Hypertension


High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, also called High Blood Pressure, refers to the force of blood against the walls of the arteries, veins and the chambers of the heart as it is pumped through the body. More than normal force exerted by the blood against the arteries (when high blood pressure is present) begins to damage the cellular walls and makes it easier for harmful substances such as toxins and oxidised cholesterol, to form dangerous deposits on the arterial walls. The heart beats at a rate of 60 to 70 times a minute when at rest. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries.

The symptoms of hypertension appear throughout the body and may include dizziness, fatigue, restlessness, nervousness, sweating, difficulty breathing, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, intestinal complaints and emotional instability. However, you may never experience any symptoms so it is important for everyone to know their blood pressure numbers.  Blood pressure is expressed with two numbers that represent systolic and diastolic pressures.

This reads as “117 over 76 millimetres of mercury”

Systolic: This is the top number which is the higher of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).

Diastolic: This is the bottom number which is the lower of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).

(The chart below reflects categories defined by the American Heart Association)

Blood Pressure Systolic number Diastolic number
Normal less than 120 less than 80
Prehypertension 120-139 80-89
Hypertension Stage 1 140-159 90-99
Hypertension Stage 2 160 or higher 100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 Higher than 110

If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious medical problems, including arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), enlarged heart, kidney damage and stroke.

Factors contributing towards hypertension are physical inactivity, incorrect diet, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, diabetes, environmental factors, lifestyle choices and genetic predisposition.

Hypertension is closely associated with the Western diet and lifestyle. Obesity, regardless of the presence of other factors, increases the risk of hypertension. Although a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as behaviour patterns and stress contribute to hypertension, the main cause appears to be a diet high in animal fat and salt, especially if there is a deficiency in potassium and magnesium. Lifestyle choices including smoking, excessive consumption of coffee, sugar and alcohol have been shown to contribute to hypertension. Chronic levels of stress added to bad lifestyle choices, raises the risk if developing hypertension.

A careful evaluation of the factors contributing to hypertension may reveal a need for dietary changes, nutritional supplementation and lifestyle changes such as increased exercise, weight loss and stress management. Alternative therapies may include various forms of mind/body medicine, herbal medicine, detoxification therapies, Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Dietary changes may include reducing the intake of fats from red meats and rather increase fats from fish such as salmon, mackerel and cod. Increased intake of fresh fruit, salads and vegetables is important. The Mediterranean diet which is rich in monounsaturated fat (olive oil) and antioxidants (Vitamin C, betacarotene and Vitamin E) from fresh fruit and vegetables, and high in essential fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed oil. Avocados and asparagus, commonly eaten in this diet, are rich in L-glutathione, an amino acid that destroys harmful free radicals. Also, garlic and onions, also prominent in this diet, help because they reduce blood pressure. Simple sugars, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and refined carbohydrates need to be dramatically reduced or eliminated altogether.

Nutritional supplementation may include fish oil, garlic, evening primrose oil, magnesium, calcium, potassium, selenium, zinc, Vitamin B6, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, tryptophan, taurine, cysteine and co-enzyme Q10. In order to reduce blood pressure, sodium (salt) intake needs to be restricted and potassium intake increased. Potassium rich foods include avocados, bananas, melon, grapefruit, nectarines, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, and squash. Steaming rather than boiling vegetables helps prevent the loss of vital nutrients.

Weight loss reduced blood pressure in those with and without hypertension. Regular exercise reduces stress and blood pressure. Swimming is an excellent non-impact exercise. Stress-reduction techniques such as biofeedback, yoga, meditation, Qigong, relaxation exercises and hypnotherapy have all been successful in lowering blood pressure.

There are many herbs which help reduce blood pressure, including garlic, olive leaf, hawthorn berries and periwinkle. According to David Hoffmann, B.Sc. M.N.I.M.H., of Sebastopol, California, eating a clove of raw garlic daily will help prevent or even reverse the effects of high blood pressure. Besides being helpful in reducing high blood pressure, garlic has been used to inhibit cholesterol production and reduce triglyceride levels, promote blood circulation and discourage clot formation.

Oleuropein, the active part of Olive Leaf extract, has been shown to increase blood flow to the heart and lower blood pressure.

Hawthorn is one of the primary heart tonics in traditional herbal medicine. It is known to decrease blood pressure and increase blood flow to the heart muscle. “An infusion of Hawthorn berries taken twice daily is a gentle and effective way of helping the body to normalise blood pressure”, says Hoffmann. “The infusion can be strengthened by combining linden flowers or by adding chamomile or valerian, if tension or headaches are present.”

