things and the healthiness of animal foods hasn't yet come through strongly in any of his writing, I think.

Another simple and easy to read book would be Protein Power or Protein Power LifePlan by the Eades'. Unfortunately, the titles aren't catchy and I am not crazy about their promotion of protein powders and other fake stuff like Splenda. Still, they offer some solid, simple explanations of how hyperinsulinemia makes us gain weight.

jean said...

JBG: This 'fecal implantation' comes from Dr Art Ayers at Cooling inflammation.
I also remember reading somewhere about fecal transplants between obese and lean individuals, with the obese individuals then losing weight. However scatological this may seem, it is gaining ground as a legitimate medical treatment.

Bob Bejaan said...

how about this for a 'healthy' high-fibre meal to feed those butyrate-producing gut bacteria (fastforward to 10 mins 35 secs into the video):

i didnt even think it was possible to eat dry soybeans. the guy must have jaws like a hyaena (and rock hard teeth)

Anna said...


I second Monica's book recommendations and agree with her caveats.

randyfeingersh said...


Although many here will probably disagree, this researcher feels that endogenous butyrate production is increased by higher carb and decreased by higher meat protein diets.

donny said...

Effect of luminal constituents on vitamin K1 absorption into thoracic duct lymph
D Hollander and E Rim

Lymphatic appearance rate of [3H] phylloquinone was studied in unanesthetized rats with cannulated bile and lymph ducts. A linear relationship (y= -44.9 + 10.2x, r=0.99) was found between the rate of the compound's infusion into the duodenum and its appearance rate in the lymph. Increasing the taurocholate infusate concentrations from 5 to 15 mM increased phylloquinone appearance rate in the lymph from 6.47 +/- 1.82 to 24.14 +/- 1.20 pmol/min (P less than .01). Varying the infusate pH from 4.35 to 8.0 did not change lymphatic appearance rate of vitamin K1 or lymphatic flow rate. Addition of short-chain fatty acid (butyrate) to the infusate enhanced the total absorption of vitamin K1 into the bile and lymph, whereas the addition of polyunsaturated fatty acids inhibited the total absorption of the vitamin. These experiments delineate some factors that modify the extrusion rate of vitamin K1 out of the enterocyte into the lymphatic circulation and add information regarding this phase of the absorptive pathway of lipids.

I usually consider the above as it relates to human health. But since bacteria produce some K2 from K1, and also produce butyric acid, well, if the health of our gut bacteria is important to our health, then maybe we have to consider the whole nutritional needs of those bacteria? In a similar vein, vitamin b12 production by gut bacteria might be important to our health, even if we don't absorb any of it.

I'm not sure what the source of polyunsaturate was in the above study, I've only read the abstract, but I've seen another study that used corn oil. That stuff really does suck.

TedHutchinson said...

Re randy's link
Other may want to read more of Stephen J.D. O’Keefe work in this free full text article from Current Opinion in Gastroenterology 2008,
Nutrition and colonic health: the critical role of the microbiota

Anonymous said...

well its really a nice post.. food can make us healthy but over eating is harmful..excess mil and butter hurt our body..Which will increase the rate of hear attack..


JBG said...

Jean, thanks for the links, especially the link to Cooling Inflammation.

I notice Cooling Inflammation is on Stephan's list of blogs. The writer there, Art Ayers, seems to share many characteristics with Stephan.

Senta said...

Dr. Eades has an article on resistant starch here:

"If the benefits of the resistant starch come from its conversion to butyrate as our RD avers, and if it requires the amount per day found in only one half cup of potato (or of the other foods she lists) as she also avers, then why not provide ourselves with one and a half times as much by eating a couple of pats of butter per day, which come without the extra three teaspoons of sugar? We get the butyrate without having to convert and we don’t get the extra carbs. Makes perfect sense to me."

I'm not sure he is right about the amount of butyrate in butter though, I suspect it is much lower but haven't been able to find figures.

Ed said...


Nutrition Data has the butyrate content at 452 mg per tablespoon of butter.

So it would take 5 tablespoons of butter to get 2.3 grams of butyrate.

I wonder if it varies if it's CAFO butter, or pastured, or whatever.

Senta said...

Thanks Ed! So I guess you just look at the 4 carbon saturated fat, makes sense.

So according to nutritiondata, a pat contains 161 mg, not the 1.45 grams that Eades said, so he is way off. Still, it may be easier to get it premade thanks to the cow doing all the work!

I too wonder if the quality of butter changes the butyrate content.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Senta and Ed,

Pastured butter seems to contain about the same amount of butyrate as grain-fed, surprisingly.

I'm not convinced that butter is an adequate substitute for SCFA production by intestinal bacteria. Butyrate in butter is absorbed in the small intestine, so it won't be concentrated in the bowel like it is when it's produced from fiber. The blood concentration will also be cyclical rather than stable as it is when it's produced in the gut. I don't know if that has implications for its effects. I see butter as a supplement to dietary fiber rather than a replacement.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

"Butyrate in butter is absorbed in the small intestine, so it won't be concentrated in the bowel like it is when it's produced from fiber."

Is that a case for eating butter and soluble fibre/fiber?

trix said...

Like eating homemade sourdough rye bread...maybe with a little ground flax thrown in and spread with raw butter?

Sweet potatoes with butter and a few chopped pecans on top.

Some other examples would be helpful.

kilton said...

Hey Stephan,

How do you reconcile this data with the Diet and Reinfarction Trial showing a higher rate of death with doubled fiber intake, and the data showing that fiber inhibits mineral absorption?

