Blood pressure measures both the volume of blood your heart is pumping and the resistance that blood flow encounters. Blood flow resistance increases as the vessels narrow, which can occur due to plaque deposits. Increases in either blood flow or resistance can result in high blood pressure, or hypertension. This can lead to long-term damage, such as stroke or heart attack, even when there are no symptoms. Because there may not be symptoms, it’s important to have regular physicals so that any problem can be discovered and tracked.
The human body, particularly the digestive system, is dependent on certain beneficial microorganisms that assist with bodily processes. Most can be found in the large and small intestines, and assist with the breakdown of foods, prevent harmful bacteria growth, and produce essential vitamins. Two groups of common intestinal microorganisms include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Yeasts can also be beneficial to the human digestive tract.
Probiotics are live, helpful microorganisms that are taken, among other reasons, to help restore the body’s bacterial balance. They can be found in foods and dietary supplements. Lactobacillus, which is found in fermented foods such as yogurt, can help to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. Bifidobacterium, which can also be found in dairy products, assist with the fermentation of some carbohydrates.
Though most people think of yogurt as a probiotic source, there are many other foods where these helpful microorganisms can be found. Sauerkraut is fermented using lactic acid bacteria and, if it hasn’t been pasteurized, contains live microorganisms. Miso, which is a Japanese seasoning that is made from fermented soybeans, contains probiotics and is also a provides protein and fiber. Kombucha is a drink made from tea that has been fermented with both bacteria and yeast. Pickles, when fermented in salt and water, contain live probiotics that those pickled in vinegar do not. Although traditional buttermilk contains live probiotics, cultured buttermilk, which is usually the type found in the U.S., does not.
Although most of the claims of probiotics refer to issues of digestive health, research has begun to show that they can be useful in lowering blood pressure and helping to keep it low. Most helpful, according to recent studies, are those that contain several bacterial species rather than just one. It is important to note that prolonged use is required for these beneficial effects to occur. This lowering of blood pressure is due, in part, in the ability of probiotics to lower blood levels of LDL, which is low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. It should be noted that the best effects are seen when probiotics are used as part of a heart healthy diet.