We are being told that a bloated stomach has nothing to do with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or strokes. We have learnt to think that heartburn and bloated stomach are separate from heart disease.
This perceived separation is exactly the reason why we have one doctor for digestion and another one for the heart. The respected specialists stay within their field of expertise and seldom exchange pleasantries with each other. The current medical system sees no reason for it. Stomach and heart are not connected, at least not physically. The fact that they are connected through biochemical processes is mostly dismissed.
The stomach and the heart influence each other so profoundly that a bloated stomach, heartburn and indigestion may foretell cardiovascular disease. Yes, the digestive system can tell the future, if you can read its signs.
Diseases follow patterns
Some diseases are age dependent and some even go in a specific sequence. For example, osteoporosis is a disease of the old, but ear infections are mostly seen in kids.
A bloated stomach first, then…
There is also a stomach-heart pattern, which I discovered several years into my clinical practice. I noticed that indigestion typically starts first. In mid-30s a lot of people START complaining of indigestion, heartburn or a stomach bloating. Although these are considered minor nuisances, they should not be brushed off without a second thought.
Heartburn and bloated stomach are the first signs of diminished digestive capacities. Digestive difficulties turn into weight gain. Cravings, frequent hunger, and food sensitivities that accompany indigestion contribute to ever growing belly. This ill-health may continue for several years without an apparent negative effect on the body until one day.
…. blocked arteries later
Sometime in the mid-40s we discover high cholesterol. That’s when the doctor gives us the first heart disease warning. We do what we are told, but despite cholesterol lowering medication, things progress in the wrong direction. Then sometime in the mid-50s the blood pressure monitor starts flashing high numbers. A decade later some get a diagnosis of atherosclerosis and some end up with a stroke.
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Heart doctors know that high cholesterol precedes heart disease, but bloated stomach is a different matter. Since the gut belongs to a different medical department, its contribution to heart disease is not taken into account by cardiologists.
Because of this short-sightedness everyone is on a mission to lower cholesterol in hope to avoid heart disease and nobody thinks about fixing the gut, even though it is a far better solution. Everyone believes that lower cholesterol makes one live longer and prevents strokes. Sorry, none of that.
Does lower cholesterol prevent strokes?
Here is a surprise. Although cholesterol is a natural blood thickener, high cholesterol and strokes are not correlated. In fact, low cholesterol can be a very dangerous proposition for heart-compromised patients. Consider that:
- Lower cholesterol increases risk of getting a stroke
- Lower cholesterol prevents recovery from strokes, and
- Low cholesterol increases chances of death from stroke
I understand that the above statements may sound shocking and confusing, but they are not my opinions. These are conclusions made by recent scientific studies. You can more details on these in “The Cholesterol Trap!”, my recent book that is available on Kindle and Amazon. To prevent heart disease and its consequences one cannot just lower cholesterol and stay put. Popping pills without any lifestyle effort is a prescription for health disaster.
A primer on bloated stomach and heartburn
Let`s see what you know about heartburn. I bet you think that heartburn is due to excess stomach acid and that the best way to cure it is to take a course of antacids. This is a common, but false belief.
Heartburn stems from inflammation[i] and is correlated with decreased, NOT increased, stomach acid. Why is this worth mentioning? Because a gastroenterologist can give you a stroke, if he keeps on shutting down your acid production. Did you know that prescription meds for heartburn increase the risk for stroke by 21%?[ii]
Although neither heartburn nor bloated stomach gives strokes directly, they surely set the stage for cardiovascular disease in the future. Indigestion is nothing else, but an indicator of lowered digestive capacity. And that matters more for the heart than your cholesterol.
How to have a perfect blood flow
Life is flow. When flow stops so does life. Clots bring death, so for life to continue one needs to have perfect blood flow. Blood thinness or thickness is not a random affair, but a tightly controlled phenomenon, highly dependent on two factors: clumping and dispersing forces of the blood.
Dispersing forces are forces that keep red blood cells separate. Each red blood cell is like a mini-magnet that can repel other cells, or other mini-magnets. The ability to repel is closely tied in to an electron cloud surrounding a cell. Electrons repel each other, so the thicker the electron cloud, the stronger the dispersion forces and smaller the likelihood that red blood cells will clump.
Electron cloud against strokes
The electron cloud thickness is not random either. It can widen or thin out during different stages of life. When thick, perfect blood flow is maintained. When it gets too thin, a stroke is imminent.
You may be relieved to learn that you have the power to control your electron cloud. It mainly depends on your nutritional status your antioxidant reserves. Thus your digestion and food choices matter. Your blood flow-ability depends on whether you eat food with nutritive values or have a sick gut because you thoughtlessly chomp down chips and sodas.
You also have a substantial control over forces that are known to destroy the dispersing powers of the blood. Inflammation can shrink the electron cloud and bring red blood cells closer together. Chronic inflammation which is common in excess weight, diabetes, sleep apnea, and chronic infections all promote clotting and increase a risk for stroke. But you don’t have to wait for these to develop. Heartburn and bloated stomach are first signals that systemic inflammatory process has started.
More on bloated stomach
Stroke does not happen the day you get your first heartburn, but if ill-health continues for years inflammation may reach a full swing. When this happens, an increased blood thickness can be detected on lab reports. Two clotting markers fibrinogen, and hsCRP go up. They correlate with the presence of blood-sludge that can initiate a stroke.[iii]
Surprise! These markers also correlate with changes in the gut flora, which means that your bloated stomach can be a priceless informant. It can warn about an inflammatory threat that can, over time, reduce your blood flow.
But bloated stomach and heartburn do not only inform about upcoming inflammatory changes. They also signify that body pH buffers and anti-inflammatory enzymes are close to a dangerously low threshold.
Gastrointestinal system guards blood flow in two different ways. It takes part in regulation of body pH, which decides on the electron cloud thickness. It also produces digestive enzymes that regulate coagulation and have anti-inflammatory properties.[iv] Interestingly, studies demonstrated that digestive enzymes are more potent in reducing inflammation than aspirin.[v]
The moral of the story is simple: take care of your digestive system and you will have an easy time avoiding heart disease.
- Heart disease does not start with a diagnosis of high blood pressure, but decades earlier when the body signals chronic inflammation.
- Don’t ignore your heartburn and bloated stomach. Indigestion is usually the first sign of failing health.
- Take a good look at your environment, diet and lifestyle. If you have heartburn or bloated stomach something is off. Don’t fool yourself thinking that gasex or heartburn medication will cure your health. They won’t. They will only make you feel more comfortable while your body accelerates towards poorer health.
Gut-cardio advice to consider:
- Change your menu. Ditch junk and processed food. Go organic. Improved nutrition will thicken the electron cloud of the red blood cells.
- Focus on antioxidants. They are known to reduce cholesterol and heart disease.
- Add foods with blood thinning properties: onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon (cassia), or sweet grass. Skip this point if you are on blood thinners or are prone to hemorrhage
- Exchange your heartburn medication for something that actually builds health rather than ruining it.
- And most of all… stop relying on lowering cholesterol meds; they are not as good for the heart as you are made to believe. Read “The Cholesterol Trap!” before you fall prey to multi-billion dollar cholesterol machinery.