Hypertension: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Support Strategies
Hypertension and poorly controlled blood pressure damages the kidneys and vascular networks resulting in heart attacks, stroke, & kidney failure. Over 1000 deaths are attributed to high blood pressure every day in the US. It is estimated that blood pressure issues account for over 40 million doctor visits each year (1). Lifestyle induced oxidative stress is a major culprit in this process. Beat hypertension naturally with good nutrition and specific superfoods.
Researchers have recently focused on oxidative stress as a major causative factor in the majority of hypertensive issues. Scientists have noted an imbalance in the production and elimination of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which damage vascular tissue (2, 3).
Low-grade, chronic inflammation is systemic and can last for months or years. This inflammatory state is associated with a wide range of health conditions, including metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
What causes inflammation of this nature are things that place an excessive stress load on the body. This can include physical, emotional, and chemical stress. As a result, inflammatory mediators are produced throughout the body and can overwhelm the immune system.
The ongoing inflammatory stimulus results in more white blood cell recruitment, increased inflammation, and changes to cells. White blood cells will eventually attack internal organs or other tissues and cells. This inflammatory response continues until the factor that causes inflammation is addressed.
When inflammation impacts the internal lining of the blood vessels, called the endothelial layer, it causes scaring and hardening of the blood vessels. This damage to the blood vessels limits their ability to dialate and causes the pressure inside the vessels to increase. In addition, the inflammation impacts the kidneys and causes a reduced blood flow through the urinary system, which increases blood pressure in the body.
The Oxidative Switch:
When oxidative stress is elevated it can cause the angiotensinogen glycoprotein to convert to angiotensin. The hormone angiotensin causes sodium retention and vascular constriction. This “oxidative switch” floods the system with angiotensin and dramatically affects blood pressure balance (6).
Professor Aiwu Zhou and colleagues at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research have studied specific nutrients and their ability to prevent this oxidative switch (7, 8, 9). They have highlighted a few specific anti-oxidant compounds that inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). These compounds acted on the Nrf2 pathway to power up the anti-oxidant capacity of the body.
There are many medications designed as `ACE inhibitors` to affect this same pathway. These medications are great at lowering blood pressure. However, these medications never address the oxidative stress and therefore never get to the true underlying cause of the problem.
Best Defense Against the Oxidative Switch:
The best defense against the oxidative switch begins with an anti-inflammatory diet. This begins with a diet rich in phytonutrient dense vegetables, healthy fat and clean protein sources. Non-starchy vegetables, herbs, & teas are great sources of anti-oxidants and have very low carbohydrate content.
Healthy fat sources include coconut products, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, & purified omega-3 fish oil supplements. Healthy protein includes wild-caught fish, grass-fed red meat and free range chicken, turkey and eggs.
Non-Denatured Whey Protein:
A very useful superfood is non-denatured whey protein from cows and goats that grazed on organic grass alone. These whey peptides boost cellular glutathione stores. Glutathione is our bodies’ most potent defense against oxidative stress (10).
Research has demonstrated that a diet rich in high quality whey protein acts as a potent ACE inhibitor. Additional studies has shown that these whey peptides provide a second metabolic pathway for blood pressure control (11, 12). As they fight oxidative stress they inhibit the release of other vessel constricting components such as endothelin-1.
Unfortunately, I also see many of my clients have food sensitivities to dairy protein such as whey. In these cases, I highly recommend using a high quality glutathione support supplement such as our Super Glutathione here
Berries and Fruit Extracts Role:
Certain berries and fruit extracts also contain powerful anti-hypertensive effects. Grapes contain the polyphenol resveratrol that protects the blood vessel walls and improves the way these cells respond to metabolic shifts that affect blood pressure (13, 14).
This nutrient appears to also reduce salt sensitive cases of hypertension. Resveratrol along with the anthocyanins found in berries also act to fight against the potent inflammatory factors caused by glycolysis.
Pomegranate extract is rich in some of nature’s most powerful polyphenols. This has been demonstrated to act as a natural ACE inhibitor. Pomegranate has also been shown effective in blocking inflammatory damage induced by angiotensin in key tissues involved in blood pressure control (15, 16).
This nutrient also improves the activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). The presence of eNOS results in greater dilation of the blood vessel and less stress on the vascular wall.
