Written By: Kevin Cann
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) about 70 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure. This is a blood pressure of 140/90mmHG or higher. This correlates to about 29% of the population. So roughly 1 out of every 3 Americans suffers from high blood pressure.
The CDC also estimates that high blood pressure costs the United States $46 billion annually in medications, health care services, and missed days of work. $46 billion is a lot of money. Is this a ploy from the pharmaceutical companies to make more money?
The CDC reports that 7 out of 10 people that suffer their first heart attack have high blood pressure, 8 out of 10 that suffer a stroke have high blood pressure, 7 out of 10 people with high blood pressure develop chronic heart failure, and it is a major risk factor for kidney disease. Whether we like it or not high blood pressure is definitely something to worry about.
High blood pressure medications tend to be the primary treatment for people with high blood pressure. The problem is that the research shows that there is no increase in life expectancy when high blood pressure medication is given to people with no history of cardiovascular events (1). The argument for prescribing the medication is for prevention, but in reality it is not preventing anything. To put it another way, it has a risk of some pretty nasty side effects without any reward in return. This does not seem like a risk I want to be taking.
We know that our genetics, lifestyle, and food choices influence our blood pressure. New emerging evidence is suggesting there is another variable that may have an impact on our blood pressure. Researchers are suggesting that our gut bugs may actually regulate the physiological process of controlling blood pressure (2).
This latest research was published just a couple months ago and used rats for the experiment. They found that the rats that were hypertensive had a decrease in microbial richness, density, and the species were found to be out of balance. Specifically decreases in the bacteria that produce butyrate and acetate.
This study took this data and matched it up with a small group of hypertensive humans. They found a similar trend in the human subjects that they found in the rats. This does not surprise me as I have grown more and more confident that most diseases start in the gut.
This research is just a starting point and more needs to be completed before we put all of our eggs in one basket. Just because certain bacteria are found to be in smaller numbers in patients with high blood pressure, does not mean they are the cause of it. However, they may be a solution to the problem.
Pharmaceutical companies have been looking at butyrate as a treatment for high blood pressure. The FDA has actually approved a drug known as clevidipine butyrate to be administered intravenously to patients that can take oral medications (3). It is primarily used in emergency situations where maintaining a target blood pressure is critical for survival. This drug has an incredibly high success rate in doing so.
Researchers have been looking at another drug known as sodium butyrate. Sodium butyrate appears to have powerful anti-inflammatory actions that may be beneficial to patients with artherogenesis and insulin resistance (4). Maybe the answer lies not in medications, but in specific probiotics?
We have seen how a switch to a paleo diet has had many positive influences in the population suffering from high blood pressure. Perhaps it is due to the positive swing in gut health that people see while taking up a paleo diet. This swing in gut health is why the paleo diet is effective in helping improve symptoms seen in autoimmune diseases.
Perhaps modern medicine should begin to investigate targeted probiotic supplementation to help in the treatment of diseases. A major piece of the $46 billion spent annually on high blood pressure is medications. Bacterium can be easily grown in a Petri dish for an extremely low cost. A simple Google search of “place disease here” and gut bacteria will land some pretty interesting findings.
From an economic standpoint we can’t afford how we have been doing things. Prevention is always the primary protocol. Eat a diet rich in nutrient dense foods and limit your processed food intake, manage your stress, get some sunlight, hang out with friends, and overall have a positive outlook on life and things will generally be ok.
Some of us will do all of the things mentioned above and still run into health issues such as high blood pressure. The need to find more effective and cheaper alternatives is extremely important, not just to our body’s health, but the health of the economy and the healthcare system.
Imagine having a world with cheap and effective cures to the diseases of the modern world? These gut bugs have kept our genome alive and pushing forward for millions of years. It makes sense that if they get out of whack we fall ill, and if they are strong and in balance so are we.
People with high blood pressure tend to stay on the medication for the rest of their lives. This is costly, and as I stated previously does not increase life expectancy. Imagine taking a probiotic much similar to a dose of antibiotics and being cured of high blood pressure (of course other lifestyle factors are involved too). This may just prove to be cheaper and much more highly effective.
Only time will tell where modern medicine takes us. Hopefully wherever it is, it is to a place that focuses on lifestyle and medical treatment plans that have minimum risk, high reward, and are cost effective. Hippocrates stated that all diseases start in the gut. That dude just may have been right.