The microbes that live in and on us can have a profound affect on our health. They can cause disease – but we are growing increasingly aware of the many benefits they can provide. Among the positive impacts of bacteria growing in our gut is their ability to make the short-chain fatty acid butyrate. This product of bacterial fermentation promotes our health in many ways. But humans do not make this beneficial metabolite; we rely on the bacteria living in our gut to make it for us.
One way to stimulate butyrate production can be increasing the food supply for bacteria in our colon. This requires increasing our consumption of fermentable fiber: plant polysaccharides that are not broken down by human enzymes or bacteria in our small intestine. They pass through to our large intestines where they can be degraded by specialized bacteria.
The mission of the Michigan Microbiome Project is to understand which dietary supplements are most effective at increasing butyrate production – and which gut bacteria are involved. We will use this knowledge to maximize the number of people who can improve their health by stimulating their microbiomes to make more butyrate.