A Guide To Grilling Food

Clarissa A. Kussin, ND, RYT-500
 
 Grilling or barbecuing meat at high temperatures leads to the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds known as “mutagens” which damage DNA and may increase risk for developing cancer. HCAs are formed when amino acids and sugars present in meat react under high temperatures. Additionally, liquid fat drips into the flame of a barbeque and creates smoke filled with PAHs, coating the surface of the meat. While the best solution is to use other cooking methods when possible, there are several simple ways to balance the effects of grilling your favorite foods.

Choose meat wisely
Emphasize leaner cuts of meat. Less fat drippings means less smoke and less exposure to PAHs. Further, removing the skin from poultry before cooking will reduce HCA formation.

Marinate
Not only does marinating meat impart more flavor, it can also be protective against carcinogenic compounds. Acid-containing marinades (e.g., those containing vinegar or lemon/lime juice) are best to reduce formation of HCAs. It is also important to note that traditional barbeque sauces, which tend to have a high sugar content, can increase formation of HCAs. If using these sauces, they should be added to foods after they have been cooked.

Add herbs and spices
Herbs and spices have been shown to reduce formation of HCAs when meats are grilled. Mint, onion, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, ginger, thyme, and red chili pepper are all great choices. These herbs can be used in marinades, mixed into ground meats, or used as a dry rub.

Avoid over-cooking or charring
The amount of time your meat contacts the grill makes a difference. Try quicker -cooking proteins like fish or shrimp, or cut your meats into smaller pieces to reduce cooking time (meat and vegetable kebabs are a great solution). Rotate meat frequently to allow the center to fully cook without overheating the surface. Blackened or charred areas of meat can be removed to reduce exposure to HCAs and PAHs.

Try grilling other food groups
Fruits and vegetables have been shown to inhibit activity of HCAs and reduce DNA damage caused by these compounds. Fortunately, antioxidant rich produce can also be delicious when grilled. Try zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, apples, peaches, pineapple, or even watermelon for a unique addition to your meal.
 
Your Partner in Health!
Clarissa A. Kussin, ND, RYT 500

Health Benefits of Napping

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH
“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.” — Carrie Snow

With the hectic pace of day-to-day life, many people don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults typically need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best. Getting a few less hours for even a few nights in a row can have the same effect as staying awake for 24 hours straight. And, over time, chronic sleep debt can contribute to fatigue, increased stress levels, reduced attention span, and declined cognitive performance.

One way to combat the effects of sleep deprivation—and repay some sleep debt—is to incorporate daytime napping into your schedule. The length of the nap and type of sleep you get during that nap help determine its potential health benefits. The table below identifies these benefits.

Nap Duration  and  Potential Health Benefits

10-20 minutes:
 Reduces sleepiness; improves cognitive performance; increases alertness, attention, and energy levels; improves mood; improves motor performance; reduces stress levels

20-30 minutes:
Enhances creativity; sharpens memory

30-60 minutes:
Sharpens decision-making skills, including memorization and recall; improves memory preservation

60-90 minutes:
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is critical for problem solving; helps make new connections in the brain; enhances creativity; reduces negative reactivity; promotes happiness

  The following is a list of tips and tricks to help you make the most of naptime:

Choose a dark, quiet, comfortable place where you can relax. Try to limit the amount of noise and light in the room, and make sure the temperature is comfortable. Choose a time that works for you, and aim to nap at that time each day to establish a routine. You may find that restricting your naps to early afternoon (between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, or an hour or two after lunch) is less likely to interfere with your nighttime sleep patterns. Set an alarm on your cell phone, watch, or computer so you don’t sleep for too long. If you’re napping at the office, try closing your door and hanging a sign that says, “will return in 20 minutes.” Alternatives to this are napping in your car or on an outdoor bench.

Wherever you nap, bring along something that you associate with sleep. Some ideas include a sleep mask, neck pillow, relaxing playlist and headphones, cozy blanket, warm socks, and lavender essential oil to dab on your pulse points.

Keep in mind that longer naps may be accompanied by sleep inertia, or a period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep. Give yourself time to wake fully before returning to any activity that requires a quick or sharp response. 

Your Partner In Health!
Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

Top 5 Heart Healthy Fats

1. Butter

It is a very common fat that everybody has (or should have from now on) in their fridge. As opposed to industrial trans fat, which increases the the risk of heart disease, the trans-rumenic acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is thought to decrease the risk for cardiovescular disease. CLA along with other natural trans fats as well as vitamin K2 are abundantly found in grass-fed meat and dairy products, which is why butter is a great source to maintain cardiovescular health and to prevent heart attacks.

