The Connection Between Gut Health and Blood Pressure
Did you know that you are composed of roughly equal numbers of human cells and bacteria? Much of this bacteria comes from the gut microbiome. A healthy gut is an important part of a healthy body. In fact, it can affect nearly every part of your health — including blood pressure. If you don't have a healthy gut and your blood pressure is not regulated, then you could be at risk for developing heart disease and other serious conditions.
The gut microbiome is composed of microscopic living things such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They exist in the intestines and on the skin. Although the gut microbiome is often overlooked, it actually has extremely important functions in helping you stay healthy. Maintaining a high level of good bacteria in the gut microbiome allows for the normal function of all systems within your body. For example, the bacteria is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients and plays a role in regulating your mood. It also communicates with the immune cells, which influences how your body will respond to an infection. If you heard some mixed messages about the gut microbiome, they may be true. Some microbes will cause problems, such as bloating, cramps, and abdominal pain.
You may be wondering, “What does this all have to do with blood pressure?” Well, a healthy gut is helpful in maintaining a healthy heart and consequently, a consistently lower blood pressure. However, the specific answer for why this is the case is more complicated because additional research on the relationship between blood pressure and gut health needs to be conducted first.
Thus far, there have been some useful findings and multiple possible hypotheses have been proposed. One of the proposed hypotheses for the specific link, is from Dr. Jennifer L. Pluznick, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Pluznick believes that the short chain fatty acids the bacteria in the gut produce are absorbed into the bloodstream. These fatty acids activate receptors in the blood vessels, which regulates the blood pressure.
Additionally, in a study from the journal Hypertension which is part of AHA/ASA Journals, researchers found that hypertension and gut bacteria diversity are inversely related, meaning that people with hypertension had gut bacteria that was less diverse than people with the ideal blood pressure levels. Therefore, maintaining a diverse gut microbiome may be beneficial for lowering blood pressure. A healthy gut has a diverse, and thus resilient, microbiome.
To maintain a healthy gut with a diverse microbiome, diet is important, especially incorporating plenty of fiber. This can be from a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Furthermore, based on existing research, eating yogurt, pickles, and other probiotics and prebiotics may provide you with good gut bacteria. However, extensive research is still needed to confirm the exact impacts of probiotics and prebiotics on gut bacteria.
What all of this means for you is that you should not just focus on one aspect of the body when managing a condition. Instead, look broader and holistically because the body is interconnected, just like the effect of gut health on blood pressure, which, on the surface, seems to be two disconnected parts.
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