Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people in the U.S., so maintaining your cardiovascular health is definitely something to be thinking about. There are many ways to keep your heart healthy, and one of them appears to be related to your gut. A growing body of research shows that probiotics may help improve heart health.
The organisms living in your gut can have a significant impact on many aspects of your health, including cardiovascular health. These organisms, referred to collectively as the microbiome, process what you eat into various chemicals. These chemicals are called postbiotic metabolites.
Some postbiotics can affect your cardiovascular health, such as by regulating blood pressure and cholesterol. Some research even suggests that having the right microbial balance in your gut may help with recovery after a heart attack.
Introducing the right bacteria—called probiotics—into your gut may be a way to improve heart health. Dietary matters can also play a role here. For instance, fiber—a prebiotic—can encourage the production of metabolites that regulate blood pressure. Red meat and eggs, on the other hand, may instead produce chemicals that promote arterial clogging, so it’s still important to watch what you eat.
There’s a steadily growing body of data that indicates that certain probiotics may have a positive impact on heart health. There are a few ways in which this can occur, including the following.
Various studies indicate a relationship between your gut’s microbiome and blood pressure. A 2014 review of controlled trials showed that introducing multiple species of probiotics significantly reduced blood pressure, especially when used over a sustained period (8 weeks or more). Results were most pronounced when blood pressure was particularly high to begin with.
A review conducted in 2020 found similar results, with studies showing a “statistically significant” reduction of either systolic blood pressure or diastolic blood pressure in hypertension patients.
Cholesterol is another component of cardiovascular health that may be positively impacted by probiotics. A review of 32 randomized controlled trials showed that there was a significant reduction of total cholesterol when probiotic supplements were used.
In addition, one meta-analysis found that certain strains of the probiotic Lactobacillus were particularly effective at reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. At the same time, there was also some indication that HDL cholesterol (the good kind) could be benefitted by eating foods with a mix of probiotics and prebiotics (called synbiotics).
When it comes to heart health, inflammation is a key risk factor. Your gut health can help control inflammation, as is suggested by one small study published in 2012. This study showed that Lactobacillus reuteri could not only reduce LDL cholesterol, but also inflammatory chemicals like C-reactive protein and fibrinogen, making it potentially beneficial for heart health.
Some more recent studies have suggested that microbiota in the gut play a key role in your ability to recover from a heart attack. So far, these studies have only been conducted on mice, but the data so far is promising.
In one of these studies, mice were given antibiotics to kill off gut bacteria a week before being given heart attacks. Various methods were used to reintroduce microbiota into some of the mice, and those mice had better outcomes when it came to immune function and repair after myocardial infarction. Whether probiotics would have the same results for humans remains to be seen, of course.
Naturally, there are a few questions that may arise when looking at this research, including the following:
The above studies show that probiotics may support healthier blood pressure, so generally yes.
No. Cardiologists’ warnings are typically limited to immunocompromised patients, who may be susceptible to infection.
Note that the above studies are all fairly limited with relatively small sample sizes, so more research will be needed to determine the full scope of how probiotics can affect heart health. That said, it does look promising.
In any case, it’s generally beneficial to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. In addition to incorporating fiber and limiting sources of arterial plaque (red meat, poultry, eggs, etc.), probiotics and prebiotics can promote gut health, which may have a positive impact on your heart and other areas.
We suggest that two capsules of Dr. Ohhira’s probiotic supplements per day can supply the prebiotics, and probiotics, and postbiotics needed to maintain a healthy gut. To learn more about the benefits of probiotics, contact us.