The high incidence of hypertension high blood pressure in the West and its virtual absence in many developing countries has been attributed to a number of bad Western dietary habits. As soon as they are eliminated, an individual's blood pressure goes
A high sodium to potassium ratio has been shown to increase extracellular fluid volume, which hinders blood pressure regulation (Am J Clin Nutr, 1984; 39: 963-8).
Other studies have demonstrated that magnesium levels are consistently low in those with hypertension, and supplementation can help. In a double blind study, magnesium supplementation lowered blood pressure by an average of 12/8 mm/Hg in 95 per cent of the treatment group (Br Med J, 1983; 286: 1847-9).
Diets that are low in animal fats but high in polyunsaturates also reduce high blood pressure (J Am Med Ass, 1990; 263: 688-92; Ann Med, 1989; 21: 251-4).
This seems to be due to the normalization of the E-series pros taglandins, which are known to be low in patients with high blood pressure (Clin Exp Hypertension, 1981; 3: 27-38).
This effect stops when aspirin is taken, so that hypertensives who take daily aspirin are doing exactly the wrong thing (Acta Biol Med, 1978; 37: 879-83).
Giving up alcohol also has been shown to decrease blood pressure within a week (Proc Nutr Soc, 1988; 47: 111-4).
Because a high sucrose diet seems to impede the uptake of potassium, blood pressure usually drops on a low sugar diet ( J Am Coll Nutr, 1987; 5: 79).
Higher dietary fibre can also lower blood pressure. For a half a year, 32 patients consumed about two thirds of their calories in the form of uncooked food. Diastolic blood pressure was reduced by an average of 17.8 mm/Hg, there was a mean weight loss of 3.8 kg and, most astonishingly, those who smoked or habitually drank alcohol spontaneously abstained (South Med J, 1985; 78: 841).
Besides general dietary measures, other naturopathic measures have helped. In a large randomized, blinded, controlled trial, high blood pressure patients were given daily portions of guava fruit, a good source of vitamin C, fibre, potassium and magnesium. Those on the guava diet showed an increase in plasma ascorbic acid, a reduction in the serum total cholesterol and triglycerides, a substantial lowering in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as a net increase in high density lipoprotein cholesterol (the "good"variety) (J Nutr & Envir Med, 1997; 7: 5-14).
An infusion (or tincture type preparation) of the evergreen leaves of Olea europaea (Olive tree) have been used as an effective anti hypertensive since the turn of the century. Such a decoction contains the substance oleuropein, which not only helps reduce hypertension, but also dilates coronary blood vessels and regulates heartbeat (Am J Chin Med, 1979; 7: 197-236).
Quitting smoking will also get your pressure down. Cadmium has been shown to raise blood pressure. Tobacco smokers, and ex tobacco smokers, have more cadmium in their bodies than others, and hypertensives tend to have cadmium levels about three times higher than those with normal blood pressure (Lancet, 1976; i: 717-8).
Lose weight and root out food allergies. A number of epidemiological studies have shown the link between excess weight and hypertension (Ann Int Med, 1983; 98: 855-9). Food allergies have often been found to underlie hypertension (Mackarness, R, Not all in the Mind, London, Pan Books, 1976).
It's also better to drink hard water, which contains more magnesium and calcium than soft water, Absorption of these minerals from drinking water is twice that from foods, where chelating agents have a hindering effect (Prog Food Nutr Sci, 1985; 9: 109-47).
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homeopath and osteopath.