Gut Health for Heart Health
When it comes to our health, most people know what’s best. We know diet, exercise, and sleep are important. And to avoid smoking. We may not always remember the ideal numbers for weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, but we know they also matter.
But you might not know that the gut microbiome also impacts several factors associated with cardiovascular health, including inflammation, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure.
The primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke are high blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. Several of these risks are influenced by diet, and diet quality has a direct impact on the gut microbiome.
The Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome describes the diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes, that live in your digestive system beginning in your mouth and ending in the toilet bowl.
Thanks to the gut microbiome project, nutrition is no longer just about preventing nutrient deficiency. We now know that many factors affect the gut microbiome including genetics, aging, chronic disease, diet, medications such as antibiotics and antacids, pregnancy, type of birth (vaginal vs cesarean), stress, and exercise.
The Root Cause
Gut microbes play an enormous role in regulating inflammation and immune function. Predictably chronic conditions and diseases including periodontal disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), celiac disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are associated with a higher risk for CVD. These conditions have also been associated with gut dysbiosis, increased lipopolysaccharide, and intestinal permeability. This root cause mechanism may be the cause of many chronic diseases including CVD.
- Gut Dysbiosis: an imbalance in bacterial composition, changes in bacterial metabolic activities, or changes in bacterial distribution within the gut. Simply put, there are more bad bacteria and microorganisms than good.
- Lipopolysaccharides (LPS): are a component of the cell wall for many of the bad bacteria, specifically gram-negative bacteria. When these bacteria die, LPS is released. Large quantities of LPS activate the immune system triggering inflammation and intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
- Leaky gut: mucosal damage and changes in intestinal permeability that allow microbes to move from the intestine to the bloodstream, which may lead to systemic inflammation.
Strategies to Improve Gut Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut and Reduce LPS
- Improve diet quality: Eat and enjoy whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, high-fiber and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, excess alcohol, fat, sugar and caffeine.
- Probiotics: “Live microorganisms” that provide health benefits. Often, we think about supplements when we think about probiotics. But probiotics are also found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir.
- Prebiotics: Most are soluble dietary fiber like resistant starch, inulin, chicory, and FOS/GOS. This fiber is food for probiotics living in our digestive systems. Short-chain fatty acids are produced when probiotics feed on prebiotics. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that keeps your colon cells healthy and may protect against inflammatory diseases like CVD. SCFAs enter the blood supply and regulate adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver tissue function, improving glucose and insulin sensitivity, and lowering obesity risk.
- Phytochemicals: A well-balanced diet includes a rainbow of colors to maximize your intake of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are non-nutrient compounds in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant foods that may reduce the risk of major chronic diseases like CVD. Anti-inflammatory polyphenols, curcumin, and resveratrol are examples of phytochemicals.
The evidence is growing that the gut microbiome strongly influences cardiovascular and metabolic health. What protects your digestive health also protects your vascular health. A quality diet, probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and dietary phytochemicals promote a healthy microbiome.
If you aren’t sure where to start, but want help with your health? Book a free discovery call to see how I can help you optimize your gut health, and ultimately, your overall health.