It's a Gut Feeling: The Road to a Healthy Heart May Start in the Intestines
Friday, February 20, 2015
by: Robert Kachko, ND

Section: Heart Health

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About Dr. Robert Kachko

Robert Kachko, ND, LAc, graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Doctoral Degree in Naturopathic Medicine and a Masters Degree in Acupuncture from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture Institute. He has completed an additional 2 year course of study in Classical Homeopathy at the New England School of Homeopathy. He completed his pre-medical studies with a Bachelor's Degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

He is a member of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians (NYANP) and the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), where he has been nominated for the AANP Board of Directors and has served on the AANP House of Delegates. Dr. Kachko believes in the importance of expanding access to Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture for all patients. At the College of Naturopathic Medicine, he was founding President of the expanded local chapter of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association and received the prestigious award for "Outstanding Service to the Profession."

To learn more about Dr. Kachko, please visit
Life is full of, or perhaps even defined by, choices and medicine is much the same. We have a certain degree of freedom to choose the way our body functions. Risk factors for heart disease can be categorized as modifiable (diet, lifestyle, exercise, mental outlook, etc.) and non-modifiable (age, sex, genetic predisposition, etc.). The role of the physician is to optimize those factors which can be changed.
If it is understood that the state of the human condition is a function of our choices, it can be appreciated that our interaction with the environment, specifically the microbiome, affords us an opportunity to modify disease risk. As humans have developed over the course of evolutionary history in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and other “invisible” life forms, there is no question that this relationship in particular is key.
A dysfunctional gut microbiome has been linked to a myriad of chronic diseases including but not limited to diabetes, NASH, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Bacterial transplants from obese to lean individuals have been shown to induce weight gain, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance[i]. On the contrary, and perhaps more clinically relevant, the transfer of intestinal microbiota from lean individuals to those with metabolic syndrome increased insulin sensitivity six weeks after fecal transplant[ii].
Though necessary to consider in a differential diagnosis, there is more to the relationship between microbiology and cardiovascular health than just bacterial endocarditis or viral cardiomyopathy. New research[iii] is emerging which depicts the role of gut flora on cardiovascular physiology.  The lipid lowering effect of probiotic administration was investigated in 127 individuals with elevated cholesterol, with reduction in LDL, total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and apoB-100 levels by 11.6, 9.1, 11.3, and 8.4 percent respectively after nine weeks[iv].  In addition to supplemental probiotics, the role of targeted dietary therapy has been studied, with available research suggesting the possibility of changing gut microbiota with dietary interventions[v].
How to prime your digestive tract for optimal health
For some, it may be necessary to heal an inflamed and damaged gut lining before introducing probiotics or prebiotics. Speak to your naturopathic doctor about your potential need to:
  1. Reduce inflammation
  2. Repair gut mucosa
  3. Eliminate negative pathogenic bacteria, yeast, or parasites
  4. Improve digestive enzymatic function and pH
Steps to improve your intestinal flora
Once your intestinal terrain is primed, consider:
  1. Fermented Foods: Most traditional cultures evolved alongside some form of fermented food product. Consider adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, tempeh or nattō to your diet.
  2. Targeted Diet Therapy: Speak with your naturopathic doctor about the optimal individualized diet for you to optimize the flora you already have. Different combinations of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and micronutrients may be right for you.
  3. Probiotics and Prebiotics: Speak with your naturopathic doctor about adding these in supplemental form.

[i]Bäckhed F, Ding H, Wang T et al. (2004) The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101, 15718–15723.
[ii]Vrieze A, Van Nood E, Holleman F et al. (2012) Transfer of intestinal microbiota from lean donors increases insulin sensitivity in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Gastroenterology 143, 913–916.e7.
[iii]Tuohy KM, Fava F, Viola R (2014) ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his gut microbiota’ – dietary pro- and prebiotics for the management of cardiovascular risk. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 73, 172–185.
[iv]Jones ML, Martoni CJ & Prakash S (2012) Cholesterol lowering and inhibition of sterol absorption by Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 66, 1234–1241.
[v]Maukonen J, Saarela M (2015) Human gut microbiota: does diet matter? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 74, 23–36
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