can probiotics cause high blood pressure

Can Probiotics Cause High Blood Pressure?

Probiotics have long been known to be safe and useful for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions. You must have also heard that they can help improve mental health and boost our immune system.

However, there have also been occasional reports of probiotics causing heart palpitations, lowering cholesterol, and other serious side effects for some users. You might even be wondering whether they can lead to high blood pressure.

Surprisingly, although most studies show that probiotics can actually reduce high blood pressure, there has also been a handful that contradicts these findings. One study even showed that some strains could cause high blood pressure.

So, which strains can affect blood pressure, and can you still take them if you’re on blood pressure prescription meds? Let’s dive in to find out.

But first, let’s discuss why it happens to help us understand how it might be prevented if that’s even possible at all.

Do Probiotics Raise Your Blood Pressure?

A 2015 review in the journal Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension studied several models of hypertension, particularly the spontaneously hypertensive and Dahl salt-sensitive rats, to check gut bacteria and probiotics’ connection with hypertension.

It’s common knowledge that high blood pressure is one of the most common symptoms of hypertension. Many people even consider them interchangeable terms.

In this study, researchers discovered that gut microbes Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes can increase blood pressure levels of the mouse models. These gut bacteria can have similarities to other bacterial strains popularly used in probiotics.

Firmicute bacteria include:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bacillus
  • Clostridium
  • Enterococcus
  • Ruminococcus

Lactobacillus strains are among the most commonly used in probiotics.

Of course, the study used mouse models or laboratory mice specifically engineered to help researchers study some aspect of human disease or physiology. If it works that way for the mouse models, will it also have the same effect on you?

Despite the mice being a model for these medical aspects, researchers are also cautious about transposing their findings directly to humans. 

Let me below share some of the important findings I learned while researching this topic.

Why Do Probiotics Cause High Blood Pressure? (mechanism)

In the 2015 study I mentioned above, the researchers explained that gut bacteria can influence blood pressure because the products of the fermentation process they do towards the nutrients in the body (of the mouse models) can affect salt sensitivity.

This sensitivity to salt could be due to:

  • Gastrointestinal and renal ion transport
  • Regulation of energy expenditure 
  • Intestinal metabolism of catecholamines

Although the study uses gut microbiota, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes, it could be possible for the microbes from other probiotics to have similar effects.

Gut Bacteria And High Blood Pressure

According to the 2015 study, gut microbiota’s effects on blood pressure are a consequence of different variables, which can include:

  • Intake of antibiotics
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Epigenetics (environmental factors that could directly affect genetics, including chemical factors)

The paper discusses complicated pathways caused by SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) produced by gut bacteria. According to the researchers, these SCFAs activate two G protein-coupled receptors, GPR41 and GPR43 (free fatty acid receptors), and one olfactory receptor.

Now, GPR43 has vasodilatory properties, with a similar effect as blood pressure medications like losartan and diltiazem. But GPR41 can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure.

Still, it leads us to the question of whether these mice-model studies can actually apply to humans.

The good news is that this effect doesn’t appear to be universal or applicable to all probiotic users. 

Clinical trials involving human subjects actually have different results.

Clinical Trials: Effect Of Probiotics On Blood Pressure (What Experts Say)

A 2020 systemic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease studied different clinical trials and research from databases such as the Cochrane library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CNKI.

Comparing 23 randomized control clinical trials involving 2,000+ participants, the researchers found that probiotic consumption significantly improved systolic and diastolic blood pressures by -3.05 mmHg and -1.51 mmHg, respectively.

The 2020 researchers explain that such reductions can reduce the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke by 4%.

A 2014 review even showed that the reduction could be as high as -3.56 mmHg (systolic) and -2.38 mmHg (diastolic). That could further reduce stroke and heart attack risks.

Most of these clinical trials reportedly used Lactobacillus strains, including:

  • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

Surprisingly these clinical trials show that the positive effects were good for short-term use of around 8-10 weeks, but didn’t appear to be applicable for long-term use.

So, although the study authors recommend probiotics supplements as an antihypertensive agent, they recommend further studies and larger-scale randomized control trials to confirm the accuracy of probiotics’ effects on blood pressure levels.

It’s important to note that the clinical trials above involved human subjects, not just mouse models. 

I’m not saying that the mouse model study is invalid, but the human clinical trials have the most relatable results. 

Can I Still Take Probiotics With High Blood Pressure Or Not?

Based on the human clinical trials studied in the reviews above, it would be a good idea to take probiotics if you have high blood pressure. The gut bacteria in these probiotics can help reduce your blood pressure and prevent a stroke or heart attack.

Jing Sun, researcher and biostatistics senior lecturer at the Griffith University School of Medicine in Queensland, Australia, explains on NBC News, however, you can take probiotics in addition to (not instead of) blood pressure medications.

Is It Safe To Take Probiotics With Blood Pressure Meds?

Based on the researcher’s statement on NBC News, it might be safe to take probiotics with blood pressure medications.

However, it’s important to note that this shouldn’t be a substitute for medical advice. Individuals can react differently to certain medications, supplements, or combinations.

Also, certain probiotic formulations, such as those mixed with calcium carbonate could interact with blood pressure meds such as amlodipine. There might be a need to adjust your blood pressure meds if you’re taking these probiotics.

Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking probiotics or other dietary supplements if you’re using medications.

What Are The Best Probiotics For Blood Pressure?

The clinical trials in the 2020 systemic review above used the following probiotic strains that they found to be possibly effective in reducing blood pressure levels:

  • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

It’s a good idea to check for these probiotic strains in the supplements you’re trying to compare to find the most suitable one for dealing with blood pressure.

Probiotic Supplements I Recommend

Based on the probiotic strains listed above, here are the supplements I recommend:

  • YourBiology Gut+ 
  • Whole Earth & Sea Whole Food Synbiotic
  • Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

YourBiology Gut+ 

YourBiology Gut+ contains the following well-studied probiotic strains that can help reduce high blood pressure and stress:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus paracasei

I was also able to ask YourBiology Gut+ customer support if their products are good for blood pressure reduction, and they confirmed that this could be the case.

Whole Earth & Sea Whole Food Synbiotic

I also recommend Whole Earth & Sea Whole Food Synbiotic. This contains the following probiotic strains, some of which were listed by the studies above to be good for reducing high blood pressure:

  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Ligilactobacillus salivarius 
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus

Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

If you’re looking for a probiotic specially formulated for men, then Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8 can be a good option. It contains the following probiotic strains:

  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Is Yakult Good For High Blood Pressure?

A 2017 study in the journal Beneficial Microbes showed that regular intake (at least 3 times a week) of fermented milk products containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota, such as Yakult, can reduce the risk of hypertension and lower high blood pressure in older people.

My Final Thoughts

While there are still some unknowns when it comes to the effects of probiotics on high blood pressure, most studies show that they can be beneficial in reducing high blood pressure. There may be a small number of strains that cause an increase in blood pressure, but for the most part, probiotics seem to help regulate this important marker of health.

If you’re looking for an easy and natural way to lower your blood pressure, incorporating probiotics into your diet may be a good option for you.

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