12 things in your home that Lead to Heart Disease
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Can a Healthy Gut Prevent Heart Disease?

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Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? Perhaps you’ve received some upsetting news that was “gut-wrenching.” Sometimes referred to as the “second brain,” the gut constantly communicates with the rest of your body, especially your brain. If the gut and the brain are so connected, it begs the question: what influence does the gut have on the heart? More than you might think.

What is the gut?

Nearly 2,500 years ago, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said, “All disease begins in the gut.” While that theory still elicits debate, research shows that many chronic illnesses do indeed originate in the gut. 

“When I met my wife, Dr. Heather, one of the first comments she made to me about health is that it’s all about the gut and introduced the concept of “leaky gut.” After 10 years of medical training, this mention was the first time anyone ever expressed the importance of gut health.” -Dr. Jack Wolfson

But what is the gut, exactly?

The gut, or gastrointestinal tract, is the tube that processes food through the body. Most people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually starts in the mouth. While teeth do the mechanical work, enzymes released by saliva help with the chemical process of breaking down food. 

Food passes down the esophagus to the stomach, where the acid in the abdomen helps the digestive process further. While some nutrients are absorbed through the stomach lining, most work happens in the small intestine. 

Once nutrients have been extracted in the small intestine, the remaining food moves to the large intestine. It is here that any remaining water, electrolytes, and nutrients are absorbed before exiting the body. 

What is a gut microbiome?

The word bacteria often conjures up negative thoughts. However, bacteria are essential to life. Trillions of bacteria, both “good” and “bad,” live in our guts, sharing space with viruses, parasites, fungi, and other organisms. Collectively, they make up our microbiome. 

The microbiome begins developing before birth and is influenced by many factors, including the birthing process, breastmilk vs. formula, environmental exposures, and dietary choices. Seemingly small decisions, such as taking a course of antibiotics, can drastically alter the delicate balance of the gut microbiota. 

Why is the gut microbiome important to health? 

Scientists are just beginning to understand the complexity of the gut microbiome. However, they know that the higher the diversity of microbiota in the gut, the higher the likelihood of health. After all, a gut filled with healthy bacteria does not leave much room for invaders or pathogens.

If the microbes in our gut fall out of balance, disease may arise. Dysbiosis occurs when the delicate balance of microbes in our gut becomes disturbed. An imbalance in the microbiota contributes to many diseases, both in the gut and beyond. 

Though the gut isn’t yet fully understood, scientists agree that the bacteria in the gut communicate with one another and other systems in the body. When the gut is healthy, the rest of the body receives the signal that all is well. 

However, when dysbiosis occurs, substances produced in our gut leak out of the intestinal cells and impact other organs and systems. Many diseases are now thought to be influenced by our gut microbiome. 

Gut microbiome and the heart 

The heart is not isolated from the rest of the body; therefore, an imbalance in the gut microbiota can significantly impact the heart. 

When the gut microbiome is out of whack, the intestinal walls become weak or permeable. As a result of the damaged epithelium, toxins that normally exit the body as waste can penetrate the cellular walls and enter the bloodstream. This release of toxins into the blood sparks inflammation as the body tries to compensate. As we know, inflammation leads to an increase in a whole host of cardiac issues. 

Aging plays a significant role in the gut biome. A 2019 study conducted at the University of Colorado found that as gut bacteria age, they produce harmful substances that hurt heart health. For the study, scientists gave young and old mice antibiotics to kill off a large amount of their gut microbiota. 

After a few weeks, the scientists found that the older mice had three times the amount of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite that increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks, than the younger mice. The study suggests that gut bacteria could significantly impact the hardening of the arteries, thus increasing the chance of heart disease. 

Other studies have found that the gut microbiome plays an essential role in promoting higher levels of HDL cholesterol that help ward off cardiovascular problems. 

