Did you know that the health of your intestinal tract can influence the health of your heart? The challenges of the 20th century has brought light into this concept of gut-heart connection. As the standard of the western diet is consistent with processed foods, these can lead to changes in the bacteria that lives in the gut. These changes in gut bacteria are often referred to as “dysbiosis” and has a strong association with cardiovascular (CVD) risks, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and celiac disease. These chronic digestive diseases can increase risk of metabolic syndrome and stoke.
Let’s discuss these in detail and what you can do about it.
Celiac disease and cardiovascular disease risk
Celiac disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive system that can damage the small intestine. This condition can decrease the digestion of some nutrients, such as iron, vitamin B12 and calcium. People with celiac disease are unable to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley, which is believed to trigger an immune and inflammatory response in the gut. Studies show there is a link to 1.4-fold increase of stroke from people with Celiac disease – even in absence of traditional CVD disease risk, such as high blood pressure or weight gain.
Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) and cardiovascular disease risk
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there are excess bacteria in the small intestine. This abnormal number of bacteria in the small intestine that can lead symptoms of gas, abdominal pain, bloating, tiredness, diarrhea or constipation. A study of Cleveland Clinic looked at 1059 patients with metabolic syndrome and tested for SIBO using hydrogen and methane breath tests. Those that tested positive for SIBO were at an increase rate of metabolic syndrome, including diabetes and blood vessel diseases.
Dysbiosis and cardiovascular disease risk
Dysbiosis refers to having too much of the wrong bacteria in the gut. Changes in gut bacteria has been liked to hypertension – a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Studies conducted in mice introduce fecal transpant to induce dysbiosis in the gut by adding two bacteria called Prevotella and Klebsiella. Results show that mice developed pre-hypertension and hypertension.
How to improve gut health for CVD
- Boost healthy gut bacteria with these plant-based foods:
- Broccoli – cruciferous vegetable high in fiber and packed with glucosinolates, which fight inflammation
- Bananas – fight inflammation and stabilize gut bacteria
- Beans- boost vitamin absorption and increase fullness
- Jerusalem artichokes -rich in inulin fiber, strong prebiotic that feeds good bacteria
- Blueberries – enhances immune system, destroy harmful bacteria
- Miso soup and tempeh –crowds out unhealthy bacteria, boosts nutrient absorption
- Follow a Mediterranean diet to reduce improve heart health
Mediterranean diet provides varied, nutrient dense fuel to feed gut flora healthfully may reflect positive CVD outcomes. This diet has demonstrated benefits in reducing risk of major cardiovascular events. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet includes:
- Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
- Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
- Moderate portions of dairy products
- Limited intake of red meat