Updated: Mar 30
By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND
Now you’re probably thinking, what does my gut have anything to do with my heart disease risk? Why would our intestines have any influence on our heart health?
We know that our body, and mostly our intestines, host millions (even billions) of different bacteria. These are our “healthy” bacteria – unlike the bacteria that get us sick. The microbiome in our gut plays a huge role in our immune system, and is often the place to start when treating skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation and more. These bacteria are heavily influenced by the types of food we eat and new research is showing that it also influences our risk factors for a magnitude of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.
What does our gut microbiome consist of?
Our gut microbiome consists of a variety of different bacterial species that live in harmony with our body. There are a few dominant bacterial strains that are required for optimal health, and multiple other strains which are supportive. The healthy bacteria are often acquired at birth during normal delivery, through breast feeding, and then are altered throughout our lives based on the things we eat and things we are exposed to in our environment. Our microbiome is also altered through our personal hygiene, antibiotics use, and other chronic or acute illnesses.
How does our gut microbiome affect our general health?
Generally, our gut microbiome is crucial for metabolism and digestion. The bacteria aid in breaking down our food and ensuring appropriate digestion. They allow for proper elimination of toxins and help fight off unhealthy bacteria, preventing infections. Furthermore, the microbiome is also crucial for the creation of neurotransmitters which connect our gut and brain function. For example, our gut is the primary location for the creation of serotonin – which is our “happy” neurotransmitter and influences our mood.
What is the link between gut health and cardiovascular disease risk?
Research now shows that a healthy gut bacteria population creates healthy short-chain fatty acids which allows for blood pressure control and blood sugar control.
Unhealthy bacterial population causes disruption in the tight lining of the gut creating inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation will ultimately increase plaque build-up in the body, increasing cardiovascular disease risk.
When we eat unhealthy and inflammatory foods such as red meats, our gut bacteria create a harmful substance which contributes to clogging our arteries, increased blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Studies show that those who are obese have an imbalance in their healthy bacteria, which can be passed down to their kids – causing decreased energy, slower metabolism, hormonal problems, cardiovascular disease and more.
How do we improve our gut microbiota to decrease cardiovascular risk?
Decrease intake of inflammatory foods – especially red meat, to decrease harmful biproducts.
Focus on a diet that is similar to the Mediterranean diet – rich in green vegetables, high fiber, foods rich in omega 3 and whole grains
Include fermented foods into your diet – yogurt, kefir, kimchi…etc.
Appropriate probiotics supplementation – it is important to get guidance from a health care practitioner such as a Naturopathic Doctor to ensure you are having the right strain of probiotics to benefit your health
Ensure you are getting appropriate dietary and supplementary support if you have been on antibiotics a significant amount of times in your life, or are currently on antibiotics (antibiotics kill the harmful bacteria, but also the good bacteria)
If you think you need to support your gut to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease …etc.
Book an appointment so we can discuss your individualized treatment plan today.
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