Short Chain Fatty Acids: hidden heroes of the gut and a baby’s immunity?!

Well - sort of….

Enter Short Chain Fatty Acids - something you need to know about.

So we know that having a solid gut bacteria population (microbiota) is super crucial for your baby’s development (click here for reminder as to why), we also know that when your gut isn't functioning as the filter it is intended to be, is leaking and allowing nasties through it is a quick route to trouble. Not what you want…

These Short Chain Fatty Acids are heros and here’s why they are so crucial:  

So - first thing’s first. What are they?

It is your own gut microbiota that produces these Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) in the large bowel.

What do they do?

Well, you’ve heard that being more Alkaline is a powerful thing? Well, production of SCFA has been shown to reduce ‘luminal pH’ - why is this good? This tends to stop pathogenic microorganisms and has been shown to increase the absorption of some nutrients (1)

Sounds good.

Keeping things tight….!

Further, we have found that certain SCFA (butyrate specifically) feed the epithelial cells in the gut and increases mucin production. In English: it has been suggested to improve the barrier function of the gut - tightening things up and ensuring nothing that isn't meant to get through does. Exactly what you want when you are growing a small person.

The holy grail of inflammation reduction (click here for more on why chronic inflammation is not what you want) has also been discussed in relation to SCFA. In fact - there has been a kick up in research done in this area given links that have been discovered between having low levels of certain SCFAs and inflammatory disorders including the development of Asthma in children….

‘reduced levels of propionate producers have been detected in children at risk of asthma.’ (2)

If that wasn’t enough research is also diving in to their ability to improve metabolism, control appetite and weight control. More research however is needed in this area.

Ok, so these we need!

So how do we improve our own production of SCFA?

Once again, your diet is a powerful tool in promoting this. ‘High fibre-low fat and meat diets are characterised by the presence of higher amounts of fecal SCFA than digest with reduced fibre intake’. (3)

Comes back to the same stuff… go high in fibre, plants and low in saturated fats. Back to our old friends in the Mediterranean.

It also comes back to why Prebiotics are things we need in our life (see link here to be reminded why these are important):

‘Prebiotic substrates that selectively promote the growth of beneficial microbiota also indie changes in SCFA production of healthy individuals…. interestingly the consumption of dairy products fermented with beneficial bacteria also modifies the intestinal microbiota towards more butyrate producers.’ (4)

Bottom line? Short Chain Fatty Acids are your friends when it comes to having a healthy gut and helping in the fight against inflammation which is prevalent through modern life. Eating a high fibre, plant based Mediterranean diet is the way to go.

If you fancy geeking out and getting into the weeds - check out this paper for a crash course with all you need to know on SCFA:


This article is for informational purposes only. This article 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. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

Sarah Heywood