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil currently has gained in popularity for all kinds of health remedies and benefits. The hype is justified and it definitely belongs in the kitchen and on this list! First of all, coconut oil is one of the best oils to cook with as it is with more than 90% almost entirely saturated. Its chemical structure stands out to other fats and oils in our diet, which has a significant effect on the body and the heart. Coconut oil is composed of a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). This structure makes the oil special because the vast majority of fats and oils we consume are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). In fact, both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, eggs, milk, and plants consist of LCFA.

That means that most of the western world gets way too much of these fats and not enough of the MCFA’s that are found in coconut oil.

Why does that matter? Because of its shorter chemical composition, MCFA’s are absorbed with ease without requiring pancreatic enzymes to break them down. This means less work for the pancreas and the fatty acids can go directly to the liver from where they go into the mitochondrias and are immediately utilized for energy. The best part is that coconut oil makes our heart happy by protecting it from heart disease as well as lowering the risk of atherosclerosis.

3. Duck Fat

Just like butter, duck fat is packed with the favorable CLA’s and natural trans fat that were found, in animal studies, to prevent fatty streaks and plaque formation in the arteries of rodents by changing macrophage lipid metabolism.

Another statistic, however, shows that the same effect seems to apply for humans as well. According to the World Health Organization’s Multinational Monitoring of Trends and Determinants, in the United States, of every 100,000 middle-aged men, 315 die of heart attacks each year. However, in the Gascony region, where duck liver is a steady part of the diet, this rate is only 80 per 100,000. A great statistic for the consumption of duck fat and the relation to a healthier heart!

4. Leaf Lard

This fat is a highly popular fat in the kitchen of every celebrity cook. For good reason! Lard is a very stable fat which makes it an excellent choice for frying. Morover, it has a higher smoking point than other fats therefore it is excellent for cooking in general. It is gained from the visceral fat deposit that surrounds the kidney and loin and because of its little pork flavor, leaf lard is considered the highest grade of lard.

Nutritionally speaking, lard is composed of more than twice the monosaturated fat and nearly one-fourth the saturated fat than butter. In addition to that, it is also low in omega-6 fatty acids, known to promote inflammation, which is good news for a healthy heart.

5. Ghee

Ghee, a great fat for cooking, taste, and cardiovescular health. It is made from butter, however, the milk solids and impurities are removed, which makes it consumer friendly for everybody, including people who are lactose or casein intolerant.

Just like coconut oil, it is composed of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), which are directly absorbed to the liver and burned as energy. Besides of being a fabulous energy source, it contributes to a healthy heart as it protects the arteries from hardening. A study from 2010 found that people in India, where ghee is originated from and thus has the highest population of consumers, had fewer cases of heart disease than our western world.

What is MTHFR and Why Should You Care?

915 MTHFR

Have you been googling for ways to improve your hypothyroid or brain condition and come across suggestions to test MTHFR? What is MTHFR and what does it have to do with hypothyroidism or the brain? If you are one of the 60 percent of people with a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene, it could affect your ability to successfully manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms.

MTHFR is the acronym for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme involved in processing folate, or vitamin B9, into a usable form the body can assimilate. It’s also necessary to metabolize folic acid, a synthetic form of folate used in supplements.

Thanks to the popularity of gene testing, people can now learn whether they have a mutation in the MTHFR gene. If so, it means their methylation pathways are impacted and contributing to health challenges.

Methylation pathways govern detoxification and many important metabolic processes in the body, which makes a MTHFR defect something worth paying attention to. If you are struggling to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, or depression, you may find the MTHFR test valuable.

Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. Methylation’s roles jobs include the following:

  • Turning genes on and off
  • Detoxifying chemicals and toxins from the body
  • Building brain neurotransmitters
  • Metabolizing hormones to maintain hormonal balance
  • Building immune cells
  • Synthesizing DNA and RNA
  • Creating cellular energy
  • Producing a protective coating that sheathes the nerves
  • Metabolizing histamine
  • Supporting eye health
  • Burning fat
  • Supporting liver health

Proper methylation means one can efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more balanced brain chemistry, detoxify toxins and heavy metals, and dampen inflammation. All of these factors are vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

However, if you’re one of the 60 percent of people with a MTHFR genetic defect, you may not be able to properly break down folate in foods or folic acid in supplements.

An inability to properly process folate can raise levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the bloodstream that can be dangerous when levels are too high. High homocysteine is linked to an elevated risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Poor methylation also impacts another vital process — the production of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. When we become deficient in glutathione, we lose our natural defenses and are at higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.