Senta said...

Stephan, you said:

"I'm not convinced that butter is an adequate substitute for SCFA production by intestinal bacteria. Butyrate in butter is absorbed in the small intestine, so it won't be concentrated in the bowel like it is when it's produced from fiber... I see butter as a supplement to dietary fiber rather than a replacement."

I'm getting confused about the conclusions now - the first part of your article is about mice being fed butyrate, which means it was absorbed in the small intestine. Isn't that the butyrate that would suppress inflammation in "other tissues" since it goes out to the rest of the body and never makes it past the small intestine? Then it would only be the butyrate that gets produced by fermentation in the bowel that protects the bowel, right? That butyrate in the bowel isn't absorbed and available to the rest of the body, is it?

Is it possible that the protective effect of butyrate as far as intestinal permeability is concerned would not even be necessary if the gut wall was not being assaulted by fiber in the first place?

Helen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen said...

This is really interesting and seems like a great justification for my cream-top-yogurt-and-wholegrain-sourdough diet.

It also suggests one of several possible reasons why fruit is/could be healthful even though refined fructose is a disaster. I believe whole fruit isn't dangerous - we evolved to find it delicious and appealing for good reason - but there is a mounting fruit phobia on some blogs due to the mounting evidence against fructose.

Besides the micronutrients that fruit contains that could mitigate or alter the effects of fructose, I have had a hypothesis fermenting in my brain (which I haven't had time to research) that the fiber allows some of the fructose to be fermented in our gut - which would result in acetic acid (vinegar), which promotes greater insulin sensitivity and more favorable fat deposition. It also blocks absorption of some carbohydrates (perhaps this is one reason too much fruit results in the runs).

Now it looks like the fiber in fruit could help butyric acid production, too - something I'd never heard of.

People also aren't aware that not all fruits have a lot of fructose.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi kilton9,

I don't want to say I have a definitive answer, but here's my opinion. I'll start by pointing out that the difference wasn't statistically significant, although looking at the curves it's hard to believe it's not a real effect.

They increased their fiber intake through whole grain bread and fiber supplements. Those are both potentially sources of improperly prepared grain fiber, which I believe is detrimental due to its content of anti-nutrients among other things. My guess is that if they had been using traditional sourdough from freshly ground flour, or even better, properly treated non-gluten grains and non-grain fiber sources, the effect would have been reversed.

Hi Senta,

They fed those mice a huge amount of butyrate. I wouldn't recommend anyone eat that amount directly. It's impossible in any case, even if you ate nothing but butter.

Butyrate from the large intestine does get absorbed into the bloodstream in both mice and humans.

Hi Helen,

I agree the fiber content of fruits could be a factor. The micronutrients though... fruit really isn't that nutritious.

Helen said...

Re: fruits. Really? Depending on the fruit, they can have substantial vitamin C, carotene, anthocyanins, lycopene, quercetin, citrus bioflavoniods, and potassium. No, I don't work for the Fruit Board, and I'm not on the phytochemical bandwagon (anymore), but I do think they have some roles to play in health. And often, it seems, one thing in whatever you eat helps with another thing in the same thing, so perhaps these chemicals in fruit especially help us healthfully metabolize fruit. Just a thought.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Helen,

Fruit are a good source of vitamin C, I'll give you that. But in terms of other essential micronutrients, there isn't much there on a per calorie basis.

Helen said...

Hi Stephan,

Well, vitamin C has its virtues, I reckon. It was kind of the 1970s' vitamin D, some may recall.

Since I have your attention, there's something else I've been wanting to run by you. Maybe you've covered it already and I've missed it: the question of peanuts being artherogenic, creating (ick!) fibrous lesions on the arterial wall, probably due to their particular lectin's affinity for our endothelium.

Of course, the studies on this featured the infamous cholesterol-fed rabbit, but still, lectin-caused fibrous lesions give me the willies.

I stopped eating peanuts a while back for other reasons, but I have, in my life, eaten enough peanut butter to sink an ocean liner.

Is this worth freaking out about? And could the same thing be happening with wheat lectins and/or soy lectins? I eagerly await your opinion.

navegante said...

Great info, thanks!

Interesting that butyric acid is also a fatty acid in GABA, gamma aminobutyric acid.

jon bean said...


One of the most informative blogs Ive read on the net...thankyou !

Ive a question or 2
I have a heap of Autoimmune Diseases. Including Hasimotos (Thyroiditis) and Isaacs Syndrome (Nerve Hyperexcitability Disease)

There is more ...however..the reason I write today is because I have just also been diagnosed with "Fatty Liver Disease" even though I am thin and eat healthy.

This Blog..could have almost been written for me I no one has more to gain if butyrate could be increased in my body.

My Doctors cannot explain why my liver is clogging up with fat..and thus cannot help me in any way.

Ive reduced fruit intake (cut down on fructose) and honey..which I loved.

However as a diet..what could I take to maximise butyrate and at the same time perhaps help metabolize the fat in the liver.

Some people have suggested I go ona high fat diet.

Any suggestions most welcome.

And why not just supplement with Sodium Butyrate..would it work ?and if so how much to take to get an effect. !?

Thanks in advance

Todd Hargrove said...

New evidence that cereal grains were used 100k years ago?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Very interesting Todd, thanks for sharing.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Re the story about stone age grains, Keith Norris had an interesting comment about this on Twitter recently: he suggested the grains were more likely used for pigments/paint.

