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Butyrate: The Fatty Acid You Never Knew You Needed

One of the biggest health trends over the past decade has been the somewhat puzzling idea that if I put butter in my coffee, it will actually help me burn fat. Not only that, it will also drive up my energy levels and keep my brain sharp. Best known today as bulletproof coffee, the truth is that putting grass-fed butter in coffee and tea has been around for a very, very long time.

Himalayan populations from the Sherpas in Nepal to Kashmirs in northern India have been sipping butter coffee brews for centuries. The Gurage people of Ethiopia traditionally prepare coffee with butter, honey and salt. In Vietnam, chon coffee beans are sautéed with butter, salt and sugar, then lightly roasted. And in Singapore, it's common to sauté coffee beans with butter and spices before grinding.

So, why does grass-fed butter possess such magical health benefits? Inside this butter, you will find a high concentration of something called butyrate. Pronounced ‘byoo-tuh-reyt’, the word appropriately comes from the Latin word butyrum, meaning butter.

What is this BYOO-TUH-REYT you speak of?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that is most commonly produced by probiotics (the good bacteria) in the colon. Your digestive system NEEDS butyrate to function properly. The primary function of butyrate is to fuel the cells lining your gut (colonocytes). The cells around your colon, in particular, get about 70% of their energy needs from butyrate. This is a major reason why a high fiber diet is associated with greater colon health.

Without butyrate, the cells throughout your digestive tract would not be able to carry out their functions properly. Here are the top functions of butyrate:

  1. Fuel your gut cells
  2. Assist weight loss and fight type II diabetes by maintaining blood sugar balance
  3. Increase antioxidant levels
  4. Support brain health and protect you from brain diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s)
  5. Prevent gut inflammation, decreasing your risk of cancer
  6. Stop cancer cells from developing, particularly bowel cancer
  7. Plug up a leaky gut 

Psyllium Husk Increases Butyrate Production

Your gut bacteria feed on fiber. So, the best way to optimize your butyrate production is through a high-fiber diet. A high fat, low carb diet will unfortunately not get the job done. Whole foods including apples, onions, garlic, mushrooms and berries are excellent ways to feed your healthy gut bacteria into producing butyrate. Another effective way to feed the special families of bacteria that produce butyrate is psyllium husk.

Consuming psyllium husk increases the presence of various beneficial intestinal bacteria. In turn, these little critters can fuel your body with butyrate. You want at least 40% of your gut bacteria to include butyrate-producing species. Sylly (and some butter coffee) can help you get there.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6358997/