Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the number one leading cause of death in the US and is considered a whole body disease because it affects not just the heart, but also all other parts of the body.
Traditional risk factors include:
However, as a gut expert I take it a step further and tend to look at most symptoms and disease through the lens of this system as it’s the cornerstone of health.
The gut serves as a key interface between the body and the external environment, and helps regulate the balance of energy and nutrients. It is home to a complex and diverse community of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome, which has been shown to influence many physiological processes in the body, such as digestion, immunity, mood, the cardiovascular system, and more.
A healthy gut microbiome is characterized by a diverse and balanced population of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that support and protect against a wide range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
The TOP 5 ways poor gut health can impact your heart
An imbalanced gut microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, can negatively impact heart health in several ways:
An imbalanced microbiome can lead to chronic inflammation in three key ways, which is a known risk factor for heart disease.
Increased production of pro-inflammatory molecules: An imbalanced microbiome can lead to overgrowth of certain pathogenic bacteria, which can increase the production of pro-inflammatory molecules such as lipopolysaccharides and cytokines, thereby leading to chronic inflammation.
Decreased production of anti-inflammatory molecules: A balanced microbiome typically includes bacteria that produce anti-inflammatory molecules, such as short-chain fatty acids. An imbalanced microbiome can reduce the production of these anti-inflammatory molecules, exacerbating the effects of chronic inflammation.
Altered gut permeability: An imbalanced microbiome can also increase gut permeability, allowing harmful substances to enter the bloodstream and triggering an immune response, further contributing to chronic inflammation.
Inflammation can cause damage to the inner lining of blood vessels, leading to the formation of plaques that can block the flow of blood to the heart.
The gut microbiome plays a role in the metabolism of cholesterol. An imbalanced microbiome can impact the metabolism of cholesterol by altering the gut microbial composition, leading to changes in bile acid metabolism, and disrupting the gut-liver axis.
Bile acids are synthesized from cholesterol and help in the digestion and absorption of dietary lipids. An imbalanced gut microbiome can alter the production and composition of bile acids, leading to changes in cholesterol metabolism and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, the gut microbiome also influences the production and clearance of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Thus, an imbalanced microbiome may contribute to dysregulation of cholesterol metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk.
The gut microbiome is also involved in the regulation of insulin sensitivity.
An imbalanced microbiome can contribute to insulin resistance by altering the gut-liver-muscle axis and the gut-brain axis. The gut microbiome plays a role in regulating the production and metabolism of various metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), bile acids, and neurotransmitters.
An imbalanced microbiome can disrupt the balance of these metabolites, leading to inflammation and oxidative stress, which are known contributors to insulin resistance. The gut microbiome can also affect the gut permeability and contribute to the systemic exposure to bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which can induce inflammation and insulin resistance.
In addition, the gut microbiome influences the gut-brain axis by regulating the production of various signaling molecules, such as peptides, hormones, and neurotransmitters, that are involved in the regulation of glucose and energy homeostasis. An imbalanced microbiome can contribute to alterations in these signaling pathways, leading to impaired insulin signaling and insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a risk factor for heart disease because it contributes to high levels of glucose and fatty acids in the bloodstream, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are factors in the development of heart disease.
An imbalanced microbiome has been linked to obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
An imbalanced microbiome can contribute to obesity by several mechanisms:
Energy metabolism: An imbalanced gut microbiome can result in increased energy extraction from food and storage as fat.
Inflammation: An imbalanced gut microbiome can trigger low-grade systemic inflammation, leading to insulin resistance and obesity.
Hormonal Changes: An imbalanced microbiome can alter the gut-brain axis, leading to changes in hormone levels (such as leptin and ghrelin) that regulate hunger and metabolism.
Altered gut permeability: An imbalanced microbiome can increase gut permeability, leading to the entry of lipopolysaccharides into the bloodstream, which can cause systemic inflammation and contribute to obesity.
Reduced gut motility: An imbalanced microbiome can slow down gut motility, leading to longer transit times and increased caloric absorption.
High blood pressure
An imbalanced microbiome can also lead to high blood pressure, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
Gut dysbiosis can contribute to high blood pressure in several ways.
An imbalanced microbiome can cause chronic low-grade inflammation, which has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, the gut microbiome affects the production and regulation of various hormones and signaling molecules, including ones that play a role in regulating blood pressure.
Studies have shown that changes in the gut microbiome can impact the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), which is involved in blood pressure regulation.
An imbalanced microbiome can also affect the absorption and metabolism of certain nutrients, such as sodium and potassium, which are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Overall, an imbalanced microbiome can contribute to a number of heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, cholesterol metabolism, insulin resistance, obesity, and high blood pressure.