Unknown said...

Hey Jon,

I'm pretty sure the studies in humans showing the benefits of butyrate supplementation uniformly used coated tablets/capsules to ensure delivery in the colon rather than earlier in the digestive tract. I checked around for such a supplement and only found Chinese suppliers selling crates of coated sodium butyrate for animal feed! Since when do livestock have better access to nutritional supplements than us?

Stephan notes that oral butyrate would be absorbed from the small intestine, and would then theoretically exert global anti-inflammatory effects, but I can't comment either way.

Here's a very interesting post on butyrate and autoimmunity:

Goes into good depth. Another thing you might try is probiotic supplementation. Align makes a probiotic which induces the production of T-regs (which may help curb autoimmunity) in vivo:

It wouldn't surprise me if this effect was common to beneficial strains of lactic acid and/or bifidobacteria.

Also, since increased intestinal permeability is commonly associated with autoimmune diseases, you might look into glutamine supplementation, 10-20 grams twice a day on an empty stomach. It, along with butyrate, is the primary fuel for intestinal epithelial cells, and helps maintain the mucosal barrier which keeps pathogens and other antigens out of general circulation. See for example,

Multiple autoimmune conditions sounds to me (not a doctor, just a student really interested in autoimmune disease) like the result of an allergen to which you're systemically exposed, e.g. celiac is comorbid with hashimoto's ( probably because gliadin increases intestinal permeability and allows gluten to enter the bloodstream, causing autoantibody production against other tissues. Have you done food allergy testing and/or been tested for celiac? I'd stay away from grains if I were you.

Infections can also cause autoimmune diseases, e.g. lyme ( see and ). IIRC, some significant percentage of rheumatoid arthritis patients respond to antibiotics. You might look into lyme testing (the igenex western blot is the only good test, be sure to get all the bands) or an experimental trial of antibiotics, e.g. doxycycline, to which lyme usually responds with a herxheimer reaction.

Green tea, fish oil, and vitamin D have shown promise in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, there's a lot of research if you go digging, especially on the latter two. Caloric restriction, if you can tolerate it, appears to be the most effective intervention for autoimmune disease in general:

and the list goes on and on. Since you're already lean and healthy, I'd track your calories every day for a week using free software like the cron-o-meter ( ), then eat 25% fewer calories per day indefinitely, making sure to get at least 100% of your DRI for every essential nutrient.

Best of luck to you!

El said...

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I'm gonna dive in and learn all I can about butyric acid. You hint at lots of practical aps for dieters. I want to know more. What about lentils and beans? Do they produce butyric acid? They certainly produce intestinal gas, which I have never considered a bad thing.

so, as the boots on the ground practical half of the Silver Cloud Diet, writing team, I'd like to know if adding fermented foods daily (i.e. kim chee, sauer kraut, cold smoked salmon, would increase butyrate in the gut of a low carb dieter? Just asking.
Linda West Eckhardt
James Beard award winning cookbook author
co-author The Silver Cloud Diet e-book
available at
see our blog at Huffington Post.

sally said...

Ok so I read the whole thing,,,lots to read and now I am totally confused.
I am a diabetic and I am told to eat only sour dough bread because it helps set up the sugars, Looks like it is mentioned here, and what about sour crout and pickles the sour ones?

I wish someone would write a simple, easy to read piece on diabetics. I am trying to find what is most important to eat without having to read a whole book only to be confused or find others think the book is full of garbage.
I get little bits here and there but I forget later what I read because it is such little bits and seems to come so far between times.

I have been reading these posts for a while and seem to get some info from them, Thanks.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi El,

I don't know how much butyrate comes from beans specifically. I also don't know if fermented foods increase intestinal butyrate production. However, fermented vegetables do contain fiber, which should be partially fermented into butyrate. That will be the case with unfermented vegetables as well.

Anna said...


If you haven't already found it, I highly recommend you read Jenny's Diabetes Update blog as well as her Blood Sugar 101 website (formerly known as What They Don't Tell You About Diabetes). Jenny isn't a scientist or doctor, but she has a sharp mind and deep understanding of diabetes and treatments. Additionally Jenny does an excellent job of translating the research and recommendations into language that most people can understand and use. It was finding Jenny's site that clued me in that my own doctors were completely missing my high post meal BG by relying on simply monitoring my fasting BG and my weight.

You don't say what type of diabetes you have, but I think you'll find Jenny's sites informative for any type.

I also highly recommend Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution book, the most recent updated and revised edition. While Dr. Bernstein focusses on Type I diabetes, what he has to say about managing BG is applicable to with or all at risk of BG disregulation. We can thank Dr. Bernstein for pushing the medical authorities to allow patients to self-test their BG.

Not much about diabetes is simple, but no chronic disease is simple, despite what you might hear in the media, from your doctor, or from the drug companies.

Heather Twist said...

I linked to this post in my Blog too (not as great as yours though!). I've been experimenting with butyrate too, though mainly by eating konjac (glucomannan) which is a fiber said to increase butyrate production. I don't know if it does or not, in me, but it has resulted in a very happy gut and joints and other good effects.

jon bean said...

Just wanted to thank Sammmi for her kind and very thoughtful post.

Im looking at all of points you have mentioned.

I suffered for years with IBS like symptoms before diagnosis of these Autoimmune Conditions.

