The gut microbiome is getting more attention these days as research continues to find ways that this part of the body affects human health. In fact, some medical researchers and doctors now consider the gut microbiome to be a separate and distinct organ that’s just as important as the heart, lungs or kidneys. New research finds meal timing lowers blood pressure by influencing the health of the gut microbiome, suggesting brief fasting periods may be beneficial.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Essentially, the gut microbiome is community of microbes that thrives in your large intestines and affects a diverse range of systems throughout the body. These microbes are helpful bacteria that we ingest through the foods we eat and the air we breathe.
Because the gut microbiome is influenced by diet, it’s important to limit intake of processed foods, while adding more natural foods to your daily diet. A healthier diet will reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut microbiome, while allowing a more diverse range of helpful bacteria to be delivered to this area of the large intestines and thrive.
The immune system uses the bacteria in the gut microbiome to help differentiate between helpful bacteria and harmful microbes that pose a threat to our health. The gut microbiome also helps the body form barriers against infection by helping to maintain healthy layers of skin. Internal barriers, such as the mucous membranes, are also reinforced by these beneficial microbes.
Finally, there’s the gut itself, which is aided by the gut microbiome in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract. The gut microbiome is also helpful in the process of extracting the nutrients we need from the foods we eat. Without a sufficient supply of beneficial bacteria in the gut, the digestive system would be unable to absorb beneficial nutrients and vitamins from healthy foods.
New Research Finds That Meal Timing Lowers Blood Pressure
Millions of people suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is the highest contributing factor for heart attacks and stroke. Recent research has found that hypertension and the health risks that it brings can be better regulated by fasting, due to its effects on gut microbiome health. In turn, an improved gut microbiome better regulates blood pressure.
In the new study, which was conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine, researchers further examined the results of previous research which proved that a more diverse gut microbiome had positive effects on blood pressure. Previously, it was also discovered that intermittent fasting benefited health in two ways. First, it helped to improve the health of the gut microbiome. Second, it helped improve cardiovascular health. Looking at these findings, the researchers at Baylor wanted to establish a link that tied meal timing together with both gut health and heart health.
In the study, the researchers found that transplanting an unhealthy gut microbiome into an animal with healthy blood pressure resulted in the animal developing hypertension. This aspect of the study seemed to prove that poor gut health wasn’t merely a consequence of high blood pressure, but that , conversely, gut health played an active role in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Next, in attempt to establish a connection between meal timing, blood pressure and gut health, the researchers separated laboratory rats with hypertension into two groups. The first group of rats were fed every other day while the second group had food available consistently and could eat as often as they chose.
After a nine week period, the researchers found that rats with hypertension who were fed every other day exhibited distinctly lower blood pressure than the rats in the group with consistent food availability. When the microbiomes of the rats in both groups were transplanted into rats without gut microbiomes, it was discovered that the blood pressure levels of the two groups were also transferred.
The researchers found that acidic bile transported from the gut helped influence the blood pressure of the individual rat. A poor gut microbiome created more acidic bile, which raised blood pressure, while the bile produced by a healthier gut microbiome helped to keep blood pressure better regulated.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Help Regulate the Circadian Rhythm?
In the most general terms, intermittent fasting involves fasting for a specific part of the day, and eating what you like during the rest of the day. These periods vary depending on which source you use, but the most common type of intermittent fasting is to fast for a period of 16 hours. This leaves you eight hours during which you can eat normally.
The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, regulates metabolism (among other things) and is closely linked to meal times. As you put more time between meals, it signals the circadian rhythm to increase your metabolism. This can help you to maintain a healthy weight, in addition to having other positive influences throughout the body.
Fasting at night is best because the body will use this time to help rejuvenate cellular activity. When you skip a nighttime snack and go to sleep at your normal bedtime, this increases the fasting period. This gives the body more time to regulate metabolism, blood pressure and other factors that influence health throughout the body.
Even as research continues into the relationships between the gut microbiome, cardiovascular health and the circadian rhythm, anyone can use intermittent fasting to help them reset their gut health. As you improve the functioning of the gut through better meal timing, you’ll find it easier to lose weight and meet your fitness goals. Simply pushing your breakfast back a few hours and skipping your evening snack can have profoundly positive effects on your health.