Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Primal Guide to Blood Pressure: 8 Common (and Not So Common) Interventions

Hypertension is a problem. It raises the risk of heart disease; it’s one of the most consistent risk factors for that condition, as well as others like kidney disease. But before you start freaking out about your high blood pressure, make sure you actually have it. A single elevated reading does not a hypertension diagnosis make. Readings are snapshots in time. They can be a part of a trend, or they can be an isolated case. Don’t assume based on one bad reading.

I can remember going to the doctor about ten years ago for a routine checkup, showing 140/100, and almost getting a prescription based on that. It was absurd, so absurd that I took matters into my own hands and got a fancy blood pressure device to measure my own over the next couple weeks. The result?

There was almost no pattern. Maybe it was a lot lower after dinner, due to relaxation, but other than that there weren’t any trends. Sometimes it was high, mostly it was low-normal. It all depends on stress

Okay, say that’s not you. Say you have a legitimate problem with protracted and consistently high blood pressure. What can you do in addition to (or besides, if your doctor says it’s safe to wait) opt for the prescription?

1) Eat More Potassium

A common cause of salt-related blood pressure increases is inadequate potassium intake. Very few of us eat as much potassium as we evolved eating.

The pre-agricultural environment was potassium-rich and sodium-poor. That’s why we have a physiological taste for salt, and why salted food tastes so good: we had to seek it out. That’s why we don’t have a physiological taste for potassium: it was everywhere. Loren Cordain estimates some hunter-gatherer groups got upwards of 10-12 grams of potassium a day, whereas the average American gets about 2.5 grams.

Studies show that both sodium-sensitive and potassium-deficient subjects with high blood pressure see the biggest improvements with increased potassium intake.

I love sodium, and it’s actually beneficial for endothelial health when consumed with enough potassium, but you have to eat potassium too.

2) Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity

Ever since earlier studies established that hypertensive patients tend to exhibit abnormally high insulin responses to standard glucose loads, researchers have wondered about a connection between insulin and blood pressure.  It turns out there is a powerful connection.

  • In non-diabetic people with normal blood pressure, insulin levels and shifts in blood pressure are related—higher insulin, higher blood pressure; lower, lower.
  • In both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects, lower insulin sensitivity predicts elevated blood pressure.
  • Insulin increases sodium retention in the blood, which increases blood volume and pressure. The less insulin sensitive you are, the more insulin you’ll release in response to a given stimulus, and the more sodium you’ll shuttle into the blood.
  • Both insulin resistance and the compensatory hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels) that results have distinct pro-hypertensive effects.

Luckily, there are dozens upon dozens of ways to improve your insulin sensitivity. Choose a few, or all of them (a better proposal, actually), to not only improve your blood pressure but also your health and life in general.

3) Earn Your Carbs With Physical Activity

The ones you earn through physical activity, that is. Let’s look at two scenarios.

First: You eat way more carbs than you actually earn through training. You haven’t trained, so you’re more insulin-resistant than the You from the alternative universe who did train. This means any carbs you eat will cause a greater spike in insulin, which has been shown to increase blood pressure.

Second: You only eat the carbs you’ve earned through training. Since you’re training, your insulin sensitivity is high, and you don’t actually secrete all that much insulin in response to the carbs. Training also upregulates non-insulin dependent glycogen repletion, meaning you can shove glycogen into muscles post-workout without even using insulin.

Once or twice, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re consistently eating more carbs than you need, the resultant elevation in insulin will raise blood pressure. At the very least, it won’t help.

Not only that, but regular training improves endothelial function and reduces the risk of high blood pressure on its own.

4) Eat Fermented Dairy

Milk fermented with the L. helveticus bacteria has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension in a number of studies.

In one, they drank the fermented milk for 21 weeks.

In another, they drank the milk for 10 weeks.

Look for products that include Lactobacillus helveticus, such as kefir, aged cheese (Swiss, emmental, pecorino romano, cheddar, parmigiano reggiano),

5) Get Your Zinc (Red Meat and Oysters)

Zinc is an essential nutrient for regulating the nitric oxide synthase system in the body. Without adequate zinc, your ability to produce nitric oxide—which increases blood vessel dilation and thus regulates blood pressure—is hampered.

6) Get Sunlight

There are consistent relationships between adequate vitamin D levels and normal blood pressure, though it’s unclear whether this is causal. Studies haven’t found a consistent blood pressure effect of actually supplementing with vitamin D. What might be going on is that vitamin D is acting as a marker for sun exposure, because we know that sunlight increases the production of nitric oxide, a compound that improves the function of your blood vessels.

Sure enough, human studies show that sun exposure causes the conversion of nitrogen oxide in the skin to nitric oxide, lowering blood pressure and improving endothelial function.

7) Address Your Stress

Stress might be the biggest trigger for hypertension, especially since most of us live lives laden with hidden, inevitable stressors—commutes, jobs we don’t like, bills, and the like. It’s everywhere, we can’t really escape it entirely, so we have to figure out how to deal with it.

I know how I do it (paddling, Ultimate, walks, quality time with family, smart supplementation). There are other ways, like adaptogens, or this, or this. You can rethink stress entirely. You can meditate, or try alternatives that achieve similar things. What are you going to do?

If your blood pressure is resistant to dietary, exercise, or lifestyle changes, make sure you manage it with your doctor.

8) Take ACE Inhibitors or AR Blockers If Warranted

The body uses a hormone called angiotensin to raise blood pressure in a couple ways.  First, by directly constricting blood vessels and increasing flow pressure. Second, by promoting the release of aldosterone, a hormone that shuttles sodium to the blood to increase blood volume. ACE inhibitors inhibit angiotensin secretion and AR blockers block angiotensin receptor sites. While I know we’re usually suspicious of drugs that block or inhibit the secretion or action of hormones, ACE inhibitors and AR blockers appear to be quite safe and effective. And there’s even evidence that normotensive subjects who take them live longer than normotensive subjects who don’t.

They do tend to lower zinc status, though, so keep up with your zinc intake.

That’s it for today, folks. The good news is that high blood pressure is manageable with diet and lifestyle changes, and even if that doesn’t work, the available medications seem better than most.

How do you manage your blood pressure? What’s worked? What hasn’t?

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References:

Sebastian A, Cordain L, Frassetto L, Banerjee T, Morris RC. Postulating the major environmental condition resulting in the expression of essential hypertension and its associated cardiovascular diseases: Dietary imprudence in daily selection of foods in respect of their potassium and sodium content resulting in oxidative stress-induced dysfunction of the vascular endothelium, vascular smooth muscle, and perivascular tissues. Med Hypotheses. 2018;119:110-119.

Filippini T, Violi F, D’amico R, Vinceti M. The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Cardiol. 2017;230:127-135.

Takano T. Anti-hypertensive activity of fermented dairy products containing biogenic peptides. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2002;82(1-4):333-40.

Seppo L, Jauhiainen T, Poussa T, Korpela R. A fermented milk high in bioactive peptides has a blood pressure-lowering effect in hypertensive subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2):326-30.

Jauhiainen T, Vapaatalo H, Poussa T, Kyrönpalo S, Rasmussen M, Korpela R. Lactobacillus helveticus fermented milk lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects in 24-h ambulatory blood pressure measurement. Am J Hypertens. 2005;18(12 Pt 1):1600-5.

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Life Lately + Mold-Free Coffee

Hey there! Happy Hump Day!

WHERE has this week gone already? Holy cow, I can’t believe it’s already more than halfway through Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were a total whirlwind with the boys off from school, so now I’m boogieing to get things done. (“Boogieing” is a word, right? It just looks super weird.)

Yesterday morning, I ate the most delicious breakfast hash. It was made with roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, air fryer onions, chicken sausage, and some leftover bacon. Mmm! I actually ate it again for lunch today! 🙂

I’ve started to leave my cell phone in our guest bathroom overnight. I used to have it on my bedside table (in airplane mode, of course), but it would always be the last thing I’d look at before I fell asleep and the first thing I’d see when I woke up. Being “on” for my job is often all-consuming, so I’m trying to distance myself a bit more from technology and social media. I figured this was an “easy” way to disconnect. Two nights down so far – let’s hope I can keep it up!

I did my first OTF benchmark mile today! It definitely wasn’t fast, but, hey, it leaves room for improvement, right? 🙂

Since sharing about testing positive for candida overgrowth, I have gotten a ton of questions about what I’ve been doing about it, mainly what changes I’ve made to my diet. In fact, I’ve gotten so much interest, that I created an Anti-Candida Meal Plan + Prep Guide (includes recipes and grocery list) to give you some ideas. You can also check out this recent post with examples of What I’ve Been Eating On The Anti-Candida Diet.

Why am I avoiding conventional coffee?

