Yes, they can. There is growing evidence that common gut bacteria are associated with the development of major blockages of the coronary arteries.
These bacteria are generally considered good bacteria because they live in our gut, where they have a beneficial effect on our health. However, doctors and clinical researchers are now finding these bacteria, or fragments of these bacteria called endotoxins, are entering through damaged regions in the lining of our intestinal wall and entering our bloodstream, where they are wreaking havoc on our heart health.
We will explore how you can prevent this from happening.
Even good bacteria can become dangerous when they enter the restricted zone, and it's not their fault; it's ours.
Over the past few years, doctors and clinical researchers have found poor gut health is responsible for allowing undesirable compounds, including bacteria or bacterial fragments, for moving across the gut wall directly into the bloodstream in a condition that is called "Leaky Gut Syndrome"; and more and more of us seem to be suffering from it.
A leaky gut increases intestine permeability for compounds that should not be absorbed by the body, which means the gut wall is breaking down and leaking contents of the intestine into the bloodstream, allowing undesirable compounds unhindered access to our body.
LPS (or Lipo-polysaccharide) is an undesirable compound known as an endotoxin that will enter the bloodstream from a leaky gut. Fortunately for us, however, even if an undesirable compound makes it into the bloodstream, the liver will do an excellent job of finding it, destroying it, and then eliminating it from the body, except that LPS has a trick. With the help of another more famous compound found in our body, undesirable LPS can hitch a ride and hide from the liver.
As the name suggests, LPS or Lipo-polysaccharide is a polysaccharide (i.e., starch-like compound) with a lipid molecule attached, which is an essential building block of a bacterial wall. LPS is, therefore, a bacterial fragment that should not be floating around the bloodstream in a healthy person. As a molecule, LPS is closely related to LP or lipoprotein, which is common within the human body and is a protein that also has a lipid molecule attached to it. One of the most well-known lipoproteins in the body is LDL (specifically the APO-B form of LDL; the transporter of cholesterol and triglycerides to the fat and muscle cells around the body.
The LPS endotoxin binds to the LDL lipoprotein in a lipid-lipid interaction. It is transported back to the liver, hiding in plain sight as part of the LDL cholesterol transporter complex.
This LPS endotoxin-infused LDL can then be re-tasked by the liver to shuttle cholesterol around the tissues; however, if pre-existing conditions like hypertension, elevated LDL-cholesterol levels, or chronic inflammation, the LDL molecule containing LPS endotoxin can become diverted toward the artery wall lining. Typically this is a defense mechanism where the body uses LDL as a "natural cellular bandage" against damage to the lining of the artery wall. However, the presence of LPS in the LDL triggers a major inflammatory response. Our body's white blood cells (macrophages recognize LPS as endotoxin and send in foam cells to engulf the invader, thereby setting up the start of atherosclerosis and the development of coronary artery plaques.
It's not just the arteries around the heart that are at risk from LPS-contaminated LDL; the LPS can break down tight junctions in the brain. Maintaining a strong Blood-Brain barrier (BBB) is so important that clinical researchers believe that nearly 50% of all types of dementia begin with the breakdown of the smallest blood vessels in the brain.
Doctors and researchers all agree that the presence of LPS in the bloodstream is highly atherogenic (meaning the development of fatty build-ups and obstruction of blood flow within an artery) and a major independent risk factor for heart disease.
So how do we reduce the impact and effect of LPS on the body?
You need to start with healing the gut and maintaining the integrity of the intestinal wall lining. Clinical trials have shown the combination of prebiotics and probiotics lower LPS and many of the markers of inflammation that are typically associated with LPS.
Polyphenolic compounds, such as grape seed extract, were shown in one study to significantly lower LPS in one study of 29 adults, along with all the associated inflammatory biomarkers.
Another approach is to help heal and regenerate the lining of the gut wall with hydrolyzed collagen. Hydrolyzed collagen is not only clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles in aging skin, but the body will preferentially use peptides found in collagen and other protein from our diet to repair the structural damage of our intestinal lining. This is another reason why it is essential to maintain an adequate protein intake as we age and consume 6-10g of hydrolyzed collagen per day.
The first priority is to repair the lining of the gut wall and prevent intrusion by partly digested food, endotoxins, and bacteria in the first place. A diet rich in nutrient-dense, high-quality wholefoods is a great place to start.