High Blood Pressure – Does it have a nutritional cause?
In the last few years, I’ve talked to a few people who had elevated blood pressure, with an unknown cause. Typically, we think of high blood pressure as being associated with heart disease or insulin resistance, typically in an older person. When someone has athleroschlerosis the artery walls become stiff and no longer able to produce nitric oxide. These were younger, heathy people. They had both been checked out by doctors, and had not found a definite cause for their hypertension.
Inflammation can raise blood pressure. This is why when you’re sick, your blood pressure might go up a little bit. This is only mild and temporary. I’m talking about long term elevated blood pressure.
One condition that sometimes gets overlooked is IgA nephropathy. This is a condition in which immunoglobulins (a type of immune cells) get tangled up and form large immune complexes that get stuck in the glomerulus of the kidney, and result in high blood pressure. Usually this will result in protein and blood in the urine, and this will also be diagnosed with a urinalysis. IgA nephropathy is considered to be a genetic disease. There is definitely a genetic component, because there’s a missing amino acid in the IgA molecule, but there’s some research showing that it could be related to a food allergy.
Also, consider if sleep apnea could be an issue. I met a guy who had high blood pressure for many years, along with an abnormal heart rhythm, and for decades he never got a proper diagnosis, except that the doctor told him that he needed to take blood pressure medications. After he got treatment for sleep apnea, the blood pressure normalized, and he had a normal heart rhythm. The sleep apnea was probably resulting in loss of sodium, which was causing blood pressure to go up.
If you’re a mouth breather, or if you sleep with your mouth open, this is a serious concern. We’re designed to breathe mostly through our nose. Mouth breathing will result in improper oxygenation of tissues, and ……………….
Chronic sinus infections can made it difficult to breathe through the nose. Often it’s the result of improper posture. There are treatments for this. Look up videos or podcasts that describe mouth taping, or other therapies for mouth breathing.
Another thing that can cause high blood pressure is mineral deficiencies. If you’re not consuming enough salt, low sodium will cause an activation of stress hormones which cause blood pressure to go up. Most of us need to be getting much more salt in our diet. Our kidneys spend a lot of energy to reabsorb sodium. Consuming more sodium will increase blood volume, and this is a good thing, but it can cause problems if sodium is out of balance with other minerals.
Inadequate intake of minerals, including trace minerals, is very common. This is partly because we don’t consume enough mineral rich foods. Obviously, agriculture has changed a lot in recent years, with soils being depleted of minerals. Even 100 years ago, scientists were lamenting the fact that farmland was being depleted, and we were losing topsoil, and obviously it’s much worse now. We need to be more proactive in making sure we’re not deficient. Insulin resistance or inflammatory conditions can result in excessive losses of magnesium and potassium. It’s possible to test for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but they testing is quite expensive, and I haven’t done enough of them to have confidence in the results. Hair mineral analysis would be a good option to evaluate mineral status.
The single best source of minerals is from meat and meat products, for example, homemade bone broths. Even if people are eating meat, what are they eating it with? Typically we eat meat along with bread, or other cereal grains. This is a huge problem. Grains and seeds are extremely high in phytates. Phytate, or phytic acid, is made by plants as a way of holding onto minerals, until the seed is ready to germinate. Traditionally grains have always undergone a special preparation method before cooking. For example, bread dough would be fermented to produce “sour dough” bread. We think of sourdough bread as being a flavor, but it’s actually an very old tradition of making bread more digestible. Native Americans would soak nuts and seeds for several days before consuming. “Maza” or cornmeal has to go through a certain process to make tryptophan more digestible, and it’s actually a method of fermentation. Grains also contain the phytase enzyme that breaks down phytic acid, but modern store-bought bread and cereals are made in high-temperature, high-speed production methods, which destroys phytase, and leaves very high levels of phytic acid.
So how do we survive eating modern processed foods? Well, our stomach produces enzymes to deal with plant starches, even though store-bought bread from modern species of wheat has protease and amalase inhibitors that make it harder to digest.
Most of the deactivation of phytates is done by our own intestinal bacteria. So someone who has excellent digestion could probably do fine eating it, but most of us don’t. Perhaps it would make sense to use a probiotic, and take some digestive enzymes. It’s also best to avoid store-bought breads. I encourage everyone, if you eat bread, to make it yourself, and start making bone broth from scratch, and take mineral supplements, especially magnesium. And salt your food to taste. If you crave salt, you probably need more salt.
If you want to learn more about mineral intake, and it’s relationship to blood pressure I’ll link to some books and articles