It’s time to change the way you look at your gut and digestive system. Instead of just thinking about regularity and constipation, think big. Think about your heart.
There is a vast amount of research to suggest your gut does a lot more than help you digest food and excrete waste. Instead, it could play a key role in weight, brain health, disease risk, and heart health.
Roughly 38 trillion bacteria live in your intestines and perform several tasks. Collectively, they are known as your microbiome and ultimately act as an organ. And like other organs, lifestyle decisions may affect its health and functionality and your health outcomes.
New research is showing that a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria may help improve heart health by breaking down cholesterol in the intestines, thereby not allowing it to circulate in the bloodstream and accumulate along arterial walls.
This finding is not necessarily new, however. Researchers took existing studies a step further by identifying a particular species of bacteria that may elicit this cholesterol-lowering result.
After analyzing stool samples from more than 3,000 people, researchers found that individuals with an enzyme called IsmA had 75 percent less cholesterol in their feces than those who did not.
So, what could this mean? A few things. One is that the finding could open the door to potential direct modifications of gut bacteria to lower cholesterol. That result can be murky, however. It’s yet to be known how newly introduced bacteria may colonize once they are introduced.
That said, diet is closely associated with gut health, cholesterol levels, and heart health. Two types of food may help colonize and expand a healthy and diverse microbiome: probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics are foods with active strains of bacteria. These are often fermented foods, which include things like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Prebiotics are essentially fiber-rich foods used to feed healthy bacteria.
Your diet can influence your gut, which may, in turn, influence a wide variety of health factors, including heart health.
Start thinking big about your gut health and recognize the magnitude of its power and how diet may play a key role in its functionality and your health outcomes.