The heart and the gut

Eur Heart J. 2014 Feb;35(7):426-30. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/eht271. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


The heart and the gut seem to be two organs that do not have much in common. However, there is an obvious and clinically relevant impact of gut functions on the absorption of drugs and oral therapies on the one hand. On the other hand, the gut determines the quantity of nutrient uptake and plays a central role in metabolic diseases. Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases appear to have a higher risk for coronary heart disease despite a lower prevalence of 'classical' risk factors, indicating additional links between the gut and the heart. However, they certainly have a 'leaky' intestinal barrier associated with increased permeability for bacterial wall products. An impaired intestinal barrier function will be followed by bacterial translocation and presence of bacterial products in the circulation, which can contribute to atherosclerosis and chronic heart failure (CHF) as recent data indicate. Impaired cardiac function in CHF vice versa impacts intestinal microcirculation leading to a barrier defect of the intestinal mucosa and increased bacterial translocation. These pathways and the most recent insights into the impact of the gut on acute and chronic heart disease will be discussed in this review.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Bacterial translocation; Chronic heart failure; Intestinal barrier; Intestinal microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Digestive System / microbiology
  • Digestive System / physiopathology
  • Digestive System Diseases / complications*
  • Digestive System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans