Recently a reader asked whether a product I had reviewed would be good for lowering blood pressure. I am not a doctor and make no claims that the supplements I review can diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. So with that disclaimer noted, let me give you some information I did learn when researching blood pressure issues.
Genetics and Family History
High blood pressure can run in a family. Behaviors, lifestyles and environments can also influence your health and your risk for disease. The risk for high blood pressure can also increase based on your age and your race or ethnicity. Genetics likely play some role in whether you have high blood pressure, but this risk can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. If your high blood pressure was passed along to you through genes, you can limit the risk by controlling your lifestyle and your diet.
Back to Microbiomes…….
In a post on October 11, 2017, I discussed the body’s microbiome. We have about 100 trillion organisms which comprise our microbiome and these are all essential to our existence. Can you guess where most of these microbes live? Not surprisingly, they live in our gut. Recent medical research has shown that the bacteria living in your gut have an unexpected influence over the rest of your body. Things like your immune system or whether or not you are obese. Now possibly one other body system in which microbes play a part could be your blood pressure. Jennifer L. Pluznick, assistant professor of physiology, and her team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have recently found that there might be a connection between the bacteria in your gut and how your hard-working kidney manages your blood pressure. This research is in its early stages still but the hope is her insight could someday help people manage high blood pressure that has no known cause.
High Blood Pressure Can Be Deadly — And It’s Fairly Common
When your blood pressure goes out of whack, your chances for heart attack and stroke increase. The most common form of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension, which exhibits no problems in blood pressure-related organs, making it difficult to determine its root cause and prescribe a treatment. That’s why Pluznick’s research is particularly interesting: her work shows that a link between the gut and the kidneys may indicate a new cause of high blood pressure — and possibly, ways to counteract it.
The kidneys are key to regulating blood pressure
The primary function of the kidneys is to filter the waste out of your blood and sending it out with your urine. But the kidneys also stabilize your blood pressure, constantly tweaking it as you eat, drink and metabolize food. They do this by monitoring the volume of liquid in your body. Think of your veins and arteries as garden hoses; the kidneys work to keep the perfect amount of water in those hoses so they are neither deflated nor overinflated. The kidneys also keep tabs on the amount of salt in your body, because extra salt increases the fluid in your body, which raises your blood pressure. The kidneys can even deploy a special molecule to tell blood vessels to tighten up when necessary to increase the blood pressure throughout your body.
So What Does This Have To Do With The Gut?
Gut bacteria help metabolize food. As they do this, the bacteria make molecules known as short chain fatty acids, which travel around in your bloodstream to provide energy to most major organs, including the kidneys. Pluznick and her team found short chain fatty acid receptors in cells both inside and outside the kidney that are important in blood pressure regulation. Without getting too technical as to what Pluznick and her team found, suffice it to say the discovery that the kidney receptors would respond to short chain fatty acids from the gut was proof there is a link between the kidneys and the digestive microbiome.
If You Suffer With High Blood Pressure……
If you’re among the one in three American adults who have hypertension (high blood pressure), one of the first pieces of advice your physician likely gave you was to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. While it’s certainly beneficial to cut out processed salt—the type found in processed foods and regular table salt—limiting sodium is not the hypertension cure that many think it is.
There are actually many other strategies that are equally, and oftentimes more, important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and a new study highlighted one of them: balancing your gut flora. If your gut flora is unhealthy, your risk is much greater for heart disease, as well as many other chronic health problems. So it makes sense that the new research found probiotics, also known as beneficial bacteria, may improve blood pressure control.
Probiotics May Improve Blood Pressure
A fairly new study found significant benefits among people with high blood pressure who consumed probiotics in products like yogurt and milk. As I have mentioned so often before, the best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet. But I’d caution against using most commercial yogurt and milk products as your primary source of probiotics, as they’re made from pasteurized dairy and often have sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and other additives. You also have the option to make your own fermented foods at home. But realistically, how many of us take the time or have the initiative to go this far in providing the best nutrients for our bodies? If you are one of the few who is willing to make all your fermented dairy and vegetables at home, my hat is off to you. For me personally, I opt to:
- Strictly limit the amount of processed food consumed in my diet
- Include more organic dairy and vegetables in my food preparation
- Stick with grass-fed meats or pasture raised poultry routinely
- And in the event my diet falls short, I take a high quality probiotic daily to promote an optimal gut health environment to balance intestinal yeast.
I would love to hear from readers who suffer with blood pressure issues and what you are doing to keep them in check. Do you see the importance of keeping your gut healthy for so many different health reasons? Please leave any comments and questions below this post.