CARDIOVASCULAR disease is very predominant around the world; in Ireland it accounts for 33% of all deaths. There are many contributing factors including genetics and lifestyle, your risk also increases proportionally with the circumference of your waist. But did you know that the bacteria in your gut could potentially drive heart disease?
It is becoming common knowledge that we have more microbes – microscopic creatures living inside and on us, than human cells in the body. The majority of these live in the gut and should work for our health. If you have a good diversity and balance in your gut microbiome, they help you to digest, absorb your nutrients, eliminate toxins, thus support your liver, balance your immune system, keep your barriers tight – protecting you from invading microbes and keeping your skin healthy. Beneficial microbes even help to keep your feelings and emotions in check via the gut-brain axis.
If, on the other hand, you have reduced diversity and overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeasts, they release metabolites that may drive systemic inflammation, fuelling conditions that have inflammation at its base; that is all chronic conditions. Cardiovascular disease is a classic example of that. The more inflammation you create, the more your heart and blood vessels are damaged, the more cholesterol will lodge onto these damaged areas, the less efficient the heart may function.
Inflammation also affects the rhythm of your heart and may lead to atrial fibrillation in genetically predisposed individuals. It is commonly felt like a flutter, or rapid heartbeat, when the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) quiver or flutter instead of beating effectively. Unfortunately, if the blood isn’t pumped out completely it may potentially cause the blood to pool and clot, leading to stroke.
One particular bacterium in the stomach, which is one of the main causes of stomach ulcers, is now linked to heart disease. A new study conducted at the Multimedica General Hospital’s Cardiology Department and Arrhythmia Centre, has discovered a strong link between helicobacter pylori and an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Besides high inflammatory markers, in the overall analysis, 97.2 percent of atrial fibrillation patients were positive for H. pylori compared with just 5.3 percent of healthy controls.
It is always worth getting a thorough check up with your GP, and a simple test to find out whether you have this bacterium in your stomach – especially if you suffer from indigestion, acid reflux, bloating or IBS, and you have heart disease in the family, which are all very common disorders in Ireland. The severe triple treatment necessary to eradicate H. pylori unfortunately leaves a big mess of reduced diversity in the gut, which may lead to post-infectious IBS and further fuel inflammation – while its eradication rate is very low.
But with the right diet and supplements you can prevent this happening, keep a relative balance of the gut flora during treatment, thus reduce side effects and support eradication efficacy, and establish an overall anti-inflammatory profile to support both your gut and heart health.