Your loved ones rely on your strength and generosity every day. So improving your own heart health is one of the best gifts you can give them!
Did you know that one of the most effective ways to improve heart health is by starting in the gut? It’s true!
A balanced gut microbiome does more than simply maintain the health of the gut itself; it also sends ripples of positive wellness function throughout the body. An unbalanced, or “dysbiotic” microbiome also has a ripple effect far beyond the gut, playing a role in conditions as different as arthritis, obesity, and depression. This damage can also affect your heart and your blood vessels.1
Disease-causing gut bacteria have been linked to a higher risk of heart failure, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), and major cardiovascular events like myocardial infarctions (aka heart attack) and stroke.2
How does gut bacteria affect the heart exactly?
Every day, up to one gram of cholesterol enters your colon.3 This is a mixture of unabsorbed cholesterol from food, cholesterol produced by the liver, and cholesterol – as unbelievable as this sounds – from cells sloughed from the gut lining.
Certain gut bugs mop up all this cholesterol by transforming it into a non-absorbable molecule called coprostanol that you can easily excrete.4 That’s a good thing for your cardiovascular system, because it means less troublesome cholesterol is left to find its way to your bloodstream.
So who are these cholesterol-busting heroes? Microbes from the Lachnospiraceae family such as Faecalibacterium and Roseburia, as well as Eubacterium and some Ruminococcaceae have been identified as being excellent cholesterol metabolisers.5
These friendly microbes are also responsible for producing a large portion of the anti-inflammatory butyric acid/butyrate in the gut; they also lower levels of circulating cholesterol even further by blocking its production.6
What else is going on in there?
Gut microbes can also lead to coronary artery disease via crosstalk with your immune system.7 In fact, scientists believe that atherosclerosis (the clogging of the arteries) is actually a chronic inflammatory disease triggered by small tears in blood vessels. Waxy cholesterol sticks to these tiny fissures, attracting immune cells (macrophages) which produce peroxide-like molecules in an attempt to keep the wound clean and stop it from getting deeper and infected.8 The whole process releases pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines for gut geeks) that accelerate the ageing of the cardiovascular system.9
Big picture – as always inside your gut, it’s all about diversity. The lower the diversity of your gut microbes, the larger the number of macrophages that will be ready to contribute to nasty atherosclerosis.10
What can I do to keep my gut and my heart healthy?
Scientists agree that including a wide range of polyphenols from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds as part of your daily food intake is the best way to ensure the richness and diversity of your gut microbiome and to balance your immune system so that it is not geared towards the production of inflammation in blood vessels.11
Prebiotics such as those in our Complete Prebiotic powder and probiotic microbes such as those in our kefirs have also been found to have an indirect effect on the development of atherosclerosis by regulating lipid metabolism and inflammation.12
You can find which populations of heart-helper gut bugs are thriving in your own system, and which groups need help, out by taking a microbiome test. This test comes with a free 20-minute consultation with a Nutritional Therapist who can design a Personal Action Plan for you to improve your gut health.
So give the gift of a healthy heart this Valentines, for you and the people you love!