I was recently on a conference panel with Dr. Terry Mason, an urologist-turned-politician and COO of the Cook County Department of Public Health. During the talk, he declared that there was no such thing as heart disease.

Rather, he said, the heart was an innocent bystander suffering from whatever kind of blood we decide to bathe it in — clean or dirty. That is, chemicals and toxins that we ingest can injure the heart's blood supply, leading to plaque, narrowing arteries, heart attacks, and death.

I find it liberating to know that I can control the nature of the blood bathing my heart.
 

Of course, some heart diseases, such as in babies born with congenital defects, are clearly not the type of problem Dr. Mason was referring to. But in terms of hardening of the arteries, or coronary artery disease (CAD) — the number one killer in Western countries — he was right. We have the power to supply our heart with “clean blood" just as we can choose to power it with “dirty blood" that leads to disease and death.

How do we do it? Here are five ways we can keep our blood clean and help avoid CAD. Note that they all originate from the GI tract, proving again the ancient wisdom of Hippocrates: “All disease begins in the gut."

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1. Skip processed foods that leak endotoxins into your blood.

A healthy GI tract should serve as a barrier between the contents of your gut — more commonly referred to as "poop" — and your bloodstream. But processed foods can cause the cells lining the GI tract to separate, and allow toxic bowel contents to leak directly into the bloodstream and heart arteries.

In a classic study, volunteers eating an Egg McMuffin showed signs of artery damage within an hour. Further research showed that a bacterial toxin called endotoxin was circulating in the bloodstream following this meal, causing inflammation and injury in the heart and lungs.

Bottom line: Keep your blood clean by avoiding processed foods, including processed meats rich in endotoxins from dead bacteria.

2. Avoid grilled foods.

Grilling or barbecuing foods provokes a chemical reaction, especially in meats, that creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These harmful chemicals then enter our bloodstream and provoke inflammation and aging reactions. They are linked to many diseases.

To clean up your blood, skip charred and grilled foods, especially animal products that are naturally high in AGEs.

3. Choose a plant-based diet to lower your TMAO blood levels.

One of the hottest areas of human food science is the recent discovery that eating meat leads to the production of a newly described chemical, TMAO, in our GI tract. This chemical then reaches our heart arteries and stimulates CAD.

In contrast, people who eat a plant-based diet tend to have “clean blood,” free of TMAO. It's wise to make some, if not all, of your meals meatless in order to lower the TMAO levels in your blood.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables to fight cancer.

In an amazing study of prostate cancer patients, Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated that eating a plant-based diet for three months produced a change in the blood of patients that rendered it capable of killing prostate cancer cells. Their blood literally became chemotherapy — without the side effects.

The patients who remained on their usual diet did not enjoy this remarkable transformation.

5. Eat more fruits and vegetables to heal your arteries.

In patients with heart disease, eating a plant-based diet for three months was found to alter the activity of genes involved with artery inflammation and damage. In the study, the patients who followed a plant-based diet demonstrated the turning off of genes favoring inflammation and artery damage, and the turning on of genes favoring healing and health.

The concept that heart arteries and the heart itself are innocent bystanders of the blood we bathe them in is important. And I find it liberating to know that I can control the nature of that blood.

The health of our GI tract dictates, to a large degree, the status of our heart arteries. By eating a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, I'm able to create clean blood supply throughout the body.

A pattern of clean nutrition predominant in plant-based items, along with stress management, clean air, clean water, and sound sleep, is a plan that can transform your health.

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