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Health Benefits of Short-Chain Fatty Acids

I watched a video by Dr. Milton Mills. Fiber that we eat gets broken down by healthy microorganisms in the intestine. If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that the collection of microorganisms is called the microbiome. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are produced by a healthy microbiome which are absorbed into the body. SCFAs are important because they are energy sources for the body, associated with lower blood sugar, have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties.

One type of SCFA is called butyrate. This is the preferred energy source for colonocytes, the epithelial cells that line the intestines. Colonocytes need adequate energy from butyrate to be healthy and create tight junctions between the cells. If colonocytes do not have sufficient energy, the junctions will be loose and let food and microorganisms pass through into the body.

If this happens, our immune system will respond as if the food and microorganisms are foreign invaders and try to destroy them. The immune system is usually quite capable. So, you might think what is the big deal? Food and microorganisms are destroyed. Why am I wasting my time reading this blog!! I could be reading about the latest hockey game instead!!!

Well, the immune system accomplishes its task by creating inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation are associated with depression. We are entering a darker season of light. Fall and winter decreases the duration of sunlight. At this latitude (44.2312° N), people are more prone to seasonal affective disorder. Layering this inflammation because of a lack of fiber on top of decreasing light might be enough to trigger a major depression. COVID-19 has taken a toll on our mental health. International conflicts, economic difficulties and personal stressors can further erode our mental health.

Please consider incorporating more plant-based options in your diet to ensure adequate fiber and a healthy microbiome. As always, please work with a qualified health care professional when changing eating patterns or lifestyle behaviours. Thanks for reading. #lifestylemedicine #older adults #seniors #depression

Photo by Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, KC Huang, and Justin Sonnenburg

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