The gut and hypertension - how probiotics can help

Dr Peter French


In studies published in 2015 and recently (October 31, 2016), researchers at the University of Florida in the United States reported on the role that probiotics could play in reducing elevated blood pressure1,2.

It is well accepted that the gut microbiota (the trillions of bacteria, both good and bad, that live in your gastrointestinal tract) plays an important role in supporting and maintain a healthy immune system. In fact, the GI tract is commonly referred to as an essential acquired organ because its composition and richness are constantly adapting to the challenges presented by the environment or by the host, such as age, diet, lifestyle modifications and disease states.

Changes in gut microbiota have been related to chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, eczema, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and infectious diseases.

 However, the researchers found data from clinical trials to suggest that the gut microbiota may also play a role in the development and maintenance of heart disease and metabolic disorders including obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

 Adult gut microbiota is diverse; it is made up of trillions of microorganisms but a delicate balance in its composition is key in maintaining good health; any disruption of this balance could lead to devastating physiological consequences.

 They quoted the work of a group3 who in 2014 looked at several clinical trials that have been conducted over the past few years examining the effect of consumption of probiotics on blood pressure. Their combined analysis of nine randomized clinical trials with 543 participants in total showed a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients who consumed a daily dose of live probiotic organisms. This evidence indirectly suggests that gut microbiota may play a key role in the control of blood pressure and that any change in microbiota composition or imbalance may potentially result in hypertension.

 Furthermore, the researchers went on to conduct their own study, and their results were consistent with previous clinical studies, showing that a shift in the gut microbiota was associated with higher blood pressure.

 In a recent study (October 2016) the researchers concluded that a dysfunctional gut microbiota is associated with gut pathology, dysbiosis, and inflammation, and plays a key role in hypertension. “Thus, targeting of gut microbiota by innovative probiotics, antibiotics, and fecal transplant, in combination with current pharmacotherapy, may be a novel strategy for hypertension treatment.”

  • Yang T. et al., Gut dysbiosis is linked to hypertension. Hypertension 2015; 65:1331-1340
  • Santisteban MM, et al., Hypertension-linked pathophysiological alterations in the gut. Circ Res 2016 Oct 31.
  • Khalesi S, Sun J, Buys N, Jayasinghe R. Effect of probiotics on blood pressure. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension 2014; 64:897-903

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