What do you think of when you hear butyrate? Such words always make me wonder what it is used for. Is it for cleaning windows or is it a health supplement? What is butyrate used for?
Butyrate is used for stomach issues. It’s a supplement that can help you manage tummy issues. We recommend it!
Butyrate occurs naturally inside of us. It’s a fatty acid, molecules that make up fats. When we eat well, our guts make butyrate. When we don’t eat well, our guts don’t make enough of it. This imbalance affects our overall health.
How to keep up with a good butyrate balance? Here we explain it all! It’s a main element of our gut health. It’s worth understanding how it works. Here we teach you how to supplement your gut.
Butyrate has a variety of health benefits:
- reduced pain in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- reduced risk of colon cancer
- improved insulin sensitivity
- less inflammation
Why is Butyrate Good for You?
Digestion is how we obtain energy on a day to day basis. Butyrate is good for you because it’s part of the body’s energy balance system. Having the proper amount of butyrate maintains this balance.
For example, consuming foods high in fiber can regulate butyrate levels in your body. This will mean an optimal functioning digestive system. Your tummy will be happy!
Our guts have bacteria. The good type. Together, the millions of bacteria in our gut are called the microbiome. The microbiome produces butyrate during fiber digestion. Listed below are the specific bacteria responsible for this.
The bottom part of the digestive tract, the colon, is in charge of butyrate production. It’s actually the main source of the colon’s energy.
Butyrate is essential for good intestinal function. A happy colon has a regular amount of butyrate. An irregular amount means an unhappy colon. Similarly, this can mean trouble during digestion.
Research shows patients with inflammatory bowel disease, Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis have less butyrate-producing bacteria. Digestive issues can arise if these bacteria are affected.
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What are Butyrate-Producing Bacteria?
Let’s review the concept of microbiome. The human microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live in and with us. This tiny bacteria are on our skin, saliva, mouth, eyes and our whole gastrointestinal tract. Most of these invisible-to-the-eye creatures just live within us.
Some of these bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with our intestines. They help us and we help them. This happens as an energy exchange that benefits both parties.
The microbiome is important to humans because it regulates processes such as metabolism, gut health and immunity.
A good balance between bacteria and our bodies is important for major functions like: digestion, immunity and even mental functions. Intestinal health is a topic we explain here.
The list of names of butyrate-producing bacteria
Research has found the classification of these. The Firmicutes is one type. Other subtypes are:
Roseburia spp, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Eubacterium rectale classify as a group of dominant butyrate-producing bacteria. They sum up to 24% of the total bacteria in the colon.
Don’t let the long weird names overwhelm you. This is just a classification. It’s for researchers and scientists to keep track. The more we can understand our digestive system, the easier we can treat it.
Different symptoms can be associated with different butyrate-producing bacteria. Patients with IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, have low levels of Roseburia spp, according to a research published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2012. IBS is a condition that alters the gut microbiome. This one specific bacteria struggles to be at normal levels.
Is it the Same as Butyric Acid?
For you and me, yes. For a chemist, butyrate is not the same as butyric acid. They are almost the same molecule except for one proton (subparticles of an atom).
In everyday life, these two can be interchangeable words. Depending on the context, you will see one name or the other. Keep in mind it’s the same molecule, just in different forms.
If you are curious about chemistry, it’s a fun fact to know. Most molecules have this ‘flipside’ or counter molecule. Having different forms can change its properties.
Implications of this small difference
Butyrate shows problems when handling because of its strong odor. Firstly, this makes it hard to manipulate for humans. Secondly, it makes laboratory animals reject it.
This complicates pharmas trying to make supplements. Similarly, experimenters struggle to feed rats with butyrate when studying its effects.
The upper part of our gastrointestinal system absorbs butyrate however not butyric acid. This molecule should reach the colon, the lower part of our GI tract. Yet it doesn’t. This is why we use butyrate glycerides and salts.
These bigger molecules carry butyrate. It’s how the pharma industry has created an efficient way for us to consume it. Chemists create this form where the molecule can reach the colon without losing the active ingredient.
You will see supplements and tablets selling butyrate with both names. In essence, it’s the same. One form will become the other eventually. Butanoic acid is frequently used.
