Why I Tried Butyrate Supplements for Gut Health
In partnership with our friends at BodyBio
Kelly Martin is an associate editor at goop. She covers mindfulness, environmental issues, healing traditions, and psychedelic science—and she loves to test-drive whatever’s new in wellness.
I was not a rebellious teenager, but when I was in high school, I did declare to my steak-centric, beer-can-chicken-loving family that I had become a vegetarian. It had nothing to do with health or the environment or justice for animals; I just wanted to see if I could pull it off for a year. It ended up being easy. But a few months in, on a visit to extended family, my aunt asked me if I felt “better,” and I wasn’t sure what she meant. I was young and healthy and unaware that my body could feel anything but young and healthy—so I answered, “Not really.”
In the moment, I felt exceedingly normal. It was only after the year clocked out and I started eating chicken and beef again that I realized something didn’t feel right. Every time I ate meat, I felt sluggish and heavy. And I, seventeen and not yet especially in tune with my body, had to think about it: Had meat had this effect on me before? Or had my body, during its yearlong meat sabbatical, forgotten how to digest chicken breast?
That’s when I had my big vegetarian aha moment: The feeling that a hunk of meat spent hours just sitting at the bottom of my stomach was too familiar to be new. My digestion had never been great. This was a surprise, although it shouldn’t have been. (I’ll spare you the details and point you to this Q&A with gastroenterologist Dr. S. Radi Shamsi on everything you need to know about poop.) I was vegetarian again within six months. I told my aunt that I was, yes, feeling better. A few years later, I ended up permanently cutting out dairy for similar reasons: A brief stint of veganism ended up relieving further digestive issues—again, ones I hadn’t previously realized I had.
I never went full-fledged gut nerd, but I’ve stopped pretending that what I put in my body doesn’t impact it. It’s been worth investing in good-quality probiotics, and I keep my eye out for other supplements that can help maintain my digestive health long-term. Because I cover wellness for goop and work closely with our wellness buyers, I get to try new stuff a lot. I’m most drawn to a product when I haven’t heard of its active ingredient before and discover it has good research behind it. So when a six-week supply of a gut-support supplement called butyrate, from BodyBio, landed on my desk, I was curious what it might be able to do for me. What made it even more compelling was learning that I was not the first goop staffer to pick up a bottle of butyrate: As is often the case at goop, at least two others got here before me. I asked them how they liked it. They gushed—they’d been supplementing with it for months already.
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid naturally produced in the gut when the microbes in your colon ferment dietary fiber. It’s a major source of energy for cells in the colon, and animal and cell studies suggest that butyrate may support healthy gut barrier function. Preliminary studies have also shown that SCFAs, including butyrate, may promote a healthy microbiome and support gut homeostasis.
BodyBio’s version of butyrate comes in a vegetarian capsule. You take one or two a day, with water at mealtime. They have a distinct smell, but that’s because BodyBio doesn’t use fillers or additives to manipulate the natural smell of butyrate. (And honestly, I’ve grown a little fond of it.) I started by taking one just after lunch—my largest meal—along with my multivitamin, probiotic, and vegan omega-3s. After a few weeks at the lower dose, I leveled up to two capsules.
I wanted to learn more about the science behind butyrate, so I asked BodyBio’s team to connect me with one of the doctors who uses it in their clinical practice. I ended up talking with Ann Shippy, MD, a Texas-based functional doctor who has kept an eye on gut and microbiome science for the past fifteen years. “Microbiome health is so foundational for every aspect of our health,” she says. So that’s where Shippy starts with patients: She might order some lab tests to gauge their starting point, and then she’ll have them try out certain gut protocols, judging by trial and error what works for them and what isn’t as helpful. When BodyBio butyrate came on her radar, she added it to her toolbox.
Something to consider if you’re thinking about trying butyrate, Shippy says: There are three types. All use butyric acid and some kind of salt, which together make a buffered form of butyrate. BodyBio’s best fit for most people is the calcium-magnesium butyrate. “Most patients I see can use some more calcium and magnesium,” she says, noting she checks people’s level of magnesium in the red blood cells rather than in blood plasma alone—it’s often low. Sodium-potassium butyrate can be great for people who are active and might want to pay closer attention to their electrolyte balance, while still being suitable for people who are more sensitive to sodium. Shippy typically reserves sodium butyrate for people who are serious athletes, have very active jobs, or spend a lot of the time in the heat—essentially, those who lose a significant amount of sodium through sweat. She notes that sodium butyrate is not a good fit for those with sodium-sensitive hypertension.
When I started taking butyrate—I’m on calcium-magnesium butyrate, for the record—I didn’t have a gut issue I was trying to solve. But I’ve made it through my first bottle, and I feel good right now. I’m protective of that feeling. I’m nearly a decade into figuring out what my gut likes and what it doesn’t, and now I have a solid supplement regimen and a diet that works for me.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.