Understanding the Heart and Digestion Connection

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They say the way to someone's heart is through their stomach. And as it turns out, they might be right.  That is to say, the gut microbiome produces substances that influence the functioning of multiple organ systems, including the cardiovascular system, which comprises the heart and blood vessels. Read on below to learn more about the heart and digestion connection.

What is the Relationship Between the Gut and the Heart?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide. Well recognized risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Emerging evidence suggests that gastrointestinal conditions are also implicated in heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure.

Protein Diet, Trimethylamine N-Oxide, and Coronary Artery Disease

Research shows that protein-rich diets (containing eggs, fish, red meat, poultry, etc.) can cause specific bacteria to excessively produce toxic substances, which leak from the intestine and enter the bloodstream, triggering systemic inflammation. 

Some metabolites such as trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO) enhance plaque formation, which results in the narrowing of blood vessels and restriction of blood flow. This phenomenon, known as atherosclerosis, puts a person at an increased risk of developing heart disease. 

How Can Leaky Gut Cause Heart Palpitations?

Gastrointestinal disorders raise your risk of heart disease. Conversely, heart conditions can affect your digestive system.

The intestinal microbiome is one of the modulators of inflammation within the body. A weak intestinal lining leads to a leaky gut, allowing food and gut microbes to escape. Damage to the intestinal barrier triggers chronic systemic inflammation by allowing bacterial products such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) toxins to enter the bloodstream. Persistent inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease.

When cardiac function is compromised, and blood flow is reduced to the intestine, gut permeability increases. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also predisposes individuals to a leaky gut and puts them at a higher risk of heart disease.

Gut bacteria and bacterial DNA content have been detected in atherosclerotic plaques of people with heart disease. It has been theorized that this translocation may be due to an impaired gut lining, which allows gut flora to escape and settle in the blood vessels.

Leaky gut can also be a precursor to gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Not everyone with IBS has a leaky gut syndrome. But, if someone is presenting with the typical IBS gastrointestinal symptoms (such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc.) along with other symptoms like allergies, joint pain, brain fog, and autoimmune disease, a leaky gut being present is highly.

In IBS, nutrient absorption is disrupted, which results in magnesium and vitamin B deficiency, ultimately affecting the heart rhythm.

The Link Between SIBO and Heart Disease

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is characterized by an abnormal rise in the total population of gut bacteria.

The causes of SIBO include surgery or any disease, which slows the movement of food/waste through the digestive tract, enabling excessive bacterial proliferation. IBD (particularly Crohn's) and IBS can predispose a person to this medical condition.

A large 2018 study concluded that individuals with SIBO have an 80% higher risk of developing heart disease. It is believed that SIBO induces a pro-inflammatory state through bacterial toxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS is a substance found in the membranes of gram-negative bacteria, which triggers inflammation in the body once it leaves the gut.

In addition, SIBO is common among patients with heart failure and leads to adverse outcomes (such as rehospitalization and death) in the population. In SIBO, excessive production of the metabolite TMAO results in inflammation in the coronary arteries. Blood TMAO levels can be measured to assess a person's risk for cardiovascular disease.

How Does Heart Disease Affect the Digestive System?

As mentioned earlier, the relationship between gut health and heart health is bidirectional.

Sharp and sporadic stomach pains can signify poor heart health. The pain is typically localized in the upper left part of the stomach and may be accompanied by pain in the esophageal sphincter. These pangs can be attributed to the abnormal electrical activity rising from the heart. It's hypothesized that this relationship is due to the proximity of the heart to the stomach and esophagus, causing one to affect the other.

Other symptoms linked to an underlying heart condition include sweating, fatigue, and nausea, which are also the classic three symptoms of myocardial infarction. Should these symptoms manifest all at once, you should immediately seek medical care.


In addition to stomach pain, nausea may indicate worsening heart health. Diminished blood supply (such as in the event of a heart attack) causes the stomach to malfunction and produce excessive hydrochloric acid (which is normally required for digesting food). Overproduction leads to erosion of the stomach lining and triggers nausea. If left unattended, this can progress to ulcer formation.

Acute Intestinal Ischemia

Acute intestinal ischemia is a condition that occurs due to a sudden reduction in blood flow to the gut. It can involve the small intestine, colon, or both.

Diminished blood flow can be due to a dislodged blood clot in the intestinal arteries, which most likely originated in the heart due to atrial fibrillation. Delayed management and severe ischemia can result in the death of intestinal tissues, which is a medical emergency.

Severe abdominal pain may arise when intestines are not receiving adequate blood and oxygen due to vascular occlusion or hypoperfusion.

Intestinal Angina 

Intestinal angina refers to pain in the gut resulting from a compromised oxygenated blood supply to the digestive system. This includes fat build-up (atherosclerosis) in intestinal arteries. If not addressed promptly, abdominal angina can lead to necrosis of vital abdominal organs or infection of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis).

Sharp abdominal pain and discomfort associated with eating may reduce people's desire to eat and contribute to significant weight loss. When people eat less, they lack sufficient calories needed to improve their overall health.

Intestinal angina manifests as nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and vomiting after meals. Abdominal cramps can be felt within 30 minutes of eating and last 1-3 hours. This pain is located near the stomach pit and may radiate towards the back.


Your gut health is very closely tied to your heart health, with both systems communicating with one another bidirectionally. That's why it is imperative to closely monitor your gastrointestinal symptoms and address the underlying problems, which may be associated with your heart.

New and exciting ways to track this information are also on the way. Designed with high-quality biometric sensors, the Çava Seat can track your gut health, heart health, fitness progress, and more, without changing your daily routine. Daily bathroom visits provide some of the best information needed to identify gut imbalances and food sensitivities.

By tracking your vitals, body composition, and waste quality the Çava Seat is able to learn over time and make recommendations to help you live a healthier life.


How does a heart attack affect the digestive system?

During a heart attack, the heart cannot effectively pump oxygenated blood to the body's organs. Reduced blood circulation can lead to chemical changes, such as the stomach becoming more acidic. This pH drop within the stomach affects the overall functioning of the digestive system, leading to gastrointestinal problems.

Can stomach pains be related to heart problems?

Yes. 20-25% of blood supply is diverted towards the gut, which increases during digestion. Cardiac problems hamper the heart's ability to send the desired quantity of oxygenated blood to the stomach, causing symptoms like sharp stomach pain after meals.

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