An MTHFR defect can also impair the body’s ability to synthesize important brain neurotransmitters, so that brain-based disorders may arise. An MTHFR defect has been linked to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.

Because methylation is involved in so many important processes in the body, an MTHFR gene defect has been associated with many health conditions, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Mental and mood disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

If you are trying to manage a condition like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms, it’s imperative that you be able to dampen inflammation and raise glutathione levels. An MTHFR defect can work against you.

Fortunately, it can be easy to address.

First of all, you can test for MTHFR gene mutations through genetic testing companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com, and get an interpretation at geneticgenie.org.

More than 50 MTHFR genetic mutations exist, but the two considered the most problematic are C677T and A1298C (written as just 677 and 1298).

Also, keep in mind gene defects don’t always become activated. If you show those genes on a test it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been expressed and are causing symptoms.

To address a MTHFR enzyme defect, support your methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12). Avoid supplements with folic acid, boost your glutathione levels with high quality oral liposomal glutathione, and minimize your exposure to toxins. These are also beneficial strategies to aid in the management of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

Floss Your Teeth Daily to Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

909 oral bacteria and stroke

You may be familiar with common stroke-prevention strategies: Exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, minimize stress, and keep inflammation at bay. But did you know taking good care of your teeth and gums is a major way to lower stroke risk?

A new study has found a significant link between stroke and oral bacteria. An analysis of blood clots from 75 ischemic stroke patients found almost 80 percent of them had oral bacteria DNA concentrated in the blood clots that weren’t found in other blood samples from the same patient.

The presence of oral bacteria in blood clots rounds out a much larger picture that shows the role gum disease and oral bacteria play in cardiovascular and neurological health.

The same research team has also found that blood clots containing oral bacteria cause heart attacks and brain aneurysms, that thromboses in the leg veins and arteries contain oral bacteria, and that oral bacteria is linked to heart infection.

Other research has linked oral bacteria from gum disease with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The bacteria produce toxins in the brain that give rise to the misfolding of proteins in the brain that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot starves a part of the brain of blood flow and vital oxygen, causing massive tissue damage. It is commonly caused by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries from plaquing, or atherosclerosis.

There is evidence that oral bacteria activates platelets and speeds up the development of atherosclerosis and blood clotting.

Here’s a tip to motivate you to floss

We get it, flossing is tedious and annoying. You just want to brush your teeth and be done.

Here’s a little tip that may motivate you to floss and brush more regularly: After you floss between a couple of teeth, smell your floss. If it has a foul odor that’s a sign you’ve got oral bacteria accumulating on your teeth and gums. This is also a sign your breath probably stinks as well! Smell check your floss after flossing each section of teeth — you may find areas that need extra attention.

Reacquaint yourself with healthy flossing and brushing habits and consider investing in a water flossing device. These devices use water to deliver extra cleaning power to the teeth and to stimulate gum tissue, so it stays healthy. However, please note that a water flosser should be an adjunct to flossing and not a substitute. Water flossing is not as effective as using dental floss.

Use functional medicine to prevent strokes

Healthy teeth and gums also depend on a healthy diet and lifestyle. This ties in with general stroke prevention strategies — 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle habits.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.

Studies have found the following factors are the most common causes of strokes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress and depression
  • Diabetes
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Heart disorders

As research continues, poor oral hygiene may get added to this list.

Functional medicine strategies to prevent stroke

Focus on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. Ditch the sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It might be hard at first, but you’ll start to feel heaps better.

Stabilize blood sugar

High blood sugar from too many sweets and processed carbohydrates causes chronic inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, increase your risk of stroke by two to four times.

Regular exercise prevents strokes and makes you feel awesome

Exercise is a magic bullet when it comes to preventing strokes and promoting a healthy brain. Regular physical activity keeps blood vessels strong, improves oxygenation of the brain, and increases your metabolism. Exercise after a stroke also significantly reduces the severity of the repercussions and improves recovery.

Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.

Controversial New Study Reports Statins Useless

904 study says statins useless

A controversial new study found that high cholesterol does not shorten life span and that statins are essentially a “waste of time,” according to one of the researchers. Previous studies have linked statins with an increased risk of diabetes.

The study reviewed research of almost 70,000 people and found that elevated levels of “bad cholesterol” did not raise the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease in people over 60.

The authors called for statin guidelines to be reviewed, claiming the benefits of statins are “exaggerated.”

Not only did the study find no link between high cholesterol and early death, it also found that people with high “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) actually lived longer and had fewer incidences of heart disease.

