The Relationship Between Your Gut and Heart Health
The Relationship Between Your Gut and Heart Health
The bacteria in your digestive system may have far-reaching effects on your body and cardiovascular health.
The trillions of microorganisms in your gut, your gut microbiome, are essential for good health.
Although research on the microbiome is young, scientists have identified multiple links between a thriving community of “good bugs” and positive health outcomes.
These miniature life forms help us digest food, synthesize vitamins, and much more. In addition, they have links to many parts of your body, including your heart.
DIFFERENTIATING MICROBIOME FROM MICROBIOTA
People use the terms microbiome and microbiota interchangeably, although these two have subtle distinctions. The microbiome relates to the collection of genomes of all microorganisms in the environment.
Microbiota, on the other hand, generally refers to the microorganisms found within a specific environment.
Microbiota may refer to all microorganisms found in an environment, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, meaning that there are localized differences in each individual’s microbiota, depending on the body’s part from which the extraction of the microbiota is.
An individual’s gut microbiota may be radically different from the microbiota on their skin, so we must be careful when talking about from where it comes.
Your gut microbiota refers to all the microorganisms (for example, bacteria) that live inside your stomach. The most significant number of microorganisms within the body live within the gut.
The bacteria or microorganisms within your gut are unique to each individual. The human gut microbiota consists of over one hundred trillion microorganisms and weighs about two hundred g.
IMPORTANCE OF GUT MICROBIOTA
Your microbiota has many functions, including defense against harmful microorganisms and digestion of dietary fiber, which humans cannot digest. Your microbiota also facilitates the absorption of essential vitamins and may impact your mental health.
Preliminary research implies that some of the earliest changes leading to Parkinson’s disease may start with the gut microbiota. However, this recent breakthrough only highlights what we have to learn about the microorganisms in our gut and their relation to our brain and cardiovascular system.
INFLUENCERS OF GUT MICROBIOTA
We may influence our gut microbiota, but only to a certain extent. Many factors are at play, and some start before you leave the womb.
Some factors we may influence include the following:
- Feeding methods, such as breast milk, formula, and introduction of solid foods
- Any medicines such as antibiotics and acid suppressants
- Dietary habits and cooking of food
- Environmental and lifestyle factors, for example, rural versus urban and exercise
- Gaining weight
Some factors we cannot influence may include the following:
- Gestational age; whether born preterm or full term
- Mode of birth; by vaginal delivery or cesarean section
Next, we will examine how your gut microbiota may influence heart health.
The heart and the gut seem like very separate parts of the body. So, it is surprising that they have a link between them.
However, studies found several links between resident microbes and heart conditions. Next, we will delve into some of the details.
Early research documented some tantalizing hints that gut bacteria and cardiovascular disease might have a relation.
For example, a study from then years ago spotted differences between the gut microbiomes of people with atherosclerosis and those without the condition.
Specifically, individuals with significant atherosclerosis were more likely to have more bacteria of the Collinsella genus.
Interestingly, research has shown that members of this genus are more prevalent in individuals who eat a lot of processed food.
In contrast, research participants without atherosclerosis were more prone to have higher levels of good bacteria (of the genera Roseburia and Eubacterium). Similarly, lower levels of inflammation are associated with some bacterial species in these genera. This inflammation appears to play an essential role in atherosclerosis.
As another example, a small study seven years ago found that individuals with high blood pressure had a less diverse gut microbiota than controls without high blood pressure. Nevertheless, these studies do not prove that changes in gut bacteria cause high blood pressure, but it is further evidence of some connection.
Searching for a mechanism that could directly cause heart disease, the scientists first focused on TMAO (a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide).
–EXPLAINING WHAT TMAO IS
Food such as egg yolks, red meat, and other animal products provide high levels of L-carnitine and choline.
Choline is an essential nutrient, and we can find L-carnitine naturally in almost all cells. So, by themselves, they are significant for good health.
However, as some intestinal bacteria decompose these compounds, they release trimethylamine (TMA).
Trimethylamine enters the blood and moves to the liver; once there, the liver transforms it into TMAO. So, here is the connection to heart disease:
Individuals with higher blood levels of TMAO are sixty-two percent more prone to experience “major adverse cardiovascular events,” including heart attack and stroke. In addition, there is a connection between higher mortality rates and elevated levels of TMAO.
Finally, we have a plausible mechanistic connection between gut bacteria and cardiovascular disease risk. More evidence is accumulating. However, scientists believe that gut microbes may also influence heart health in other ways.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR GUT AND HEART HEALTH – IMPACT OF IMBALANCE
Experts have suspected for years a connection between gut health and heart health.
Recent research aggregates evidence and finds there is an association between changes in certain types of gut bacteria and the following:
- Good cholesterol levels (Lower HDL)
- High blood pressure
- Events such as heart attacks and strokes
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
At this point, scientists acknowledge one connection has to do with the compounds that gut bacteria produce when they break down certain foods. The wrong balance of gut bugs may mean more byproducts that damage blood vessels and raise cholesterol levels.
You are not affected solely by what you ingest but also by what the natural microorganisms in your intestines metabolize after eating. Investigators continue to increase their understanding of how gut bacteria affect overall health in fascinating ways.
Not only may these bacteria affect metabolism, immune responses, and even mood, as mentioned before, but scientists and researchers now believe that they may also affect the health heart.
PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS
–MAINTAINING A HEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME
Dieticians frequently promote two types of dietary supplements to support a healthy gut microbiome: probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics includes substances that may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Some supplements contain both probiotics and prebiotics.
While there is evidence that some types of these supplements may be beneficial for gut health, there is no proven evidence that probiotics and prebiotics reduce inflammation and cardiovascular disease in the long run.
In addition to probiotics and prebiotics, particular food may be beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, such as the following:
- Dandelion greens
- Steel-cut oats
–LOWERING BLOOD PRESSURE
Previous studies report a relationship between eating food containing probiotics (live, consumable bacteria) and healthier blood pressure. For instance, yogurt is an example of a probiotic, and people may need to be aware of prebiotics.
Prebiotics are foods that contain the precursors that bacteria need to produce particular chemicals our body subsequently absorbs, which could lower blood pressure.
Fiber can be prebiotic for many bacteria, so when you ingest fiber, the bacteria will break it down to produce those chemicals. Food sources of this prebiotics are plant foods.
You may find prebiotics in fiber-containing food, such as the following:
- Whole grains
- Sweet potatoes
- Green vegetables
Fermented foods (probiotics) are usually added to yogurts and juices or as food supplements described as good bacteria. These foods are not harmful to most individuals with a healthy immune system; nevertheless, you should talk to your doctor before trying them.
There is hope for a future in which heart-healthy measures include considerations for gut health and optimal guidelines for administering antibiotics, which may adversely affect gut bacteria, and for ingesting probiotics.
Still waiting to tell what yogurt to eat to promote lower blood pressure, but we expect to provide that information in the future; we have to put all the pieces together.
Modern Heart and Vascular Institute intends to provide you with information but not attempting to replace the medical advice of your healthcare provider or physician. Consult your healthcare provider for advice or suggestions on your specific medical condition.
It is our priority to keep you well these season holidays! Visit one of Modern Heart and Vascular Institute’s locations for high-quality primary care close to home. Call 832-644-8930 to schedule your appointment today.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice. For more information, contact us.
Every heart has a story… What’s yours?
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Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.
Every heart has a story… What’s yours?
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At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.