Of all the health conditions that we routinely see, hypertension is one of the most common and thankfully one of the easiest to improve. Once you know where to look, it responds extremely quickly to simple dietary changes.
(I've summarized this information in a video below as well, in case you'd prefer to soak up the info in that format)
It’s an unfortunate thing about western medicine that the treatment of a symptom often results in a worsening of the overall health of the patient. While blood pressure medications reduce high blood pressure, many also result in negative impacts on other body systems and the whole person suffers.
Addressing hypertension through diet change however, reduces the severity of that single symptom while elevating the overall health of the patient. Most of our patients who follow this protocol for hypertension end up being able to come off of their blood pressure medication within between 2 and 6 months.
You should never stop a prescribed medication without first consulting with your doctor. For many medications there are establish dosing reductions that need to take place. Whenever my patients come off of their medications, it is always in coordination with their doctor’s office.
Here’s one patient’s experience:
L.M. had blood pressure that was routinely above 180 systolic. She was a former nurse so she knew how important it was to get her blood pressure under control and she diligently did everything her doctors told her. Unfortunately, her doctor wasn’t able to control it. He referred her to a Cardiologist. Her Cardiologist tried multiple medications with no change. He tried combining medications but still her blood pressure wasn’t changing. With all the usual mainstream options exhausted, she came to see me at the suggestion of her son who was also a patient. We made this simple intervention in her diet and within weeks her blood pressure was under control and remains there today. Her Cardiologist was in disbelief and actually angry with how quickly her hypertension resolved. I suppose that’s understandable after all his effort. It’s simple nutrition but surprisingly very few western doctors, Cardiologists included, receive comprehensive training in nutrition.
The good news is that this protocol can easily and safely be done for most patients. (As with most dietary interventions please consult your health care provider prior to starting. This is especially true if you suffer from a kidney or heart condition.)
Write down everything you eat and drink in a normal day.
Calculate the amount of potassium you get in that standard day. (Click the button below to download a form to help you find and track those numbers)
Download Form Here
Here’s another resource to find more potassium contents for different foods: https://nutritiondata.self.com).
Okay, let’s take a moment and talk about the science.
Sodium and potassium operate as a ratio. If sodium is too high relative to potassium, you’ll get hypertension, if your potassium is too low relative to sodium, you’ll also get hypertension. What’s important is the ratio between the two. When patients track their potassium at the start of this protocol I typically see numbers between 1,000 and 2,000 mg per day. That’s a big problem. The recommended daily allowance is between 3,500mg and 4,700mg. Not only are most people deficient, they are getting less than half of what is recommended! Since we don’t get nearly enough potassium to start with, in order to get the ratio of sodium to potassium to the point where it will reduce blood pressure we’d need to eat so little sodium that it would actually cause new problems.
A National Academies of Science meta-analysis found exactly this. The sodium intake recommended for years by the American Medical Association was not only not helping hypertension, but was actually making people worse by causing increased triglycerides and increased inflammation.)
The obvious solution is to increase the potassium intake in order to normalize that sodium/potassium ratio (ideally, restoring it closer to what we are intended to get, what we’ve been getting in our diets going back millennia.) Once you increase your potassium your blood pressure responds rapidly. Studies have repeatedly shown this to be an effective strategy.
(I wrote about this subject at length in 2017 click here to read the entire article.
Okay, time for step three, but first, a crucial note:
Do not take potassium supplements!
There are two reasons for this, but most importantly, taking potassium in a supplement makes it possible, and even easy, to take too much. That can and will result in dangerous, possibly fatal heart arrhythmias for many people. Get your potassium only from food unless specifically recommended by your doctor!
The other reason is a little more complicated. Think about it this way: If you are that deficient in potassium, do you think there are other nutrients that you are also deficient in? Americans are notoriously deficient in magnesium, zinc, fiber and vitamin C just to name a few. When you get your potassium from whole foods, you will be increasing your intake those other nutrients as well. A lot of them (like magnesium and naturally occurring Nitric Oxide precursors) will also help to lower your blood pressure and protect your cardiovascular system.
Okay, ready for the fun part?
Now, using the form, shoot for between 3,500 and 4,700 mg per day. You’ll notice that a lot of the foods that are highest in potassium are fruits and vegetables. What’s helped a lot of patients navigate this is to buy as many single serving fruits and vegetables as will fit into the vegetable drawer of their fridge, think carrots, oranges, bananas, celery, pears, apples, bell peppers, plums, and peaches. Whenever you’re hungry for a snack just grab another piece of fruit. Shoot for having 4 servings of fruits and vegetables as snacks each day then have a serving with each meal. That will bring you to 7 servings for the day. Not bad, and on average you’ll be up to between 2,500-3,500mg of potassium already. Add in the starches with your meals - (especially good sources are quinoa and potatoes) and you’ll be right around your target.
Follow this protocol exactly as described and within between 2-5 days you should already notice a change and within 2-4 weeks you should be able to easily maintain your blood pressure in the normal range.
Enjoy watching your blood pressure drop, and enjoy the feeling of being in charge of your own health!
Kieran Jones MTCM L.Ac.
I'm Kieran, clinician and owner of Cotati Community Acupuncture. I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner for the past 10 years. I have a deep curiosity in health, biology, culture, medicine, history, and a healthy obsession with the pursuit of the perfect state of health.