Updated: Dec 1, 2019
I want you to know more about the marvelous Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)
Because of the health benefits they can give you if you give your gut bugs what they are after.
SCFAs are the products made by your gut microbiota community when you eat fibre, usually prebiotic fibre. As you all now know, prebiotic fibre makes it all the way down to your large intestine to where the party happens and your gut bugs are waiting to start fermenting.
SCFAs nourish your gut lining (or intestine lining) which is very important to avoid illness. Your gut is a central workhouse for your immune system so it’s vitally important that the lining of your intestine stays intact and healthy. Have you ever heard of leaky gut? Leaky gut is thought to happen when the lining of your intestine is compromised and things (like bacteria and other materials) sneak through causing illness. Leaky gut is now being linked to a number of autoimmune diseases and other conditions.
There are 4 main SCFAs butyrate, acetate, succinate and propionate and these are produced by various bacteria when they consume, or ferment, different types of prebiotic fibres. Another interesting recent piece of research is that a diet high in omega 3’s can also encourage the growth of those bacteria that produce butyrate. Butyrate is a well-researched SCFA and they have been linked to the prevention of colon cancer because it is used by the cells in your colon for energy.
What foods can help you increase these bacteria in your diet I hear you ask?
It’s mostly Bifidobacteria and Firmicutes that produce butyrate and they can do this if you eat mostly a plant-based diet and eat red meat no more than twice/week. Some of the foods that are suggested to be the best for butyrate producers include oats, wheat, rye, barley, fennel, beans, chickpeas, lentils, onion, artichoke, beetroot and broccoli among others. These are general guidelines as it depends on you and who is in your gut already. More reasons to eat fibre!
Dalile, B., Van Oudenhove, L., Vervliet, B., & Verbeke, K. (2019). The role of short-chain fatty acids in microbiota–gut–brain communication. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 16(8), 461-478. doi:10.1038/s41575-019-0157-3
Rivière, A., Selak, M., Lantin, D., Leroy, F., & De Vuyst, L. (2016). Bifidobacteria and Butyrate-Producing Colon Bacteria: Importance and Strategies for Their Stimulation in the Human Gut. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 979-979. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00979