It astounds me that mainstream medicine continues to blame high blood pressure on salt. Especially when the science continues to point us in other directions.
In fact, a new study has found that the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, the environment in your GI tract where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive, plays a huge role in protecting you against high blood pressure—the chronic condition lurking behind heart disease and stroke.
So let’s dive right in…
Microbiome connected to common chronic conditions
Science is finding more and more connections between your GI microbiome and common chronic medical conditions, like high blood pressure. And these connections have always made a lot of sense to me.
Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time during my 40-year career studying ancient Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine of India, in which every aspect of health and illness is seen to relate to digestion. Hence the insight, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”
The new study, published in the prestigious journal Hypertension, examined the connection between the microbiome and high blood pressure on more than 500 young adults.
At the study’s outset, researchers took all the participants’ blood pressure readings. Then, during the 30-year follow-up period, they analyzed stool samples and sequenced the types of bacteria found.
Overall, three important findings emerged…
- A clear association between certain types of bacteria in the lower GI tract and high blood pressure.
- People with normal blood pressure had less harmful types of bacteria and more healthy bacteria.
- People with normal blood pressure had a greater diversity of healthy bacteria.
These key findings led the researchers to conclude that you can lower your blood pressure by eating foods that boosts the number and diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut…and by eliminating foods that promote unhealthy bacteria.
And this isn’t the first time researchers have stumbled upon such important insight…
In fact, an earlier study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people with high blood pressure who followed a healthy diet had a 60 percent success rate in reducing their blood pressure.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, my old friend and colleague from Washington, D.C. (now in Florida like me), commented on these findings in a recent interview, explaining, “You cannot cure high blood pressure by taking drugs. You can only cure it by changing lifestyle factors that cause it. Drugs only help control high blood pressure for as long as you continue to take them.”
Of course, the same can be said for high blood sugar. And the cures are remarkably similar.
Indeed, restricting sugar is as important for reducing high blood pressure as it is for reducing high blood sugar. In fact, people who get 20 to 25 percent of their daily calories from foods and drinks with added sugar are at increased risk of high blood pressure. They also suffer a 30 percent higher risk of heart attacks compared to those who get less than 10 percent of calories from sugars.
Skip the probiotic supplements and focus on diet
Now, I know these findings about the importance of probiotic bacteria in the gut will lead some natural-know-it-alls to keep recommending probiotic supplements. But as I’ve explained many times before, probiotic supplements just don’t work.
And the only way to truly introduce diversity into your microbiome is through a balanced, Mediterranean-type diet (the healthiest way of eating on the planet). This diet includes plenty of full-fat, organic dairy (butter, eggs, cheeses, yogurt), wild-caught fish, grass-fed and free-range meat, beans (legumes), fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. You can even enjoy alcohol and whole grains in moderation!
Just remember, the pop Paleo devotees get it wrong by restricting these wholesome, healthy foods. In fact, the complex carbohydrates in these foods aren’t typically digested rapidly, nor released rapidly into the bloodstream. Therefore, they don’t cause rapid, high increases in blood sugar or excess insulin responses, despite what you may have heard.
They do, however, contain dietary fiber, which passes into the colon undigested. Then, the probiotic bacteria in your GI tract metabolize it into healthy, short-chain fatty acids—which help reduce inflammation. As an added bonus, seeds also contain essential fatty acids, and legumes contain amino acids.
Just make sure to avoid the ultra-processed, packaged foods and drinks with added sugar, simple carbs, and added salt.
As these new studies show, it’s high time to bust the great salt scam of high blood pressure. In fact, Dr. Mirkin says you can even add a little salt to taste to your home-cooked, whole foods. (Although, it’s important to note that some insulin-sensitive people also appear to be sensitive to salt. But low salt is far more dangerous for most people than is high salt.)
In the end, it all comes back to diet, as they’ve been teaching for thousands of years in ancient China and India.
P.S. I’ll tell you all the latest on non-drug approaches to blood pressure in next month’s October 2019 Insiders’ Cures newsletter. And you can find more about ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine insights and benefits in the September 2019 issue [“When you eat can dictate your health”]. Subscribers have access to all of my current and past content in the archives. So if you haven’t already, consider signing up today!
“Gut Microbiota Composition and Blood Pressure: The CARDIA Study.” Hypertension, 2019; 73:998–1006. doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.12109
“High Blood Pressure Linked to Colon Bacteria, But You Can Fix It Without Drugs.” Newsmax, 4/22/19. (newsmax.com/health/health-news/gut-bacteria-gut-health-hypertension/2019/04/22/id/912766/)