The co-author and vascular surgeon went on to say that cholesterol is vital for preventing cancer, muscle pain, infection, and other health disorders in older people. He said that statins are a “waste of time” for lowering cholesterol and that lifestyle changes are more effective for improving cardiovascular health.

Naturally, the paper drew fire and its conclusions were dismissed by other experts in the field. Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs — one in four Americans over the age of 40 take statins and the drug accounts for more than $20 billion in spending each year. Statin use has gone up more than 80 percent in the last 20 years.

Statins linked to higher risk of diabetes and other health disorders

In functional medicine we recognize cholesterol as a vital compound in the body for multiple functions, including brain function and muscle strength. Overly low cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of several health disorders, including diabetes.

One study of almost 9,000 people showed that people in their 60s who used statins had an almost 40 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also had higher rates of high blood sugar and pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. High blood sugar disorders underpin numerous chronic inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Previous research found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in women who took statins.

In addition to raising the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes, statins also may cause such side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of heart disease: Chronic inflammation

Statins may lower cholesterol, but they do not address the underlying cause of heart disease, which is typically chronic inflammation (some people are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease). The body uses cholesterol to repair arteries damaged by inflammation — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

For instance, the vast majority of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. In other countries where people have higher cholesterol than Americans, they also have less heart disease. In fact, low cholesterol in elderly patients is linked to a higher risk of death compared to high cholesterol.

Improving heart health through functional medicine instead of statins

Functional medicine is a great way to improve cardiovascular health because it avoids drugs that cause potentially harmful side effects. Although lifestyle changes may require more work than popping a pill, they address root causes of your disorder versus overriding them. This means you feel and function better overall.

What does a functional medicine approach to heart health look like?

  • An anti-inflammatory diet
  • Releasing feel-good endorphins on a regular basis through exercise (endorphins are anti-inflammatory)
  • Targeted nutritional support
  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of your inflammation, which are different for everyone. Possibilities include high blood sugar, poor thyroid function, an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, chronic bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, leaky gut, or a brain imbalance, such as from a past brain injury.

It’s important to address things from this angle because cholesterol is vital to good health. It is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for healthy brain function.

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Chronic inflammation and not cholesterol is the concerning factor in heart disease. The blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) identifies inflammation. If it’s high, you have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Having normal cholesterol but high CRP does not protect you from heart disease.

By using functional medicine to lower your inflammation and improve your heart health, you not only avoid the risks and dangers of statins, but also you get to better enjoy your golden years thanks to improved energy and well being.

Statins Raise Diabetes Risk: What to Do Instead of Drugs

841 statins raise diabetes risk

You’ve been told you need to lower your cholesterol, but did you know taking a statin could raise your risk of type 2 diabetes? A recent study of almost 9,000 people in their 60s showed that statin use increased the risk of diabetes by almost 40 percent. Statin use was also associated with a higher risk for elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). While the brand of statin subjects took didn’t seem to matter, risk was higher in overweight and obese subjects.

Given the risks associated with high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes, this study highlights further problems with statin use for a condition that is typically well managed through functional medicine protocols. High blood sugar and diabetes raise your risk for many chronic health disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This isn’t the first study to link statins with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Previous research has found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in female users.

Statins most commonly prescribed drugs

Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs, accounting for more than $20 billion of spending a year. About one in four Americans over 40 takes statins, with that number having increased by almost 80 percent in the last two decades. Side effects include muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol

Although statins lower cholesterol, they do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol in most people, which is typically inflammation (some people have a genetic disorder that causes very high cholesterol). The body uses cholesterol to patch up damage in the arteries caused by inflammation. In fact, research shows inflammation is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes, not high cholesterol.

Considering the following facts about cholesterol and heart disease:

  • 75 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.
  • Older patients with low cholesterol have a higher risk of death than those with higher cholesterol.
  • Populations in other countries with higher cholesterol than Americans have less heart disease.

Hypothyroidism, a condition estimated to affect more than 20 million Americans, raises cholesterol. Many find a gluten-free diet lowers cholesterol, as gluten is inflammatory for so many people.

Research also shows diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates increase the “bad” form of LDL (there are two to look at) and decrease the protective HDL.

Lowering cholesterol through functional medicine

Using functional medicine is a highly effective way to lower cholesterol naturally. This is because functional medicine identifies and manages the root cause of a problem versus using a drug to block symptoms.

Management includes an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, nutritional support, and finding out causes of inflammation. These may include low thyroid function, autoimmune disease, bacterial or viral infections, leaky gut, poor blood-sugar handling, or other chronic health issues.

