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Heart Health and Lupus: The Surprising Connection to Gut Health and Emotional Trauma

As a holistic nutritionist and lupus warrior myself, I understand the intimate connection between our heart health, the gut and lupus. 

For February, it’s Heart Health Awareness Month, so I thought this blog was timely and appropriate. 

a black woman holding gut with heart sign
our heart and our gut are connected

You know it's story time ...

In March 2023, I already had my 10th emergency room hospital visit of the year and I was experiencing severe chest pain, abnormal high heart rate (up to 140 BPM at resting), low blood pressure, on top of other debilitating lupus symptoms, in the midst of a life-threatening lupus flare. 

I was told that I could be having a heart attack after two EKGs came back abnormal. I laid on a hospital bed and was surrounded by bright fluorescent lights and four cardiologists who said to me that I was about to undergo a heart surgery to get a stint put in. One doctor demanded another EKG before proceeding since my blood work came back “clean”. The third EKG showed no signs of heart failure. Thank God for a third opinion.

I was kept in the hospital for monitoring for four days and had undergone all the heart tests you can think of, like a CT scan, echocardiogram, several EKGs daily on top of a heart stress test, to only come back with results of  having“trace pericardial effusion”, yet normal heart labs. The trace pericardial effusion indicated a little fluid surrounding my heart, which is an indication of heart inflammation.

black woman with lupus in hospital
Genny Mack in hospital for lupus flare and heart complications

This was my first eye opening experience with my tender heart with lupus, but not my family’s first. 

My mother had to undergo a quintuple-bypass surgery in her mid-50s. She has lupus. She is now 66 and is on heart medication for the rest of her life to prevent future heart failure. 

The National Institute of Health states “African American women have the highest cardiovascular disease burden compared with women of other ethnic groups. Cardiovascular disease affects 47.3% of African American women, and African American women have the highest rates of hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and coronary artery disease observed among women in the United States.” This alarming statistic became a reality for me and my family.

Since lupus can attack the major organs, including the heart, individuals with lupus have a higher risk of heart diseases. 

In my particular situation, the doctor’s recommendations to calm heart inflammation was to calm lupus with immunosuppressive drugs. But is this enough?

Is it really lupus alone causing inflammation of the heart? 

black woman doctor speaks on heart health
Black women are 2-3x more likely to develop heart diseases than counterparts

I began to question this phenomenon. Of course our diet and lifestyle has an impact on our heart health. But what else?

What else causes heart inflammation in individuals with lupus?

My theory is that pathogens, like viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections, can trigger lupus antibodies to go haywire.

But let’s face it, there are many factors which can trigger the onset of a lupus flare. According to the National Institute of Health, “the relationship between viruses and SLE is complex and multifaceted.”

If you compound gut dysbiosis and emotional trauma, these could this lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the heart, increasing the risk of heart issues like pericarditis, high blood pressure, and heart failure.

I know, it's complicated.

The reality is, we store our emotions in our gut, AND we wear our heart on our sleeve. So the likelihood of a leaky gut and depression causing our hearts to suffer is highly conceivable. 

So how can one tend to our hearts?

genny mack shopping for greens at farmer's market
Genny shopping for heart healthy leafy greens at the farmer's market

As you can imagine, since we are all complex beings, there is no one solution. 

On top of that, policy makers must be made accountable, too. According to NIH, “To successfully combat the cardiovascular disease epidemic in African American women, health promotion programs must simultaneously address multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors that are frequently coexisting in this population.”

But let’s tackle what we can control, gut health and emotional trauma, which are diet and lifestyle factors, to reduce the risk of heart problems. That’s a start.

Here are 10 recommendations for you:

  • Firstly, know your numbers. There are several blood tests and examinations to check with your doctor(s) on the health of the heart. These heart tests include echocardiogram, cholesterol levels, C-reactive protein and Troponin T, for example.  

  • Self-monitor your heart. My husband bought me an Apple Watch for Christmas of that prior year, which has been a life saving gift. He didn’t know it at that time. I am able to monitor my heart rate and electrical activity daily, along with performing an Electrocardiogram (ECG) on the Apple Watch. Monitor your blood pressure (if you don’t have one at home, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for one). At the time of writing this article, my heart rate was at 71 BPM. We have come a long way from 140 at resting. 

  • Increase the amount of whole foods in your diet, including fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds. Also, include fermented foods and omega-3 fatty acids to support gut health and reduce inflammation. Here is my favorite heart healthy, Peanut Butter and Banana Creamy Oatmeal, breakfast at the moment.

  • Practice stress-reducing techniques like meditation, movement, deep breathing, and journaling to manage stress.

  • Make an appointment with your Cardiologist.

  • Learn your triggers, both food and stress related. Seek support from loved ones and health professionals on how to address and not suppress emotions.

  • Connect and laugh with others. Raise your vibrations. It's good for the heart and soul.

  • Get some fresh air. 

  • Practice letting go of limiting beliefs. What do you tell yourself that you know is not true?

  • Practice a wind down routine to get enough restorative sleep. Eat no later than three hours before bedtime, shut down electronics, take an epsom salt bath and meditate to prepare for a restful sleep.

The connection between heart health, gut health, and emotional trauma is undeniable. By making diet and lifestyle changes, addressing gut health, and managing emotional trauma, we can reduce the risk of heart problems and promote overall well-being. 

Remember, healing is possible, and it starts with small steps towards a more balanced and nourishing life.

What diet and lifestyle changes will you make to protect your heart, especially with lupus?

Don't know where to start? I am a free 15m minute call away from helping you reclaim vitality today.

With Heartfelt Blessings,

Genny Mack


Love this! I have lupus. Breathwork and physical exercise (daily walks) keep me feeling my best

Replying to

Yasss I love this. Thank you so much for sharing, Harmonie! 💜

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