As February is heart month, there is no better time to show some appreciation for the miraculous muscle that powers you through your day. With each pump, oxygenated blood re-energizes your body, carrying vital nutrients to your cells to fuel metabolism and renewal.
Modern life demands a lot from our bodies, and our hearts carry an increasingly heavy load. Stress, poor diet, and inactivity put undue stress on our most crucial muscle; for this reason, the World Health Organization predicts that cardiovascular disease (heart disease) will remain the primary cause of death from chronic disease for years to come.
Taking care of your heart health is a holistic practice: you need to move your body daily, take steps to quiet your mind and calm the effects of daily stressors, in addition to eating a healthy diet grounded in plant foods. However, there is one more way you can support your heart health… and it’s one you might not expect.
Like the old saying goes, the way to a person’s heart truly may be through their stomachs. Or, more precisely, their gut bacteria. Our microbiota, in their daily communication with our immune and nervous systems, can affect our blood lipids, our blood pressure and the underlying chronic inflammation that can damage arteries and put our heart at risk. Meaning that a daily dose of probiotics may become one more ally in your quest to keep your ticker ticking.
Skeptical? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Hearts on Fire
Chronic inflammation is an underlying risk factor for cardio-metabolic diseases such as heart attacks and type two diabetes as it leads to cellular damage and dysfunction.2 It’s worth noting that diabetes is also a leading risk factor for heart disease.3 Chronic inflammation promotes insulin resistance in our tissues, meaning that fighting inflammation in the gut may help to support balanced blood sugars and lower your risk for heart disease over time.1
In addition, inflammation can damage arteries; when arteries are damaged, the immune system attempts to repair them by laying cholesterol-filled plaques which narrow the arteries, leading to higher blood pressure and placing you at risk for ruptures that can block oxygen flow to the heart.
How do gut bacteria fight inflammation? 1-4
- By modulating the immune system to calm pro-inflammatory cascades
- By supporting a healthy gut barrier and decreasing the risk of inflammation-stoking bacterial translocation
- By directly fighting more pro-inflammatory bacteria
In the research, certain probiotic strains have been shown to lower inflammatory markers such as TNF-alpha and C-reactive protein.1-4
The science around cholesterol, blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease is complex; however, statistically, high LDL cholesterol levels are still considered an independent risk factor for heart disease. You can learn more about the science, and how probiotics support lower cholesterol levels here.
Some probiotics may help lower blood cholesterol levels; however, they may also play a role in lowering another blood lipid called triglycerides.2,3 Triglycerides, despite being a fat, are actually related to blood sugar control – so lowering blood sugars helps to get triglycerides under control. Early research suggests that probiotics may lower triglycerides and cholesterol via regulation of lipid pathways by short chain fatty acids, a fermentation product of bacteria, in addition to minimizing cholesterol recycling in the gut.2-5 There is still, however, conflicting research at this stage6 – highlighting the need to be specific in your probiotic choice and understanding the strains unique metabolic effects.
Grace Under Pressure
We spoke about how arterial plaques can increase blood pressure; stress, high sodium, and low potassium diets are also associated with higher blood pressure. Blood pressure is a problem because it causes the heart to work harder with every pump. Which is why high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.4 Here, gut bacteria are thought to influence hypertension by4
- increasing production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure
- improving the absorption of anti-hypertensive calcium
- decreasing levels of polyamines that can increase blood pressure
- decreasing inflammation
Taking an Integrative Approach - Promoting an Anti-inflammatory Diet
When it comes to heart health, it’s clear that consuming an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean style diet rich in high fiber plant foods supports lifelong health. The effects of this type of eating are both directly through their influence on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, and indirect, via your gut bacteria. Dietary fibers help feed beneficial bacteria, resulting in lowered inflammation, lower blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
Polyphenols found in plant foods help fight inflammation directly and also promote the growth of good bacteria; in addition, there is evidence that gut bacteria are actually critical to the bioavailability of some of these compounds for human metabolism.
To support your anti-inflammatory efforts, consider a clinically proven probiotic such as Bio-K+. The three unique and patented strains of Lactobacillus bacteria in Bio-K+ are stringently manufactured for optimal potency and have research-demonstrated efficacy to support a healthy gut flora. Bio-K+ is thought to support heart health by metabolizing bile salts, supporting lower cholesterol levels.
Modern life can throw gut bacteria out of balance, leading to chronic levels of inflammation and metabolic dysfunction. In fact, intestinal dysbiosis is increasingly common, particularly for those with existing risk factors and condition such as diabetes and chronic inflammatory concerns like arthritis. Your heart is one of your best assets… show it a little love by eating a rainbow of colorful plant foods, giving it regular exercise and a daily dose of Bio-K+ probiotics.
Do you have any other questions about your gut health? Ask us in comments below. If you are looking to stock up on Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.
- Wen, Li and Andrew Duffy. “Factors Influencing the Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Type 2 Diabetes” Journal of Nutritionvol. 147,7 (2017): 1468S-1475S.
- Yoo, Ji Youn, and Sung Soo Kim. "Probiotics and Prebiotics: Present Status and Future Perspectives on Metabolic Disorders" Nutrientsvol. 8,3 173. 18 Mar. 2016, doi:10.3390/nu8030173
- Rajkumar, Hemalatha et al. “Effect of probiotic (VSL#3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial” Mediators of inflammation vol. 2014 (2014): 348959.
- Daliri, Eric Banan-Mwine, Byong H. Lee, and Deog H. Oh. "Current perspectives on antihypertensive probiotics." Probiotics and antimicrobial proteins9.2 (2017): 91-101.
- Shimizu, Mikiko et al. “Meta-Analysis: Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on Lipid Profiles in Normal to Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Individuals” PloS one-vol. 10,10 e0139795. 16 Oct. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139795
- Sun, Jing, and Nicholas Buys. "Effects of probiotics consumption on lowering lipids and CVD risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials." Annals of medicine47.6 (2015): 430-440.