This is the new «It» food for gut health

While many factors can make the difference between a happy gut and one that gives you major digestive drama, probiotics have gotten all the glitz and glory for improving gut health. But there’s an unsung hero in balancing the gut microbiome that counts for benefits like repairing the intestinal lining, taming intestinal inflammation, and managing gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

A recent study measured how almonds (yes, almonds!) affect the gut and found that one reason they’re helpful in improving gut symptoms and gut microbes is because they help increase a specific microbiota compound. called butyrate. Butyrate has been linked to several gut benefits, with some experts even claiming that butyrate is more effective than probiotics. So what is butyrate and how does it work its magic? Spoiler alert: the health benefits go beyond just the gut. I asked the experts to run a crash course on butyrate, its benefits, and how to get the most out of it. Intestinal healing in sight.

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What is Butyrate?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced through the microbial fermentation of dietary fiber in the intestines, explained Dr. Sara Mesilhy, a gastroenterologist. Simply put, butyrate (AKA butyric acid) is a byproduct of the natural fermentation process in our guts. When we consume foods high in fiber, our intestinal bacteria digest and break down the dietary fiber in the colon and produce butyrate. Butyrate helps control inflammation, supports intestinal barrier integrity, and regulates energy expenditure, Dr. Mesilhy continued. Juliana Tamayo, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian, added that butyrate works as an energy source for colon cells, essentially allowing them to function more effectively and allowing gut microbes to thrive and help maintain a balanced gut microbiome.

Health benefits of butyrate

So we already know that butyrate lends a hand to the gut, but its benefits don’t stop there. Research suggests that short-chain fatty acid butyrate has multiple beneficial effects on overall human health.

Improves gut health

Butyrate helps regulate the growth and function of cells lining the colon, known as colonic epithelial cells, explained Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, nutritionist and ACE certified personal trainer. In addition to promoting colonic cell health, Sabat said butyrate supports a balanced immune response and improves the integrity of the intestinal barrier, reducing the likelihood of leaky gut and other forms of intestinal dysfunction, such as leaky gut syndrome. . Additionally, research has found that increased butyrate production encourages regular stool production (read: a well-functioning gastrointestinal system).

Improve sleep

A healthier gut also means fewer trouble sleeping, Tamayo said. Indeed, one study suggests that butyrate is a sleep-promoting agent and plays an important role in sleep initiation and sleep quality, inducing significant increases in non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREMS) and sleep duration. deep.

Reduces inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a major risk factor that, if left unchecked, can eventually begin to damage healthy cells, tissues and organs, leading to cellular damage. And your gut microbiome is a key factor regulating the level of inflammation, not just in your gut, but throughout your body. Enter the butyrate. Butyrate has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the gut, Sabat said. It modulates the activity of immune cells and reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, potentially benefiting conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Increases insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity refers to the cells’ response to insulin, an essential hormone that controls blood sugar levels. A person with low insulin sensitivity also has insulin resistance or higher blood glucose levels, which can manifest as anything from unhealthy weight to fatigue or dizziness to an increased risk of prediabetes. Butyrate may have a positive impact on metabolic health, Sabat said. It can improve insulin sensitivity, improve glucose metabolism, and help regulate appetite and body weight.

Supports brain health

The gut microbiome is deeply connected to the brain through the gut-brain axis, a two-way communication highway between our brain and gut, linking the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with gut function. Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate only add to their strong connection. After all, they are known to contribute to the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is essential for neuronal survival and growth, act as a modulator of neurotransmitters, and participate in neuronal plasticity vital to learning and memory. According to Dr. Mesilhy, butyrate may protect the brain and improve its adaptive capacity (also known as plasticity) due to its neuroprotective effects (read: safeguarding the central nervous system from neuronal damage caused by chronic or acute neurodegenerative diseases), supporting thus its optimal health.

How to get more butyrate

Because the body produces butyrate when intestinal bacteria digest and break down dietary fiber in the colon, the simple way to get more butyrate is to eat more fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes) to provide the substrates needed for the bacteria gut bacteria produce butyrate (Sabat cautioned to increase fiber intake gradually to allow gut bacteria to adjust and avoid digestive upset).

Sabat also explained that resistant starches (found in foods such as green plantains, potatoes, and legumes) may also be beneficial for butyrate production because they aren’t fully digested in the small intestine, so they reach the colon, where they can be fermented into butyrate. . Fermented foods (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi) are also a key part of butyrate production because they contain beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria. In some cases, butyrate supplements (like this one or this one) can be used to support gut health. These supplements deliver butyrate directly to the colon, bypassing the need for bacterial fermentation. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in supplementation: In most cases, your body can make all the butyrate it needs on its own when you eat the right foods.

Please consult a doctor or mental health professional before starting any treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never ignore professional medical advice or delay your research because of something you’ve read in this article.

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