The body is complicated, however genetic susceptibility and certain pathogens have unlocked the Autoimmunity Genie out of its bottle for me...Its not one factor I believe its an array of many interactions...gut a real possible issue with my history..despite neg for celiac.

I will be seraching for Sodium Butyrate coated capsules.

In the meantime upping my veg, reducing my fruit intake and starting to use Anchor butter!

Gradual slow CR is also a possible.

Thanks again Sammmi
Your reply post is most appreciated.

sally said...

Anna: thanks for the links, I will definately look at them. I have type 2 and neuropathy as a result. I have been trying to find the RIGHT diet mixture for these problems and there is so much saying "yes" and "no" to the same ideas that the more I read the more I get confused.
It sure would be nice to have one very smart person come along and tell me they read it all "and here's what to do"
So many people who know but no one seems to get on the side of an unexperienced diabetic and tell us what really works in simple terms we can live with. It's all nice if we "get it" after a few years of reading and trying but by then damage is done. I hope the links will help me figure this out before too much more damage is done, right now I am at the point of "good day, bad day" depending on how the feet are feeling, day and night, which is not going the way I hoped it would.
Problem is I found out my pain was due to this diabetic thing once I realized the pain was just getting worse and I am not so tough anymore, by then there was some deformities in the way my feet looked and worked while walking, I guess I took too ling to see that but mostly because there was not any mention of this complication in the brochures and public warning at that time, now I see it is getting out finally and people are getting more education on it. Mind you, I dont hesitate to bring this up in people's blogs and medical write ups either cos it is so important for thosewho don't know to see.
Sorry if this is getting way off topic. just looking for help where I see it possible. Thanks again for the links and for reading.

water said...

I'd like to second the Bernstein and Blood Sugar 101 recommendations and mention another site - PaNu. Dr. Kurt Harris says he's spent nearly 2500 hours doing the reading. He's got 12 steps. Between Bernstein, Jenny and PaNu, you should be in pretty good shape.
I would urge you to consider the possibility of food intolerances (which can hamper blood sugar control, contribute to malabsorption, and aggravate neuorological issues) as well.

Anonymous said...

I have a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, meaning that colonic bacteria has a tendency to overgrow into the small intestine. This makes it difficult to eat most carbohydrates, and the common advice to people with my condition is to avoid fiber, fructose, FOS, sucralose, and sorbitol, as these things really do exacerbate symptoms and encourage bacterial growth. I do best on a high fat diet although I do still have symptoms.

I moderate a group for others with this condition and we've been discussing microbial fermentation and acid production because we recently ran across this letter:

Gastrointerologists were able to treat a man with unresponsive SIBO (hasn't responded to broad spectrum antibiotics - like a lot of us) with administration of lactulose solution. We did some research and found this:

This document explained the mechanism by which a person might be "cured" of SIBO with lactulose, as it explained that 2 coloinc microbial strains in particular produced acetic, lactic and butyric acids when metabolizing lactulose, and by doing so, put a large dent in the bacteroid population. This led us here to you, because of your discussion of butyric acid. And we're interested in the idea of consuming butter oil and in supplementing.

I really like your post and how open minded you are about fiber; we are for the most part anti-fiber, but more due to the way it makes us feel (horrible!) than because of any academic research or dietary dogma. Considering our aversion, however, we were wondering, short of drinking lactulose, if supplementation of butyric acid might prove helpful to those of us with colonic bacteria in our small intestines. Any thoughts?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Girrlockholmes,

I'm not an expert on SIBO. My guess is that oral butyrate alone will probably not help a SIBO. However, raw fermented foods with a spectrum of short-chain fatty acids, probiotic bacteria and other gentle antimicrobials may help if tolerated. I'll give you some thoughts purely for informational purposes (discuss with your doc). Some of these will probably be obvious to you.

-Avoid fructose and all refined carbs. Fructose is your enemy.

-Be aware of food sensitivities, especially gluten and dairy. You may be sensitive to foods without realizing you're symptomatic, and without coming up positive on food sensitivity tests.

-Try out raw fermented food like sauerkraut (if tolerated), unfiltered raw vinegar, and kombucha that's been fermented enough that it's no longer sweet. I have a sauerkraut recipe on the blog. This may take a while to be effective.

-Balance n-6:3 by avoiding industrial seed oils and ensuring a modest but regular intake of omega-3. This has to do with gut wall permeability and resistance to the inflammatory effects of infection. This is also a long-term strategy.

-Stomach acid is critical in avoiding SIBO. Proton pump blocking drugs used for indigestion and ulcers cause SIBO in rodents and humans alike. Antacids like Tums will do the same. You may think about experimenting with betaine HCl pills (HCl is stomach acid) to restore stomach acidity if that's a problem (it's fairly common).

Just some ideas. Please keep us updated and let us know if you have success with any of these approaches or others.

Unknown said...

Just a quick question. Would you now rather go for white rice or brown rice? Isn't white rice not much different from a potato?

I know brown rice has more antinutrients like phytic acid, but also more nutrients. I vaguely remember you discussing that overall, the minerals you get from both types of rice is roughly the same. So, should I go for the extra fiber for some extra butyric acid?

Also, is it correct that phytic acid from a food wont interfere with the minerals from the rest of my diet? Phytic acid in brown rice wont make the minerals in my meat unabsorbable if I eat em together?

Unknown said...

Oh, and how does all of this tie with Peter's posts about fiaf at Hyperlipid?

