The old saying ‘the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach’ may actually be true! Recent studies show that gut health and heart health are intricately linked and the key to a healthy heart might be unlocked within your gut.
How can heart health be dependent on the gut?
In a 2018 study published in the journal Digestive Disease and Sciences, patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) had an 80 percent higher chance of having heart disease. For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), this can be as high as 78 percent
SIBO has also been associated with deep vein thrombosis, which is when a blood clot forms in one of the deeper veins in the body.
Just as the risk of developing heart disease increases in individuals that already have a gastrointestinal condition, the reverse is also true. The chances for having GI issues is higher if you are suffering from a heart condition.
These results taken together may suggest a connection between the gut and the heart.
When certain gut microbes use choline, found in high quantities in eggs, red meat, poultry, and fish, they can produce trimethylamine (TMA). TMA can then be converted into TMAO, which has been linked to plaque formation in arteries (atherosclerosis).
High TMAO levels have also been associated with higher mortality rates, independent of other commonly linked risks such as kidney disease, diabetes, and obesity. These findings suggest that evaluating serum levels of TMAO may be an additional factor to consider when gauging someone’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Leaky Gut & LPS – The Likely Reason Microbes End Up in Your Artery Walls
A disrupted gut lining is a third potential mechanism by which the gut could be the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease. When the gut lining weakens, it becomes permeable or ‘leaky.’ A leaky gut allows particles such as food and bacteria to move into the bloodstream and cause inflammation and allergies. This is especially problematic when there are lipopolysaccharides (LPS) present. When large amounts of LPS enter into circulation, it can lead to systemic inflammation, causing a cluster of symptoms called metabolic endotoxemia.
It’s not all bad news when it comes to the gut-heart connection. The good news is there are healthy compounds your gut microbiota produces called short-chain fatty acids that protect the heart.
A 2017 review on the gut microbiome and blood pressure concluded that future treatments for cardiovascular disease should aim to treat high blood pressure through modulation of the gut microbiome.
Here are 5 ways you can begin improving the health of your gut micro-biome immediately:
- Avoid sugar – Sugar isn’t great for your gut microbiome. High sugar diets have been shown to alter gut microbiome composition and function.
- Stress– Your mental and emotional wellbeing can wreak havoc in your body. The gut will be affected too. Use stress reducing techniques such as meditation, talking therapy, quality time with nature, yoga and numerous other activities that improve your overall mood. After all, small but incremental changes daily is likely to build up over time. As a result, you will find a massive improvement in your general wellbeing and health. Read more about how stress can impact your gut health here https://healthnet.lk/stress-and-the-digestive-system-explained/
- Proper Diets – A proper diet doesn’t have to extravagant and expensive. Therefore, incorporate simple dietary replacements. Your microbes love a varied mixture of food. Firstly, a low-fat diet and consumption of less red meat is recommended. Secondly, reduce salt intake, eat more fibre-rich vegetables and whole grains. For instance, oats and quinoa. Moreover, colourful vegetables on your plate is an ideal route to attain a healthy gut and a healthy heart. Furthermore, legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans are essential to your diet. Finally, take a handful of nuts and seeds. Read more about meal planning to improve your heart health here: https://healthnet.lk/why-it-matters-to-take-your-heart-health-seriously/
- Probiotics supplements – Probiotics are live good bacteria, found in yoghurt and other fermented food. This is likely to be useful to restore the natural bacterial balance in the body. Moreover, a supplement such as Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil is attributed to numerous health benefits such as reducing inflammation and blood pressure while increasing good cholesterol levels. Similarly, it is also known to lower the risk of plaque formation. However, probiotics have limited power in preventing strokes or heart attacks. In addition, scientific research is still in its premier stages concerning the usefulness of probiotics in gut health. Overall, each person has a unique gut microbiota, thus the effects may vary from person to person.
- Exercise – Exercise isn’t just good for your heart, it’s for your gut too! Exercise has been shown to enrich microbial diversity and increase beneficial bacteria.
- Quit smoking – Smoking is one of the top three biggest risks factors for heart disease, and it wreaks havoc on your gut microbiome. You already know smoking is bad for you, now it’s time to really quit.
In summary, a healthy gut is essential for a strong immune system. Recent studies conducted on microbiology and cardiovascular diseases continue to highlight important developments related to heart health. They look promising as breakthrough treatments based on microbes are a future possibility.
Ensure you take special care to make necessary lifestyle and dietary changes if you are at a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.