Why Your Gut Health Is Important For Your Heart
Written by Leah Johnston, RDN
In your intestines, also known as your gut, there are trillions of microbes that play a role in so many of our body’s processes. The most well-known functions of the gut are digestion and the absorption of nutrients, directing them to where they need to go throughout the body. As research advances, we are learning more and more about how impactful gut microbes are for not only digestion, but also on our cardiovascular system. A healthy gut helps keep a healthy heart.
Gut bacteria feeds on what might be passing through it, like the food we consume. The bacteria then releases substances called metabolites. Metabolites may influence the risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease. In a 2017 study, researchers found that one metabolite called trimethylamine (TMA) may be linked to serious cardiovascular conditions. It forms when gut microbes feed on choline, a nutrient that can be obtained from meat, fish, dairy and eggs. TMA then converts to trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the liver. It is TMAO that seems to be connected with atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque on artery walls. The study found that people with higher levels of TMAO in the blood were 62% more likely to experience serious heart conditions, such as heart attack or stroke.
Emerging research has found a link between the microbiome and blood pressure. Studies in mice have suggested that metabolites may play a role in blood vessel dilation and constriction. Although the relationship is not yet fully understood, it is clear that certain metabolites released in the gut can alter blood pressure. More study is needed in this area to learn more, especially observing the effects in humans.
Key takeaway: Be good to your gut! Since our gut and our heart have a closer relationship than perhaps we once thought, treating it well may help lower the risk of cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Here’s a few tips on what to eat to maintain a healthy gut:
- Probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are helpful live microorganisms that live in your gut and feed the good bacteria. Prebiotics are the good fiber or other substances that actually feed the probiotics. Both can be obtained through food or supplementation. Consuming fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, Kombucha tea, and Kefir provide probiotics and onions, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables contain prebiotics. Two capsules a day of NB Pure’s Probiotic Complex are a great supplement to healthy diet to further support gut health.
- Up your fiber intake. Most Americans are not consuming enough of this good stuff. The recommended daily intake for fiber is 25-30 grams per day and most people in the U.S. are getting about 15 grams of fiber per day on average. The American Heart Association recommends getting fiber from a variety of different sources, food and supplements. Vegetables, fruits (not juice), whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes are all rich in fiber. Fiber supplements, such as NB Pure’s Daily Multi-Fiber Blend, is also a great option. BONUS - The Daily Multi-Fiber Blend also contains probiotics and prebiotics so you get more bang for your buck!
- Eat less processed foods. It’s true that most of the food that we consume will be processed to some extent. Ultra-processed foods are those that contain additives and other chemicals that can cause havoc in your microbiome. Pay attention to the ingredient label when you are purchasing products that come in a package. If there’s a long list of ingredients with names you don’t recognize, chances are it would be considered an ultra-processed product. Another easy way to know if it is very processed is by how long it will last in your pantry. A long time? There’s probably some extra stuff in it. Just use your gut instinct and opt for fresh, whole foods as much as possible.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Hydration is essential for so many processes in the body including what’s going on in your gut. Water helps fiber do its job so when you up your fiber intake, you need to subsequently increase your water intake as well. It’s not just about the water. Fresh foods also contribute to your level of hydration.