The surprising connection between gut bacteria, probiotics and heart health

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gut-bacteria(NaturalHealth365) Researchers are crediting the gut microbiota, a community of microorganisms in the body’s digestive tract, with the ability to help prevent such serious conditions as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and bowel disease. Now, new research points to the possibility that beneficial gut bacteria may help combat cardiovascular disease as well.

In fact, when it comes to protecting your heart, the maintenance of healthy gut bacteria could be one of the most underrated and overlooked factors for cardiovascular health.

Probiotic-rich foods are linked to healthier blood pressure and cholesterol

In addition to regulating metabolism, immune response and even mood, “friendly” gut bacteria produce beneficial chemicals in response to the food we eat. According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, these chemicals lower blood pressure by activating receptors in the blood vessels.

Researchers have also found that increasing the number of beneficial bacteria causes cholesterol levels to decrease, due to the ability of bacteria to turn dietary fiber into the short-chain fatty acids that inhibit cholesterol.

In addition, gut bacteria break down bile acids needed for the metabolism of fats – thereby causing a need for the body to create more bile acids. Cholesterol, a constituent of bile, is pulled from the blood, causing levels to drop.

Probiotics – which are consumable live bacteria – are found in fermented foods, such as yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, cottage cheese and pickles. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are certain fiber-rich foods that contain the precursors bacteria need to make the chemicals they release. Garlic, onions, asparagus and sweet potatoes are particularly rich in prebiotics.

Surprising bonus: Gut bacteria contribute disease-preventing carotenoids

Carotenoids – natural plant pigments with potent antioxidant properties – are found in orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, including carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe and papaya. However, researchers say they can also be produced in the body by gut bacteria.

Obtaining carotenoids from dietary sources – as well as supplementation if indicated – is still necessary, of course, but beneficial gut bacteria can help “take up the slack” in cases where diet or supplementation is less than optimal.

Recent research has examined the link between healthy gut bacteria, carotenoid status and cardiovascular disease.

In a study of atherosclerosis and stroke patients, researchers found that healthy subjects in the control group had much higher levels of a particular strain of bacteria that produces anti-inflammatory compounds and carotenoids – particularly beta-carotene and lycopene. They also had higher levels of antioxidants in their blood – a factor associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in several studies.

In fact, the differences in gut bacteria between healthy people and those with atherosclerosis were so pronounced that the researchers remarked that a microbiota analysis could be used as a technique to predict risk of heart disease.

Warning: Harmful pathogen overgrowth can wreak havoc on the body

Unfortunately, not all of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract are friendly. Problems arise when the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria is disturbed, leading to overgrowths of pathogenic bacteria.

In a study published in March 2016 in Journals of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, researchers analyzed the gut flora of 60 patients with chronic heart failure. They found that – compared to normal subjects – the CHF patients had “massive” quantities of harmful bacteria and fungi, including such pathogens as shigella, campylobacter, salmonella and Candida.

They also had increased intestinal permeability, meaning that pathogenic gut flora could pass from the intestine to the bloodstream – a factor in triggering chronic heart failure.

The researchers reported that pathogenic gut bacteria actively interfere with “friendly” bacteria’s production of beneficial metabolites – such as short-chain fatty acids – while also causing inflammation and heightening infection risk.

Fact: Threats to gut bacteria health are widespread

A wide range of both prescribed and over-the-counter medicines – including antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol drugs and acid-suppressant therapies – can upset the balance of the gut microbiota, encouraging the growth of pathogens while killing off friendly bacteria.

Other factors that adversely affect gut flora include chronic bowel congestion, bowel ischemia (or blocked blood flow), slowed intestinal function, exposure to heavy metals, pesticide and herbicide use and excessive consumption of fats and carbohydrates.

Your gut bacteria perform a host of important functions – some of which we are only learning about now, and eating fermented foods and taking probiotic supplements can help ensure that they will continue to do their job.

Keep in mind, if you are suffering with any chronic health condition – be sure to work with a trusted, healthcare provider to help you find the best diet and supplementation routine for your health.

Editor’s note: The NaturalHealth365 Store offers the finest quality probiotics on the market. Click here to order today.*

*And, yes, your purchase does help support our operations at NaturalHealth365.

Sources for this article include:

HopkinsMedicine.org
JACC.org
DrDavidWilliams.com
Nature.com

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  • Jess Carter

    I am not surprised that everything is connected. The only surprised people must be our heathcare providers. They haven’t a clue, which is why their treatments often fail.

  • Salvatore Calabrese

    I learned a lot from this article. To think carotenoids can come from gut bacteria is amazing. How intelligently our bodies were designed. It is a shame that medical intervention can ruin it. The ebb and flow of how everything is designed to function is being ruined by our food supply, environmental toxins and pharmaceutical interventions.

  • Audrey Brown

    Thanks for pointing out how important probiotics are. This is something many people aren’t aware of. With all the vitamins and minerals lining my shelves there isn’t one probiotic supplement. I wasn’t even aware of which foods can be helpful. Since, everyone in my family has had a few courses of antibiotics this is helpful information.

  • Steve McGrath

    I can see the way we use toxic household sprays having a negative influence on our gut health. There are probable more things then we realize, which have a demonstrated effect on the bacteria we harbor.

  • Erin Danon

    It is necessary to mobilize gut bacteria to provide an environment, which is friendly to our well being. Gut bacteria protects us from disease, which includes heart disease the number one health concern. i have found insect repellents and household insecticides which are suppose to protect us from diseases transmitter by mosquitoes can be quite toxic.

    It is a known fact Monsanto is destroying our microbiome. It is changing our internal ecology for the worst. We are now surrounded by gut destroying toxins. We are in need of probiotics now more then ever before.

  • Alan Rochet

    Probiiotics are consumed to maintain health. They lay the foundation for a beneficial microbial environment. The relationship between our innate immunity and macrobiome is more critical them ever. One of the signs for premature aging is metabolic stress and inflammation. The ability to block the drivers of inflammation and stress comes from the unique benefits of having the right gut bacteria.

  • Learned something new, didn’t know probiotics can help with cardiovascular disease.

  • Libby Wagner

    Healthy flora equals a healthy body. Intestinal flora plays a major role in health. It affects cholesterol levels, tumor growth, steroid hormone levels, immune function, digestion, and controls the growth of disease causing organisms. Regularly eating fermented foods helps. However, in today’s world it may not be enough. The environment of the gut is tied to longevity.

  • Jill Fluhr

    I overcame many health obstacles by rebuilding my gut flora. this happened in a comparatively short time. What I did was simply start eating a whole food diet with lots of fermented foods. I took probiotics and by going slowly to lessen any reactions I improved all of my symptoms. My indigestion disappeared, skin cleared up, mood improved and my rheumatoid arthritis seems to be a thing of the past.

  • Anthony Flores

    I personally use and recommend Garden of Life Colon Care Formula. These are probably the best probiotics money can buy that are still affordable. They do require refrigeration so keep that in mind. While I don’t use them year round, a few times a year will help to replenish and keep your gut bacteria performing at its highest level.

  • Ty Shlackman

    Fermented foods are not probiotics and are completely worthless. Fermented foods contain bacteria that feed on death and decay not on life. Dairy products feed pathogens. Wild blueberries and radish greens are the two best prebiotic foods although all fruits and vegetables feed healthy bacteria.

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