The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health

Gut Bacteria and Probiotics Can Improve Heart Health: John Hopkins Researchers

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Surprisingly, bacteria may benefit a person’s heart health. Read this article to know what the researchers of John Hopkins University are studying, on the link and the power of probiotics and prebiotics in a diet.

Are you aware that a person is affected not only by what he eats but also by what the natural microorganisms in his/her gut metabolize after he/she eats? Researchers are continually trying to find out how overall health is impacted by gut bacteria. These bacteria can affect metabolism, mood, and immune responses. Now, it is believed they may also have an impact on heart health.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Research

The study of animal research keen on gut bacteria was led by an assistant professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Jennifer L. Pluznick, Ph.D.

Pluznick was examining the possibility that bacteria which reside in the gut can create chemicals during their normal metabolism, after exposure to the food we consume.

As the chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream, it’s perceived that they set off receptors in the blood vessels that decrease blood pressure.

When studied on mice, these alterations in blood pressure are large, especially when taking into account the potential impact over the span of a lifetime.

However, though gut bacteria and blood pressure appear connected, researchers are yet to fully understand their relationship. It’s quite complicated.

Pluznick says they understand that there is a symbiotic kind of relationship between gut bacteria and their hosts, i.e., humans. Specific chemicals produced by the bacteria in the gut can change blood pressure.

It is also understandable that when mice or rats or people have increased blood pressure, the bacteria in their guts are different. All these things disclose a piece of the puzzle.

The thing is, they don’t have sufficient pieces to put together the entire puzzle yet.

If it’s true for mice, will it also be true for humans?

Jennifer L. Pluznick says there can always be dissimilarities between the species, things we don’t expect. It is thus really important to examine thoroughly with human trials.

For instance, gut bacteria may decrease blood pressure level in one case but affect metabolism and immune responses in unanticipated ways.

Pluznick added she hopes that in the next couple of years, they will begin to see how all these factors and findings relate to humans.

Can Probiotics and Prebiotics Lessen Blood Pressure Levels?

Consuming foods that have probiotics (consumable live bacteria) has been associated with healthier blood pressure in earlier studies.

Prebiotics that you consume includes the precursor’s bacteria that can make the special chemicals which are then absorbed by our bodies. It can potentially lower blood pressure.

Pluznick says fiber can be prebiotic for several bacteria. As and when you consume fiber, the bacteria break it down to make those chemicals. Fiber-containing foods such as onions, garlic, whole wheat pasta, asparagus, and sweet potatoes contain prebiotics.

Is There a Future Hope for Heart Health?

Pluznick predicts a future wherein heart-healthy measures might involve considerations of gut health. It could also include the best possible guidelines for both the administration of antibiotics that can unfavorably affect gut bacteria and the intake of probiotics. However, they aren’t there yet.


Meet Probiotics-An Introduction to Gut Bacteria

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine

We are covered in bacteria-inside and outside of our body.  Even though bacteria sounds bad, some of it is beneficial and we need it to live.  Recent research has taught us more about bacteria in the gut, also called the gut microbiome, and how it relates to our overall health.  Probiotics are the good guys, the beneficial bacteria (and some yeasts) found in your digestive system. 

The benefits of probiotics include improved immune system, decreased inflammation, decreased cholesterol, increased nutrient absorption, reduced symptoms of lactose intolerance, and treatment for diarrhea.  Probiotics may help with glucose control.  Probiotics decrease insulin resistance and increase beneficial gut hormones such as glucagon- peptide-1 (GLP-1). 

There are no general guidelines for how much or what type of probiotics you should consume.  This is partially because we all have different bacteria in our gut, so we respond differently to probiotics.  Probiotics come from food or supplements. I believe it’s important to get nutrients from food first before taking a supplement.  Probiotic-containing foods are fermented.

  Fermentation is when bacteria or yeast convert carbohydrate into acid or alcohol.  Unfortunately, not all fermented foods contain probiotics, so don’t get excited about sourdough bread, soy sauce, or alcohol.  When shopping for fermented foods, look for products that state “live and active cultures” on the label.

  Shop in the refrigerated section because heat kills these friendly bacteria.    

