High systolic blood pressure is called the silent killer because there aren’t any early symptoms. Some meds will up blood pressure levels in unexpected ways.
I’m going to cover one of these strange ways that a class of medication can increase your blood pressure, and it starts, not in the cardiovascular system as you would expect, but rather in the digestive system.
I could argue that the human body does two things….Digest, and everything else.
The digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food and drink we put in our mouths is absolutely critical to good health. Disruption of that process in any way, shape or form can only harm us.
But stomach acid just helps us digest some proteins, right? And my doctor told me that I make too much so I need to take a drug that lowers it.
So what exactly does stomach acid do?
- Begins the process of digesting proteins
- Sterilizes bacteria so that they don’t begin to grow where they are not supposed to
- Turns on all the other inactive enzymes (they are deliberately made inactive to protect the glands and ducts they are made in)
- Turns on anti-cancer compounds like DIM from Indole 3 carbinol in cruciferous veggies
- Creates an acidic solution so that the pancreas can sense the acid and neutralize it (pH needs to be at least 3.5 for bicarbonate release from the pancreas). Otherwise, the contents of the stomach remain acidic and can damage the lining of the intestines
- Helps us absorb certain vitamins like B12
- Helps separate certain minerals so that they can be absorbed in elemental form
So, if your doctor handed you a prescription for something like Nexium, you should ask him or her what critical digestive processes are going to be negatively impacted. If he gives you a blank stare and just reiterates that you make too much acid, he or she has NO RIGHT giving you that drug.
If someone is going to give you a drug that blocks some essential process, they better damn well know the downstream consequences.
There is one other function of stomach acid that I didn’t mention…
It is coming to light that stomach acid may play a large role in helping foods that we eat to lower our blood pressure. Here’s how it works.
Nitrates naturally present in foods (vegetables, in general, are very high in nitrates), are converted by bacteria in our mouth to nitrite. (We have seen studies where antiseptic mouthwash actually stops this process and studies that suggest that stomach acid and nitrite protect the stomach lining)
The nitrite is then acted on by stomach acid to produce nitric oxide, which is a molecule well known to help lower blood pressure.
This means that anything that lowers stomach acid production can actually increase your blood pressure. This includes stress, age and acid blocking drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and antacids.
This particular study confirms this, finding that the use of omeprazole in rats stopped the ability of a solution of sodium nitrite to lower blood pressure.
Chalk up another benefit of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Lowers blood pressure.
As to whether or not you actually make too much stomach acid…Consider this. Stress shuts down stomach acid production (via stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system) and, as we age, the region of the stomach that produces stomach acid wears away, leading to lower levels of stomach acid as we age.
So, unless you’re 25, stress free or have a tumor producing too much gastrin, I would pretty much put my license on the fact that you make too little stomach acid. This means that, for everything except a bleeding ulcer, supporting digestion rather than shutting it down is a much better idea for your symptoms.
So what changes did you make that helped with your reflux, heartburn or gastric pain?