Are Butyrate Supplements Safe?
Yes! However, these supplements are not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
A big majority of scientific literature agrees these supplements are safe. A study looked at this supplement for treating IBS. No side effects were reported, according to this research published by Gastroenterology Review in 2013.
The only side effects relate to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Rats treated with butyrate supplementation had offspring with increased insulin resistance and fat accumulation. This supplement seems to affect fat production and insulin of the fetus, according to research released in 2016 by Oncotarget science journal.
Let’s keep that in mind!
What is Butyrate Used For?
Butyrate is certainly for tummy issues. But which ones? Usually, butyrate supplements target diseases that affect the colon and their respective symptoms.
Maybe it’s abdominal pain from IBS that’s been bothering you for a few years. Maybe you already know colon cancer runs in your family. Taking supplements or eating more butyrate-producing foods can be beneficial.
When to Take a Butyrate Supplement?
Let’s go over the specific diseases and how butyrate has helped people:
This condition is associated with the upper digestive tract. Chron’s is mainly characterized by inflammation. Studies have looked at the effect of butyrate supplements and the results are promising.
Patients with Chron’s disease affecting the ileum (another part of the GI tract) and the colon recovered with butyrate tablets, according to research published by Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2005. To sum up, 53% of patients achieved remission, meaning they healed. Butyrate tablets helped them recover. Scientists suspect this healing happens because of butyrate’s anti-inflammatory properties.
IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
This clever study shows how this supplement aids digestive health. The supplement relieved abdominal pain in patients with IBS, according to this research released in 2012 by Colorectal Disease gastro journal. All participants treated with butyrate supplements experienced reduced pain. This is one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of IBS.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be complex and has many symptoms. Talking to your physician about supplementing with butyrate is a good option.
Butyrate can help during weight loss. It can help balance your metabolism. Balancing your body’s metabolism means you can achieve energetic balance. In short, you spend the calories you eat in a day.
It can also reduce the expression of a gene that is responsible for fat accumulation, according to research published in 2015 by science and medicine journal Diabetes. It turns it off. Consequently, the body reduces the tendency to accumulate fat.
This does not guarantee weight loss. It helps you achieve an energetic balance within your colon.
Butyrate plays with the expression of other genes. Within the colon, it can shut off genes easily. When a gene is turned on, it expresses itself as cell growth. In the case of cancer, this is not good.
This small molecule can turn off this specific gene. This study explores the ways in which butyrate prevents carcinogenesis in the colon. Carcinogenesis is the start of cancer growth. Butyrate can reduce the risk of colon cancer, according to studies released in 2013 by Current Drug Metabolism science and medicine magazine.
If there is colon cancer in your family, butyrate is a great option to explore. Check with your physician what his or her recommendations are. In many research setups, there is actually a lower risk of colon cancer observed.
The name of this condition can trigger an image of your digestive tract falling apart. Maybe you visualize all the food you just ate and its nutrients ‘leaking through’. It’s a controversial topic between physicians and alternative health experts.
The word intestinal permeability means the intestinal wall has tiny holes. This will allow nutrients, but also toxins out.
When talking about the colon, permeability will depend on bacteria and their overall balance. Butyrate-producing bacteria are important to maintain this balance. These bacteria can improve epithelial barrier function, according to scientific studies released in 2018 by prestigious science journal Elsevier.
The epithelial barrier is the first layer of cells of the intestine wall. Basically, a stable bacteria and butyrate equilibrium will keep your intestinal wall balanced and healthy.
Inflammation means a cell or a tissue is swollen. It’s not good. Any remedy that is anti-inflammatory is always popular. The balance that butyrate preserves in your gut is related to inflammation.
The inflammatory response is run by macrophages. These specialized cells detect and destroy bacteria it considers dangerous. They initiate the inflammatory response but often overdo it. An over-reactive response is never good.
Butyrate affects macrophages and their overreactive response. Its presence in the gut can regulate this overreaction, according to research released in 2014 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. They state it can help avoid unnecessary inflammation.