If you are ready to increase your intake of probiotics, try some of these foods:    

  • Yogurt is fermented milk and is the most commonly consumed probiotic food. Probiotic levels vary with different yogurts.  Food labels are not required to list the number of probiotics, but some do.  Read labels and do some research for the number of probiotics if you are looking to increase your overall intake.  Remember to look for yogurts that are lower in sugar. 
  • Kefir is a drinkable yogurt and usually contains more probiotics than yogurt. Try it as a drink or in smoothies.  Kefir is often sweetened so it’s also good to look for one that is lower in sugar. 
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi are fermented cabbage. Kimchi often includes other fermented vegetables.  Think about adding sauerkraut or kimchi to meat, eggs, sandwiches, or salads. 
  • Kombucha is fermented black or green tea originating from China. It has some added sugar and due to fermentation, it’s carbonated and contains a small amount of alcohol. 
  • Miso is a bean paste usually made from fermented soybeans. It’s salty and provides that umami or savory flavor.  Try miso in soups, salad dressings, marinades, and vegetables.  Try not to heat miso as it could kill the beneficial bacteria. 

If you are up for the challenge you can make some of these foods at home.  There are foods that have added probiotics such as cereal, bars, nuts, and chips.  But, probiotic-added foods aren’t equal to probiotic-containing foods with their benefits. 

If you are just starting out with probiotics, there can be some side effects including constipation or GI upset.  It’s true that some strains of probiotics that are associated with improving certain health conditions.

  Talk with your health care provider before taking a probiotic supplement due to GI issues or drug interactions.  A good place to start is to include a probiotic-containing food in your daily diet.

  To learn more about probiotics check out the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 

by Christine McKinney, RD LDN CDE



Can Gut Microbes Cause Heart Failure?

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Reading Time: 3 minutes

All diseases begin in the gut. – Hippocrates1

Despite all the research and drug development on heart failure, it still continues to be the leading cause of death worldwide.2 The need for new modes of treatment has induced researchers to explore the role of microorganisms inside the gut in the development of heart failure.

The microorganisms present in the gut are collectively called gut microbiota.1 Recent studies suggest that a change in gut bacteria influences heart disease and overall health to a great degree.2

Let’s understand gut microbiota first!

There are more than 2000 species of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, living within our body, a majority of which are found in the gut. You will be surprised to know that approximately 100 trillion bacteria live within the gut of a healthy human adult.

These gut bacteria are not present naturally since our birth; they are acquired from the environment. A new-born may acquire different microorganisms during delivery and subsequently from their diet and the environment they are exposed to.1

Gut microbiota has formed a symbiotic relationship with humankind which has evolved over thousands of years.3 The normal function of the gut microbiota is vital for our health as it plays many significant roles in the functioning of our body, such as:

  • Digesting nutrients that our body cannot digest naturally
  • Developing our immune system
  • Producing hormones and vitamins
  • Preventing the colonisation of bacteria that cause infection or release toxins2

How gut bacteria might aggravate heart failure?

Gut microbiota feeds on certain dietary nutrients present in high-fat dairy products, egg yolks and red meat. During this process, they release a substance called trimethylamine (TMA). The liver subsequently breaks down TMA into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which is responsible for the development of many heart-related diseases.4

A change in your gut microbiota composition, called dysbiosis, results in increased levels of TMAO and the generation of other toxins.5 TMAO causes a build-up of cholesterol on the inner walls of your blood vessels.

The presence of high levels of TMAO in your blood over a prolonged period doubles the chances of heart-related diseases and death. TMAO levels in the blood can be used as an indicator of the risk of heart ailments.


Various studies have also observed that the composition of gut microbiota is disturbed in individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

In CKD, increased TMAO and the leakage of gut bacterial DNA and gut-derived toxins (uremic toxins) into blood circulation can lead to malfunctioning of various organs, bacterial infection and shock.

5,6 Uremic toxins are shown to be responsible for accelerating the progression of heart failure.5

A study conducted on about 617 middle-aged women found that low diversity of the gut bacteria may be responsible for the hardening of arteries, which can result in a heart attack. Researchers speculate that gut bacteria may be responsible for cases of heart-related ailments seen in young men and women that cannot be explained by obesity or smoking.7

Thus, we can see that changes in gut dysbiosis can be a significant concern for heart failure.

How can I regulate my gut microbiota?

The techniques most often used to modulate gut dysbiosis are diet modification and the use of prebiotics and probiotics.5

  • Dietary modification: Dietary habits have an impact on the composition of the gut microbiota. A diet consisting of a substantial amount of carbohydrates from unrefined grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, olive oil, and fish and a low consumption of dairy products and red meat is recommended to regulate gut microbiota.5
  • Probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that are found to be beneficial in restoring the gut microbiota balance. Administration of a commonly used probiotic lactobacillus was found to be beneficial for the gut as it significantly reduces toxins in patients with CKD.5 Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of good bacteria. The bacteria utilize the prebiotics to make substances that can lower your blood pressure.8

A recent study found that a high-fibre diet shows reduced gut dysbiosis, decreased blood pressure and improvement in the function of the heart in individuals with hypertension-induced heart failure.2

Given all the ways that the disturbance of gut microbiota can lead to heart failure, we suggest you keep your gut healthy, primarily by making healthy food choices and making prebiotics and probiotics a permanent part of your diet. Keeping your gut microbiota healthy may eliminate at least one factor responsible for probable heart ailments.