It seems to me that the point he is making is that fiber feeds gut bacteria, who suppress the production of fiaf when well-fed. When they are hungry which means they dont get fiber, they let fiaf levels rise, which mobilizes fat of the host, the human. He seems to suggest no fiber might help in weight loss.

What do you think of it? Too speculative?

peterpeasant said...

It seems a little odd
that any nutrient uptake happens in
humans after ingested material has passed the small intestine.

What are the metabolic pathways for absorption of nutrients from the lower bowel?

There is an extraordinary statement
"It turns out, butyrate has been around in the mammalian gut for so long that the lining of our large intestine has evolved to use it as its primary source of energy."

No evidence is provided for this statement.

Since when has the lining of lower guts not used the energy supplies of the rest of our bodies?

By the way these surmises were based on mouse trials.

I respectfully suggest that mouse metabolism is rather different from that of homo sapiens, especially when the mice are fed a diet radically different from that they are developed to eat.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Andy,

I don't have the answers. It's possible that starving the bacteria is one way to lose weight. However, feeding them in certain ways also causes weight loss. There's been a trial of oligofructose supplementation where overweight people lost fat mass but no lean mass taking 20g/day for 12 weeks. No other changes in diet. It's supposed to be one of the best fibers for producing butyrate.

Hi Peterpeasant,

Absorption of short-chain fatty acids from the colon occurs by a passive diffusion process. You can measure SCFAs in human blood so it's definitely absorbed.

Here is a reference for my "extraordinary statement" that the human large intestinal lining uses butyrate as its preferred fuel source:

It also uses glutamine for energy, it's an unusual tissue.

Anonymous said...

Stephan, thanks so much for the reply. I wanted to get back to you sooner but I was out of town for a family emergency. You may not be an expert on SIBO but then no one really is, especially our doctors. Those of us with this condition have been doing our own research and experimenting on ourselves for a while now and no doubt will continue to do so until we can feel better. A few of the group members are actually patients at Cedars Siani, so they are able to take guidance from Dr. Pimentel or his colleages, but most of us do not have that kind of assistance.

Your recommendations are great ones. I can’t speak for everyone with SIBO, but as for myself and the more vocal group members, I would say we already are practicing most of these, especially fructose avoidance. Most of us avoid gluten as well, and supplement with Betaine HCl. These things help somewhat but very few of us have a quality of life that we feel is acceptable. As far as the fermented foods/probiotics issue, we’ve had really mixed results; usually probiotics in pill or yogurt form makes us feel better in the short term, but one group member was able to prove through breath testing that bacterial levels rose after long-term consumption of SCD-style homemade yogurt. Sadly, most of us cannot tolerate Apple cider vinegar or kombucha and some of us have problems with saurkraut. I personally made and drank kefir for one month and the only changes in my health were a massive fatigue and 20 lb weight gain. I get what you and others are saying about it being a long-term process but most of us have been discouraged and confused by the more immediate symptoms and we find it hard to know how long is long enough to deal with bloating, bowel irregularities, body aches and other symptoms before we know something is or isn’t working for us. If you had any insight on this process I would be interested in what you have to say.

It is too bad that what we’re dealing with is so experiential – it makes for bad science or at least difficult science. Some of my group members visited your blog and read your comment and really appreciated it; usually our condition is totally ignored by anyone with an interest in diet and health as if we are an anomoly, when in reality, SIBO is incredibly underdiagnosed. Thanks for taking an interest. As far as the butyric acid, I’m trying a supplement along with the other recommendations you listed that have been helping and will update if there are any interesting developments.

blogblog said...

Most people are amazed to learn that there are are no vegetarian mammals. This is because all mammals evolved from insectivore acestors.

Even grass-fed cattle have an ultra-low carbohydrate "diet" composed almost entirely of volatile fatty acids and amino acids (fat and protein) via gut fermentation.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Girrlockholmes,

Hmm. A couple more thoughts. Lactose is fermented in the small intestine in some people, so that could be worth avoiding as well (basically, all dairy except cheese and butter).

Dr. Art Ayers has made some observations on gut biofilms that may interest you:

Biofilms are persistent bacterial colonies in the intestine. I think they're normal, but when they become colonized by unwanted bacteria, they're very hard to get rid of. I don't know if that's a factor in SIBO, but it would make sense.

Philip Rudnick said...

An anti-cancer nutrient in food fiber - but not in pure, refined fiber - is phytic acid/inositol hexaphosphate/IP6.

A Medline search of: fiber phytic acid

--------->210 hits

Philip Rudnick

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Philip,

As far as I know, the anti-cancer effect of phytic acid has not been demonstrated in humans, in fact, available evidence isn't consistent with the theory. The positive data all come from rats, which have the ability to degrade phytic acid in the intestine (which humans essentially don't). In humans, a diet high in phytic acid is more likely to lead to mineral deficiencies than a decreased cancer risk.

TedHutchinson said...

Reduced plasma half-life of radio-labelled 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in subjects receiving a high-fibre diet.

The effects of prolonged consumption of wholemeal bread upon metabolism of calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus of two young American adults

The slides in this Power Point presentation may explain what is happening.
Disease Informatics: Phytates driving from the back-end to Influenza, Encephalitis, Hepatitis, Anemia at the front-end

Unknown said...

Role of Colonic Short-Chain Fatty Acid Transport in Diarrhea

Annual Review of Physiology
Vol. 72: 297-313 (Volume publication date March 2010)

MISHE said...

Hi Stephan and others reading.

I've read that kombucha tea contains butyric acid. Does anyone know what the quantity is?

