Commensal Series - 3

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Customer questions_636

The importance of Commensal Bacteria


Commensals the series

Part 3


In this series, the function of our commensal bacteria is explored. This third part discusses one of the most important metabolites our commensals produce: butyrate.

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Commensals and butyrate

In the previous two parts about commensals, we explained that commensals are the bacteria that live in our intestines. They are very important to us because they have many health promoting properties, mainly because of the metabolites they produces. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid produced by certain commensal bacteria and an example of a metabolite with considerable effects on our health. 

Food for commensals

So our commensal bacteria play a key role in butyrate production. However, commensal bacteria are not available in a probiotic supplement or otherwise. This raises the question: what can you do to increase your butyrate production?

The answer to this question is: you’ll have to feed your commensals with the right food, like pre- and probiotics, so they can flourish.  


Important to know about butyrate:

 Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid

 Butyrate is very good for our health

 We can’t produce butyrate ourselves: this must be done by our commensal bacteria. Therefore, we depend on our commensals for butyrate Commensals need the right “fuel” or “food” to produce butyrate.

Prebiotics are food for commensals

Prebiotics are fermentable complex carbohydrates and dietary fibers. Prebiotics are not digested in the small intestine, but reach the colon intact, where they ‘feed’ the microbiota. Examples of prebiotics are: fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), acacia fiber, resistant dextrin, and inulin. They play an important role in both gut health and overall health. Prebiotic dietary fibers are components of fruit & vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, seeds, nuts and legumes.



Probiotics deliver food for commensals

The role of probiotics as food for commensals is indirect. The probiotic bacteria themselves are not the food, but the metabolites they produce are food for the commensals. This phenomenon is called cross-feeding and is explained in detail here .








This part explains how commensals produce butyrate, an essential short-chain fatty acid.

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