According to Dr W. Lee Cowden, a cardiologist from Fort Worth, Texas, people with hypertension often suffer from liver insufficiency, where the liver does not properly clear steroid hormones (sex hormones and hormones of the adrenal glands), as well as toxic substances from the blood. Detoxification, saunas and a vegetarian diet can help restore the liver function and lower blood pressure. A toxic lymphatic system can also contribute to hypertension and Dr Cowden suggests deep breathing exercises and ten minutes daily of dry brushing of the skin in the direction of lymph flow, for three weeks.

Ayurvedic medicine treats hypertension according to each person’s metabolic type. Dr Virender Sodhi (Ayurveda), N.D., Director of the Ayurvedic & Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Bellevue, Washington, says that hypertension is found most often in pitta and kappa types and is usually due to a combination of genetics and lifestyle. His patients are put on a diet low in sodium, cholesterol and triglycerides. Yoga breathing exercises help to relax the body and stimulate the cardiovascular system, effectively reducing hypertension, says Dr Sodhi. Depending on the patient’s individual needs, they are usually treated with herbal remedies and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, silicon and zinc. The herbs recommended are Sankhapuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Ashwaghanda, Coral in Rose water, and Rauwolfia.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, hypertension is usually due to a problem in the circulation of energy (qi) in the body. Poor diet and long-term emotional distress such as chronic nervousness, anger and depression can lead to this condition. Treatment is aimed at bringing the energy flow of the body back into balance, through a combination of acupuncture and herbs.

Aromatherapy can help to lower blood pressure, although it is important to make sure that changes in diet and lifestyle are made. Massage with essential oils that help decrease blood pressure is important. These oils are calming, soothing and deeply relaxing. The most effective oils are Lavender, Marjoram and Ylang Ylang. Ylang Ylang is valuable if there is shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat. Marjoram dilates the arteries, reducing strain on the heart.

Alternative Medicine – The Definitive Guide – Trivieri & Anderson

Medical Herbalism – David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG

Aromatherapy An A-Z – Patricia Davis

The Directory of Essential Oils – Wanda Sellar


Constipation

“Constipation can undermine the whole body, affecting digestion, the clearing of toxins, energy levels and the absorption of nutrients”. – James Braly, M.D

Constipation is such a common problem which is often easily remedied with lifestyle changes, but many people ignore the initial symptoms which can lead to some very serious conditions.

Regular bowel movements means a minimum of one bowel movement a day, but preferably two or three. Anything less than one bowel movement a day could indicate constipation and the accumulation of toxins. Sluggish action of the bowels can result in headaches, fatigue, bad breath, body odour, coated tongue, insomnia, obesity, malabsorption syndrome, depression, pain and other digestive problems. It generally affects the entire body negatively.  Proper elimination is necessary to avoid the buildup of toxins in the body which can lead to chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.

One of the main causes of constipation is a poor diet and nutrition. A diet that consists mainly of processed foods, fast foods, fatty foods, sugars and lacks fresh vegetables and fibre puts you in danger of developing constipation. Other possible causes of constipation are laxative abuse, lack of exercise, food allergies (dairy being a common one) dehydration, poor posture, emotional trauma, stress, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, drugs, iron supplements, medications, hypothyroidism, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) and ignoring the urge to go to the toilet. Medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, opiates, analgesics, anticonvulsants, antihistamines, antidepressants, antihypertensives, diuretics and anaesthetics may also contribute to being constipated. Unfortunately these drugs can not distinguish between the friendly or unfriendly microbes that live in our bodies and they kill off both the bad and the good bacteria.  When the friendly bacteria are not replaced through diet or supplementation, the unfriendly bacteria settle into the intestines causing a buildup of toxins. Probiotics help facilitate the growth of the friendly bacteria in the colon.