UmmAisha said...

I read cautions to avoid distilled vinegar. What are the dangers of it?
how to make raw vinegar at home at cheaper cost?

Rodney said...

What do you have to say about "resistant starch" which I've read the body converts into butyrate?

And there are a couple of books out now claiming that if you eat a lot of resistant starch you can lose weight and attain other health benefits. One of them is called "The Carb-Lover's Diet" the other is titled "The Skinny Carbs Diet."

jewiuqas said...

I am eating canned cod liver instead of cod liver oil. I am wondering, if it is an equally god source of vitamins D and A. I suppose, the liver is cooked. Does it not destroy the vitamins?

Heather Twist said...

Great post! One comment on eating butyrate ... it get absorbed before it reaches the lower intestine. And many fibers either are totally digested too early, or not digested at all. But some foods are really good butyrate producers. One of the best is konjac root, which has glucomannan fiber (also in aloe vera, I think?). Anyway, konjac does really NICE things for a person's gut.

Stone Glasgow said...

The Inuit eat a lot of fermented fish. They throw it in a pile and let it rot, basically, which would create butyric acid via fermentation outside the gut.

Anonymous said...

Actually acidic diets are extremely common, especially in America, because of the temptations that are presented every day. Fast food restaurants, Bars serving alcohol, and stores serving numerous amounts of junk food are all responsible. And not just the acidic diets is important but a food combining as well.

Unknown said...

Without inflammation we would not heal or be able to ward off a bacterial attack. But the inflammatory process is a balanced process and the body relies on the balance of this process to ensure we remain health while at the same time ensuring it can protect itself.

Inflammation symptoms

mary bjoraker said...

High Butyrate levels help prevent cancer metastisis. See article in Science daily - really amazing!

Anonymous said...

Looks like saturated fats (lard) are again being lumped in with oils like soy and getting a bad rap. Ironically butyrate is very high in buttermilk.

Too many people out there making money on highly priced supplements when it's more of a no brainer and eating "natural" fats and a good wholefood diet would be far better for them and actually help to heal the gut.

Extra fiber or fermentation when you have something like disbiosis can cause a lot of discomfort. Fat better to eat the end product (from something like butter milk or other saturated animal fat) and cut out the inflammatory causing fats until gut motility problems are resolved!

Ironic that we are nagged about eating saturated fats, or animal fats and yet they contain the very qualities you need as they contain microbial properties as well as being needed by the body for repair.

Now we're being told to take it in a pill form (SCFA's) instead of just eating the darned stuff from the obvious source.

Joan Tendler said...

Thanks so much for this very clear and informative article! I was wondering if the butyric acid in butter is connected to the butyric acid in GABA (gamma-butyric acid), that is, if eating butter helps us to make more GABA, which would be very helpful.

Puddleg said...

Very interesting.
FYI, I googled Roast Beef Spread and got

Puddleg said...

P.S., you might like this.

Butyrate from probiotic protects fatty liver (methionine/choline deficient rats) against progression to NASH and hepatocellular cancer.

The probiotic MIYAIRI 588 is clostridium butyricum which is marketed in Japan as a treatment for c. difficile.

A thorough paper with top-quality graphic presentation of results.

Unknown said...

More research on butyrate and its positive effect on regulation of inflamation:

Unknown said...

Didn't see if anyone already said this, but one of the most concentrated sources I know of is ginkgo fruit. it contains so much that it smells quite a bit. almost like someone soaked sweaty gym socks in waterlogged parmesan cheese. Too bad the fruit and raw seed are mildly poisonous. The nut is actually fairly tasty when properly cooked and retains some of the cheesy smell from butyric acid, thankfully not as much as the fruit on its own!

Hilaire said...

"Butyrate" is the chemical name. In chemistry, it goes 1-carbon =methane, 2-carbons, ethane.... 4 carbons = butane. It contains four carbons and the (-ate) means it is the ionized form of the carboxylic acid. There is NO relationship to butter in the name, but butter is a good source.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Hilaire,

I can assure you that butyrate gets its name from butter, because it was first isolated from butter. Butane is a different molecule but the root word is the same-- the word also comes from butter originally since it has the same number of carbons as butyric acid.

P1 said...

Isn't the metabolism you describe much the same with MCT Oil (which is manufactured from the medium chain fatty acid Lauric acid in coconut oil and palm kernel oil)? I've noticed how taking MCT Oil definitely raises my body temperature and increases my pulse. It seems to push metabolism to a higher level, and it sounds similar to what might happen if we ingested butyrate? It's about a fat that goes straight to the liver and produces ketones.

One question here: would this increased thermogenic activity shorten lifespan? After all increased body temperature and metabolic rates suggests that all processes in the body are happening more quickly.

Heather Twist said...

MCT raises metabolism, which is why body builders like it. Me too.

As for butyrate ... it STINKS. It is in some foods, like rancid butter or Durian fruit, which most people refuse to eat. The other issue is that the butyrate is used up before it reaches the colon.

There are butyrate enemas, which are said to work well (they stink too, but no one expect an enema to smell well)

I prefer konjac, which feeds the butyrate bacteria (but doesn't stink itself).

Patelurology2 said...

On Dec 7, 2009 David said in a post and referred to Linolenic acid as an Omega 6 in error; Omega 3, it is and the rest is correct.

P1 said...

Heather Twist: the latest rage in producing butyrate is to ingest raw potato starch (NOT potato flour!). There are a lot of reports of pretty profound affects from that, and my current best theory is that the starch is metabolizing in the colon to butyrate, and some of the excess from that is becoming ketones.

