• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of gutGutCurrent TOCInstructions to authors
Gut. Aug 1997; 41(2): 245–251.
PMCID: PMC1891451

Increasing butyrate concentration in the distal colon by accelerating intestinal transit


Background—Populations at low risk of colonic cancer consume large amounts of fibre and starch and pass acid, bulky stools. One short chain fatty acid (SCFA), butyrate, is the colon's main energy source and inhibits malignant transformation in vitro.
Aim—To test the hypothesis that altering colonic transit rate alters colonic pH and the SCFA content of the stools.
Patients—Thirteen healthy adults recruited by advertisement.
Methods—Volunteers consumed, in turn, wheat bran, senna and loperamide, each for nine days with a two week washout period between study periods, dietary intake being unchanged. Before, and in the last four days of each intervention, whole gut transit time (WGTT), defaecation frequency, stool form, stool β-glucuronidase activity, stool pH, stool SCFA concentrations and intracolonic pH (using a radiotelemetry capsule for continuous monitoring) were assessed.
Results—WGTT decreased, stool output and frequency increased with wheat bran and senna, vice versa with loperamide. The pH was similar in the distal colon and stool. Distal colonic pH fell with wheat bran and senna and tended to increase with loperamide. Faecal SCFA concentrations, including butyrate, increased with senna and fell with loperamide. With wheat bran the changes were non-significant, possibly because of the short duration of the study. Baseline WGTT correlated with faecal SCFA concentration (r=−0.511, p=0.001), with faecal butyrate (r=−0.577, p<0.001) and with distal colonic pH (r=0.359, p=0.029).
Conclusion—Bowel transit rate is a determinant of stool SCFA concentration including butyrate and distal colonic pH. This may explain the inter-relations between colonic cancer, dietary fibre intake, stool output, and stool pH.

Keywords: bowel cancer; colonic pH; fibre; intestinal transit; pH; short chain fatty acids

