This article explores the best butyrate supplements for healing your leaky gut. But first, some basic information about butyrate and why it matters for your gut health.
Last Updated: June 14, 2019
Despite its scary, chemical-sounding name, butyrate is actually a powerful anti-inflammatory and gut healer. And if you have leaky gut symptoms, the best butyrate supplements definitely belong with your medicines.
- What is Butyrate?
- What are the Forms of Butyrate in Supplements?
- What Does Butyrate Do in Your Body?
- When Should You Take Butyrate Supplements?
- How Much Butyrate Should You Take?
- What Foods Contain Butyrate?
- Why Take Butyrate Supplements for a Leaky Gut?
- What are the Side Effects of Butyrate Supplements?
- How Do You Choose the Best Butyrate Supplement?
- 5 Best Butyrate Supplements for Leaky Gut Remedy
- Take Home Message
What is Butyrate?
SCFAs are produced in your gut by your gut microbiota — the trillions of bacteria that call your digestive tract home. These bacteria ferment resistant starches (i.e. fiber) into SCFAs. Butyrate stands out among the SCFA family because it’s the most effective in healing your gut.
(Note: as you surf the net reading about butyrate and gut health, you may come across other similar sounding names, such as butyric acid, or maybe butanoic acid. Don’t let that trip you up — these are the same chemical! They are just the names given to more stable forms of this type of fatty acid that are often used in supplements.)
Butyrate is an anion, meaning it has a negative electrical charge. It’s really unstable unless it’s part of a salt (i.e. paired with a molecule that has a positive charge).
What are the Forms of Butyrate in Supplements?
- Tributyrin is the natural butyrate found in butter and it’s the superior form for digestion, absorbability, and bioactivity. It’s been the subject of much research and is proven to be more potent than other forms of butyrate.
- A more common form of butyrate in supplements is butyric or butanoic acid. This butyrate-form is stable and neutral, which makes it suitable for putting into supplements.
Butyrate can also come paired with a positively charged molecule in the form of a salt. Commonly, these positively charged molecules are sodium or calcium and magnesium.
If you’re not using tributyrin, it doesn’t matter too much whether you choose butyric acid or butyric salts. It will work the same in either case.
But butyric acid supplements will give you more bang for your buck because they’re all butyric acid. If you’re taking sodium butyrate or calcium/magnesium butyrate, around 1/3 of your supplement is sodium or calcium and magnesium.
While calcium and magnesium are essential minerals that you might not be getting enough of in your diet (and you might, therefore, want to pay for in your butyrate supplement), you are almost certainly getting plenty of sodium in your diet. You don’t really want to be shelling out for it in your butyrate supplement.
For this reason, I do recommend that, if you’re going to use a salt form, you choose calcium/magnesium butyrate.
What Does Butyrate Do in Your Body?
Now that I’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s look at what this busy little chemical is actually doing in your body. There’s a lot to it, so let’s dive straight in.
I’ve already hinted that the best butyrate supplements heal your gut by reducing inflammation.
But there are a hundred other anti-inflammatories that could do that. So, butyrate must do more than that to get such a great gut-healing reputation!
What makes butyrate so special is that it works in a multitude of ways in your gut.
Even though there’s still a lot to find out about why it’s so great, here’s what researchers know so far about butyrate and digestion.
- reduces inflammation in your gut by regulating your immune response. This can help you recover from leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and bowel cancer.
- feeds your colon cells and protects the cells’ lining. This can help keep your large intestine healthy and prevent colon cancer.
- keeps the pH of your gut down. This helps prevent bad bacteria from taking over your gut microbiota because they can’t survive in acidic conditions.
- reduces symptoms of digestive infection, keeping mucus production to a minimum and preventing gut cells from dying.
- prevents the loss of water, sodium, chlorine, and potassium during bouts of diarrhea.
- stimulates the growth of new cells in the gut wall, creating a greater surface area for nutrient absorption.
But it doesn’t end there. Because of the way butyrate acts on so many different systems, it can affect your health outside your gut, too.
Butyrate actually alters your gene expression, leading to fundamental changes in how your cells work, right down at the DNA level.
