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How to Support Gut Health*: The Essential Role of Butyric Acid

Updated on May 4, 2023

Article Summary

  • Although gut health is essential to overall health and well-being, many individuals do not know how to best support their microbiome.
  • A diet rich in fiber is essential for a well-balanced gut microbiome, in large part due to fiber’s beneficial impact on butyric acid levels.
  • Some individuals might prefer to utilize a butyric acid supplement to directly support gut health.*

For individuals who don’t have a gastrointestinal disorder, gut health is rarely a priority. In fact, many fail to consider the wellbeing of their gastrointestinal system at all, particularly when it is overshadowed by the more ostensibly pressing concerns of supporting the health of their brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. However, the importance of gut health is difficult to overstate because it directly impacts the health of all other of the body’s organ systems. 

Aside from causing unpleasant symptoms on its own, gut malfunction can contribute to nutritional imbalances or malnutrition that can subsequently weaken the body’s ability to defend against other problems and to maintain normal life functions. There is also mounting evidence that gut health is a significant component of brain health because of what is now known as the gut-brain axis, which has profound implications for neurological, psychological, and behavioral functioning. But even for individuals who take an active interest in gastrointestinal wellness, many remain at a loss for how to proactively support the health of their gut. 

Although countless foods, nutritional supplements, beverages, and fitness routines claim to support the health of the gut, gastrointestinal symptoms and illnesses are ubiquitous, and many individuals are unsure of what will truly help them. 

The basics of maintaining gut health are widely known. Modern medicine emphasizes a good diet that is rich in fiber, preventative care like endoscopies, and refraining from consuming substances known to be harmful. However, supporting the gut microbiome enables individuals to take gastrointestinal wellbeing one step further and work to better support their gut health rather than simply maintain it. 

The gut microbiome is the collection of trillions of symbiotic and beneficial bacteria that help the gastrointestinal tract to process nutrients. When the gut has a healthy microbiome, the human tissues of the gut are usually quite healthy also; individuals with healthy microbiomes have a lower chance of intestinal leakage into the bloodstream, superior nutrient and water uptake, more regular bowel movements, and increased resistance to pathogens in food. 

Researchers also suspect that individuals with a healthier microbiome experience less anxiety and depression because of the beneficial impact the gut microbiome can exert on the brain via the gut-brain axis. On the other hand, a deviant microbiome can be a hallmark of many serious pathologies, ranging from Crohn’s disease to autism spectrum disorder, resulting in a broad range of uncomfortable, disruptive, and even dangerous symptoms. 

Increasingly, promoting a healthy microbiome is being regarded as an essential part of both therapeutic and preventative health care. While this is a new frontier in medicine, current evidence suggests the health of the microbiome is improved by consuming nutrients that help the body to better regulate the immune function of the gut.* Butyric acid is a critical component of this, giving the microbiome the fuel it needs to flourish.*

The Basics of Supporting The Microbiome

The gut microbiome plays a critical role in the processing of the food and fluids that enter the body. The effects of these processes are significant; for most individuals, their diet is a greater determinant of the content of the microbiome than their genetics. Daily consumption of foods preferred by particular inhabitants of the microbiome leads to a greater representation of those species of bacteria within the gut, while insufficient consumption of nutrients might detract from the health of some species more than others. 

Eating large volumes of meat or cheese, for example, can induce bacteria that are known to cause colitis in immunocompromised individuals; whereas, consuming large volumes of vegetables can suppress the same bacteria and at the same time impair the extraction of nutrients from meat. Generally, beneficial bacteria flourish when a healthy diet is eaten, whereas poor nutrition or malnutrition leads to the proliferation of detrimental bacteria that can secrete pathogens. 

Regular alcoholic beverage intake can adversely shape the microbiome, weakening the bacterial colonies at the highest points of the intestines, which are responsible for absorbing most of the body’s hydration. This can lead to mild dehydration further along the intestinal tract, adversely impacting gut motility, and increasing the likelihood of constipation and pain. 