In fact, high cholesterol is more often tied to a diet too high processed carbohydrates and sugars, not fat. Sugar and refined carbs, including processed white foods, drive good cholesterol down and triglycerides up. It causes low density small particles that encourage the dangerous buildup of arterial plaque. This can lead to not only heart disease but also insulin resistance or “pre-diabetes.” Sugar, not dietary fat, is the bigger cause of most heart attacks.

However, the type of fat you eat matters too. Trans fats, or hydrogenated fats, promote dangerous types of cholesterol, while omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats improve the healthy types of cholesterol.

Measuring cholesterol players

Cholesterol is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for good neurological function.

When we measure cholesterol, we are measuring LDL and HDL. These are small packages of fat and protein that help move cholesterol throughout the body.

High-density lipoprotein — HDL

This is considered “good” cholesterol. It helps removes excess arterial plaque.

Low-density lipoprotein — LDL

This is considered “bad” cholesterol. It can form plaque that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible (atherosclerosis).

Triglycerides

High levels of this dangerous fat are linked to heart disease and diabetes. Levels rise from eating too many sugars and processed carbs, as well as from smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking and being overweight.

Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a)

Lp(a) is made up of an LDL part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a strong risk for heart disease.

When testing cholesterol, please pay attention to:

  • Levels of HDL “good” cholesterol versus LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Triglyceride levels
  • The ratio of triglycerides to HDL
  • The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Systemic inflammation is a primary factor in heart disease and most chronic health disorders. A diet high in sugars and processed carbs, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive drinking, chronic stress, gut infections, unmanaged autoimmunity, and chronic infections are all causes of chronic inflammation. People with elevated systemic inflammation, which is measured by a blood marker called C-reactive protein (CRP) have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Also, normal cholesterol is not protective for those with high CRP.

By addressing the cause of high cholesterol not only do you avoid the dangerous risks and unpleasant side effects of statins, but also you journey into your golden years with improved energy and well being.

Gut Bacteria and the Heart

832 gut bacteria and the heart

Unhealthy gut bacteria are a bigger risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries than smoking, cholesterol levels, obesity, or diabetes. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease.

That’s because the root cause of heart disease is inflammation. In fact, most modern health disorders are rooted in inflammation, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity, dementia, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease. Cardiovascular disease is no exception.

So where do gut bacteria come in? Researchers have discovered an unhealthy microbiome — the term given to our inner garden of gut bacteria — is pro-inflammatory while a healthy gut microbiome is anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, Americans have the unhealthiest gut microbiomes studied thus far.

A recent study found that women experiencing hardening of the arteries also showed less gut bacteria diversity while women with healthy arteries showed healthier gut bacteria. A diverse array of gut bacteria is linked with better health.

The study also found that in healthy subjects, diverse and healthy gut bacteria produced more indolepropionic acid (IPA), a neuroprotective antioxidant that also has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.

The gut microbiome and high blood pressure

It turns out there is more to high blood pressure than reducing your salt intake. Researchers have found high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, can also be linked to the gut microbiome.

The key is in a compound called propionate, one of several short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by healthy gut bacteria. Scientists are learning that SCFAs such as propionate and butyrate are instrumental to the health of the brain and body in many ways, with propionate being specific to the cardiovascular system.

How to foster a heart-healthy gut microbiome

Although taking propionate may help, it won’t do much good if it’s battling a minefield of infectious and inflammatory gut bacteria. Just as healthy gut bacteria produce SCFAs that are good for us, bad bacteria produce the highly inflammatory compound lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

The key to a heart-healthy gut microbiome is to eat about 25–30 grams of fiber a day via a very diverse array of vegetables and modest amounts of fruit (fruits are high in sugar and too much sugar is inflammatory).

It’s the diversity of vegetables that matters most, with research increasingly confirming that a diverse gut microbiome is what lies behind good health and a lower risk of disease.

Switch up the vegetables you eat regularly and shop at world markets unfamiliar to you to try new types of produce. Even a teaspoon of different new veggies each day is enough to help colonize the friendly bacteria that will work to keep your heart healthy.

In this fiber-rich environment, supplementing with SCFAs such as butyrate and propionate can help boost your gut bacteria to produce even more of their own SCFAs.

Additionally, make sure to keep your blood sugar stable by eliminating sugars, sweeteners, and processed carbohydrates, avoid foods that cause an immune reaction in you (for example, gluten and dairy do for many people), avoid toxin chemicals in your foods and body products that can kill good bacteria, and exercise daily — exercise has been shown to positively influence your gut microbiome.

Ask my office for more advice on how to cultivate an optimal gut microbiome and detoxify bad bacteria.