Regarding konjac: my research suggests that even for a pure starch product, cooking to around 130 F bursts the starch modules and they become something that metabolizes to glucose.

If you want pointers to anything regarding above, you can contact direct to persistentone AT spamarrest DOT com

P1 said...

I had a chance to read this article and comments more thoroughly, and a few observations:

1) If we ingest butyrate via food like butter or goat cheese, I have a hard time believing that any of this survives a long trip through the small intestine. Either the butyrate feeds the small intestinal cells, or alternately passes through to the liver to become ketones.

Does anyone have data suggesting that any significant amount of dietary butyrate would pass to the colon?

2) If we want to target the colon, then we should focus on resistant starch. Some of these like raw potato starch appear to be near rocket fuel for the colon, based on the many reports of people who are taking it. Immediate visual confirmation that colonic bacteria are feasting on this stuff is that potato starch is reported by many to significantly enlarge stool volume.

The questions become:

1) How much resistant starch is enough to produce butyrate at a level that creates a benefit?

2) How much resistant starch is enough to produce butyrate at a level that creates a toxicity or other side-effects that are adverse?

3) How does one MEASURE anything to know that these levels are being achieved?

If we know that resistant starch will metabolize to butyrate, and that some of this will escape to metabolism and go to the liver to create ketones, then we can use a ketone meter and should be able to see some effect at night if a raw potato starch meal is the last one of the day.

At this point it seems to me we are all flying blind. Even if I test at night for ketones and see them rise above 0.2 mmol/L, I have no criteria for how much is too much.

Lack of any precision or criteria for measuring makes this all highly speculative. We are engaging in a self-experiment and don't have good criteria for success or failure.

Heather Twist said...

Speaking of appetite, I've also noticed that tyramine has a big effect on my appetite, making me full even though I've not eaten much at all. There is a fair bit of tyramine in fish sauce and soy sauce, which are used a lot in the typical Asian cuisine. And it is also produced in the human gut.

It doesn't seem clear if tyramine is considered a good thing or not, but it's been a standard in food for centuries and I haven't seen any bad effects in me.

Kim said...

awesome post! I googled "butyrate" after I read a study from medscape about gut flora and MS--hidden in the study was references to IBS and butyrate.
Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this - I am in Chinese medical school and feeling really depleted from all the studying and non-stop go go going...I have been eating this amazing butter I found at Wholefoods called German Butter and I daydream about it during the day. I knew there was a connection with Butyric Acid and I just couldn't remember what it was. This was a very helpful and fantastic read. I also enjoy reading other peoples comments - what an informed and interesting bunch of readers! Thank you again :)

Floating Cloud said...

Great post. My concern is the sources of butyrate producing fiber in grains, nuts, seeds, beans, yams and sweet potatoes due to essential mineral robbing phytate content and amount; The lowest amount of phytate I found is in raw potatoes (minus the sweet potatoes and yams) in amounts small enough to be neutralized by phytase produced in human body. The bottom line is my highest source of butyrate producing food is Raw Organic Potatoes (peeled to avoid bacteria and sprout associated elements), which are soft and have taste, and contain Resistant Starch Category 2. RS2 is processed by the ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine into Butyrate. I’m 58 years old and a 41-year Type 1 Diabetic and the results for my overall health besides decreased insulin-resistance have been spectacular. My diet is raw vegetarian, but with boiled egg, raw goat milk, no oils, and no high-phytate source foods such as grains, nuts, seed, beans, ect.

lisao said...

How is it concentrated? Ghee is simmered for a long time to remove all the water and milk solids. How would you concentrate butter more than this process does short of putting it through some extreme procedure that would make it highly processed? Just curious. I've read other people knowledgable in nutrition that say it is largely the same thing. It is the quality of the butter in terms of pasture feeding and quality of pasture that make it high vitamin not some special processing done to it is my understanding. The main difference is that those who invoke prices name and call it high vitamin butter oil charge several times the price than those who call it ghee made from grass fed cows

Unknown said...

Hi Stephan
thanks for a great post on Butyric acid (BA)! Just an hour ago, I came upon text script of Ron Rosedale-Shelly's interview "Fiber – Need It or Not?" and am concerned to read that research has shown that BA fuels colon cancer and that resistant starch (in addition to high carb diets)which generates considerable BA should be eschewed. Rosedale maintains that BA from butter which he generously eats is practically harmless as most of it get digested and assimilated before reaching the colon, hence does not fuel the cancerous cells there. These research findings seem to oppose of what you posted here on BA, so what are your thoughts on this? The link to the interview is as follows:

Ron Rosedale – Fiber – Need It or Not? - by Shelley


Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Cjuan,

I strongly disagree with that perspective. First of all, I haven't seen any research suggesting that butyic acid promotes cancer. To the contrary, multiple groups are investigating its anti-cancer potential.

Second, the idea that we should avoid fermentable fiber because it generates butyric acid is contrary to a large body of evidence suggesting that both are beneficial. Our ancestors have nearly always eaten high-fiber diets (with the exception of people in arctic environments) and to suggest that we do better on diets that contain little or no fiber is just bizarre. I could imagine that specific cases of dysbiosis could benefit by restricting fuel to the microbial community, but I seriously doubt that works as a general principle.

