As we begin to appreciate the synergy between gut health and overall wellness, and the role of probiotics in building up good microflora, novel new uses of gastro-therapy are coming to light. While probiotics are commonly touted for their benefits to immune health and indigestion, new research suggests they could also be used as an adjunct for blood pressure regulation.
Probiotics for Blood Pressure – What the Study Says
Probiotics are being investigated ever more rigorously than before, but the new study linking them specifically to blood pressure is making waves in the scientific community. Published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, which is peer-reviewed, the study found that probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure by an average 3.56mm of mercury (mm Hg), as compared to a non-probiotic group. Systolic blood pressure, of course, is the blood pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
Probiotic use also lowered diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2.38mm Hg. The beneficial effects on diastolic blood pressure were greatest in those with blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, which is considered elevated. Diastolic represents the blood pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.
The results were based on systemic analysis of nine separate randomised controlled trials, considered the gold standard in evidence-based medicine. Altogether, the RCTs involved 543 adults with both normal and elevated blood pressure.
Although more research is needed before doctors can confidently prescribe probiotics as part of a programme to control high blood pressure, many who already consume live bacteria (to enhance immunity, alleviate allergy symptoms, improve sleep, etc) will be pleased to know that those multitudinous microbes are doing more good than initially thought.
A few things to note: stronger was deemed better, in that only probiotics with a minimum daily bacteria volume of 1 billion improved blood pressure, and the greatest benefits were experienced with considerably more. Supplements containing multiple strains also lowered blood pressure more than those with just a single species.
Although many reports claimed the benefit would come only from an eight-week probiotic protocol, this was not entirely accurate. In the analysis itself, the authors concluded that “probiotic consumption with daily doses from 1 billion to 1 trillion CFU for a duration of 3 to 9 weeks may improve BP. The magnitude of improvement is greater among those with elevated BP, when daily dose of probiotics exceeds 100 billion and when intervention lasts over 8 weeks.”
Thus, to have the best chance of replicating the blood pressure-lowering effects of probiotics, or of replicating (or even improving upon) the aforementioned results, it is advised to consume probiotics with a bacteria count of 100 billion and continue doing so for eight weeks. Of course, some probiotics colonise better than others, and thus it is difficult to say with certainty how long one should consume them. For example, taking a single dose of 1 trillion – and repeating the feat ten days later – may be as beneficial as taking 100 billion probiotics each day for 10 days. Particularly if they contain a more effective blend of strains.
The final word on the study, though, should go to its lead author, Jing Sun, PhD: “We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.”
The Importance of Controlling Blood Pressure
In simple terms, hypertension – defined as systolic blood pressure above 140mm Hg and diastolic BP above 90mm Hg – is a key risk factor for both coronary heart disease and cardiac failure. It’s also associated with a number of chronic diseases including kidney disease, and is one of the nation’s most common long-term conditions.
Thankfully, hypertension is controllable through diet and lifestyle interventions: cutting out or severely reducing industrially-processed foods, the kind high in added sugars, is the first thing you can do. Shedding excess weight by exercising regularly (at least 30 minutes, most days of the week) will also help bring BP down.
Although reducing salt is generally recommended for hypertension, there is a school of thought that salt intake is not as important an etiologic factor as dietary sugar. Indeed, some contend that low-salt diets are actually harmful, predisposing a person to calcium and magnesium deficiencies, risk factors for hypertension in their own right. Other top nutrients for lowering blood pressure include Vitamins C, E and D, potassium, iron, iodine and Coenzyme Q10. In most cases you should be able to obtain all you need from your diet, providing it is appropriately nutritious. A daily Vitamin D supplement, however, is required during autumn and winter.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure, you can keep tabs on your levels using a home monitor. Checking in regularly with your doctor is also advised. For those struggling to get all the nutrients they need through food, a cardiovascular supplement can help. Cardio Renu is formulated by a team of Miami doctors and contains appreciable quantities of Vitamins C and E, in addition to iron and Coenzyme Q10. It also contains L-arginine, an amino acid known to increase blood flow. Add a scoop of Cardio Renu to water, shake well and drink once per day.
Probiotics: A Valid Hypertension Treatment Option
Clearly probiotics – either in the form of food or supplements – have a number of strongly-supported benefits. As far as blood pressure is concerned, it seems accurate to say that probiotics can help reduce both SBP and DBP if consumed in adequate quantities and over an appropriate time period.
What’s more, a number of studies show that live bacteria are capable of reducing fibrinogen and Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol, with lactic acid bacteria deemed “able to metabolise complex milk protein and aid in the release of short bioactive peptides which have an ACE-inhibitory activity, thereby contributing to the modulation of hypertension.”
Which probiotic is best? Well, given the meta-analysis showed the greatest benefit came from supplements containing at least 100 billion good bacteria, we can rule out 95% of supplements on the shelf! Only a handful offer a daily dose in excess of 100 billion, and only one offers a bacteria count 10 times as high. Progurt, a unique human-derived probiotic from Australia, provides 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units (CFU) per serving. And unlike other supplements, you don’t have to pop 10 or 12 capsules a day. On the contrary, you need only disperse a sachet of the probiotic powder in water or freshly-pressed juice and drink in one sitting. If you prefer, you can also use with the Progurt incubator to make your very own probiotic-rich yogurt. It couldn’t be easier.
Because of Progurt’s high-strength, it’s doubtful that you would have to take it every day to ensure the antihypertensive effects; try one sachet a week and monitor your blood pressure after a month or two. Considering the average reductions noted in the study, which used daily doses ranging from 1 billion to 1 trillion, it is not far-fetched to imagine that Progurt could lower one’s blood pressure even more.
Incidentally, Progurt is composed of lactic acid bacteria, including beneficial strains of L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus and L. bifidus. The two former strains were used extensively in the meta-analysis, suggesting results could be easily replicated.
With all that being said, the best thing you can do for hypertension in the short term is sort out your diet and get moving. Cut the pro-inflammatory foods, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and up the exercise. Your cardiovascular health will benefit, and in all likelihood, your mood and sleep patterns will enjoy a boon, too.