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Body Ecology grain-like seeds are a formidable source of fiber.
Fiber doesn’t just scour the intestinal walls or improve heart health. As a nutrient, the most important role of dietary fiber is that it feeds intestinal bacteria.
Once gut bacteria feast on fiber, they produce a fatty acid called butyrate. In the same way that we release carbon dioxide when we inhale oxygen, butyrate is a byproduct of well-fed gut bacteria.
The Human Body Works in Partnership with Gut Bacteria
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid. The richest source of butyrate is butter. But as it turns out, your intestinal cells fully rely on gut bacteria to produce butyrate. In fact, their very survival depends on it.
Butyrate is an important source of energy for intestinal cells. Without butyrate—or with only a short supply—intestinal cells die. (1) This may explain why the highest concentration of butyrate in the human body is found in the gut.
Butyrate does more than feed intestinal cells. It also controls inflammation and stops the development of cancer.
Butyrate, Inflammation, and Leaky Gut
Gut bacteria that feed on fiber produce a fatty acid called butyrate as a byproduct. Butyrate can improve digestive health, control inflammation, and stop cancer development.
Researchers at Yale University speculate that good gut bacteria release molecules—like butyrate—that create tolerance and control the release of pro-inflammatory messages. (2) This tolerance stops the immune system from attacking good gut bacteria. It also reduces inflammation.
Researchers have found that the gut is less likely to suffer from inflammatory disorders in the presence of butyrate. This includes chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or colitis.
Inflammation in the gut is more common than you may think. Leaky gut is one well-known sign that the intestinal wall is inflamed.
Fatty acids—like butyrate—help keep the gut wall healthy and sealed. Animal studies show that butyrate both suppresses the development of leaky gut and improves the intestinal barrier. (3)(4) This may be because butyrate actually encourages the immune system to make specialized immune cells that reduce inflammation. (5)
The Truth Behind "Heart Healthy" Fiber
Mainstream media will tell you that fiber is "heart healthy" because a diet rich in fiber is associated with lower signs of metabolic stress. This includes:
- Lower LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels
- Lower blood sugar
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Lower rates of obesity
In light of these associations, many people believe fiber is good for the heart. Many physicians will tell you that insoluble fiber moves through the gut, untouched. They might tell you that fiber can bind to cholesterol, preventing its absorption. Or that fiber is filling.
These are all theories.
The reality is that gut bacteria break down both soluble and insoluble fiber, with butyrate as an important byproduct. (6)
Animal studies show that butyrate from fermented fiber can reduce the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. (7) And butyrate can also decrease insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. (8) In the 2009 study published in Diabetes, researchers saw that butyrate increases body temperature—a sign that it also increases metabolism.
Encourage Your Gut Bacteria to Make Butyrate
There are two ways to get more of the fatty acid butyrate into your diet. The first way is to directly consume it. The name butyrate comes from the Greek word “butter.” Butyrate is found in butter and other forms of diary—especially goat, sheep, and buffalo milk.
While you can also find butyrate supplements online, eating butyrate (or taking it as a supplement) is not an effective way to increase levels of butyrate in the gut.
This is because the fermentation of fiber takes place in the colon, where you will naturally find the most butyrate. Butyrate is an energy source for cells in the colon—and the best way for butyrate to reach the colon is through fermentation in the colon.
Here are 2 recommended ways to increase levels of butyrate:
1. Eat foods that feed the bacteria living in the colon.
Good gut bacteria eat both forms of dietary fiber—soluble and insoluble. While dark leafy greens and vegetables are a good source of soluble fiber, grain-like seeds are uniquely rich in insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber encourages gut bacteria to produce more butyrate than soluble fiber.
The Body Ecology Diet recommends a mostly plant-based diet with the inclusion of grain-like seeds, such as:
2. Eat foods rich in beneficial bacteria and yeast.
It has been found that beneficial microbiota will actually release anti-inflammatory messages and dampen the inflammatory response.
We recommend fermented foods over a probiotic supplement because the fermented foods travel with the beneficial flora, carrying all of their plant phytonutrients with them. This ensures that the good bacteria are equipped to quickly and effectively multiply and create a community within the gut.
Focusing on increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut—as well as feeding those bacteria—is essential to rebuilding the gut, restoring metabolism, and reducing inflammation!
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The most important role of fiber in the diet is to feed intestinal bacteria. When gut bacteria consume fiber, they produce a fatty acid byproduct known as butyrate. Healthy intestinal cells will die without butyrate as a source of energy. Butyrate benefits the body by controlling inflammation and stopping cancer development.
A healthy gut is protected by butyrate. In the presence of butyrate, a gut is less likely to suffer from inflammatory disorders like Crohn's disease and colitis. The fatty acid butyrate keeps the gut wall healthy and sealed to suppress leaky gut.
There are 2 specific ways to increase butyrate levels and improve your health:
- Eat fiber-rich foods that feed good gut bacteria. Body Ecology recommends dark leafy greens, vegetables, and grain-like seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and amaranth.
- Eat foods rich in beneficial bacteria and yeast. Beneficial bacteria will calm inflammation by releasing anti-inflammatory signals in the body. The Body Ecology Diet recommends cultured vegetables, coconut water kefir, and probiotic beverages to strengthen the digestive system, restore metabolism, and curb inflammation.
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- Donohoe, D. R., Garge, N., Zhang, X., Sun, W., O'Connell, T. M., Bunger, M. K., & Bultman, S. J. (2011). The microbiome and butyrate regulate energy metabolism and autophagy in the mammalian colon. Cell metabolism, 13(5), 517-526.
- Chang, P. V., Hao, L., Offermanns, S., & Medzhitov, R. (2014). The microbial metabolite butyrate regulates intestinal macrophage function via histone deacetylase inhibition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201322269.
- Suzuki, T., Yoshida, S., & Hara, H. (2008). Physiological concentrations of short-chain fatty acids immediately suppress colonic epithelial permeability. British Journal of Nutrition, 100(2), 297-305.
- Kanauchi, O., Iwanaga, T., Mitsuyama, K., Saiki, T., Tsuruta, O., Noguchi, K., & Toyonaga, A. (1999). Butyrate from bacterial fermentation of germinated barley foodstuff preserves intestinal barrier function in experimental colitis in the rat model. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 14(9), 880-888.
- Arpaia, N., Campbell, C., Fan, X., Dikiy, S., van der Veeken, J., Liu, H., ... & Rudensky, A. Y. (2013). Metabolites produced by commensal bacteria promote peripheral regulatory T-cell generation. Nature, 504(7480), 451-455.
- Spiller, G. A., Chernoff, M. C., Hill, R. A., Gates, J. E., Nassar, J. J., & Shipley, E. A. (1980). Effect of purified cellulose, pectin, and a low-residue diet on fecal volatile fatty acids, transit time, and fecal weight in humans. Am J Clin Nutr, 33(4), 754-759.
- RANGANNA, K., YATSU, F. M., & HAYES, B. E. (2005). Butyrate, a small pleiotropic molecule with multiple cellular and molecular actions: Its role as an anti-atherogenic agent.
- Gao, Z., Yin, J., Zhang, J., Ward, R. E., Martin, R. J., Lefevre, M., ... & Ye, J. (2009). Butyrate improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure in mice. Diabetes, 58(7), 1509-1517.
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