K. Davidhizar said...

Hi, you don't mention resistant starch as a producer of butyrate. Just yesterday I started eating cooked and cooled parboiled rice with some potato starch. Today after I ate another bowl I felt a feeling of warmth and well being that I've never felt after eating anything. I'm normally a cold person, cold hands, cold feet. The feeling of warmth was unmistakeable and I also felt energized. I got up and did some things that I had been putting off for days. I'm 66 and overweight hoping this will help my weight loss program along with a generally low carb diet.


sally said...

I want to know more too. Seems eating cold pasta or rice made for a salad might be good for us rather then eating it hot. I heard it can help diabetics as well

Steve Barwick said...

PeterPeasant, you asked for evidence for the statement "It turns out, butyrate has been around in the mammalian gut for so long that the lining of our large intestine has evolved to use it as its primary source of energy."

That got my curiosity up, as well. I haven't found much, but an article on says, in relation to previous research on butyrate, "...butyrate's anti-inflammatory properties were attributed to its role as main energy source for the cells lining the colon." (See

So, somewhere out there, there are apparently some studies that have drawn this conclusion. (See

Unknown said...

It is very interesting thread. It is too bad it is pretty complex to understand. Maybe I should read it again in few months when I m more educated about all this.
I have ulcerative colitis for many years now but it keeps getting worse over the years and I have always been told to eat a low fiber diet but I don't believe it is the solution. I tend to have a very healthy diet. I still have my daily banana papaya coconut milk shake. I wonder if I should remove all fruit but then I would be wondering what I can eat mornings and for snack. I keep reducing more and more.

Heather Twist said...

The quickie shortcut is to add konjac to your diet. Maybe along with some s. boulardii (which produces butyrate and kills candida). And avoid wheat and dairy, at least as an experiment.

Konjac is a fiber, but it is a very non-irritating one and can prevent the more irritating foods from causing irritation. I mix it into a smoothie. It's a bit difficult to get to stir in easily but a blender helps, or mix it with some powdered ingredient.

I've also been experimenting with taurine, arginine, and glycine. They are powders and easy to add to a smoothie. Taurine and glycine, especially, cause the gut to produce bile more easily, which makes it easier for the body to digest food well.

" In addition, taurine reduced the expression of Bax and prevented the loss of Bcl-2 proteins in colon tissue of rats with TNBS-induced colitis. The results of this study show that taurine administration may exert beneficial effects in UC by decreasing inflammatory reactions, oxidative stress and apoptosis."

Unknown said...

Several years back I shared this article on Facebook along with 2 other references to the value of Butyrate and Facebook gave it back to me today as a memory. Looks like I have some catching up to do! Heather Twist...since the only animal products I eat are wild salmon, not often, fish oil and organic eggs..I have been wondering what the source of individual amino acids would be? I'm suspecting beef..who knows this??

workerbee said...

Ok just got to know if the butyric acid in GABA is actually the same as butyric acid in butter.
GABA is supposed to be a neurotransmitter while the butyric acid we're discussing is for GI health.

It would actually make sense it's both.

But there's the blood brain barrier issue AND the allowing a supplement to reach the large intestine intact........And I'm sure you can't have both (I'd be surprised to find EITHER is possible in a.supplement )

Heather Twist said...


Pretty much everything that is in beef, is also in seafood and eggs, so I wouldn't worry about it. The best sources of taurine/argenine/glycine though are shellfish, like mussels or squid. Both of which are very yummy once you learn how to work with them. Mussels don't have a brain exactly either and are easily grown on ropes hanging in the ocean, so they should be ok for people ethically too. Eggs are also very good sources, and my chickens tell me they have no problem with me eating them as long as they get good kitchen scraps.

Now for vegan diets, your body may be able to create enough taurine/argenine/glycine ... it seems to work for the Yuzuharians. The limiting factors seem to be sulfur. Japanese/Korean diets feature lots of sulfur-rich vegies, plus they have all that nice volcanic soil. And Vitamin C ... there should be plenty in the greens.

But there is something really weird going on with Taurine. With Pottenger's cats, the deal wasn't that there wasn't enough in the food ... it was that COOKED meat prevents the taurine from being reabsorbed properly. I don't know if that is happening in humans, but it is odd that in some countries the taurine level is abysmally low, even though people eat a fair bit of meat and eggs.

The unabsorbed bile salts have a big effect on gut bacteria too.


Brad said...

I note at the beginning of this thread there were comments about kefir. I am confused about kefir since watching
at 6:47 it says - During the fermentation process the lactose and other sugars are broken down by lactic acid bacteria, of which small amounts are further broken down into propionic acid by propionibacterium. So how is this good?

Unknown said...

I found this very interesting, thank you.

Krista said...

I only just found this post - 7 years later! It is one of the best posts I've read on healing the gut. I've been making my own ghee! I'm not sure how the effects will play out over time but so far I've noted that I sleep better after taking ghee, and I did try other fats as a comparison but they didn't contain the same magic. I also have more energy, and strangely, I am less hungry too! I had reactive gastritis a year ago and though that cleared up I have a huge issue with toxins such as vanilla essence in foods; and consuming anything too hard on the tummy, including tea or straight olive oil (on food, it's fine). Probiotics gave me a histamine reaction, digestive enzymes burnt my stomach, and coconut oil triggered an overactive thyroid, so... I am hoping that butyric acid is the missing link for me. I'm hoping it will heal my small intestine, although I understand it targets the large intestine mainly. Thanks for the inspiration :)It's been over two years since I became so very food (and supplement) sensitive. See how we go