We’ve all heard that fiber is good for us. Butyrate is one of the primary reasons why.
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid produced from dietary fibers by bacterial fermentation in your colon. It’s the preferred food source for the colon, so of course it’s necessary to keep the colon healthy.
Here’s why you care.
Butyrate and Gut Health
Not surprisingly, butyrate is associated with protection against colon cancer, both because it helps to keep the colon epithelial cells healthy, and also because butyrate helps to trigger programmed cell death, or apoptosis, of cancer cells if they do arise.
Those who struggle with constipation have long been aware that fiber helps. One reason is because the butyrate produced from fiber helps to encourage fluid transport and intestinal motility.
Since gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is present throughout the intestines, a healthy colon should at least in part translate to a healthier immune system. Indeed, butyrate has been associated with decreased inflammation as well as immune modulation.
Butyrate and Brain Health
Butyrate, Blood Sugar Control, and Obesity
Blood sugar stability has also been connected to a healthy microbiome. Specifically, loss of Akkermansia muciniphila, one of the butyrate-producing good flora, is directly correlated with insulin resistance.
The flip side is also true: increased butyrate levels decreased high cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, both associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.
How to Increase the Butyrate in Your Gut
As mentioned in the intro, your gut flora produces butyrate from fiber, found in veggies, fruits, and whole grains primarily. Fiber, also called prebiotics, passes through you undigested and serves as food for the good bacteria in your gut.
This is a good reason not to go too heavy or too long-term on a low carb, high fat or protein diet such as the carnivore diet especially, or even the ketogenic diet (though it’s possible to do a higher fiber version of keto, and the keto diet does have its benefits). Low “good” carb diets, even for a relatively short period of time, have been shown to decrease butyrate levels.
Foods high in prebiotics that translate to high butyrate production include kiwis, resistant starches such as cooked and cooled potatoes, maize, legumes, and whole grains, avocados, and apples.
Low carb, high fat/protein diets are still quite popular, and they do have health benefits for many. But make sure you don’t entirely neglect the healthy prebiotic, fibrous foods. Good carbohydrates are still important for overall health.