Via these effects on your gene expression, butyrate is also able to:
- encourage normal hemoglobin production, essential for keeping your red blood cells healthy.
- lower cholesterol levels by down-regulating the amount of cholesterol produced in your gut.
- help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of diabetes and obesity.
- encourage new cell growth in your brain, which is especially useful following a stroke.
- reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases, due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
As you can see, butyrate is not just any anti-inflammatory!
It has a lot of health benefits that have nothing to do with inflammation. In fact, this list is not even complete! But it definitely gives you an idea of how important butyrate is in your body and all the different ways your body benefits from butyrate.
Of course, if you have leaky gut, it’s the anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and cell regenerating properties of this little fatty acid that you’re really looking for.
When Should You Take Butyrate Supplements?
It’s unlikely there’s a difference in absorption rate whether you take butyrate with food or without, although studies are lacking to confirm this one way or the other.
There may be a small advantage in taking it with food because that’s when your digestion is really ramped up, releasing digestive enzymes and juices that help you to absorb nutrients.
This is a general rule for taking supplements, though. It’s not specific to butyrate.
If you’re taking split doses (as in 3 capsules daily) one with each meal is a good idea. This gives your body a constant level of butyrate throughout the day and it will be able to utilize more of it.
Sometimes, if you take one single large dose of a supplement, your body uses what it can and gets rid of the rest. So, split dosing is a good way to get around this. (This is, again, a general helpful tip for taking any supplement.)
That said, taking butyrate consistently, every day for a period of weeks or months is how you’ll get the best results. So, if you find you can only remember once each day, then just take your entire daily dose at one time.
Remember, it’s not going to help your health sitting on the shelf!
How Much Butyrate Should You Take?
Unlike many other supplements, butyrate and SCFAs are fairly new to the health industry.
There hasn’t been enough research yet to establish an official upper limit. Most clinical trials, however, use a dose of around 300 mg daily. These studies have proven this dose to be safe and effective at improving digestive function and healing leaky gut symptoms.
Be aware that it will likely take a couple of weeks for your symptoms to improve. Stick with it even if you don’t notice a difference straight away.
Since there’s no agreement on what the upper dosage of butyrate should be, many supplements come in higher doses than 300 mg. Try to choose a supplement that gets you close to this dose though, to ensure you’re getting a safe and effective amount of this healthy fatty acid.
What Foods Contain Butyrate?
Most of your butyrate requirement is taken care of by the butyrate-producing bacteria in your gut. All you need to do is give them the resistant starches (i.e. fiber) they need to make it.
Since butyrate is made via bacterial fermentation of fiber, you can increase your butyrate level by increasing fiber in your diet. This means eating more of the following sources of soluble fiber:
- whole grains – brown rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, corn.
- legumes – lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, adzuki beans.
- fruits and vegetables – leafy green vegetables, apples, kiwifruit, berry fruits, bananas, citrus fruit.
Butyrate is also naturally occurring in dairy products.
It’s not a good idea to eat too much dairy, though, because it has a very high saturated fat content. Most people already have too much saturated fat in their diets.
Butter is around 3%-4% butyrate, so you’d need to eat 10 grams daily to get your dose of 300 mg butyrate. This is the equivalent of around two teaspoons of butter each day.
Of course, you can also take a butyrate supplement to boost your levels of this vital nutrient. Supplementation is a guaranteed way of getting the right dose, every day.
Why Take Butyrate Supplements for a Leaky Gut?
I already touched on the actions of butyrate that really make it useful for a leaky gut — it’s anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and cell regenerating. If we dig a bit deeper into this, you’ll really get a handle on exactly why butyrate is a key supplement for healing a leaky gut.
Butyrate is an Anti-Inflammatory
Let’s start with its anti-inflammatory activity.
If you’ve done your research on leaky gut, you’ll know that leaky gut essentially means you have a damaged gut wall. Where you should have thick, impenetrable gut tissue, you have thin, porous tissue that isn’t doing its job of keeping your gut contents inside your gut.
You’ll also know that the cause of all this is inflammation.
