Functional Nutrition Blog

Focusing on gut health and Functional nutrition

Short Chain Fatty Acids

Jun 4, 2021 | Gut Health, Nutrition

What are Short Chain Fatty Acids?

Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) are by-products of gut bacteria metabolism.  What this means, is that certain fibers get digested by particular bacteria in the gut and the end product of that digestion = SCFAs.

 

There are 12 SCFAs.  However, 3 of them make up 90-95% of all SCFA:  

Butyrate, Acetate, and Propionate.

The other 9 are:
Valerate, Isobutyrate, Isovalerate, 2-methyl butyrate, 2,2-dimethylbutyrate, 2-ethylbutyrate, 4-methyl validate, caproate, and pivalate
(for all you science nerds out there!)

Why are SCFAs so important?

SCFAs are responsible for important aspects of gut health such as:
  • Repair the lining of the GI tract – they are the preferred fuel source for the cells that line the gut
  • Managing inflammation  – they are extremely anti-inflammatory
  • Assist the correction of Leaky Gut – they produce mucus that lines and protects the inner GI tract

The way I explain this to my clients is that these offer LONGEVITY to the work you do on your gut. Short Chain Fatty Acids are pieces that help “hold down the fort” for the whole gut environment in general.

How do SCFAs Become Depleted:

  • Diarrhea (rapid transit = decrease in production)
  • Constipation (increased SCFA absorption)
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic antibiotic use
  • Decreased/inadequate fiber consumption
  • Dysbiosis

How to Optimize SCFAs:

There are a few ways to help increase SCFAs through both your food and supplements.

Food:

The main idea behind using food to increase SCFA production is to actually FEED the bacteria that is responsible for doing so.  Here are a few foods that help:

  1. Resistant Starches – this is a type of fiber that is particularly great fuel for SCFA producing bacteria.  You can get excellent resistant starch content out of COOKED and COOLED rice, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  You can batch cook these foods and then warm them up all week long!  Do you notice how as rice cools it gets really sticky? That is the resistant starch content building up!  You can also look for green banana powder to add to smoothies!
  2. Ghee – this is also called clarified butter and it is a natural source of Butyrate!  As you read above, Butyrate is the most abundant SCFA. You can use Ghee in place of any cooking oil or butter.  Top some cooked and cooled rice with this for a double hitter to boost SCFAs
  3. Fiber – all that good fiber from fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds makes it’s way into the gut to feed the bacteria there
  4. Variety and Color – this is the be all end all. If you are getting tons of different colored foods, you’ll know that you are getting good variety and therefore tons of different fibers to feed the different bacteria that are have different responsibilities.

Supplements:

You can also help really bridge the gap by using supplements for a period of time and then allowing the food to take over.  The role of supplements in this case would be to provide that source fuel to the SCFA producing bacteria in the gut.

If you are someone who cannot tolerate a lot of fiber right now because you’re still in the beginning parts of healing, the supplement route may be best for you right now.

I highly recommend Sunfiber as a starting place – this is TYPICALLY well tolerated by people who are otherwise intolerant to fiber foods.  Check out this list of GI supplements I love using and recommend and look for Sunfiber or MegaPrebiotics.

You can also check out this post if you are still trying to piece together what you may be experiencing with your current potential gut health implications.

Let me know how this helps you!  Happy cooking-for-SCFA-and-gut-health!

 

Cheering for you…

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