Should You Take it for Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a condition in which you have chronic (or constant) inflammation of the colon. It’s very uncomfortable. One of the symptoms is bloody diarrhea. It can also present abdominal pain. This disease affects about 750,000 North Americans, according to the National Library of Medicine. Butyrate can help!
Butyrate’s gut-healing properties are related to balancing the intestinal flora and reducing inflammation. It’s a promising treatment for ulcerative colitis.
Research strongly suggests it
In this brilliant study, researchers gave ulcerative colitis patients dietary butyrate. They added 60 grams of oat bran daily to their deit. They took fecal samples every 4 weeks. This was to check if their guts were processing the butyrate added. The average turned out to be an increase of 36%. Adding this supplement in foods changed digestion, as observed in this research published in 2003 by Oxford Academic’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease journal.
Additionally, no patient showed colitis relapse. This means the pain and the inflammation did not come back, something common in ulcerative colitis. Lastly, abdominal pain and reflux complaints also improved after 12 weeks. Butyrate can help treat ulcerative colitis.
Others studies show it too!
Italian researchers tried enemas with sodium butyrate in 40 patients. They found positive results. After 6 weeks of topical application of daily enemas of sodium butyrate, 14 patients improved significantly. Most symptoms were decreased or completely eliminated, according to this research published in 1995 by Alimentary Pharmacoly & Therapeutics.
Other scientists checked a tablet that was being used to treat ulcerative colitis. Adding butyrate to the formula of this tablet changed the effects of the treatment, according to research released in 2008 by science journal Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica. All patients previously showed an incomplete response to this tablet. When they added 3 tablets of 0.3 grams of butyrate, patients did show improvement of symptoms.
This supplement can help treat ulcerative colitis. Research has tried different ways of using this molecule to treat different symptoms. The overall conclusion is a solid yes.
Think about how the condition is affecting you. Think of how you want to treat it.
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Should You Take Butyrate for Gut Health?
We are talking about tummy troubles. Butyrate can help your belly. Firstly, it has a strong capacity to heal abdominal pain in IBS. Secondly, it can help ulcerative colitis patients. Is it also beneficial for overall gut health? It seems like it!
Gut health is defined as the balance of the microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. Butyrate is the top balancing microbe in the colon. When its levels are normal, the rest of the microbes in the colon are balanced. When butyrate levels are balanced, everyone is happy. All functions run smoothly.
Research on animals looked at gut development, growth performance, and modulation of gut microbiota. These chicken were fed with supplementation. Compared to the control group, they showed positive changes in all these factors. These all signal good gut health, according to this research published in 2018 by Animal Nutrition science journal.
Should You Take Supplements With or Without Food?
Both are OK!
Sites that sell supplements say there are no serious problems taking butyrate on an empty stomach. Others recommend to take it with food. Some people present uncomfortable digestion on an empty stomach. In the case of this butyrate product, they suggest 1 to 2 caps per meal.
A frequent user of butyrate recommended it on an empty stomach too. The suggestion said 20 to 30 minutes before breakfast. They suggest that those with a sensitive stomach accompany with some nuts or other healthy fat.
No scientific studies have focused on the side effects or benefits of taking butyrate on an empty stomach.
The general assumption is that when we eat, our bodies are preparing for digestion. The body is producing digestive juices and enzymes. These help nutrient absorption. It is often believed that supplements taken with food can be more easily absorbed.
This is not always the case. Each supplement can vary.
How Much Butyrate Should You Take?
The most common dosage is in the range of 150 to 300 mg per day. The ideal dose of butyrate is still to be determined by researchers. Many studies measure SCFA, which stands for short chain fatty acid. This is the type of molecule butyrate classifies as. Currently, SCFAs are measured in the intestinal opening, according to research released in 2020 by Gastroenterology Review.
This is just the first layer. This initial point of contact any SCFA has is actually not fully representative. This is a limitation when measuring absorption. The true absorption rate is hard to define. It’s difficult to calculate because the colon has additional mucus layers. This alters the current range.
Nonetheless, the range given is a good estimate. It has helped many people with gut conditions. There is still room for discovery of a more precise range of how much butyrate our colons can take on a daily basis.