So, anything that reduces inflammation in your gut is going to help reverse this condition and let your gut wall rebuild itself.
The cells of your intestines are some of the fastest growing cells in your body. So, the minute you remove the cause of damage, your gut will start to repair itself.
Butyrate Regulates Your Immune System
The best butyrate supplements can also directly calm and quiet your immune system, by down-regulating your T cells.
Other parts of your immune system are also affected — pro-inflammatory cytokines, dendritic cells, and macrophages are all told to stop their attacks on your suffering gut wall, for example. The net result is your gut has a chance to repair itself.
Finally, butyrate also helps your gut cells grow, helping fill in the damaged areas!
Butyrate Helps Your Gut Heal
With both of these gut-healing processes in full swing, your gut can truly heal.
Tight junctions between cells are restored, cells are able to grow and survive at a healthy rate and your villi deepen and thicken, giving you more surface area for absorption of nutrients.
Your gut wall can return to its normal, healthy state, with a thick layer of cells between your gut contents and your bloodstream. And the important barrier function of your gut wall is strengthened.
What are the Side Effects of Butyrate Supplements?
Incredibly, there have been no negative side effects noted from butyrate supplementation when it’s used at a reasonable dose. As long as you stick to the recommended dosage range, the only side effects you’ll experience will be positive ones.
(Along with improving your symptoms of leaky gut, you might find your cholesterol levels reduce and your mental focus improves, for example. I can’t see anything wrong with that!)
It’s worth noting that animal studies have shown side effects at very high doses, including swelling of the kidneys and destruction of gut cells. But the dosage range for these side effects would be around 7-8 grams, daily, in humans. This is about 25 times the dose of 300 mg daily we’re recommending.
So, you really have nothing to worry about if you use butyrate supplements as directed.
How Do You Choose the Best Butyrate Supplement?
As I touched on above, butyrate comes in a few different forms. Most commonly, you’ll find supplements delivered as butyric acid, sodium butyrate, or calcium/magnesium butyrate.
Look for Powders
Each form of butyrate can be sold as a powder, capsules or tablets.
- The powder form is best for absorption because your body has immediate access to the nutrient.
- Capsules come in a close second because it’s relatively easy to digest a capsule and get to the powdered butyrate inside.
- Tablets are known to be least absorbable because they often contain binding agents that hold the ingredients together and keep them in a tablet shape.
A good butyrate supplement will be pure, with no fillers.
If you’re taking a tablet, it’s normal to expect a small amount of binding agent (otherwise the tablets would crumble into powder in the bottle). But you don’t want any fillers! These are ingredients used to bulk up a supplement when the active dose is too small for a standard dose.
If you’re only taking 300 mg of butyrate, you want your capsule to be half empty.
If it’s not, you know it contains fillers! And if you’re taking 300 mg butyrate powder, you should only need the smallest pinch on the end of a teaspoon, not tablespoons full of powder!
Look for Respected Brands
Always buy from a reputable brand that guarantees quality and purity.
Look into where they source their raw product and what sort of testing they do for purity. Many cheap supplements are sold without thoroughly testing the product.
You need to know that the butyrate you’re buying contains the amount of active ingredient it claims to.
Independent testing also lets you make sure that the supplement isn’t contaminated with any other chemicals.
Check Out Customer Reviews
Finally, it’s always a good idea to check product reviews and customer feedback to find out what other people’s experiences have been. This is a great way to get around advertising and get an honest view of the quality of the supplement.
Did you know there are other supplements you can take to help heal your gut faster? Read: Creating Your Leaky Gut Supplement Regimen: An Expert’s Guide
5 Best Butyrate Supplements for Leaky Gut Remedy
Now for the best part! I’ve made a list of the top 5 best butyrate supplements available today, so the hard work is done for you. All you have to do is read through and decide which one will suit you best.
I’ve ranked each supplement based on:
- the scientific evidence to support their use
- provided serving size
- dosage form and type and
Let’s take a closer look at our top 5 picks, starting with number 5!
Ecological Formulas 2:1 Butyric Acid delivers butyric acid in a reasonably low dose, in combination with calcium and magnesium. Each capsule contains 250 mg of butyric acid, 42 mg of calcium, and 21 mg of magnesium.
