What bacteria can tell you about your blood pressure

The human microbiome project really is the gift that keeps on giving.

We’re discovering things today that even I didn’t see coming. (And remember, I wrote a whole book on the subject, called Boost Your Health with Bacteria, over a decade ago.) We’re also making critical connections that are poised to change the way we treat everyday problems forever.

The latest case in point: Researchers from the University of Florida have recently discovered that high blood pressure is a different animal when it’s paired with depression… and key differences in gut bacteria may reveal why.

Bacterial signatures decoded

Investigators collected stool samples from patients with diagnosed hypertension and/or depression, along with samples from subjects without either condition. They then analyzed the genetic profile of these samples, using two different types of sequencing techniques.

This is fancy stuff, so I won’t bog you down with too many details. Suffice it to say that, out of 3,000 genes, researchers pinpointed 86 different variants that appeared to play key roles in the conditions above.

In other words, they were able to use stool samples to identify patients as hypertensive, depressive, neither, or both.

And while that may sound straight out of a science fiction novel, ultimately, this analysis uncovered four distinct microbiome makeups—all with distinct associations to gut permeability, brain inflammation (in areas impacting both blood pressure and mood), metabolism, and heart and kidney health.

Patients with “depressive hypertension” had bacterial signatures of both conditions in their microbiome… while non-depressed patients with high blood pressure had different microbiome signatures. Likewise, healthy people had their own distinct microbiome signatures.

Rethinking resistant hypertension

I could go on and get even more technical, but let me boil this discovery down to its most basic terms: We now know that high blood pressure that’s accompanied by depression is a disorder that’s likely entirely different from the hypertension found in non-depressed people.

And how amazing is that? For the first time, scientists are truly beginning to see that the human body is a dynamic system with a lot of moving parts, none of which operate in a vacuum.

Our bodies basically run on sodium and potassium pumps. Up to now, we’ve mostly only addressed resistant hypertension by looking at how the kidneys handle sodium. But that approach completely ignores the fact that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract sees its fair share of sodium, too.

So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that gut flora might have an equally important role in determining how that sodium impacts your body. Or that you can potentially control your blood pressure simply by making over your microbiome.

The take-home message here is that doctors need to start considering what’s going on in the gut when they’re dealing with high blood pressure and depression. And if we play our cards right, we may eventually be able to prevent (and selectively treat) both conditions by tinkering with bacterial populations.

I expect it’ll be a long time before the mainstream hops on this train, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to put this information to work for you. (Really, everyone should be minding their microbiome anyway.)

And taking a high-quality daily probiotic like Dr. Ohhira’s is just the first step. Plus, I devoted two full features to making over your microbiome in the March and April 2019 issues of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives.

And whether you have high blood pressure, depression, neither, or both, these tips can transform your health. So if you haven’t yet, as always, consider subscribing today.


“Microbiome May Identify New Types of Hypertension.” Medscape Medical News, 09/10/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/918015)