Before learning about candida overgrowth, I really had no idea that coffee had mold in it – say what!? I mean, I drink iced coffee every single day (even all winter long)! But now that I’m following a 3-month anti-candida diet to try to kick this never-ending mucus-y cough (candida and mold can be linked to respiratory issues) and GI flare to the curb, I’m sticking with Teechino. It’s typically advised to avoid coffee all together on the candida diet, so I’m really trying to limit my coffee consumption right now.

“Coffee, in excess, is a well-known irritant to the gut lining. Coffee can also be high in molds, which can stress a compromised immune system and encourage Candida overgrowth. And decaf might actually be worse when it comes to both mold content and acidity. Make sure to search for high-quality organic coffee beans, and drink coffee in moderation.” — Dr. Will Cole

What is mold-free coffee?

Mold in coffee? Yep, that’s the rumor I’ve heard. Apparently, mass-produced coffee and poor production practices can create toxins in our coffee. It’s not in the actual coffee bean itself, but in the growing, processing, storage, and shipping. These toxins include: Ochratoxin A (mold), Acrylamide and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

I’m definitely not an expert on the subject, but you guys know how much I love coffee. So I’ve done a bunch of research and have started to pay more attention to the coffee that I’m consuming, especially since making the connect between mold, candida, and my gross cough. For most people, the levels of these toxins is pretty low to be of real concern, but if you’re dealing with health issues like I am, it might be something to consider, especially if you’re consuming coffee daily.

Here are some additional resources that you might find helpful:

How do you know whether or not coffee is mold-free?

Good question! I’m actually not sure – unless a brand specifically says that their coffee is mold-free. If you know, please fill me in! 🙂 I actually did some crowd-sourcing on Instagram Stories to see if followers had favorite brands of mold-free coffee. Here’s what they came up with (below).

If you have other favorites, please send them my way. Right now, Mal is drinking Bulletproof, and I’m sticking with Teechino. I thought about purchasing the decaf Bulletproof, but, apparently, decaf coffee tends to be higher in mycotoxins since caffeine actually slows the growth of the molds. Blah. Again, this likely not a big deal for healthy folks, but I’m trying to reduce as much exposure as possible!

What are some mold-free coffee brands?

Purity Coffee

Bulletproof

Natural Force Clean Coffee

 

Do you have any favorite mold-free coffee brands? Please share!

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Pesto Tuscan Kale Salad

This kale salad is made with Tuscan kale massaged with pesto and topped with chicken, blue cheese, and parmesan. It made a quick lunch and will hold up in the fridge for a second meal. 

I am hoping to share more real life meals as mini recipes with you guys. Mini recipes and how-tos – like in the old KERF days. Somewhere along the way (in the past twelve years – ha!) I adopted the mindset that a post needed 15 perfectly styled photos to be ‘legit’ recipe post. That’s hogwash! If I inspire one person’s lunch menu I can rest my hat.

Pesto Tuscan Kale Salad

This kale salad came together in minutes thanks to ingredients I had on hand: pre-chopped Tuscan kale, pesto in a jar, and leftover smoked chicken. Of course you could make your own pesto or use any protein you had in your fridge – from hard-boiled eggs to salmon to tofu.

A Few Flavorful Ingredients

Sometimes just a little of something fancy elevates the whole dish. A few ingredients that are always worth it: lemon zest, fresh herbs, salt blends, and good olive oil. I used , a little lemon zest and a squeeze of juice, a little chopped fresh dill, a special salt from Feast and a Lemon olive oil from Oliva.

Massage Kale

With pesto, a drizzle of oil, lemon and zest, and a sprinkle of salt.

Add toppings

Warm chicken + a little blue cheese + parmesan (double cheese, but it’s good!) If you have time to make homemade croutons – DO IT. Sprinkle in fresh dill.

How I Made It

Pesto Massaged Kale Salad

This kale salad is made with Tuscan kale massaged with pesto and topped with chicken, blue cheese, and parmesan. It made a quick lunch and will hold up in the fridge for a second meal. This kale salad is made with Tuscan kale massaged with pesto and topped with chicken, blue cheese, and parmesan. It made a quick lunch and will hold up in the fridge for a second meal. 

  • 1 bag Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 lemon juice and zest
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped chicken
  • 1 tbsp crumbled blue cheese ((like Bleu d'Auvergne))
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp shredded parmesan
  1. Pour kale into a large bowl.

  2. Add pesto, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and salt and massage kale for 1-2 minutes, until it's shiny.

  3. Top with chicken and blue cheese. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Other Kale Salad Recipes

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