  1. Harikrishnan S. Diet, the gut microbiome and heart failure. Card Fail Rev. 2019 May 24;5(2):119-122. doi: 10.15420/cfr.2018.39.2.


The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Gut Health Probiotics Eating for Your Gut High-Fiber Recipes

Did you know that you’re affected not only by what you eat but also by whatthe natural microorganisms in your guts metabolize after you eat? It’strue.

Researchers continue to increase their understanding of how overallhealth is affected by gut bacteria, and in fascinating ways.

Not only canthese bacteria affect metabolism, immune responses and even mood, now it’sbelieved they may also affect heart health.

“There can always be differences between the species, things we don’tanticipate, which is why it’s really important we investigate thoroughlywith human trials,” says Jennifer L. Pluznick, Ph.D.

, assistant professorof physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Forexample, gut bacteria may bring blood pressure down in one scenario butaffect metabolism and immune responses in unexpected ways.

“I’m hoping thatin the next couple of years, we’ll start seeing how these all these factorsand findings apply to humans,” Pluznick says.

At the forefront of animal research into gut bacteria is Jennifer L. Pluznick, Ph.D. , assistant professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Pluznick has been exploring the idea that bacteria living in the gut can produce chemicals as part of their normal metabolism, after they’re exposed to the food we eat.

When those chemicals are then absorbed into the blood stream, it’s thought that they activate receptors in the blood vessels to lower blood pressure. In studies on mice, these blood pressure changes are significant, especially when considering the potential impact over the span of a lifetime.

But while gut bacteria and blood pressure seem linked, researchers don’t yet fully understand their relationship. You might say it's complicated.

“We know that there’s a symbiotic type of relationship between gut bacteria and their hosts—that’s us. Certain chemicals that the gut bacteria produce can alter blood pressure.

We also know that when mice or rats or people have high blood pressure , the bacteria in their guts are different. Those things each reveal a piece of the puzzle.

But we don’t have enough pieces to put the entire puzzle together yet,” says Pluznick.

Can Probiotics and Prebiotics Lower Blood Pressure?

Eating food that contains probiotics—consumable live bacteria—has been linked to healthier blood pressure in previous studies.

“Yogurt is the clearest example of a probiotic,” says Pluznick. “People might not be as aware of prebiotics.”

Prebiotics are things that you eat that contain the precursors bacteria need to make the special chemicals that are then absorbed by our bodies, potentially lowering blood pressure.

“Fiber can be a prebiotic for a lot of bacteria, so when you eat fiber, the bacteria break it down to make those chemicals,” says Pluznick. You can find prebiotics in fiber-containing foods such as garlic, onions, asparagus, whole wheat pasta and sweet potatoes.

Future Hopes for Heart Health

Pluznick foresees a future in which heart-healthy measures may well involve considerations of gut health and also include optimal guidelines for both the administration of antibiotics, which can adversely affect gut bacteria, and the ingestion of probiotics. But we aren’t there yet.

“We’re some way from being able to tell you exactly which yogurt to eat to try to promote lower blood pressure, but I think that being able to provide that sort of information is the long-term hope—gather all of the puzzle pieces, and put them together,” Pluznick says.


Gut Health and Antibiotics

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Gut Health and Antibiotics

Most people do not think about gut health. In fact, the majority of people don't know what gut health is. Gut health, or gastrointestinal health, is just as important as any moving part of the body and affects more than we know.

With our fast paced, drive through society; sometimes we ignore messages from our body. “…Gastrointestinal health can be the root cause for many other health issues including brain and mental health.” [2] Nursing gut issues and restoring gut health can build a stronger immune system, fight infection faster, and help us live a healthier life.

What is a healthy gut?

A healthy gut has a balance of both healthy and unhealthy bacteria. The microorganisms contained in your gut are known as intestinal flora. This balance is very important in the digestion of foods and overall health.

What causes an unhealthy gut?

Unhealthy gut can be caused by improper diet, an abundance of yeast in the gut, parasites, a colonoscopy, diarrhea, some drug therapies, chronic stress, chronic infections and even colonics. [6][7]

What are symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

Unhealthy gut symptoms can be as obvious as abdominal pain, bloating after meals, acid reflux, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and leaky gut are bowel-disorders that can be characterized by an unhealthy gut.

