Butyrate and Your Gut

October 19, 2015

Butyrate: Your Colon, Your Microbiome and You 

 Reference:   Canha 2015, Wikipedia, Whole Health Source, Diabetes 2009, 10% Human 


Oct 19, 2015 

 Let’s accept the fact that you are not an individual, but an organism that houses a whole microbiome of bacteria in your colon, which has 10 times the number of cells and 100 times the amount of DNA variety than you, the human has.   We can’t live well without them. Our colon is not a waste-filled tube concentrating water, it is an active, live organ that metabolizes about as many nutrients as your liver. Hmmm. When you are born, your first breath and swallow come when your mouth is just one inch away from your mother’s rectum, and with natural birth, you immediately inherit a sample of her microbiome.   

That microbiome sets up your immune response for the rest of your life. Now, what do the cells on the walls of your colon eat?   Butyrate.   What’s butyrate? It is a short acid, only 4 carbons long, made from fiber that you couldn’t digest in your stomach and small bowel, but that the bacteria in your colon could. The fact that our colon lining cells are fed solely by butyrate and not by other nutrients suggests that we have been eating the foods that make for butyrate for so long (millions and millions of years) that it remains an indispensible part of our gut, and therefore our health. 

 What happens when you don’t eat the right food, and change your diet to a very low fiber, high fat diet (aka, the American Fast Food Diet)?   Without fiber, your colonic cells are starving and it becomes much easier for you to get overweight.   A cascade of trouble starts that ends up with colon cancer being the outcome.   The less fiber we eat, the more colon cancer. 

Colon cancer is rare is parts of the world with more than 50 grams of fiber a day. We Americans eat 15 grams a day.   Recent case control studies have disputed this, but they have only run 3-5 years. What’s equally fascinating is the research showing how fast your microbiome shifts its resident populations when you shift dietary patterns.   Did you know that the effect of a course of antibiotics will linger for up to two years in the form of altered gut populations? 

 There is good science to show that obese mice, given butyrate, improve their insulin sensitivity, lose weight and improve their cholesterol when fed butyrate as a supplement. The control mice gained weight. Could this mean that butyrate supplementation might be the Holy Grail for weight loss and diabetes control? Where can you get butyrate from naturally?   This raises the idea of “Resistant Starch”.    

Resistant Starch is just that, it resists digestion in your gut and feeds your colon and it’s biome. With a healthy cross talk between your colon and you, your metabolism starts to hum likes it’s supposed to. Dr. Oz has developed his Two Week Weight Loss program that has a surprising amount of carbs in it.   Guess what type of carbs they are…? You bet, resistant starch. How does that fit with other weight loss plans?   The modified ketogenic diet in the so-called Bullet Proof plan thinks you can. The only way to really lose weight is to open up fat cells with lower insulin. Insulin is the gateway hormone to achieving that.   It’s a hormone. And butyrate increases insulin sensitivity. Full circle. 

 WWW. What will work for me? I’m learning the nascent science of the gut microbiome. It’s not crystal clear yet. But one thing I understand, our gut needs us to eat fiber to feed our colonic friends called our microbiome. Whether you call it resistant starch, or fiber or just butyrate, I’m getting a handle on it. How to use in in my own life? Hmmm.   Seconds on salad.   

Pop Quiz

  1. Your gut cells live off butyrate. T or F                  Answer:  Amazing, isn’t it. Just butyrate.
  1. The food you eat alters the microbiome in your gut dramatically? T or F              Answer:  Within days
  1. Antibiotics will alter your gut balance for years afterward.   T or F                      Answer:  True
  1. Butyrate from your gut bacteria alters your natural insulin resistance? T or F                Answer:    True
  1. We humans must have eaten green plants with lots of fiber in them for millennia, as our guts are just so designed. T or F                     Answer:   True