If there wasn't more reason to seriously prioritize the happiness of your belly, here's another one: your heart. February is National Heart Health month in the UK, and there's no doubt that the link between your gut health and your heart health could be the key to aging gracefully.
Your gut health and your heart health may not seem like they would go hand in hand. You're correct in assuming that your probiotic supplement isn't going to simultaneously lower your cholesterol (you should really check out the blog post on your cholesterol numbers) and optimize the volume of red blood cells in circulation. However, that doesn't mean that the two have nothing in common.
Let's dive into the changes that you could be making to improve your gut health, and what that could well mean for your ticker.
How is your gut health is linked to your heart's well-being?
The bacteria in your gut are actors in your immune system. They feed, breed, and overpower the villains (pathogenic bacteria) in order to keep your gut from leaking into your body and causing chaos.
According to the British Heart Foundation, the gut microbiota is linked to diseases such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The magic happens in how healthy gut microbiome interventions can improve precursors to cardiovascular disease (CVD) such as; obesity, pre-diabetes, hypertension, and elevated LDL and TG markers (Wouk et al, 2021).
For example, the compound Beta glucans decrease the accumulation of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream. This means a higher level of bile is excreted through feces, which means less potential for plaque buildup in the blood vessels.
The gut microbiota can also have positive influences on insulin resistance, inflammation, and atherosclerosis.
Keep reading to discover a few dietary swaps that work double time for a happy belly, and a healthy heart.
Increase your fibre intake
More specifically, increase the quality of your carbohydrate intake. The RDA intake of fibre for adult men is 25g/ day, and for women it sits at 20g/ day. Fibre from whole grains, alternative grains, and less processed food sources that your gut bacteria can proliferate on pull double duty for your heart. Whole grain and complex carbohydrates supply your heart with functional nutrients like Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and zinc- all contributing to the anti- inflammatory function of the cardiovascular system.
Decrease your alcohol consumption
Did you participate in Dry January? I didn't either.
However, I have noticed that cutting down on my alcohol consumption has contributed to better sleep, more energy for exercise in the earlier hours of the day, less brain fatigue, and a better mood. Alcohol, by nature as well as production, increases the sugar content of your blood. Thus, contributing to conditions such as insulin resistance and obesity...which are precursors of CVD.
You're probably tired of hearing they high-protein-hype on your social media BUT. There's a reason why the likes of doctors, specialists, and consultants are putting out more information on it on their social feeds too.
Protein plays an integral role in the integrity of the cells in your body- this includes the cells in your gut, as well as the red blood cells that transport nutrients throughout the body. Stronger cells means an easier job.
Drink enough of your water
Your gut uses a lot of water in order to break down and absorb nutrients. Water also dilates your blood; when you're dehydrated, your heart has to pump harder in order to push blood throughout the body. This causes your blood pressure to rise, which isn't ideal for someone who is potentially pre-disposed to hypertension, or heart attacks.
In hindsight it seems pretty effective: the simple swaps that you make in your diet in order to enhance your gut health can mean good things for your heart too.
Focusing on fibre, quality carbohydrates, protein, and hydrating with more water than alcohol can mean that the immune components of your gut microbiome can continue to protect your heart health for years to come!