There’s a better way to balance blood pressure

Yesterday’s discussion got me thinking about just how many missed opportunities mainstream medicine has racked up to this point.

When most conventional doctors encounter a condition, they happily throw a prescription at a patient rather than considering the alternatives. And on the rare occasion where they do recommend dietary changes over drug intervention, you end up with garbage like DASH.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I sometimes feel like I’m beating my head against a wall… over, and over, and OVER again.

Of course, I come across studies (like the one I’m going to share with you today), and it’s my own hand slapping my forehead. Because all these so-called “authorities” might actually be able to accomplish something if they’d just stopped chasing their tails and started paying attention.

And as usual, that’s especially true where blood pressure is concerned.

A team of MIT scientists recently teamed up with German researchers to examine how gut bacteria mediate the connection between salt and high blood pressure. Lo and behold, their experiments showed that adding the equivalent of 6,000 mg of sodium to the study groups’ daily diets suppressed gut populations of a beneficial strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus murinus.

Inflammation rose at the same time these Lactobacillus levels dropped—and not surprisingly, subjects’ blood pressure levels rose right alongside it. But in the subjects who took a commercially available probiotic for a week before this salt bender, left Lactobacillus—and most notably, blood pressure—levels completely normal and unchanged.

Well, imagine that! Give me a moment to recover from my shock…

I’ve mentioned here before that salt is a bit of a red herring where hypertension is concerned. It only significantly affects blood pressure in a relatively small percentage of the population—and yet restricting sodium somehow became the standard recommendation anyway. (Not that this isn’t typical of mainstream medical recommendations…)

But here’s a crazy thought: Maybe it’s actually an imbalanced microbiome—not salt—that’s really to blame? (I mean come on. It’s not like this is the first study to show that probiotics can lower high blood pressure.)

Which means that maybe — just maybe — we should be focusing on rehabbing hypertensive patients’ bacterial populations, instead of indiscriminately sending them off on a dietary wild goose chase? Especially considering the fact that extreme salt restriction has been shown to cause more problems than it fixes.

I realize that’s a groundbreaking concept — the idea that you can improve your health (on just about every front imaginable) simply by taking a high-quality probiotic every day. (I recommend one brand in particular to my patients: Dr. Ohhira’s, which features prebiotics and multiple strains of good bacteria.)

Treating the microbiome has been a cornerstone of my practice for decades now. If you ask me, it’s about time the rest of the medical world caught up…