Consumption of prescription and over-the-counter medications can also have a profound adverse impact on bacterial populations. In particular, antibiotics are predictably devastating to the microbiome. Antibiotics are intended to eradicate bacteria, but the bacteria that need eradication overwhelmingly dwell outside of the gut. Unfortunately, oral antibiotic medications are not targeted, and treating an infected wound on the arm or leg results in blasting the patient’s entire system with an antibiotic, causing collateral damage to the microbiome. As a result, many individuals experience a range of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and altered stool formation. 

Other medications, like NSAIDs, can disrupt the microbiome via their detrimental effect on the intestinal lining. This is because bacterial colonies adhere the strongest to the intestinal lining because the lining secretes adequate amounts of mucous. When an NSAID, like ibuprofen, causes the cells of the intestines to reduce their rate of mucosal secretion, the bacteria there struggle to remain attached. Subsequently, the bacteria slip off the intestinal walls and are excreted with the feces, leaving the microbiome in disrepair. Given that most individuals will consume NSAIDs at many points in their life, the prevalence of unaddressed adverse microbiome issues is likely very high.

While taking a medication that will negatively affect the microbiome is necessary from time to time, helping the microbiome recover after the fact is not typically a priority for clinicians of their patients. Unfortunately, leaving the microbiome to recover on its own might result in the gastrointestinal tract being without one of its most important defenses against pathogens. Regardless of the cause, a heavily compromised microbiome can also lead to increased intestinal permeability, meaning that pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract might be able to escape and cause problems elsewhere in the body. 

A weak gut microbiome can’t support the host by absorbing water and nutrients, nor can it keep the contents of the gut motile, which means that constipation, anemia, and pain can easily result. We aren’t defenseless, however: increasing the intake of dietary fiber or critical microbiome-regulating substances can help the gut microbiome recover far more quickly than other types of diets. 

Dietary Fiber and Butyric Acid

The gut microbiome needs the nutrients from a healthy diet to make a positive contribution to the health of the gut, and fiber is the most critical dietary component as far as the gut microbiome is concerned. Fiber increases the rate of gastrointestinal transit and provides bulking volume to stools, greatly reducing the occurrence of constipation. More importantly, when the microbiome encounters fiber, its bacteria consume it and secrete substances that the cells of the gastrointestinal tract use as energy. The most important of these substances is butyric acid.

Butyric acid is the energy source that intestinal cells prefer over others, accounting for up to 70 percent of the energy produced by the cells of the gut, and butyric acid is critical for both maintaining and rebuilding gut health. When the microbiome is wiped out by antibiotic use, for example, consuming an exogenous source of butyric acid has been shown to restore the microbiome to health in mice.* 

Although this effect is difficult to test in humans, researchers believe that butyric acid might be helpful in restoring normalcy to a microbiome that has been altered by external factors.* Furthermore, butyric acid benefits microbiome health regardless of whether the microbiome has been recently damaged.* The reason is that butyric acid acts as a chemical signaling molecule that tells the immune function of the gastrointestinal tract that all is well. When the immune cells in the gut encounter molecules of butyric acid, they become less likely to cause inflammation and less likely to recruit other immune cells to generate inflammation.* This means that consuming fiber indirectly leads to a gut that maintains a healthy inflammatory response in the absence of threats to the immune system.* 

Maintaining a healthy inflammatory response in the gut is important to maintaining gut health in the long term, as well as preserving health elsewhere in the body.* An imbalanced inflammatory response reduces the efficiency of nutrient uptake.* 

Additionally, an out-of-balance inflammatory response in the gut directly stimulates the gut-brain axis, which subsequently sends signals of discomfort to the brain. Signals of discomfort reaching the brain from the gut can contribute to anxiousness and stress.* With a normal level of inflammatory response in the gut, the gut-brain axis is only stimulated when there is genuinely a pressing issue that the brain needs to address, such as excretion.* 

Preserving Gut Health Long-Term   

Keeping the gut in good condition is easier when the gut has the tools it needs to face threats vigorously. Independent of promoting the health of the microbiome, butyric acid can also help gastrointestinal cells to protect the body against harmful substances by increasing the metabolic rate of gastrointestinal cells.* In a recent study, researchers exposed colon cells to butyric acid, finding that the cells exhibited 10-percent higher concentrations of cellular energy molecules than non-exposed cells.* 

This is critical in the context of the colon, because colon cells require high volumes of energy to efficiently move fecal matter into the rectum.* The effect was even larger when cells first had a mild toxin derived from a noxious bacteria applied; in the cells that were assisted with both the bacterial toxin and butyric acid, concentrations of cellular energy molecules were 20 percent higher than in healthy control cells that had not been exposed to butyric acid or the toxin. Cells that were assisted with the toxin alone exhibited six percent fewer energy molecules. 

