We are seeing more and more research today on how microbiome health can drive chronic disease. I am seeing a huge number of patients coming into clinic who are genuinely interested in learning about gut health and how this might be affecting their immune and cardiovascular health. We discuss how it can impact diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease risk.
It’s not just about what’s happening in the gut though. The process of digestion starts at the mouth with proper chewing, so that signals stomach acid and enzyme release. Without these basic physiological functions happening as they should, our microbiome health could suffer.
The key to a healthy gut is diversity of the right species. This allows us to fight pathogens and crowd out the potentially harmful species that might otherwise colonise. Having less species diversity is linked with more inflammation, higher levels of body fat and more allergic sensitivity or atopic symptoms.
A diet high in plant foods, fresh produce, and eating fermented foods can help to improve our gut’s immune function and reduce the risk of leaky gut. Leaky gut is essentially when the gut lining becomes more permeable and allows particles into the bloodstream, such as food, or lipopolysaccharides (LPS) released from bacteria. This is known as metabolic endotoxaemia. Metabolic endotoxaemia is what causes an inflammatory and immune response and it is also linked with an increased risk of chronic health conditions. When your gut is unhealthy, this immune response can persist, and cause symptoms such as low energy, reactions to food, or anxiety. We see low-grade inflammation affecting our cardiovascular health, immune system, and even our brain health.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 31% of deaths globally. How can we start to educate people on prevention and what sorts of simple changes can people make to reduce their own risk?
The problem starts with the woefully inadequate testing. In my clinical opinion, standard cardiovascular health assessment is not extensive enough. Conventional treatment of elevated LDL cholesterol levels is usually a statin prescription. 10-30% of patients experience statin-induced myopathies so this may not be the most suitable medication for them. Symptoms of myopathy include muscle pain and weakness so muscles work less effectively.
It’s not just a case of “bad” or “good” cholesterol any more. At Anthrobotanica, we use advanced cardiovascular testing which measures not just cholesterol levels, but cholesterol type particle size and number, oxidised cholesterol levels, and other markers to assess true cardiovascular risk. Some of these markers help us to understand vulnerable plaque formation and other inflammatory markers driving both function and structural changes of the blood vessels caused by lifestyle habits.
Poor lifestyle habits can encompass anything from a diet high in processed food, refined sugars, carbohydrates and rancid fats, to a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, or stress. If we can measure these markers, we can understand what lifestyle changes need to be made in order to reduce heart disease risk.
One of the key products I use is Rhythm Health 200 billion Life Shots as this is an easy drink to implement into a daily routine. One patient only took these for 3 months and when re-retested, we saw some significant results, including a reduction of overall cholesterol levels and an improvement in cholesterol ratios and types. When we did a stool test to see what was going on in the gut, we saw high levels of beneficial species which inhibit cholesterol synthesis were present in high levels.
One of the key markers when you are looking at how gut health can affect cardiovascular health is Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is an inflammatory metabolite and it’s linked with the development of atherosclerosis. It’s also been shown to affect cholesterol and bile acid metabolism, and negatively alter clotting risk. Reducing animal products in the diet helps to reduce TMAO levels. In this patient, we saw his TMAO levels reduce by a whopping 97% with life shots, despite not managing to make my suggested dietary changes. Other things we noticed at the 3-month mark were an increase in abundance and diversity of commensal (friendly) bacteria.
This patient also had an autoimmune disease so as we saw an improvement in his immune function, he was able to space out his immunosuppressant medication and eventually come off the drug. This was a primary aim for him as these medications come with their own risks when used long-term. Other symptoms improved such as joint pain and hay fever disappeared.
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