Ecological Formulas Butyric Acid is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. With 90 capsules in each bottle, you’ll be restocking every 1-3 months.
480 mg per capsule
Biome Equal contains butyrate and another fatty acid called propionate.
We haven’t talked about propionate here, but, basically, it’s another SCFA that works in a similar way to butyrate. The two work nicely in combination.
Each capsule of Biome Equal gives you 600 mg of sodium butyrate and 150 mg of sodium propionate.
Sodium butyrate is approximately 20% sodium and 80% butyrate, so your 600 mg dose breaks down to around 120 mg sodium and 480 mg butyric acid.
The directions on the bottle are to take 2 capsules daily, but as you already have 480 mg in each capsule, one is enough to get more than your dose of 300 mg.
Start with one capsule daily for the first two weeks and you can double the dose if you need to, once you’re comfortable and confident taking it.
With 180 capsules in each bottle, a single bottle will last you 3-6 months, depending on the dosage you’re taking.
480 mg per capsule
Sodium butyrate + sodium propionate
BodyBio Butyrate is high potency at 600 mg in each capsule.
It’s great that it’s in capsule form and has no fillers.
It’s also guaranteed free from yeast, wheat, corn, soy, dairy, artificial color, or resins. This makes it very appealing for anyone who suffers food allergies or follows a specific diet, for example, a vegan diet or gluten-free diet.
This option is not the cheapest, but it’s definitely got my stamp of approval for quality and purity.
The formula is calcium/magnesium butyrate, which breaks down into 80 mg calcium, 40 mg magnesium, and 600 mg butyrate in each capsule. With 100 capsules in each bottle, a single bottle will last you around 3 months.
600 mg per capsule
Healus Tri-Butyrate stands out as the most convenient, most effective butyrate capsule you can buy.
Like Butycaps granules below, Healus deliver their butyrate in tributyrin form, the natural form of this fatty acid found in butter.
Customer feedback is resoundingly positive for this supplement and it’s being studied for its potential use as a colon cancer adjunctive.
With 500 mg of pure butyrate in each capsule, this is an easy one-a-day way to get a decent dose of this short-chain fatty acid.
Each bottle contains 60 capsules so it’s at the more expensive end of the scale. But the price reflects the quality of this product.
If you’ve tried other supplements and found they didn’t give you the result you were hoping for, this product is definitely worth trying.
500 mg per capsule
Butycaps is my top pick for powdered butyrate.
The butyrate in this formula is delivered in tributyrin form and held in micro-encapsulated granules.
If you have severe digestive issues and you’re concerned about whether your digestion is strong enough to break down a capsule or tablet, then Butycaps is the supplement for you.
Butycaps doesn’t win prizes for convenience or taste but it makes up for that by being the best option available if you have a poor digestive function.
You need to be careful with how you take Butycaps granules because tributyrin is a rather delicate chemical — you need to take it without crushing or heating. You can add it to flavored yogurt to disguise the taste or put it in your super smoothie.
Just make sure you add it at the end of your smoothie making after you’ve finished with all the grinding and whizzing.
If you’re on a campaign to improve your digestion, Butycaps can be a great addition for the start of your gut healing program.
You might want to use the granules for the first 1-3 months until you start to see an improvement in your digestive function. And after that, you could switch to something more convenient, like the capsules above.
You only get one-month supply in each box of Butycaps, so it’s definitely not the most economical choice.
With a decent 787 mg butyric acid in each sachet, you’re getting 2x the standard recommended dose. But don’t worry, it’s still well below the upper limit for daily butyrate intake.
787 mg per sachet
Take Home Message
Butyrate is an effective gut healer with virtually no side effects when taken as directed.
Its primary action in your gut is to reduce inflammation and reprogram your immune system so that your body stops attacking its own tissues. This allows your gut cells to live longer, be more productive, and take better care of your digestion.
The net result of supplementing with butyrate is that your gut wall gets stronger, healthier, and more able to do its job.
Related Reading: Top 5 Best Digestive Enzyme Supplements to Fix Leaky Gut