Butyrate: Energy For The Cells of The Colon, And A Neurotransmitter

In recent years, the spotlight in nutritional science and wellness has increasingly focused on the gut microbiome and its profound impact on overall health. In this article, we discuss butyrate supplements, exploring how this seemingly simple compound can have far-reaching implications for our well-being. From nurturing the cells lining our gut to its intriguing roles beyond the digestive system, including impacts on brain health and metabolic functions, the benefits of butyrate represent a fascinating convergence of nutrition, gut microbiology, and overall health optimization. Join us as we uncover the science behind butyrate.

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Along with providing information on whether butyrate supplements might be right for you, this article also links to Fullscript where you can buy butyrate supplements online through the secure healthcare formulary and get free shipping and 20% off the retail price of professional-grade supplements.

What Is Butyrate?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that your gut bacteria produce when they break down certain types of fiber from the foods you eat. It serves as a primary energy source for the cells lining your colon and plays a key role in maintaining the health of your digestive system. You can also find butyrate in foods like butter, ghee, and some types of cheese. Supplements containing butyrate aim to offer the same benefits directly, bypassing the need to rely solely on diet or gut bacterial production. Whether naturally occurring or in supplement form, butyrate has several roles in supporting your gut health, from reducing inflammation to aiding in digestion.

Butyrate as an Energy Source for Intestines: Butyrate plays a role in maintaining the health of the intestines, especially the colon. It is produced when dietary fiber is fermented by the gut microbiota in the colon. Butyrate serves as a primary energy source for the cells lining the colon, supporting their function and integrity. By fueling these cells, butyrate helps maintain the lining of the gut, which is essential for proper nutrient absorption and forming a barrier against harmful substances.

Additionally, butyrate has anti-inflammatory properties and helps in regulating cell growth and differentiation in the gut. This can be particularly beneficial in preventing and managing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer. Its role in supporting gut health extends to enhancing the gut barrier function, thereby playing a part in preventing the onset of various gastrointestinal disorders.

Butyrate as a Neurotransmitter: While butyrate is mainly recognized for its role in gut health, emerging research show it may also have functions as a neurotransmitter, impacting brain health and function. Butyrate can cross the blood-brain barrier and is thought to influence brain health through its effects on gut-brain signaling. This connection is part of the larger gut-brain axis, a complex communication network linking the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system.

Butyrate positively affects brain health by reducing inflammation, providing neuroprotective benefits, and influencing the expression of genes involved in brain function. Some studies suggest that butyrate can have antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects and may improve conditions like depression and anxiety. However, the exact mechanisms and extent of butyrate’s role as a neurotransmitter are still being researched, and we’re looking forward to a fuller understanding of its impact on the brain and its potential therapeutic applications.

What Are the Health Benefits of Butyrate?

  • Enhances Gut Health: Butyrate is integral to maintaining the intestinal mucosal lining. It helps in repairing and regenerating intestinal cells, thus preserving the gut barrier. This action is crucial for preventing leaky gut syndrome and associated disorders.
    • Supports Digestive Function: By aiding in the digestion process and facilitating nutrient absorption, butyrate ensures efficient digestive health. It helps in the regulation of bowel movements, alleviating issues like constipation or diarrhea.
  • Regulates Inflammation: The anti-inflammatory properties of butyrate are significant in managing conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It helps in reducing gut inflammation, thereby mitigating symptoms of these inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • Improves Metabolic Health: Butyrate plays a role in glucose metabolism, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This is particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or those at risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
  • Enhances Weight Management: By promoting satiety and increasing energy expenditure, butyrate can be a valuable supplement for weight management. It helps in regulating appetite and may prevent overeating, aiding in weight loss or maintenance.
  • Boosts Immune Function: Butyrate supports the immune system by enhancing the production and function of T-cells in the gut. This boost in immune function is vital for combating infections and maintaining overall health.
  • Promotes Mental Well-being: Emerging research suggests a link between gut health and mental health. Butyrate, by influencing the gut-brain axis, may help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, indicating a profound impact on overall mental well-being.
  • May Reduce Cancer Risk: Research shows that butyrate can induce apoptosis in cancer cells, particularly in the colon. This suggests a potential role for butyrate in cancer prevention and as a complementary approach in cancer treatment.
  • Supports Healthy Aging: Butyrate’s role in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress can contribute to healthy aging. It may help in delaying the onset of age-related diseases and maintaining cellular health.
  • Helps Reduce Oxidative Stress: The antioxidant properties of butyrate combat oxidative stress in the body, which is linked to various chronic diseases. By neutralizing free radicals, butyrate contributes to overall health and disease prevention.

Food Sources of Butyrate

Food SourceAmount of Butyrate per Serving
Butter3-4 grams per tablespoon
Ghee3-4 grams per tablespoon
Parmesan Cheese2 grams per ounce
Cheddar Cheese1.2 grams per ounce
Cow’s Milk0.1 grams per cup
Goat’s Milk0.1 grams per cup
Sheep’s Milk0.3 grams per cup
Yogurt (full fat)0.2 grams per cup
The amounts listed are approximate.

