Despite what many people think, taking probiotics alone (although they can often be beneficial), will not fix your gut issues. They can in fact, make you feel worse if you have issues like: h.pylori, dysbiosis (imbalance of good to bad bacteria), yeast overgrowth, leaky gut or parasites - honestly, most people do have at least dysbiosis!
Some of you might know what brought me to my microbiome and food sensitivity training in 2019: I had been struggling with a number of health issues that made me sign up for the Nutritional Therapy program at NTA as I was tired of not getting any answers from doctors and being sent from one to the other basically telling me that there was nothing that they could do to help. I had been doing a lot of research myself and was tired of trial and erroring, trying yet another magical supplement that would bring relief to my digestive issues, lack of energy, chronic eczema, amenorrhea, chronic low white blood cell count, elevated liver enzymes, crazy thyroid markers. What I learnt at NTA helped me understand what was going on in my body and that I needed to heal my gut first to fix all the other issues. So I started to heal my gut, but my eczema wouldn’t go away and also my digestive symptoms didn’t. It felt like I had to eliminate more and more foods that didn’t agree with me anymore. I felt frustrated. But I kept on digging. I thought that despite all the gut healing I’d been doing, there must be something continuously irritating my digestive tract and causing inflammation. I wanted to do a food sensitivity test to find out if I had food sensitivities. Oh gosh, there were SO many I honestly didn't know which one to choose and plus they were all very expensive so I didn't want to waste that money. I told my doctor that I wanted to do a food sensitivity test and he literally said: “I can’t help you” and hung up on me!
And almost a year after I finished my FNTP certification, I came across Restorative Wellness Solutions and their Level 1 training: Mastering the Art and Science of Gastrointestinal Healing. This is a training that goes deep dive into the digestive system, using stool testing and food sensitivity testing in conjunction to designing a healing protocol. I learnt about the right tests, what criteria to look out for and how to analyze them. I used them on myself to design my proper healing protocol, and realized how many important aspects my doctors (and I) had been missing! I started my “real” gut healing protocol at the end of 2019 but my eczema still wasn’t going away. It wasn’t until I finally had the results of my food sensitivity test and started avoiding the foods I was reacting to that my eczema finally resolved and never came back! THE END...? I wish!
….until this January! Yikes! At the beginning of the year, my eczema came back. As unhappy as I was about this fact (you know I’m always looking ahead), I went into problem-solving mode and immediately reordered my food sensitivity test from KBMO Diagnostics. I also ordered new supplements that will support my intestinal lining while waiting for my test results.
Good timing that I came across this recent study in Medical News Today reminding me of the benefits of butyrate for gut healing, so I thought I’d share all this with you this week!
What is butyrate?
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that’s produced by some of the good bacteria in your gut by fermenting fiber (one of the reasons to eat your veggies!) These bacteria promote a healthy mucosal barrier, influence immune balance, and protect against many gastrointestinal pathogens. Low levels are often associated with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
It’s basically “butter acid”. Now you can imagine that it doesn’t particularly smell very nice (think rancid butter)! But honestly, I found the smell pretty subtle and exactly like ghee. And usually it’s in your gut so it only becomes a “problem” if you’re taking butyrate as a supplement. If taking butyrate as a supplement, most of it will probably end up being processed in your small intestine and converted into energy instead of getting to your large intestine where you want it to be to feed your good Clostridia and other good bacteria.
Research has found a way to deliver the butyric acid directly to your large intestine by binding butyric acid molecules to glycerol. This also allows the use of smaller amounts of butyrate as it is more effective. These products are called Tributyrin- something.
A lack of Clostridia has even been linked to the appearance of real food allergies (what’s the difference to food sensitivities or intolerance? Go back to my article here)
Now you may think: can’t I take Clostridia as a probiotic? There are no probiotics available that have clostridia strains. That would be great really if we could have custom-made probiotics for everyone’s microbiome.
So how do you increase these bacteria? You feed them! Eat plenty of veggies and other sources of fiber that will give these guys enough food to live well and produce those short chain fatty acids. Consuming butter or ghee of course is also a good thing but not in the same amounts ;-). And of course, yes you can also supplement with butyrate, but as I said, I would not recommend it unless you’ve done a stool panel that shows you have a lack of butyrate producing bacteria.
What are the benefits of butyrate?
Reduces inflammation Studies have shown that butyrate supplements may reduce the severity of disease-causing (pathogenic) bacterial infection by lessening inflammation.
Supports your intestinal lining, which keeps bacteria and other microbes from entering your bloodstream.
Improves insulin sensitivity, because butyrate helps produce gut hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. One study showed a potential link between butyrate production and lower insulin resistance.
Reduces colon cancer risk Other research shows that a diet high in dietary fiber, which encourages butyrate production, could help lower your risk of colon cancer. One study in human cancer cell lines found that sodium butyrate stopped the growth of colorectal cancer cells and caused cancer cell death. It’s also been shown to reduce damage caused by cancer or chemotherapy.
Do you need to supplement? Always check with your health practitioner before taking any supplement that you don’t really know what it will do to your body and or microbiome. It’s not yet clear exactly how much butyrate you need. I’d recommend you start by increasing your veggie intake first, adding prebiotic fiber and consuming fermented foods daily. All of these things will fuel your butyrate production.
Now I got so carried away by talking about butyrate, I almost forgot to explain WHY my eczema has come back?
My mom asked me a funny question this weekend on the phone: you are always eating so healthy, how can you get food sensitivities? I explained to her that it didn’t matter how healthy the foods are that you are eating, if you are reacting to them. The problem is leaky gut: if your intestinal wall is damaged or your mucosal lining on your intestinal wall is too thin, that’s all linked to the abundance or lack of certain good bacteria in your gut.
What can damage your intestinal wall or mucosal lining?
Gluten is such a big irritant for the gut that damages your intestinal lining.
Other plant components like lectins can damage your gut. Lectins are natural insecticides protecting plants from insects, fungi or other invaders, but they can also hurt your gut. Lectins can prevent the repair of our gut lining and they also stop your cells from producing mucus which keeps the lining of your gut wall protected. Lectins are typically present in legumes and grains.
Other things that can damage the intestinal lining are medications like NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Tylenol, Paracetamol) - although I’m not taking any drugs that could damage my intestinal lining, I have a history of being overmedicated in my early childhood, which I now know has left my microbiome frail and with a lack of good bacteria. Also, I was not breastfed as a baby and my bifidobacteria are always low due to that.
Exposure to mycotoxins like molds. They will cause mast cell activation and increase your production of histamine. Mycotoxins will also cause yeast overgrowth in your intestines and on your skin => another pleasant thing we started our year with is water damage in our bedroom and likely mold that has been growing in the insulation materials for a while, we’ll hopefully know soon!
A lack of Akkermansia which is a mucin degrading bacterium and bacteria from the Clostridia class that will produce short chain fatty acids
Interestingly, low levels of both estrogen and progesterone have been found to cause the downregulation of epithelial junction proteins, gut barrier dysfunction, and an increase in gut permeability. So if you’re lacking one or both of these hormones, which is quite normal in perimenopause and menopause, it will impact the health of your gut lining and can lead to food sensitivities. Source
Do you want help with solving your digestive issues? Or possibly skin issues linked to that? Book your free clarity call here, I’d be happy to help if I can!