Dr Patrick Donovan from Washington, USA says the first three things in treating constipation are fluids, fibre and exercise. Alternative medicine offers several methods to help the colon return to a natural healthy state, including diet, nutritional supplements, herbs, stress reduction techniques, physical therapies as well as treatments from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
A high-fibre diet rich in carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits with a proper balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals, roughage and fluids is recommended to helping restore healthy bowel movements. Major sources of fibre include wheat bran, psyllium, flaxseed, whole grain products and beans. A high water intake (away from mealtimes) will promote proper digestion. Carrot, beetroot and apple juice is also helpful. Other high fibre and beneficial foods are raw green leafy vegetables, brown rice, asparagus, beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, whole rolled oats, apricots, bananas, blackberries, cranberries, figs, grapes and prunes.
Herbal supplements such as rhubarb, senna, cascara sagrada, dandelion root and aloe are helpful for short-term use of constipation relief. Vitamin C and Magnesium intake are also helpful.  Aloe vera has a healing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract and aids in forming soft stools. Milk Thistle aids liver function and enhances bile production to soften stools.
Proper exercise and relaxation play a very important role in eliminating constipation. Exercise tones the abdominal muscles, stimulates the peristaltic action of the colon, decreases emotional stress and increases breathing and oxygenation of the body all which help promote good health.  A good, brisk 20-30 minute walk after a meal will help the digestion process.
Chiropractic adjustments can help improve bowel movements. The waves that move material through the colon (peristalsis) occur as a result of nerve excitement that originates at the spinal nerves and adjustments can alleviate spinal subluxations that may be hindering this action. Chiropractic adjustments also help normalise the action of the ileocecal valve, the valve that separates the large intestine from the small intestine. If this valve goes into spasms and shuts too tightly, material remains in the small intestine longer than it should. Chiropractic treatments affect the nerve endings connected to the ileocecal valve, which helps to relax it and relieve the spasms.
Massage can also help relax the abdominal muscles and encourage normal peristalsis, helping to prevent the build-up of fecal material. As stress is also a factor in colon problems, massage helps to restore calm and soothe the digestive tract. Another treatment often used in alternative healing to treat the colon, is reflexology. Reflexology therapy stimulates organs of the body through gentle pressure applied to the foot.
Ayurvedic medicine recommends colon detoxification to treat constipation. Medicated enemas with combinations of herbs are used as well as several other natural and dietary remedies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends acupuncture to help restore the natural peristaltic action of the colon, as well as exercise, deep breathing and massage.  There are combinations of herbs and exercise which are also used to help treat constipation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, diet is a highly individualised matter, but high-fibre is recommended for constipation.  Beets and cabbage are known to be helpful for people who may find that bran is too harsh.
Some homeopathic remedies for constipation are:
Nux vomica – for constipation that alternates with diarrhoea;
Silicea – when there is a burning sensation after a bowel movement;
Causticum – for a stich-like pain accompanying a bowel movement;
Bryonia – for large, hard, dry stools, with congestion in the abdomen causing distention and a burning feeling in the rectum.
Essential oils such as marjoram, fennel, black pepper and rosemary are very helpful when used in a massage blend and massaged clockwise around the abdomen.
Biofeedback Training and Neurotherapy, Craniosacral therapy, Detoxification therapy, Environmental medicine, Hypnotherapy, Magnetic Field therapy, Mind-Body medicine and Osteopathic medicine are all avenues one could pursue for the treatment of constipation.  Whichever path you decide to take, always consult your qualified healthcare professional. Don’t ignore constipation!
Alternative Medicine – The Definitive Guid – Trivieri & Anderson
Prescription for Nutritional Healing – Balch
The Healing Remedies Sourcebook – C. Norman Shealy, M.D. PhD


Candidiasis

Everyone has Candida, a form of yeast (Candida albicans) normally found in the lower bowels, vagina and on the skin.  If you have a strong, healthy, functioning immune system, the Candida is harmless and usually kept in “check” by the “good” bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and acidophilus. However, if the balance of the intestinal environment is altered by a compromised immune system, or other factors, then the Candida proliferates and creates infections in the body tissues. It transforms from a simple yeast into an aggressive fungus that can severely compromise one’s health.  What it seems to do is permeate the gastrointestinal lining and allows allergenic substances to permeate into the blood stream. This causes terrible reactions to occur which often appear as allergic reactions to foods.

Candida produces a number of toxins that can suppress immune function and deplete the body of the white blood cells require to fight infections. The condition can cause a number of diseases, ranging from allergies, vaginitis, thrush (in the mouth or the vagina), bladder infection, urinary tract infection, and even infections in the eyes, liver, heart or central nervous system.  Some symptoms include digestive problems such as bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhoea, respiratory problems, coughing, wheezing, earaches, central nervous system imbalances, generalised fatigue and loss of libido. Other symptoms of Candidiasis may include: chronic fatigue, weight gain, depression, anxiety and irritability, hyperactivity, confusion and loss of memory, chronic diarrhoea, constipation, heartburn, food allergies, severe PMS, mood swings, memory loss, skin problems, sinus, hay-fever, migraines, headaches, sleep disturbances and heart palpitations.

