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Short Chain Fatty Acids and Gut Health

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are the byproduct of non-digestible carbohydrates that are broken down by the gut bacteria. That beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome breaks them down and uses them for energy by the cells that make up the large intestine. Though these fatty acids may not be something you think of every day, they actually have many benefits. Read on to learn more about the benefits of short-chain fatty acids.

The Main Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Acetate, butyrate, propionate, and lactate are all different types of short-chain fatty acids. All of them, with the exception of lactate, are created through bacteria fermentation. Lactate is a product of lactic acid breaking down ingested carbohydrates. All of these fatty acids have a number of functions as well as health benefits.

• Acetate : This SCFA is in charge of regulating the pH of the gut. It can help to control appetite and even can protect the body against various pathogens.

• Butyrate: A major energy source for the cells of the large intestine, butyrate can help prevent leaky gut syndrome and even fight against inflammation.

• Propionate: Like butyrate, propionate helps to regulate appetite and fight against inflammation. It is even believed to be protective against cancer.

• Lactate: Lactate does its part to nourish the butyrate-producing bacteria. It also aids in regulating the immune system.

How Can You Increase Your Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production

The best way to generate more SCFA is through the addition of prebiotic fiber. The beneficial gut bacteria feed on these fibers and produce SCFA as a byproduct. The following list of foods contain prebiotic fibers and are not only a great addition to a healthy diet. They also happen to be rather tasty additions to many meals!

Chicory root: This root is well-loved for having a similar flavor to coffee. Not only is it a great source of prebiotic fiber, but it is also a powerful antioxidant. Some simmer it in warm water to drink while others just swallow a pinch of the ground root at mealtime.

Garlic: The good news about garlic is that it goes with almost everything! In addition to its aromatic qualities, it contains prebiotic fiber and may prevent heart disease. Add garlic to meats, vegetables, and eggs.

Leeks: Similar to garlic and onion, leeks are also a great source of Vitamin K. Leeks can be diced and pan fried or made into comforting soups.

Onions: Not only are they a source of prebiotic fiber, but onions have antioxidant properties and can even play a role in improving heart health. Eat them freshly sliced on sandwiches or caramelize them to top your favorite cut of meat.


Now that you are better informed about what short-chain fatty acid and their role in both digestion and health, you should consider including some of the above foods in your diet. With their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and protective qualities, it is certainly worth it to add some more onions and garlic to your favorite recipes. Feeding the gut healthy prebiotic fibers is known to do wonders for overall health.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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