How Does Butyrate Work? Some Technical Details

SCFAs improve the gut health through a number of local effects, ranging from maintenance of intestinal barrier integrity, mucus production, and protection against inflammation to reduction of the risk of colorectal cancer

The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication [PMC7005631]

The main short-chain fatty acids are acetate with two carbon atoms, propionate with three carbon atoms, and butyrate with four carbon atoms. Butyrate is one of the most studied short-chain fatty acids and is considered important for gut health and metabolic regulation.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are key byproducts generated by gut microbes as they break down indigestible carbs like fiber. These SCFAs can impact how the gut communicates with the brain, affecting brain function in a variety of ways. After formation, SCFAs get absorbed by cells in the colon.

Once absorbed, SCFAs interact with specific receptors. This interaction boosts intestinal health by influencing the immune system and strengthening the intestinal barrier. SCFAs play key roles in hormone release and signaling. They stimulate the release of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1), which is vital for insulin regulation and gut health. They also prompt the release of peptide YY (PYY), which helps regulate appetite and food intake. Additionally, SCFAs influence the production of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which acts as a neurotransmitter and aids in reducing stress and anxiety. Lastly, SCFAs help in the secretion of serotonin (5-HT), which is crucial for mood regulation and gut motility. These hormones and signaling molecules can communicate with the brain through either the bloodstream or vagal nerve pathways.

SCFAs also enter the bloodstream, affecting other tissues like brown fat, liver, and pancreatic cells, thus helping to maintain energy balance in the body. On a systemic level, they modulate inflammation by triggering differentiation of T regulatory cells (Tregs) and altering interleukin secretion. SCFAs can also cross into the brain via transporters on the blood-brain barrier (BBB), where they enhance the barrier’s integrity and affect various brain functions. They influence inflammation in the brain, change the shape and function of glial cells, and modulate the levels of factors that promote neuron growth. They can also influence the synthesis of serotonin and overall neuronal health. All these interactions between SCFAs and gut-brain pathways can influence emotional and cognitive functions and may play a role in brain disorders.

Is Butyrate Safe?

Butyrate supplements are generally considered safe when used according to recommended guidelines. These supplements aim to deliver the benefits of butyrate directly to the gut and have been studied for their effects on digestive health, among other areas. Side effects are rare and usually mild, often limited to gastrointestinal issues like gas or bloating when taken in large amounts.

Medication Interactions with Butyrate

  • Antidiabetic Medications: Butyrate can lower blood sugar. Taking it with antidiabetic medications might cause blood sugar to drop too low.
  • Laxatives: Butyrate has a role in gut motility. Using it with laxatives might increase the effects of laxatives, potentially leading to diarrhea.
  • Antihypertensive Drugs: Butyrate may affect blood pressure. Using it with blood pressure medications might cause blood pressure to go too low.
  • Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Butyrate may affect blood clotting. Taking it with these medications might increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Diuretics: Since butyrate can affect electrolyte balance, using it with diuretics may alter the effectiveness of diuretics.
  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): Butyrate’s effect on gut health could be altered by NSAIDs, potentially affecting gut mucosal integrity.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Butyrate’s effect on gut acidity might be altered when taken with PPIs, possibly affecting the absorption of both substances.
  • Antibiotics: Butyrate can affect gut flora. Taking it with antibiotics might alter the gut microbiome more than antibiotics alone.

Supplement Interactions with Butyrate

  • Probiotics: Probiotics can modify gut flora. Taking them with butyrate might enhance gut health benefits, as butyrate is a food source for beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Fiber Supplements: Fiber is fermented in the colon to produce butyrate. Taking fiber supplements with butyrate could enhance the overall production of butyrate in the gut.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties. Combining them with butyrate may enhance anti-inflammatory effects in the gut.
  • Prebiotics: Similar to fiber, prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Using them with butyrate might enhance the gut health benefits.
  • Magnesium Supplements: Magnesium can affect gut motility. Its use with butyrate might influence gut motility and absorption processes.
  • Calcium Supplements: Calcium plays a role in gut health. Its interaction with butyrate might affect the absorption of both substances.
  • Iron Supplements: Iron can be affected by gut health. Taking iron with butyrate might influence iron absorption and utilization.
  • Zinc Supplements: Zinc is important for gut health. Its combination with butyrate may have synergistic effects on gut mucosal integrity.

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Butyric Acid 300mg by Ecological Formulas/Cardiovascular Research

Butyric Acid from Ecological Formulas is a scientifically-designed supplement containing nutritionally significant amounts of the 4-carbon fatty acid, butyric acid.

  • May support intestinal tract and colon health
  • May reduce gut dysbiosis
  • May reduce gut permeability (“leaky gut”) and related symptoms
  • Manufacturing methods insure a steady-release delivery system in the gastrointestinal tract

Suggested Use:
Adults: Take 1 capsule or more as directed by a physician. 

Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
 … 42mg
(as calcium butyrate)
Magnesium … 21mg
(as magnesium taurate)
Butyric Acid … 250mg
(as calcium butyrate)

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

To Sum It Up

Butyrate supplements offer a range of health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. From reducing inflammation and improving digestion to supporting a strong gut barrier, these supplements pack a powerful punch for your gut health. Whether you’re interested in better digestive function, weight management, or even potentially improving your mental well-being, butyrate holds promise. It’s a fascinating area of research that continues to reveal how important gut health is for overall well-being.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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Staff Authors at Nutriscape have been working on this article and it is still a work in progress. Please feel free to login and comment on what you see so far.

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