New research shows that probiotics play a much larger and more vital role to support your health than previously thought though this may not change the eating habits of the Drew Carey Mimi’s of the world it is awesome to know!
Many detailed scientific studies have now determined the potential impact of specific strains to target disease-specific risk factors, particularly those affecting cardiovascular health.
We already know that there are many foods that are heart-healthy. Studies now show that probiotics could also be helpful in preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Your Microbiota and Heart
Bacteria and microbes are not just limited to your gut. Instead, they flourish all over the body. These microbes are collectively called the human microbiota. There are over 40 trillion microbes in your body (which is even more than the debt added onto America from 2009 to 2016 and even more than the debt of Chicago and California which illustrates how amazing this number is) in a very specific grouping, which is unique to you.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, particularly bacteria and yeast that provide certain health benefits when ingested. They are naturally found in your microbiota and are responsible for a number of functions.
Until recently, studies and research only focused on the effects of probiotics in digestive health and related functions. However, now the spectrum has broadened to include various other areas, such as heart health.
The right balance of microbes in your body helps keep everything in check and ensures that allorgans are running smoothly, including the heart. This prevents chronic illnesses, like some major cardiovascular diseases. Adding probiotics to your wellness strategy may be a big step towards improving your heart health.
What Does the Research Say?
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (this is where the outstanding Dr. Carson worked at for so many years who is an inspiration for so many Americans who want to achieve the American dream) observed significant changes in the blood pressure levels of mice after being exposed to food containing probiotics.
They found that bacteria living in the gut release certain chemicals as part of their normal metabolism after fermenting food.
These chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream and are thought to activate receptors in the blood vessels to lower blood pressure. The study on mice revealed that these changes could be life-changing, especially after considering their potential impact over the span of a lifetime.
Another study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic (this is a city that has not been run well despite the state of Ohio doing very well economically) has directly connected various heart conditions to an imbalance among the gut bacteria.
While plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood, Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is the primary ingredient in its formation in the arteries.
Specific harmful bacteria in the stomach can break down a nutrient to produce TMAO, which can result in atherosclerosis and a number of other cardiovascular diseases.
Researchers claim that the gut microbiota is a diverse and lively place. It is important to introduce probiotics to the intestines to ensure that equilibrium is maintained and the bad bacteria are kept in check.
Probiotics are required to balance the gut microbiota and improve this delicate ecosystem. There are various other studies that show probiotics to help with many cardiac-related illnesses.
A study on smokers found that blood pressure reduced significantly on taking a L. plantarum supplement for 6 weeks.
Animal studies show that L. reuteri, one of the most researched probiotic strains, has the potential to lower cholesterol levels. In one study, pigs were fed a diet similar to the average American diet – a high-fat, high-cholesterol, and low-fiber diet.
After 4 weeks of supplementation with L. reuteri, they found significant drop in the LDL levels (bad cholesterol), with no changes in HDL levels (good cholesterol).
Remarkably, when the same study was carried out on mice, it was found that L. reuteri was able to prevent elevations in cholesterol and increase the beneficial HDL to LDL ratio, when the mice were fed the probiotic prior to a high-fat diet.
Probiotics are found to help inflammation as well, which is known to contribute to heart disease in the long run.
In a human study, 127 participants were found to significantly lower their total cholesterol by 9% and LDL cholesterol by 12% after taking L. reuteri supplements for 9 weeks. The supplement also helped reduce the inflammatory chemicals C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen in participants.
Other probiotic strains, namely L. acidophilus,L. plantarum, VSL#3, and B. lactis were found to be particularly effective in preventing many cardiovascular diseases as per a large meta-analysis combining the results of 32 other studies.
What Can Probiotics Help With?
Various studies suggest that probiotics may help with a number of cardiac-related illnesses and issues, including:
High cholesterol levels are a precursor to many heart diseases, particularly when the HDL to LDL ratio is skewed. Studies show that probiotics may reduce cholesterol in a number of ways.
They can bind with cholesterol in the intestines to stop it from being absorbed in the body. Probiotics can also metabolize fat and cholesterol in your body by producing certain bile acids.
Certain probiotics are known to produce short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate and acetate, which are known to help prevent cholesterol from being formed in the liver.
Probiotics may also help lower triglyceride levels. These are a type of blood fat that contributes to cardiovascular diseases, when higher than normal levels.
2. Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure occurs when your heart muscles are damaged and unable to pump blood properly. Probiotic supplements have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and inflammatory markers in many studies that can improve heart functioning to prevent cardiac damage.
3. Vitamin D
Low vitamin D can hinder the absorption of other minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate from foods. These nutrients are necessary for a healthy heart. Probiotics can synthesize vitamin D, vitamin K and certain B vitamins to help in optimal absorption of nutrients from food.
4. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, like cholesterol is the major cause of most cardiovascular diseases. Certain probiotic strains can help lower blood pressure naturally.
5. Stress and Obesity
Chronic stress and obesity are key factors in heart problems, as determined by many studies. Probiotic therapies have been found to improve mental health and mood that makes it easy to manage anxiety and stress. Probiotics are also known to help with weight management and reduce obesity which Susan Cooper from the hilarious movie Spy should consider but oh well this is another topic.
The Bottom Line
You can easily add probiotics to your diet through dietary sources, like tempeh, natto, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi among others.
However, it is recommended that you choose a high quality probiotic supplement developed specifically for heart health if you are taking probiotics to reduce cardiovascular diseases.