February is widely recognized as the month of love, but it’s also American Heart Month. Your heart health, and your gut health, work simultaneously and can have significant effects on one another. It’s important to understand how heart health and gut health co-exist, as heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of any race, ethnicity or background in the United States.
We’ve said it before, but there are over 40 trillion organisms that make up the bacteria in your gut. When these bacteria are in balance, your digestive system should be operating as designed. When an increase in bad bacteria occurs, you may start to notice symptoms of acid reflux (GERD), bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or nausea. These can be common, and short-lived symptoms if you’ve recently eaten a spicy meal, or consumed foods with high fat or sugar content, but these symptoms could be cause for concern if they are recurring or long-lasting. Probiotics and prebiotics can help to maintain healthy bacteria levels, avoid digestive discomfort, and they have also been linked to lowering blood pressure by decreasing inflammation in your body, and making it easier for your heart to circulate blood.
Gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease and even gallstones have been linked to an increased risk of heart conditions.
People diagnosed with gallstones are three times as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease. Many of the consistencies in gastrointestinal and heart conditions are due to lifestyle choices. For example, we know that gallstones can be triggered by unhealthy diets or lifestyle choices, and the same is true for many heart conditions. You may also experience symptoms that could be considered a heart issue, but the source of the problem is in the esophagus or intestine. Angina, or chest pain, can sometimes be confused with peptic ulcer or acid reflux (GERD) symptoms. By maintaining your overall health through diet, exercise, regular preventative screenings, and physicals, your risk of ailments decreases.
Hydration is also important to both the gastrointestinal and circulatory systems. When you are dehydrated, you may experience constipation or bloating. Dehydration slows your digestive system, making it hard for your body to rid itself of toxins and waste. It can also cause strain on your heart, by decreasing blood volume and making your heart work harder. You may feel dizziness or even an increase in heart rate when you become dehydrated.