While concentrations of cellular energy molecules are not a perfect predictor of cellular health, increased energy production in the face of a stressor like a bacterial toxin indicates a beneficial and adaptive response.* Likewise, reduced energy production indicates serious problems are afoot. 

Rather than becoming inhibited by the presence of the toxin, the cells that had extra butyric acid were able to step up their metabolic rate to respond to the toxin while maintaining their normal rate of activity—the best possible response to a harmful substance.* This means that promoting butyric acid production in the microbiome will help the cells of the gastrointestinal tract weather a suboptimal diet and other potentially damaging chronic impacts.* 

Raising Butyric Acid Concentrations in the Gut Is Key to Improving Health*

Most individuals can promote the production and proper distribution of butyric acid in their gastrointestinal tract by consuming dietary fiber from foods like lentils or oat bran, drinking enough water, refraining from alcohol, and limiting their intake of microbiome-disrupting pharmaceuticals to the minimum necessary to preserve health. Especially for individuals who experience chronic gut health issues, working with their microbiome to increase butyric acid production can be extremely beneficial to their long-term gastrointestinal health.*

However, not every individual can tolerate the volume of fiber that might be necessary to produce the quantities butyric acid necessary to optimally regulate their microbiome and intestinal cells. Excessive fiber intake can lead to painful bowel movements, and increasing fiber intake often requires a habituation period before it becomes comfortable. 

Although some individuals turn to an encapsulated fiber supplement to carefully control the quantity of their fiber intake, these supplements are rarely as effective as fiber derived from plant matter because their molecular structure becomes too degraded by stomach acid. Additionally, some medical conditions are associated with depressed butyric acid concentrations that might be difficult to address with increased fiber intake alone, regardless of fiber source.
For an individual who has special dietary needs or a complex medical condition, or is intolerant of consuming a high volume of fiber, or who simply wants an easy way to increase their butyric acid level, a butyric acid supplement can be a better option. However, not all butyric acid supplements are alike and it’s essential to select a product that has been formulated to optimize butyric acid’s bioavailability and localize it in the area of the gut that needs support, allowing the individual to directly augment their gut’s level of butyric acid.* As a result of a sophisticated new nutrient delivery system, butyric acid can now be introduced to the gut and bolster its health with ease, allowing individuals to take control of their gut health every day.*

The power of Tesseract supplements lies in enhancing palatability, maximizing bioavailability and absorption, and micro-dosing of multiple nutrients in a single, highly effective capsule. Visit our website for more information about how Tesseract’s products can help support your gastrointestinal health.*

Works Cited

Bourassa MW, Alim I, Bultman SJ, Ratan RR. 2016. Neuroscience Letters. 625(20):56-63

Braniste V, Al-Asmakh M, et al. 2014. Science Translational Medicine. 6(263)

Hillemeier C. 1996. Pediatrics. 96(5)

Lavie CJ, Howden CW, Scheiman J, Tursi J. 2017. Current Problems in Cardiology. 42(5):146-164

Segata N. 2015. Current Biology. 25(14):R611-613

Yan H, Ajuwon KM. 2017. Plos One

Al Czap, Founder | Tesseract

Al Czap has more than four decades of professional experience in preventative medicine. He founded Thorne Research in 1984 (sold in 2010) and he published Alternative Medicine Review for 17 years beginning in 1996. AMR was a highly acclaimed, peer-reviewed, and indexed medical journal. Al was the first to recognize the need for hypoallergenic ingredients and to devise methods of manufacture for and delivery of hypoallergenic products to underserved patient populations. His work has greatly impacted those with impaired immune and digestive systems and compromised health due to environmental exposures.

The advanced formulations based on our revolutionary, patented, and patent-pending technology are only available through Tesseract. No other medical, pharmaceutical, or supplement company is licensed to utilize our proprietary technology.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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