Prebiotics, butyrate and good gut health

You… yourself… will eat around 800 to 1000 kilograms of food this year, and more than 50,000 kilograms of food over the course of your lifetime.

That’ a lot of chewing, swallowing, digesting, absorbing, fermenting and toilet time.

It therefore makes good sense to look after your gut health.

“Good health starts in the gut” because…

  • It is here that your inner body first meets the external world.

  • It is here that your microflora flourish.

  • It is here that your immune system dominates.

  • It is here that all your required nutrients are digested, extracted and absorbed; after proper digestion that is.

  • And it is here that foreign materials and wastes are eliminated from your body.

"Contrary to popular belief, you are more than what you eat… you are what you digest, absorb, ferment and cultivate in that gut of yours."

Enterocytes and Colonocytes… some of the most important cells in your body

Also known as your gut cells or intestinal absorptive cells, enterocytes are a special type of columnar cell (tall and narrow in shape) that are found in your intestinal tract. They contain tiny little protrusions called villi, which project out into the space inside your gut, increasing your guts surface area. This larger surface area enhances your capacity to harvest much more nutrition from the foods you eat.

Digestive enzymes & immunity

In the small intestine enterocytes produce and secrete digestive enzymes, which in turn help to break down carbohydrates and proteins into their smaller forms, making them available for absorption.

On top of their digestion functions, your enterocytes play a major role in your immunity, providing protection against foreign materials and pathogenic invaders.

Major functions of the enterocytes include:

  • Absorption of digested carbohydrates – glucose, galactose and fructose

  • Absorption of digested proteins - peptides and amino acids

  • Absorption of digested fats - fatty acids

  • Absorption of minerals – e.g. iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium and copper

  • Absorption of vitamins – e.g. vitamin C, B vitamins and vitamin D

  • Absorption of water

  • Reabsorption of bile salts

  • Immune function

Your colon

Your colon (large intestine) cells are called 'Colonocytes', and these guys help you absorb water, as well as electrolytes. They too are involved in your immune system.

Eating for your gut cells

Like you or me, gut cells need fuel to do their work. This is where prebiotics come into the picture.

Prebiotics are fermentable fibres that resist digestion, end up in your large intestine, and are fermented by your rich colony of gut bacteria. As a result of their fermentation, gases (e.g. CO2 and methane) are produced, as well as substances called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). One such SCFA is called ‘Butyrate’ and it is this key player that delivers a number of significant benefits to your gut health.

"Butyrate… basically a superfood to your gut cells."

Noted as the most critical factor in good colon health, this guy plays a number of roles in your gut health. For starters, it is the primary source of fuel for your colonocytes, which means it provides the energy for your colon cells do their work, for them to grow, and for them to differentiate to carry out their particular functions. Butyrate also exhibits strong ant-inflammatory properties and on top of all this, it is very likely involved in the protection against colon cancer.


Defined as components of foods that resist digestion, are selectively fermented, alter the composition and/or activity of your microflora (gut bacteria), and as a result confer both health and well-being benefits on the host.

Prebiotics include: Oligofructose (fructans or FOS); Inulin; Galacto-oligosaccharides (Galactans or GOS); Lactulose; and breast milk oligosaccharides.

"In my view, including prebiotic rich foods in your diet daily is one of the best things you can do for your gut health."

Some prebiotic rich foods include garlic, onion, legumes, cashews, wheat bran, rye, green bananas, figs, asparagus, beetroot and artichokes.