What Happens If You Take Too Much Butyrate?
Overdosing is not a thing. Actually, the upper limit of the recommended range of 300 mg be extended, as stated by research released in 2020 by Gastroenterology Review.
These researchers consider that 150 and 300 mg correspond to only 15% to 30% of the daily demand of butyrate.
Best Form of Butyrate Supplement
Remember butyrate by itself can either smell awful or be lost in part of the digestive process? Because of this, pharmas and even natural foods will carry it in a more complex form.
The most common form is ‘tributyrin’. The natural form of tributyrin found in butter. It’s the form that we digest and absorb most easily. It’s butyric acid bound to glycerol, a long strong molecule. Tributyrin is an ingredient in margarine.
Tributyrin can be more potent in comparison to natural butyrate when decreasing growth and cell proliferation, as in the case of colon cancer, according to a study published in 2001 by The Journal of Nutrition.
The second most common form of butyrate are salts. They are usually called ‘fat-coated’ salts. You will find butyric acid paired with sodium, calcium or magnesium salts. The classic butyrate salt formula takes one of these three and mixes it with butyrate in a ratio of 1 to 3.
On average, every tablet you take will have two thirds of let’s say calcium, and then one third of butyrate. Calcium and magnesium are nutrients that you can always take more, but sodium isn’t. When taking butyrate salts, be mindful of sodium and carefully read the label.
Tips for browsing supplements
Here are four tips when browsing for butyrate supplements:
1. Look for powders: it’s the easiest way to absorb butyrate. We don’t digest capsules and tablets that easily. Tablets are the hardest for our digestive system.
2. Check for fillers and avoid: fillers are not good in any case. A 300 mg capsule of butyrate should be half empty. If it looks full, it is probable there are added fillers.
The same happens with powder: if instructions tell you take a tablespoon as the dosage, it is likely there are other ingredients. A teaspoon or less of powder should already contain the typical 300 mg dose.
3. Check the brand and their testing: in the pharma world, it can get very wild. Check the brand you are buying and how they test their products. Sometimes they claim an amount of the active ingredient they actually don’t contain. Check the label well.
4. Review the reviews: what a better way to know if a supplement is good than reading what others say? Customer feedback can always hint to you what is good or what is bad about the product you are buying.
Where to Buy Butyrate Supplements
You can purchase butyrate supplements online or in a health store. Amazon is not a bad place to start searching. Again, read well through the label and think well what type of form (powder, capsule or tablet) benefits your current situation. Health stores also have online shopping and you can order from these.
We actually have our top 5 recommendations of such supplements here. The author reviews palatability, dosage form and type, serving size and affordability.
Biome Equale Butyrate Complete Postbiotic combines 600 mg of butyrate with propionate, a molecule that is beneficial to the gut. The bottle has 180 capsules and they recommend taking 2 capsules a day but you can start with a capsule daily.
Ecological Formulas 2:1 Butyric Acid respects what we just discussed above about using magnesium and calcium at a decent ratio, and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Bodybio also delivers 600 mg per capsule. It’s gluten-free. It guarantees that no yeast, corn, soy, dairy, or other additives are in the formula. It’s recommended for people with allergies. It’s not the cheapest option.
Healus Advanced Tri-Butyrate is known to be very effective. It contains butyrate in the form of tributyrin, the most natural. Colon cancer patients use it and customer feedback is very positive.
Butycaps is a good choice because it comes as encapsulated granules. This is effective and better than solid capsules or tablets. The taste is not good and some options have banana flavor. The tributyrin that comes within the granules is delicate so you should not crush it or eat it. Add it to yogurt or in a smoothie (without blending or crushing it!)
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Take Home Message
Butyrate is a great supplement to treat digestive issues. It naturally occurs in butter, hence the name, and it regulates the colon’s functioning. Most research shows it can benefit specific digestive conditions and their symptoms including Chron’s disease, Irritable Bowel Symptom, colon cancer and ulcerative colitis. Some research shows it can also benefit overall gut health.
We recommend you analyze your digestion, both previous and current issues, and think if butyrate is good for you. Once you know it can help you, analyze what supplement is best for your situation.