Less known symptoms of an unhealthy gut can be depression, anxiety, irritability, internal inflammation, food sensitivities, type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders, excessive weight, eczema or psoriasis, heart failure, autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid (Hashimoto's) or joints (rheumatoid arthritis), autism spectrum disorder and more. [2][3][4][7]

Antibiotics use and gut health

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and are often over prescribed. Antibiotics can cause the bacteria in your gut (both good and bad), to be eliminated, leaving room for unhealthy bacteria to take over as time passes. This will lead to an unhealthy gut and can wreak havoc on a body.

According to the Center for Disease Control [1], Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications in nursing homes with up to 70% of long-term care facilities' residents receiving an antibiotic every year. Antibiotic-related complications, such as diarrhea can lead to more hospitalization and deaths among people over 65. [1]

Antibiotics are often so over prescribed that many bacteria are becoming resistant. From the CDC, “Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.” [10]

Restoring Gut Health

The natural remedy to a scary antibiotic cycle and unhealthy gut is to restore your intestinal flora balance by eating certain foods, taking a probiotic, and eliminating foods may be causing issues.

Eliminating Foods

  1. Carbohydrates from breads, cake, cereal, pasta, cookies, anything made with refined flour (white bleached flour, bleached flour, etc.), jams and preserves, soda, potato products (potato chips, mashed potatoes, french fries).
  2. Sugars including saccharine or aspartame. If you must use sugar, consider using honey or Stevia instead.
  3. Processed and genetically engineered foods.
  4. Foods containing oils such as soybean oil; sunflower oil; palm oil; canola; vegetable oil, etc. Instead use olive and coconut oils.
  5. Red meat. An occasional steak is not bad but regular consumption of red meat throws off your intestinal flora. Think no more than once or twice a week.

Adding in Fermented Foods, Fermentable Fibers, Soluble Fibers

  1. Starches sweet potato, yam, yucca
  2. Onions and leeks assist gut bacteria to flourish
  3. Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi
  4. Kefir which is found in the yogurt section
  5. Kombucha which is a fermented tea drink
  6. Flax and chia seeds
  7. Beans and legumes
  8. Apples
  9. Oats and oat bran


Probiotic supplements are everywhere but not all supplements improve intestinal flora and gut health. Dr. David Williams said [9]:

In my opinion, the best probiotic supplements will include at least these three most important strains:

  1. L. acidophilus—This is the most important strain of the Lactobacillus species and, it readily colonizes on the walls of the small intestine. It supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods.
  2. B. longum— L. acidophilus, B.

    longum is one of the most common bacteria found in the digestive tracts of adults, and it helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall. It is particularly active as a scavenger of toxins.

  3. B.

    bifidum—This strain, found in both the small and large intestine, is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products. This is especially important as you grow older and your natural ability to digest dairy declines. B.

    bifidum also is important for its ability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.

Secondarily, I :

  1. L. fermentum—This Lactobacillus strain helps neutralize some of the byproducts of digestion and promote a healthy level of gut bacteria.
  2. L. rhamnosus—Known as the premier “travel probiotic,” this strain can help prevent occasional traveler's diarrhea.

Consider these probiotics:

Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic Supplement Vegetable Capsules – 30 Ct $20

Hyper-Biotics Pro-15 Recommend Probiotic Supplement – 60 Ct $25

Lactic Acid Yeast Wafers

The above might not be enough depending on your current gut health. Dr David Williams explains:[8]

“Lactic acid yeast is a modified form of brewer's yeast that works in your intestines to produce significant amounts of lactic acid.

The additional acid stops the growth of harmful bacteria while allowing good gut bacteria to flourish. It works rather quickly, and when followed up with a probiotic supplement, the results can be amazing.

I suggest chewing one lactic acid yeast wafer with each meal. In most cases, the product will only be needed for five to seven days.”

Dr. David recommends these Lactic Acid Wafers 100ct $20

Fecal Transplant

Fecal Microbiota Transplant is where fecal matter from a healthy person with a healthy gut flora and is transplanted into someone who is in need of healthy gut flora. [11] Fecal transplantation is currently not routinely performed for indications other than recurrent C. difficile colitis. [12] This procedure is often done through a colonoscopy.


As someone who once had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I've cancelled many plans and suffered through stomach/bowel pain that were often intolerable.

Since I've learned to balance intestinal flora and care more for my gut health, my IBS has not been an issue.

It's clear gut health is important and so many things we do in our pursuit of daily life seem to counteract a healthy intestinal flora.















Probiotics and prebiotics: can regulating the activities of intestinal bacteria benefit health?

The Power of Gut Bacteria and Probiotics for Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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