By: Jacqueline Gilpin
Our bodies work as one unit; each organ system supports the function of another to keep the body working. If one organ system is compromised, other areas of the body may also suffer. While the concept of physiological connectivity may seem slightly daunting, it also means that supporting one organ system (such as gut health or heart health) with a healthy diet and lifestyle will benefit other areas of the body as well! We spoke to Molly Pelletier, Registered Dietitian at Newbury Street Nutrition, about the connection between gut and heart health and ways to support the body as a whole.
Gilpin: How does gut health influence heart health?
Pelletier: Our gut health influences our whole body health. Our heart health, immune system, hormone balance, and skin health depend on a healthy gut. There is a great degree of overlap between nutrition for gut health and nutrition for heart health. Therefore, if we are not taking care of our gut with proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management, this can also take a toll on our heart health.
Gilpin: What cardiovascular symptoms are attributed to gut health?
Pelletier: Oftentimes, chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations associated with acid reflux can be confused with symptoms of myocardial infarction. Many of my GI clients have gone to the ER out of fear of heart attack symptoms, and it turned out to be an acid reflux diagnosis. It’s important to seek help from a medical provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms to determine the root cause.
Gilpin: What foods can nourish the GI system as well as the cardiovascular system?
Pelletier: As I mentioned, there are many similarities when it comes to eating for gut health and heart health. Choosing foods rich in fiber will benefit both your cardiovascular and digestive system. Foods that contain fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Fiber nourishes our gut microbiome in the large intestine, but also helps to boost heart health by removing excess cholesterol. Polyphenol-rich foods such as green tea, berries, extra virgin olive oil, and dark chocolate may also have benefits for both our gut and heart.
For gut and heart health, consuming alcohol, added sugars, and saturated fats (such as butter, fried foods) in moderation is key. When it comes to fats, look for liquid oils like avocado or olive, nuts, seeds, and avocado to support optional health and wellness.