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High blood pressure is a condition that affects close to half of all adults in the United States. And if you’re one of them, your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke skyrocket.
Now a new study has not only found what could be a major cause of hypertension, but also a way to combat the issue and lower your blood pressure. And it’s as easy as skipping a meal here and there.
Gut dysbiosis and its effects on blood pressure
The study, performed at Baylor College of Medicine, focused on how a disruption in your gut microbiota, (also called gut dysbiosis) could adversely affect your blood pressure.
You see, your gut or GI tract is home to a huge and diverse community of microorganism that makes up your gut microbiome.
And more and more evidence is proving that much of your health — either good or bad — starts right here.
In fact, previous studies have already linked poor microbiome health in animal models to a higher risk of hypertension. And they’ve even proven that when you transplant an unhealthy microbiome from an animal with high blood pressure into one with normal pressure, the unlucky recipient develops the condition too.
In other words, poor microbiome health isn’t just a consequence of high blood pressure. It’s a cause!
All of this got those Baylor researchers thinking…
What if you could change your gut microbiome to either prevent or alleviate high blood pressure? And why does your microbiome have such a clear effect on blood pressure in the first place?
That’s where intermittent fasting comes in
Interestingly enough, fasting has been shown to help improve gut health.
So the researchers decided to test it out.
They set up two groups of rats:
- One group was made up of rats with gut dysbiosis and normal rats that only ate every other day.
- The other had rats with both normal poor gut health who ate whenever they wanted.
And after just nine weeks here’s what they found…
In both groups, the rats with poor gut health and higher blood pressure than the rats whose gut health was normal.
However, when the team compared the two groups of dysbiotic rats, they found something very interesting…
Fasting significantly reduced blood pressure.
How does fasting help better BP?
This led the team to the next question: how exactly does fasting work on the gut microbiome to impact blood pressure?
And they found the answer in bile acids — the compounds that allow you to digest your food.
Their results showed that animals with high blood pressure and gut dysbiosis had much lower bile acids in circulation than non-hypertensive animals.
But here’s where it gets good…
Even animals with a poor gut microbiome did better and experienced higher levels of those blood-pressure regulating bile acids — as long as they followed an intermittent feeding schedule!
Yup, intermittent fasting boosted bile acids.
And when bile acids were boosted, blood pressure went down significantly.
Overall, the researchers say that the study has now proven for the first time that intermittent fasting can be beneficial in terms of reducing hypertension by reshaping the composition of gut microbiota.
Leveraging intermittent fasting
So what is intermittent fasting and how do you do it to take advantage of its newly discovered power to lower BP?
Well, there are a few strategies you can use according to Johns Hopkins Medicine:
- 16:8 fasting – In this approach, you limit your eating window to eight hours per day and fast for the other 16.
- 5:2 fasting – This strategy allows you to eat regularly five days each week. The other two days involve limiting yourself to one meal per day of 500 to 600 calories.
They also point out that “Longer periods without food, such as 24, 36, 48 and 72-hour fasting periods, are not necessarily better for you and may be dangerous.”
Choose the intermittent fasting plan that’s right for you and your BP just might thank you.
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Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? — Johns Hopkins Medicine
Fasting lowers blood pressure by reshaping the gut microbiota — Baylor College of Medicine