Optimizing blood pressure, whether it is too high or too low (both can occur in CFS and fibromyalgia), is an important part of staying healthy and feeling great!
When your blood pressure is too high, a condition called hypertension, it increases your risk of strokes and heart attack. So it's very important that you occasionally have your blood pressure checked, as symptoms of high blood pressure don't normally show up until the damage is already done.
Most people with CFS or fibromyalgia are more likely to have low blood pressure, causing occasional dizziness on standing and contributing to post-exertional fatigue and rapid pulse. We will discuss this in more depth in a future newsletter (you can also read about it here).
Although taking medication for an elevated blood pressure is sometimes necessary, you can do a lot to help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels through natural means. I've found through my practice, that a good approach can be to use medications to initially get your blood pressure under control, and then use natural therapies to help maintain your levels while you ease off the meds.
Because natural treatments are low cost, and since companies have no incentive to get research information on their benefits to physicians, it's no surprise that most doctors give so little consideration to the roles natural alternatives can play.
To be sure, blood pressure medications actually do save a lot of lives. So if you do have elevated blood pressure, by all means take the medications your doctor prescribes. But also take the time to educate yourself about the natural ways you can help maintain healthy blood pressure.
Let's begin by looking at some of the major — and often reversible — causes of hypertension.
Reversible Causes of Hypertension
To help you lose weight, review my blogs posts on weight loss. Be sure to also regularly exercise as exercise will help lower high blood pressure. If convenient, do it outdoors so you'll also get the benefit of sunshine-provided vitamin D (which also helps promote healthy blood pressure).
If you're male, overweight, have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and perhaps even have insulin resistance or diabetes, you probably have metabolic syndrome. This is often caused by a low testosterone level (even if it is in the low normal range, for example a total testosterone level of 450), and taking natural testosterone (by prescription) can help reverse this (see "Can Testosterone Be Good for You?"). For both men and women, avoiding excess sugar is important as well.
Drinking too Much Alcohol or Caffeine
Try leaving these off for two weeks and then recheck your blood pressure.
If you're overweight and snore, consider checking yourself for sleep apnea.
If your pulse or temperature regularly goes up after you eat, you may have a food allergy and should consult your physician to find out. Doing a Multiple Food Elimination Diet can also help you find out if you have food allergies.
It doesn't happen often, but some people's blood pressure shoots up simply as a result of visiting their doctor, and it's sometimes the only time their blood pressure is high. If that's you, then you have what's called "white-coat hypertension," and you might end up being prescribed high blood pressure medication when you don't need it. Many drugstore pharmacies have a blood-pressure machine they make available to the public. Find one near your home and use it. Always take three readings when you do this, one right after the other, to make sure that they are consistent. After you get accustomed to using them, you may find that your blood pressure starts to become lower.
Nutrition That Helps Keep Blood Pressure Under Control
In addition to getting your weight down, make sure to get the right nutrition in your diet. A high-fiber, low-fat, and low-sugar diet is best. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is also helpful. And then there's salt. Salt is often cited as the main nutritional concern in managing blood pressure, but unless one is eating very high or low amounts, the benefit of salt restriction is minimal. In fact, restricting salt intake to the government-recommended levels have been shown to cause people to die younger! So I think it is unwise to overly restrict salt consumption. I simply moderate salt intake comfortably.
Other ways nutrition can promote healthy blood pressure levels include:
- Take a good multivitamin powder to get optimal levels of vitamins A, C, and D plus magnesium (I recommend the Energy Revitalization System).
- Take potassium. The amount of potassium found in one banana and 1 cup of tomato or V8 juice, 8 ounces of coconut water, or half an avocado (about 500 mg in each ) each day can help normalize blood pressure.
- Take coenzyme Q10 200 mg a day. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency is especially common in people taking cholesterol-lowering medications. Be sure to use the Enzymatic Therapy or Integrative Therapeutics brands, as quality control is a problem for many brands of coenzyme Q10 (I recommend Smart Q10).
- Eat dark chocolate. It helps modestly, it's high in healthy antioxidants, and it tastes good!
In addition, don't forget the mind/body component. Some of us are like pressure cookers, and when we close down our "steam release valve" the pressure builds up inside of us. We may look calm on the outside but actually have high blood pressure inside. Give yourself permission to have a good hissy fit once in awhile to blow off steam. It can help your elevated blood pressure to come down.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.