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
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:
Steps to improve your intestinal flora
Repair gut mucosa
Eliminate negative pathogenic bacteria, yeast, or parasites
Improve digestive enzymatic function and pH
Once your intestinal terrain is primed, consider:
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 nattÅÂ to your diet.
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.
Probiotics and Prebiotics: Speak with your naturopathic doctor about adding these in supplemental form.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maukonen J, Saarela M (2015) Human gut microbiota: does diet matter? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 74, 23–36