Candidiasis often results from taking medicines such as antibiotics, birth control pills and oestrogen replacement therapy. Hormonal changes often encourage Candida overgrowth.  When men develop Candidiasis, antibiotics, high sugar intake or immune suppression (from illness, toxins and stress) are usually the root causes.

According to Dr Murray Susser from Santa Monica, California, antibiotics, although life-saving cures for many diseases, may be the single greatest cause of Candidiasis, because it kills off the bad infection causing bacteria as well as the “good” intestinal bacteria.  One of the activities of the good bacteria is to manufacture the B vitamin, Biotin which controls yeast production.  When Biotin is lacking the bacteria becomes opportunistic and evolves into a fungus. Candida then puts down little roots which burrow into the tissues on which the yeast is growing. When this happens to the inner walls of the intestines, it breaks down the barrier that exists between the bowel and the body, resulting in toxic debris moving into the bloodstream and thus causing allergic and toxic reactions.  Antibiotics alter the the balance of the intestinal flora and suppress the immune system. A person with a suppressed immune system is more susceptible to Candida as well as other bacterial infections.
Foods that stimulate the growth of Candida and should be avoided are:  all dairy products, sugar, breads, pastries, (All white flour products), cheeses, dried fruits, peanuts, potato chips, desserts, fizzy drinks, sweets, and all junk foods. High carbohydrate diets provide plenty of sugar in the body and support the growth of Candida.  Candidiasis patients should stay away from all alcohol as it is toxic and feeds the yeast.  Alcohol suppresses the immune system and disturbs the whole adrenal hormone axis.  Moulds are another aspect of Candida sensitivity.  Food moulds include cheeses, grapes, mushrooms and fermented foods.
Damp environments such as mouldy or musty basements or homes, may also encourage yeast growth. Exposure to environmental pollutants such as pesticide residues, car exhausts, industrial chemicals and heavy metals (including those from mercury amalgam fillings) may encourage the growth of Candida as well.
A conventional way of treating Candida is to prescribe anti fungal drugs such as nystatin, ketoconazol and Diflucan. However, a comprehensive approach is more effective in treating Candida. A reduction of factors that predispose a patient to Candida overgrowth is a good starting point and the patient’s immune function needs to be strengthened. Diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, oxygen therapy, Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture are some of the choices alternative physicians use to treat Candida. Full recovery from Candida seldom takes less than three months and it is therefore wise to address the problem under the guidance of your health practitioner.
Nutritional supplements as a support are necessary to help build the immune system and strengthen the digestive system. Recommended supplements include B vitamins (to increase antibody response), Vitamin C (stimulates the adrenal glands and is essential to immune processes), Vitamin E, Vitamin A (builds resistance to infection and increases the immune response) and beta carotene (increases T cells).  Antioxidant immune boosters such as selenium, calcium, and zinc are also useful in combating Candidiasis. Additional adrenal gland stimulants include chromium and magnesium. A supplementation of HCI (hydrochloric acid) is helpful to replenish the lack in the stomach caused by ageing, alcohol abuse, food allergies and nutrient deficiencies.
Herbal remedies that help for Candidiasis are Goldenseal, Oregon grape and Barberry. Berberain fights Candida overgrowth, normalises intestinal flora, helps digestive problems, has antidiarrheal properties and stimulates the immune system by increasing blood supply to the spleen. Garlic, a well-known folk remedy, is a particularly effective anti fungal agent.  Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic and has been found to be more potent than many other anti-fungals, especially against Candida.
Pau d’arco bark has also long been used to treat infections, intestinal complaints and genitourinary ailments. It is said to be an analgesic, antiviral, diuretic and fungicide.
Grapefruit Seed extract works as  multipurpose natural antibiotic for bacterial and viral problems in the intestines and against Candida infections. Other anti-fungal and antibacterial herbs include German chamomile, Aloe Vera, Ginger, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Liquorice, Oil of Oregano, Thyme Oil, and Tea Tree Oil.
Excerpt from Alternative Medicine – The Definitive Guide
Trivieri & Anderson