Effects of short-chain fatty acids on the inflamed colonic mucosa

Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1997;222:53-7. doi: 10.1080/00365521.1997.11720719.


Selected inflammatory conditions of the distal alimentary tract may respond to topical SCFA treatment. The rationale for using SCFA enemas is based on Roediger's (1980) observation that butyrate is the preferred fuel of colonocytes and that SCFA deficiency could lead, in the short term, to mucosal hypoplasia and, in the long term, to colitis. The absence of luminal nutrients is especially evident in the excluded rectum after complete diversion of the faecal stream. Harig et al. (1989) were the first to treat successfully diversion colitis with SCFA irrigation (acetate 60 mM, propionate 30 mM, n-butyrate 40 mM). However, subsequent studies could not reproduce the initial positive data. In distal ulcerative colitis an impaired mucosal oxidation of SCFAs has been described despite their luminal abundance. Pilot studies using either the SCFA mixture or butyrate monotherapy have yielded promising results. However, extended confirmatory studies with a larger sample size have not yet been performed. Preliminary data are also available for the use of SCFA in pouchitis and radiation proctitis. In summary, SCFA topical therapy seems to be a promising option in distinct forms of inflammatory bowel disease; however, the routine use of SCFAs cannot be recommended until their efficacy has been confirmed in larger trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Butyrates / administration & dosage
  • Butyrates / therapeutic use
  • Butyric Acid
  • Colitis / drug therapy*
  • Colitis / etiology
  • Enema
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Pouchitis / drug therapy
  • Proctitis / drug therapy
  • Radiation Injuries / drug therapy


  • Butyrates
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Butyric Acid