Regarding cardiovascular events like stroke, recently there was very interesting research describing how your gut flora can help prevent these events.
There has been a considerable amount of research linking carotenoids, a type of antioxidant, to the prevention of angina and stroke. Based on their beneficial effects, carotenoids have become popular as food supplements. Their benefits are widespread and proven.
Researchers have now found that one of your best and most consistent sources of carotenoids may be from the bacteria in your gut.
At Gothenburg University in Sweden, doctors have linked changes in gut bacteria to atherosclerosis and stroke. When they compared stroke patients to healthy subjects, they found major differences in their gut microbacteria.
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Strains of bacteria that are required for the production of carotenoids and anti-inflammatory compounds were more prominent in the gut flora from healthy subjects. The healthy subjects also had correspondingly higher levels of carotenoids in their blood (particularly beta-carotene and lycopene). (Nat Commun 12;3:1245. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2266)
This research tells us that maintaining healthy gut bacteria may be one of the most overlooked aspects in preventing cardiovascular disease. The difference in gut flora between those people with atherosclerosis and those without was so pronounced that one of the lead researchers stated, “By examining the patient’s bacterial microbiota, we should also be able to develop risk prognoses for cardiovascular disease.” So just by looking at the numbers and types of bacteria in your intestines, they could accurately predict your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The Power of Probiotics
I don’t want to downplay the importance of regularly consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. And, I also think that taking carotenoid supplements is essential. But maintaining proper bacterial flora in your gut by eating fermented foods and taking probiotic supplements might be the overlooked key to avoiding heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
Beneficial bacteria truly are chemical factories that churn out these beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds on a continuous basis. They can fill in the gaps created when your diet or supplement program is deficient or less than ideal.
The key, like it is with all protective nutritional components, is long-term consistency. And if you establish and maintain the good bacteria in your intestinal tract, research shows they will work 24/7 on your behalf to help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, bowel disease, and dozens of other health problems.
The research data on how strongly our health is influenced by the numbers and types of bowel bacteria continues to grow. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day testing stool samples becomes as prevalent as blood tests are today.
For the longest time, we’ve been able to utilize probiotics and fermented foods to treat a wide variety of problems. But, prevention is where the real focus should be, and that’s where fermented foods and probiotics shine. You know we’re on the right track when researchers can now accurately predict the progression or the actual risk of developing a disease simply by assessing bowel bacteria.
Few doctors also discuss the role that gut bacteria have on cholesterol. If they understood the connection, there might not be a need for statins.
When you increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria, cholesterol levels decrease by two well-documented methods. First, these bacteria ferment dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver, where they inhibit cholesterol.
Second, increased bacterial action breaks down bile acids. Typically bile acids (needed to breakdown fats) are recycled or reabsorbed in the large intestine so they can be used again. With an increased breakdown of bile acids, more need to be created, and since cholesterol is a component of bile, it is pulled from the bloodstream and levels drop.
Increase your consumption of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, real live yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. And get on a good probiotic supplement and stay on it forever. You’ll be decades ahead of the research, but in no way will that stop you from reaping the benefits now.
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