If you know me, you know that I believe the path to wellness is through the gut. My approach to the gut is straight-forward: one: heal it by feeding it the nutrients it needs to keep gut bacteria in balance. You’ll be rewarded with sustainable health, vitality and a lot less trouble with chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain types of cancer. the benefits don’t stop there. There is growing evidence indicating that a healthy gut also plays an important role in heart health, making optimal gut health a potential a heart-saver. So this month, while everyone is talking about heart health, consider a few ways you can do something about it – and it starts with your gut:
Control the Elements
While heart disease risk factors like family history, age and ethnicity aren’t under your control, you can change the state of your gut. To start, learn to manage stress more skillfully, get sleep and weight under control, lower blood sugar, minimize chemical exposure, exercise and ramp up nutrient intake. Do it all and guess what happens? Optimal gut function ensues, as does stronger immunity and less inflammation, which is the goal.
A Healthy Gut Boosts Heart Health
So why all the fuss about the gut? Well, for starters, your microbiota – the community of microorganisms that live in the gut – influence your health system-wide, including major organs like your heart. It’s all inter-connected. So when you’re scarfing down sugar, processed foods and cocktails, you’re wreaking havoc on your blood sugar, and your waistline, and your heart.
Inflame or Tame: The Choice is Yours
By over-feeding your bad gut bacteria, you’re boosting gut permeability which means more bacterial bad guys are slipping through the cracks in the delicate gut wall, and getting into the bloodstream, where they’re triggering system-wide inflammation. That a number on your heart as well. But, if you’re making a habit of tucking into plant-packed plates with unrefined carbs, healthy fats and moderate amounts of lean, organic protein from healthy grass-fed animals and pole-caught wild fish, then congrats – you’re eating foods that strengthen the gut, tame rather than inflame it, and truly nourish your system, head to toe, inside and out.
Get Your Gut in Order
When the gut flora is out of balance and your gut is ‘leaky’ or permeable due to poor diet, stress, poor sleep, or all of the above, you get symptoms that can bring your body to its knees. It appears that gut permeability contributes to heart disease by triggering inflammation which makes the plaque that sticks to your artery walls less stable. And Unstable plaque can break off into the bloodstream, triggering a heart attack. So the less inflamed the gut, the better your odds of living a long, healthy life.
Love Up Your Heart and Your Gut
When you get gut in order, you do your heart – and the rest of you – a world of good. Here are a few ways to start showing the both some love, starting today:
1. Sink the sweet stuff.
Sugar increases gut permeability and raises blood sugar levels, which in turn slows metabolism, cutting calorie burn and increasing its conversion into fat. Sugar also pushes up cholesterol, especially small particle LDL, the most damaging kind — the stuff that’s most closely correlated with heart disease and heart attack.
2. Ditch processed foods.
Processed foods are high in sugar and mass-produced vegetable oils so they’re the worst of both worlds, negatively impacting blood sugar and insulin, which in turn abuse your heart. Making matters worse, virtually all processed foods are manufactured with potentially toxic chemical ingredients that increase your toxic load while chipping away at heart health.
3. Farewell, bad oils.
Cut unhealthy vegetable oils and you’ll cut the cardiac risk associated with taking in too many inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids (and not enough omega-3s). Among the ones to ditch now: canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower.
4. Leave grains on the field.
Grains are carbs that are one step away from being broken down to sugar (glucose) by the body. They’re high in gut-irritating, omega-6 fatty acids, so most of our guts and hearts are better off with a lot less of them.
5. Dig into good fats.
To tame inflammation and help your heart and gut to flourish, eat more good fats, especially the ones rich in omega-3’s. Avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, coconut oil and fatty fish are great sources of healthy fats.
6. Add a Weekly Sauna.
Saunas – be they wet, dry or infra-red – have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Saunas relax blood vessels and reduce the strain on the heart, help tamp down inflammation, flush out toxins and boost immunity, so hop in! (NOTE: if you have a heart condition, consult with your doc to get the OK first.)
7. Get a Good Amount of Sleep
While you snooze, your body is busy refreshing, repairing and rejuvenating just about every organ in the body – including your heart. So, if you want to keep your heart healthy, work on sleeping enough and well.