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It’s Heart Health Month; let’s talk about your gut

Wait, what does gut health have to do with heart health? I’m glad you asked! Scientists are learning that the microorganisms in the gut are heavily responsible for the health of the entire body.1

The cardiovascular system and the risk factors for chronic CVD (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes) are affected directly by this gut flora.2 The bacteria living in the digestive tract send signal molecules that cross the intestinal wall to communicate with tissues and organs in remote locations throughout the body.

These signals:

  • help the body to respond to inflammation,
  • efficiently synthesize beneficial compounds that improve health, and
  • diminish the effects of harmful substances derived from pro-inflammatory foods and environmental triggers.3,4

It is important to have a variety and balance of species of bacteria in the gut. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are two common phyla of intestinal bacteria that have different roles in health. Bacteroidetes seem to help with calorie absorption and Firmicutes tend to help more with blood pressure and blood sugar regulation.2 An imbalance of bacteria can cause obesity, hypertension, and elevated blood sugar. Foods with increased fiber and bioactive chemicals increase the concentration of beneficial bacteria (like types of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes) in the human gut.4 The plants in our diet not only produce different types and amounts of phytochemicals, nutrients, and minerals, but also promote growth and health of different gut bacteria species.

Include a variety of vegetables in your diet, not just one or two favorites, for the most health benefit – gut health, heart health, whole health.


1. Tang, W. W., Kitai, T., & Hazen, S. L. (2017). Gut microbiota in cardiovascular health and disease. Circulation Research, 120(7), 1183-1196.

2. Bhat MA, Mishra AK, Tantray JA, Alatawi HA, Saeed M, Rahman S, Jan AT. Gut Microbiota and Cardiovascular System: An Intricate Balance of Health and the Diseased State. Life. 2022; 12(12):1986.

3. Brunt VE, AG Casso, RA Gioscia-Ryan, ZJ Sapinsley, BP Ziemba, ZS Clayton, AE Bazzoni, NS VanDongen, JJ Richey, DA Hutton, MC Zigler, AP Neilson, KP Davy, DR Seals. The gut microbiome-derived metabolite trimethylamine N-oxide induces aortic stiffening and increases systolic blood pressure with aging in mice and humans. Hypertension. 2021; 78:499–511. 

4. Komarnytsky, S., Wagner, C., Gutierrez, J., & Shaw, O. M. (2023). Berries in Microbiome-Mediated Gastrointestinal, Metabolic, and Immune Health. Current Nutrition Reports

This article was part of the February 2023 e-news FRESH Rx. Subscribe for similar content delivered to your inbox monthly.