Six ways to improve the gut microbiome naturally

Eat a diverse (and organic) diet

A healthy microbiome is dependent on variety. However, just 12 plant species and five animal types make up 75% of the food that we eat today

To improve your gut health:

  • Begin adding more variety to your diet through new vegetables, seeds, nuts, meat, and fish.
  • Consider using fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives to top your meats and fish.
  • Add nuts or seeds to salads.
  • Try using chard, arugula, kale, or dandelion greens as a salad base.

Small changes go a long way in adding variety to your microbiome. 

Consider eating fermented foods, which are loaded with beneficial bacteria. For example, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi all deliver a healthy dose of probiotics. 

It’s essential to eat only organic food whenever possible. Conventionally raised meat and farmed fish is often treated with antibiotics. When consumed, those antibiotics make their way right to your gut, impacting your microbiome. 

Eliminate foods that harm your gut

A diet that is high in processed foods can eliminate beneficial bacteria in the gut. For example, a sugar-heavy diet can deter the production of proteins that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Sugar can also change the gut microbiome and decrease the strength of the intestinal wall, making the body more susceptible to inflammation and disease.  

Foods with artificial sugars are just as dangerous. Studies have linked sugar-free sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose to poor gut health. A 2014 study concluded that artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria, resulting in insulin resistance. 

Keep stress to a minimum 

Have you ever experienced a stomach ache as a result of worrying or being upset? It’s not just the food that impacts your gut health. Stress plays a significant role in maintaining homeostasis in your digestive tract.

Numerous studies have established a link between increased stress and altered gut bacteria. One such study examined the effects of stress on the microbiome of 23 college students. High stress associated with final exams decreased Lactobacilli, a “good” gut bacteria. 

Avoid antibiotics and drugs (when safe to do so) 

There’s no doubt that antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not particularly selective when deciding which bacteria to target. In addition to ridding the body of the pathogen, antibiotics also kill the beneficial bacteria needed to regain health. 

This is why some people develop additional health issues, such as a yeast infection, after taking antibiotics. Studies show that it can take weeks to years for gut flora to return to normal after a course of antibiotics. 

It’s not just antibiotics that affect gut flora. One Dutch study demonstrated that nearly 20 commonly used medications impacted the microbiome. Drugs for acid reflux, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and pain all impact the bacteria that live in our guts. The good news is that by improving gut health, the need for these various medications decreases significantly. 

Focus on quality sleep 

We all know that getting a good night’s rest lowers stress, but did you know that it is also essential for maintaining good gut health? 

A 2019 study found that individuals who experienced quality sleep had a more diverse gut microbiome. Interestingly, the inverse is also true. Recent studies demonstrate that a diverse microbiome helps support better sleep! 

Increase fiber intake 

Numerous studies have pointed to the importance of fiber concerning heart health—individuals who consume high levels of fiber experience a lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

Microbes in the gut, especially the beneficial ones, feed on fiber. Without enough fiber from the diet, those microbes begin to feast on the mucous that lines the intestinal wall. Therefore, eating enough fiber is a crucial way to keep your gut healthy. For example, a recent study found that patients with heart failure who consumed a fiber-rich diet experienced a healthier microbiome and better health overall. 

Consuming a balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds will ensure that you have enough fiber to keep your gut flora happy and full. 

Next steps

The current healthcare model places organ systems into silos. Cardiologists treat heart concerns, pulmonologists treat lung problems, gastroenterologists treat digestive issues, and the list goes on. However, all of our body systems are intricately connected. Consider a powerful probiotic such as Heart Helpers to help give your gut that extra support.

The Natural Heart Doctor team takes a holistic approach to health, evaluating from the whole-person perspective. More times than not, cardiac issues stem from other concerns in the body, such as the gut. Address the root cause of disease and you have a much better chance of regaining health and living the long, vibrant life you are meant to live. 

Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well 


Medical Review 2022: Dr. Jack Wolfson D.O, FACC

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About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

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Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.