We all know the old adage that says the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. On Valentine’s Day, we interpret this as gourmet meals and sweet treats. But there is another layer of meaning here – one that might surprise you because it looks more like yogurt and sauerkraut than chocolate and steak. Let’s take an unconventional approach to Valentine’s Day and explore the link between probiotics, your gut, and heart health!

Scientific and clinical studies have shown that one of the most loving things you can do for your heart is to have a lifestyle abundant in probiotics. Although scientists and doctors cannot yet fully explain the positive connection between probiotic supplementation and good cardiovascular health, the research is clear that these good bacteria do improve key markers for a strong and healthy heart.

Here are some of the particular ways that probiotics can benefit your cardiovascular wellness…

Cholesterol

We all know that the problem of high cholesterol really means high LDL cholesterol – the “bad” kind. Fortunately, probiotics have repeatedly demonstrated ability to reduce LDL levels. Dr. Joel Kahn, in his article “Why This Cardiologist Recommends Probiotics for Heart Health,” cites a review of 26 clinical studies that found across the board improvements in bad cholesterol levels and inflammatory biomarkers. That’s quite a bit of evidence mounted in favor of the good little guys that live in your gut!
Want to see the study for yourself? Check it out here

Another review looked at studies conducted on people with normal to mild high cholesterol, to assess the usefulness of probiotics for preventing high cholesterol, known as hypercholesterolemia. The results were favorable, concluding that “probiotic supplementation could be useful in the primary prevention of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and may lead to reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” Great news! This report is particularly interesting because it included both probiotic supplements and fermented milk products (like yogurt!).

Blood Pressure

Probiotics are also a good friend to your blood pressure! One meta-analysis of 9 studies found that probiotics improved blood pressure levels, particularly with multi-species probiotic supplementation over an extended time period (greater than 8 weeks).
According to Jennifer Pluznick, PhD researcher at Johns Hopkins, this is because certain chemicals that the gut bacteria produce can alter blood pressure. Plus the microbial populations are different in mice and humans who have high blood pressure, indicating that the kind of beneficial bacteria present are important for regulating healthy blood pressure. (source)

Congestive Heart Failure

One particular probiotic seems to hold promise for people with congestive heart failure. A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology evidenced improvements in heart function and a reduction in cholesterol and inflammatory markers in patients given saccharomyces boulardii. How encouraging for those suffering with this condition

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In addition to these benefits that directly impact your heart, probiotics have also been shown to improve diabetes, anxiety, and obesity – all demonstrated risk factors for cardiovascular health. Because of the exquisitely entwined nature of our physiologies, one tweak can reap a multitude of benefits across numerous organs and systems. This is particularly true when it comes to your digestive system!

Various medical professionals and researchers have speculated about the biological mechanism that links probiotics to a healthier heart. Most hypotheses tie back to the immune system, which is primarily located in the gut. Dr. Michael Ruscio breaks it down simply:

So probiotics improve the health of the gut. The gut has a very strong impact on your immune system. And the immune system is implicated in heart disease. That’s the way I think this all plays out. There are likely other mechanisms that are also involved in this. But I think this may be one of the primary mechanisms.” (source).

Now it’s time for you to show your heart some love with probiotics! As big believers in the power of real food, we always like to get our nutrition from foods – in this case fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc – to reap all the benfits of how nutrients in foods work synergistically together. Then you can move on to exploring whether probiotic supplements are a good next step for you to further support your gut and heart!