High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it usually causes no symptoms, but it can be deadly. High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of many deadly diseases, including heart attack, stroke, aneurysm and kidney failure. It can also rob you of your sight and your memory.
Unlike a few decades ago, there are many types of prescription blood pressure medications on today’s market. The problem is that one blood pressure medication is usually not enough for most people. Some people have to take two, three or more hypertension medications each day to get their blood pressure down to a safe level. Unfortunately, these prescription medications can often cause troubling side effects. Moreover, every additional prescription that is added to person’s daily routine is another chance for a serious medication interaction.
Luckily, recent research has shown that prebiotics can help lower blood pressure.1
Plant-Based Prebiotics and Blood Pressure
Evidence from several studies has shown the blood pressure lowering effects of prebiotics derived from plants. In some cases, the blood pressure lowering effects were rather modest. For example, one study showed systolic blood pressure (the top number of your blood pressure) reduced by 2 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of your blood pressure) reduced by 1 mmHg.2 If this was the only study showing the blood pressure lowering effects of prebiotics, it would not be impressive.
However, other studies have shown decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 7.5 and 5.5 mmHg, respectively.3 While this may not sound like a large drop in blood pressure, it can mean the difference between having the diagnosis of hypertension or not. It can also mean the difference between adding an additional prescription blood pressure medication or keeping the medication regimen the same. For people who are sensitive to medications or who experience side effects from blood pressure pills, this is a big deal.
How Do Prebiotics Lower Blood Pressure?
Unlike prescription blood pressure medications, plant-based prebiotics do not directly lower blood pressure. Instead, they exert multiple health benefits that result in lowered blood pressure. This is not to say that prebiotics take a long time to lower blood pressure — studies have shown results occur in as little as six weeks.3 This means plant-based prebiotics can work in conjunction with blood pressure medication to lower blood pressure.
However, research is showing that the blood pressure lowering effects of prebiotics come from plant-based prebiotics and not animal-based prebiotics.1 What’s the difference? Plant-based prebiotics are mainly from fructo-oligosaccharide while prebiotics derived from animals (milk, specifically) are galacto-oligosaccharide. Fructo-oligosaccharide confers the effect on blood pressure while galacto-oligosaccharide does not.
Are Plant-Based Prebiotics Safe to Take With my Blood Pressure Medication?
Luckily, prebiotics are incredibly safe. While prebiotics do not directly lower blood pressure, they lower blood pressure indirectly. This means very little ingested prebiotics are actually absorbed by the body — they mostly stay in the gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, there is no risk of drug interactions or dangerously low blood pressure. Prebiotics simply work to make your body healthier, which reduces blood pressure. Ideally, this can help you reduce or eliminate the prescription blood pressure medication.
Of course, you should always consult your physician before you start any dietary supplement or exercise regimen, or stop taking any medication.
- Yeo S-K, Ooi L-G, Lim T-J, Liong M-T. Antihypertensive Properties of Plant-Based Prebiotics. Int J Mol Sci. 2009;10(8):3517-3530.
- He J, Streiffer RH, Muntner P, Krousel-Wood MA, Whelton PK. Effect of dietary fiber intake on blood pressure: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Hypertens. Jan 2004;22(1):73-80.
- Keenan JM, Pins JJ, Frazel C, Moran A, Turnquist L. Oat ingestion reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild or borderline hypertension: a pilot trial. J Fam Pract. Apr 2002;51(4):369.