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (154K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Macdonald IA, Webb GR, Mahony DE. Fecal hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities in vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists, control subjects, and bowel cancer patients. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978 Oct;31(10 Suppl):S233–S238. [PubMed]
  • Hove H, Rye Clausen M, Brøbech Mortensen P. Lactate and pH in faeces from patients with colonic adenomas or cancer. Gut. 1993 May;34(5):625–629. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Thornton JR. High colonic pH promotes colorectal cancer. Lancet. 1981 May 16;1(8229):1081–1083. [PubMed]
  • Walker AR, Walker BF, Segal I. Faecal pH value and its modification by dietary means in South African black and white schoolchildren. S Afr Med J. 1979 Mar 24;55(13):495–498. [PubMed]
  • Newmark HL, Lupton JR. Determinants and consequences of colonic luminal pH: implications for colon cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1990;14(3-4):161–173. [PubMed]
  • Evans DF, Pye G, Bramley R, Clark AG, Dyson TJ, Hardcastle JD. Measurement of gastrointestinal pH profiles in normal ambulant human subjects. Gut. 1988 Aug;29(8):1035–1041. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Walker AR. Diet, bowel motility, faeces composition and colonic cancer. S Afr Med J. 1971 Apr 3;45(14):377–379. [PubMed]
  • Burkitt DP, Walker AR, Painter NS. Effect of dietary fibre on stools and the transit-times, and its role in the causation of disease. Lancet. 1972 Dec 30;2(7792):1408–1412. [PubMed]
  • Bingham SA. Mechanisms and experimental and epidemiological evidence relating dietary fibre (non-starch polysaccharides) and starch to protection against large bowel cancer. Proc Nutr Soc. 1990 Jul;49(2):153–171. [PubMed]
  • Hague A, Manning AM, Hanlon KA, Huschtscha LI, Hart D, Paraskeva C. Sodium butyrate induces apoptosis in human colonic tumour cell lines in a p53-independent pathway: implications for the possible role of dietary fibre in the prevention of large-bowel cancer. Int J Cancer. 1993 Sep 30;55(3):498–505. [PubMed]
  • van Munster IP, Tangerman A, Nagengast FM. Effect of resistant starch on colonic fermentation, bile acid metabolism, and mucosal proliferation. Dig Dis Sci. 1994 Apr;39(4):834–842. [PubMed]
  • McIntyre A, Gibson PR, Young GP. Butyrate production from dietary fibre and protection against large bowel cancer in a rat model. Gut. 1993 Mar;34(3):386–391. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Ehle FR, Robertson JB, Van Soest PJ. Influence of dietary fibers on fermentation in the human large intestine. J Nutr. 1982 Jan;112(1):158–166. [PubMed]
  • Kim DH, Kang HJ, Kim SW, Kobashi K. pH-inducible beta-glucosidase and beta-glucuronidase of intestinal bacteria. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 1992 Jun;40(6):1667–1669. [PubMed]
  • Mallett AK, Bearne CA, Rowland IR. The influence of incubation pH on the activity of rat and human gut flora enzymes. J Appl Bacteriol. 1989 May;66(5):433–437. [PubMed]
  • Stellwag EJ, Hylemon PB. 7alpha-Dehydroxylation of cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid by Clostridium leptum. J Lipid Res. 1979 Mar;20(3):325–333. [PubMed]
  • Marcus SN, Heaton KW. Effects of a new, concentrated wheat fibre preparation on intestinal transit, deoxycholic acid metabolism and the composition of bile. Gut. 1986 Aug;27(8):893–900. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Mallett AK, Rowland IR, Bearne CA. Modification of rat caecal microbial biotransformation activities by dietary saccharin. Toxicology. 1985 Aug;36(2-3):253–262. [PubMed]
  • Probert CJ, Emmett PM, Heaton KW. Intestinal transit time in the population calculated from self made observations of defecation. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1993 Aug;47(4):331–333. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • O'Donnell LJ, Virjee J, Heaton KW. Detection of pseudodiarrhoea by simple clinical assessment of intestinal transit rate. BMJ. 1990 Feb 17;300(6722):439–440. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Spiller GA, Chernoff MC, Hill RA, Gates JE, Nassar JJ, Shipley EA. Effect of purified cellulose, pectin, and a low-residue diet on fecal volatile fatty acids, transit time, and fecal weight in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Apr;33(4):754–759. [PubMed]
  • El Oufir L, Flourié B, Bruley des Varannes S, Barry JL, Cloarec D, Bornet F, Galmiche JP. Relations between transit time, fermentation products, and hydrogen consuming flora in healthy humans. Gut. 1996 Jun;38(6):870–877. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cummings JH, Bingham SA, Heaton KW, Eastwood MA. Fecal weight, colon cancer risk, and dietary intake of nonstarch polysaccharides (dietary fiber) Gastroenterology. 1992 Dec;103(6):1783–1789. [PubMed]
  • Heaton KW, Radvan J, Cripps H, Mountford RA, Braddon FE, Hughes AO. Defecation frequency and timing, and stool form in the general population: a prospective study. Gut. 1992 Jun;33(6):818–824. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Wyman JB, Heaton KW, Manning AP, Wicks AC. Variability of colonic function in healthy subjects. Gut. 1978 Feb;19(2):146–150. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Tucker DM, Sandstead HH, Logan GM, Jr, Klevay LM, Mahalko J, Johnson LK, Inman L, Inglett GE. Dietary fiber and personality factors as determinants of stool output. Gastroenterology. 1981 Nov;81(5):879–883. [PubMed]
  • Lampe JW, Fredstrom SB, Slavin JL, Potter JD. Sex differences in colonic function: a randomised trial. Gut. 1993 Apr;34(4):531–536. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Probert CS, Emmett PM, Heaton KW. Some determinants of whole-gut transit time: a population-based study. QJM. 1995 May;88(5):311–315. [PubMed]
  • Eastwood MA, Kirkpatrick JR, Mitchell WD, Bone A, Hamilton T. Effects of dietary supplements of wheat bran and cellulose on faeces and bowel function. Br Med J. 1973 Nov 17;4(5889):392–394. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Stephen AM, Wiggins HS, Englyst HN, Cole TJ, Wayman BJ, Cummings JH. The effect of age, sex and level of intake of dietary fibre from wheat on large-bowel function in thirty healthy subjects. Br J Nutr. 1986 Sep;56(2):349–361. [PubMed]
  • Bardon T, Fioramonti J. Nature of the effects of bran on digestive transit time in pigs. Br J Nutr. 1983 Nov;50(3):685–690. [PubMed]
  • Hillman L, Peters S, Fisher A, Pomare EW. Differing effects of pectin, cellulose and lignin on stool pH, transit time and weight. Br J Nutr. 1983 Sep;50(2):189–195. [PubMed]
  • Rowland I. The influence of the gut microflora on food toxicity. Proc Nutr Soc. 1981 Jan;40(1):67–74. [PubMed]
  • Goldin BR, Adlercreutz H, Gorbach SL, Warram JH, Dwyer JT, Swenson L, Woods MN. Estrogen excretion patterns and plasma levels in vegetarian and omnivorous women. N Engl J Med. 1982 Dec 16;307(25):1542–1547. [PubMed]
  • Goldin BR, Gorbach SL. The relationship between diet and rat fecal bacterial enzymes implicated in colon cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1976 Aug;57(2):371–375. [PubMed]
  • Reddy B, Engle A, Katsifis S, Simi B, Bartram HP, Perrino P, Mahan C. Biochemical epidemiology of colon cancer: effect of types of dietary fiber on fecal mutagens, acid, and neutral sterols in healthy subjects. Cancer Res. 1989 Aug 15;49(16):4629–4635. [PubMed]
  • Bown RL, Gibson JA, Sladen GE, Hicks B, Dawson AM. Effects of lactulose and other laxatives on ileal and colonic pH as measured by a radiotelemetry device. Gut. 1974 Dec;15(12):999–1004. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Heaton KW, O'Donnell LJ. An office guide to whole-gut transit time. Patients' recollection of their stool form. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1994 Jul;19(1):28–30. [PubMed]

Figures and Tables

Figure 1
: The relation between whole gut transit time off-treatment and total stool SCFA concentration.
Figure 2
: The relation between whole gut transit time off-treatment and stool butyrate concentration.
Figure 3
: The relation between whole gut transit time off-treatment and distal colonic pH.

Articles from Gut are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • Compound
    PubChem Compound links
  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles
  • Substance
    PubChem Substance links

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...