Best Action Steps For Healthy Circulation:
Here are the best action steps to get started with on your journey to improve circulation. It is important to note that these strategies are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure hypertension and should not be confused as such. You should always consult with your physician before stopping or changing medications or taking on new health strategies.
Additionally, you should be working with a functional health practitioner to help guide you through these strategies. This is not an exhaustive list and there are other natural therapeutic strategies that I and functional health practitioners will utilize to help individuals with high blood pressure.
1) Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Ketogenic Diet: It is important to follow an anti-inflammatory diet where you take out grains and sugars, processed vegetable oils and processed meat. Instead focus your meals on healthy fats such as olives, olive oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, pasture-raised eggs, coconut oil and nuts and seeds.
Include organic, pasture-raised animal products and lots of non-starchy vegetables and herbs. Here is a helpful article to put this into action.
2) Reduce Stress: Find ways to reduce stressful activities and enjoy more peace and calm. Being under a state of chronic stress increases inflammation and pressure in your blood vessels. Learn to thrive under stress by reading this article here
3) Improve Your Sleep Quality: Sleeping a high quality 8-9 hours each night is key to healing and improving blood flow. Do your best to get to bed early as every hour of sleep before midnight is equivalent to 3 hours of regenerative sleep after 12pm. I recommend aiming to be in bed by 10pm each night if possible.
There are also a number of strategies to optimize the quality of the sleep you are getting no matter when you go to bed. Follow the steps in this article to improve your sleep.
4) Use a High Quality Non-Denatured Whey Protein: If you don’t have a dairy sensitivity, than this is a fantastic food for reducing blood pressure. You can get that here, however, if you do have issues with dairy and whey than I would recommend using a high quality collagen protein. You can read all about the benefits of collagen and my recommendations in this article.
5) Include Magnesium Rich Foods: Magnesium helps to relax blood vessel walls. The best magnesium rich foods include dark green leafy veggies, grass-fed dairy, raw cacao and pumpkin seeds. You can also do Epsom salt baths to boost your magnesium levels.
It is also a good idea if you have hypertension to take a high quality magnesium supplement. The best one I have found for improving brain function, balancing the stress response and improving blood pressure is the Brain Calm Magnesium here
6) Focus on Deep Breathing: Improving your posture, seeing a high quality chiropractor and optimizing your breathing patterns is highly recommended. Follow these tips here to improve your breathing patterns.
7) Ground Your Body: In our society we are surrounded by toxic electromagnetic frequency’s (EMF’s). By going outside daily and walking barefoot on grass, dirt or sand you absorb natural EMF’s from the ground that balance your electrical rhythms. Follow the steps in this article here.
8) Consume Potassium Rich Foods: Potassium helps to lower blood pressure naturally. The best potassium rich foods include lemons & limes, avocados, dark green leafy veggies such as spinach and mushrooms. Here is a helpful article on potassium and the best food sources of this nutrient.
9) Use Anti-Oxidant Rich Herbs: Add turmeric, ginger, oregano, garlic, basil, thyme and rosemary to as many dishes as possible and drink organic herbal teas on a regular basis.
10) Take in Plenty of Omega 3 Fatty Acids: The long-chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA help to reduce vascular inflammation and improve the elasticity of the blood vessels and stabilize blood pressure. I recommend consuming high quality, wild-caught seafood two to three times weekly and supplementing with a high quality, purified fish oil supplement.
Unfortunately, you will not get the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids from flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. It is important to get the wild-caught seafood in your diet and with supplementation. You can find out more about the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids and what I recommend in this article.
11) Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels: Low vitamin D levels are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and hypertension. It is important to regular sun exposure and supplement with a high quality vitamin D3 to get your Vitamin D blood levels between 50-80 ng/ml.
I recommend taking a Vitamin D3 with K2 as vitamin K2 is extremely important for reducing calcium build-up in the vascular system. Here is the Vitamin D3/K2 product I use with my clients.
12) Power up Your Nrf2 Pathway: This is the key genetic anti-oxidant pathway. Adding in clinical dosages of resveratrol, curcumin, sulfuraphane and Green tea ECGC can be extraordinarily beneficial. I use Nrf2 Power here to improve this pathway. I always get my chronic hypertensive patients on Nrf2 Power.