While gut health and heart disease may seem unrelated at first glance, it turns out that the friendly bacteria living in our intestines may offer more benefits to our health than we ever imagined.

Over the last several decades, the research investigating the role that infection plays in heart disease has been mounting. Studies have found:

  • An association between common systemic infections and heart disease (1)(2)(3)
  • An association between gut infection and heart disease (4)(5)

Isn’t dietary cholesterol the real cause of heart disease?

Even though cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, the jury is still out as to what exactly causes heart disease. (6) Popular opinion will tell us that the obvious cause for heart disease is a diet that is high cholesterol and in saturated fats.

But what happens when we look at traditional diets that were free of modern, processed conveniences? We find whole foods that are rich in both cholesterol and saturated fats. We also find no incidence of heart disease. (7)(8)

Still not convinced?

The latest medical literature reveals that there are many routes to heart disease, and that too many egg yolks is not necessarily one of them. In fact, for all the cholesterol in egg yolks, they are surprisingly protective. (9)(10)

If it is not cholesterol and saturated fats that lead to the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque, then what is the cause?

So far, the research points to several risk factors. A risk factor is something that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease. Risk can be found in diet, lifestyle, or family history.

The risk factors for heart disease cover a wide spectrum of people and lifestyles. One thing that all heart disease risk factors have in common is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens on a cellular level. Excessive oxidative stress leads to the breakdown of cells and to tissue damage.

How does oxidative stress show up in the blood vessels? One way is in the form of atherosclerotic plaque. Atherosclerotic plaque is made up of:

  • Immune cells, which play an important role in the inflammatory process
  • Cell debris, which are pieces of cell from cells that have died
  • Crystalline cholesterol (11)

When tissue becomes damaged, it becomes inflamed. If this goes on for too long, you see an ongoing vicious cycle of inflammation, leading to tissue damage, which in turn causes more inflammation, and so on.

Inflammation leads to the development and build up of plaque. The most recent studies on heart disease have found that inflammation is more related to heart disease than elevated levels of cholesterol! (12)(13)

How Leaky Gut Can Increase the Risk for Heart Disease

When we talk about the relationship between the digestive system and heart disease, we are really talking about another repercussion of a leaky, or permeable, gut lining.

Once the lining of the gut wall becomes permeable, something called an endotoxin can get into the bloodstream. Endotoxins are found in the cell wall of many disease-causing bacteria. When these bacteria die, the endotoxin is released.