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The Power of Short-Chain Fatty Acids

by Apr 5, 2024

Home » Chiropractic Medicine Student Blog - Illinois » The Power of Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Everybody these days is beginning to realize the importance of gut health. However, within this intricate ecosystem of our digestive system lies a crucial component often overlooked: short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These small molecules, produced by the fermentation of dietary fibers in the colon, wield significant influence over our overall health and well-being.

First and foremost, SCFAs serve as vital energy sources for the cells lining the colon, playing a pivotal role in maintaining intestinal health. The major SCFAs are acetate, propionate, and butyrate. Each of these molecules exerts unique biological effects, but butyrate stands out for its role in promoting colonocyte (the cells that line our large intestine) proliferation and enhancing the gut barrier function. Essentially, you can think of butyrate as Miracle-Gro for your gut. Through this role, butyrate can act as a safeguard against inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer, among other conditions.

Perhaps even more interesting is SCFAs immunomodulatory properties, where they can actually regulate immune cell function and inflammation within the gut.  When you consider that up to 70-80% of immune cells are in the gut, this function looms large. Specifically, through their interaction with receptors like GPR41 and GPR43, SCFAs help orchestrate a balanced immune response. Basically, these molecules can help turn up the immune system for fending off pathogens (up-regulate effector T-cells), while also being able to turn down the immune system to prevent excessive inflammation and/or autoimmune reactivity (up-regulate regulatory T-cells).

So how do we get more of these amazing molecules in our gut? The production of SCFAs relies on the presence of a diverse and ‘good’ gut flora, composed of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These microbes ferment dietary fibers that escape digestion in the small intestine, yielding SCFAs as metabolic byproducts. Hence, fostering a healthy gut microbiome through a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fiber sources is key to enhancing SCFA production and reaping their myriad of benefits. SCFAs can also be taken as a supplement.

If you’d like to learn more about SCFAs check out the following sources:


  1. Priyadarshini M, Kotlo KU, Dudeja PK, Layden BT. Role of Short Chain Fatty Acid Receptors in Intestinal Physiology and Pathophysiology.Compr Physiol. 2018;8(3):1091-1115. Published 2018 Jun 18. doi:10.1002/cphy.c170050
  2.  Furness JB, Kunze WA, Clerc N. Nutrient tasting and signaling mechanisms in the gut. II. The intestine as a sensory organ: neural, endocrine, and immune responses.Am J Physiol. 1999;277(5):G922-G928. doi:10.1152/ajpgi.1999.277.5.G922
  3. Brown MJ. How short-chain fatty acids affect health and weight. Healthline. October 8, 2021. Accessed April 1, 2024.

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About the Author

Matt Beyer

Matt Beyer

My name is Matt Beyer, and I am currently a 9th trimester DC student intern at NUHS. As a 2nd generation chiropractic student, I have a strong passion and understanding for the crucial role alternative (chiropractic and naturopathic) medicine plays in today’s health care landscape. I plan to earn a post-doctorate neurology diplomate and functional medicine certification after I graduate. I am also very interested in how natural, lifestyle interventions (exercise, sleep/wake hygiene, mindfulness, nutrition and herbal supplements) can play a role in managing chronic conditions. Therefore, I spend a lot of time reading research or taking seminars in these areas. I’m looking forward to discussing many of these topics, as well as my experiences as an NUHS student in future blog posts!


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