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Oct 29, 2019

Functional Medicine Treatment for High Blood Pressure

by Dr. Dan Kalish

What are the best natural supplements for high blood pressure? My preference is to run lab tests to determine the natural ways to lower blood pressure and blood sugar based on functional medicine assessments. There are many functional medicine treatment options for high blood pressure that do not require lab work-ups. Let’s discuss both options.

Functional medicine treatment for high blood pressure was taught to me by one of my early mentors, Dr. Jay Cohen. Jay was originally trained as a family doctor and psychiatrist and worked for decades in conventional practice. He then contracted a very serious inflammatory condition that left him with such severe leg pain he could no longer work as a physician, he could barely walk when I met him. After exhausting all the conventional medical treatments without any benefit, he came to see me as a patient in my very first few months in practice. At that point in my career I could barely open the door to the treatment room without shaking and sweating profusely. Needless to say, his case was way over my head back then and I didn’t help him at all but we became friends and as the years went by, he became a teacher and mentor for me. I would always call Jay when I would have an existential crisis around my role as an alternative provider and my confrontations and frustrations with the conventional medical doctors in my area that were co-treating patients with me.  Jay was an MD and was quite a bit older than me and had seen a lot in the field of medicine, he kind of “got it” in terms of understanding where conventional MD’s were coming from and totally comprehending the natural medicine world I was in.

One time I was complaining to Jay about all the local MD’s just prescribing drugs for every problem that I thought in my youthful exuberance could be resolved with natural treatments and he stopped me short and said, “Dan, that’s why they call it “medicine” we are trained to prescribe medicine!” That shut me up for a while! Anyhow he was a great man and he is greatly missed having passed away several years ago.

So, eventually Jay was able to cure his leg pain with high dosages of magnesium and this led him on a many year journey of discovery to understand the role of magnesium in human health in general. He even took the time to write a book specifically about Magnesium and High Blood Pressure which is a must read for anyone suffering from the condition. It’s short and easy to read. He was at heart a researcher and scientist and spent quite a few years on the study of magnesium and its various therapeutic roles. Magnesium can be used to lower blood pressure, and quite interestingly, this can work whether you are deficient in magnesium or not. In other words, you can order a lab test and if you are low in magnesium on the lab for sure you should take it. If you have high blood pressure and low magnesium levels then obviously it’s even more important to take magnesium at least until your levels normalize if not until your blood pressure improves. However, even if your lab tests demonstrate normal magnesium levels, you can still use it to lower blood pressure because magnesium has vasodilating effects and can be used to replace missing magnesium in your system or can be used more like a drug, even if your magnesium levels are fine, to simply lower your blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.

Other functional medicine high blood pressure quick fixes include meditation and breathing exercises which can be quite powerful when done regularly. Functional medicine treatment for high blood pressure can also be determined more specifically with what’s called a Cardio-ION panel. This test looks at all the various aspects of blood pressure control and can help your provider set up an effective and individually tailored program to lower your blood pressure. The labs sometimes reveal magnesium or potassium deficiencies that relate to blood pressure. Or high epinephrine (adrenaline) or norepinephrine levels that can be related to high blood pressure. Natural supplements for high blood pressure can also include arginine, taurine and other amino acids that appear on the test panel. Then there is the classic stress hormone test that is perfectly suited as a functional medicine assessment tool for those with high blood pressure, the salivary cortisol panel. This measures your stress hormone cortisol four times throughout the day and is quite revealing for those of us who have stress as a component of the high blood pressure problem.

There are natural supplements that are quite effective at lowering blood pressure associated with high stress/high cortisol that act by lowering your cortisol levels including most notably phos serine.

Going beyond supplements one can get control over blood pressure and blood sugar with diet. Sometimes an extreme diet for a short period of time is best to in a sense reset the system, then you can get back to a more normal food plan. If you don’t want to or can’t afford to do lab testing and supplements then green leafy vegetables five times a day works pretty quickly for many people as the, you guessed it, magnesium in the greens acts on your blood vessels. Again, not that you need to do this the rest of your life but for a quick change in blood pressure a whole foods plant based diet as recommended by Michael Gregor, MD in his aptly titled book “How Not to Die” works quite well.

It’s my favorite book on diet that I’ve read in a long while. He has a whole section in the book on cardiovascular disease and blood pressure which will scare the heck out of you and make your next bite of cow flesh seem like a blood vessel destroyer. Yes, I do still eat meat. Yes, I do think it’s quite ok and probably healthier for many people to not eat meat. One can, supposing one has high blood pressure, follow a whole foods plant based diet with greens five times a day until your blood pressure normalizes and you are not in danger of keeling over from a stroke or heart attack and then you can see what you can get away with in terms of eating animal products without bringing your blood pressure back up.

Functional medicine high blood pressure solutions abound, from non-lab based to lab based programs and from natural supplements for high blood pressure to diet options you can get this problem under control without having to depend on medications. As Jay would say there is for sure a place for medication in our health care system and in “medicine” “medicines” will often prevail, however high blood pressure is a great example of a condition that can be managed without resorting to drugs.


And if you are wondering my current daily food looks like this: breakfast either two eggs with large serving of cooked greens (bok choy, arugula, cabbage, spinach) OR a smoothie with hemp milk, chia seeds, flax seeds, fresh and frozen fruit and whey protein, lunch is always a large salad with olives or avocado or something good like that added in and dinner I have pizza and ice cream! Seriously though, dinners I eat usually have grains or beans along with some cooked veggies, always have kim-chi with dinner and some protein from turkey to beef to pork to fish to tofu. I do attempt to limit my animal protein intake to what feels like the bare minimum I need and the many years in the past I’ve been vegan or vegetarian I’ve actually felt pretty good and one of these years will probably cut out animal products again.

Dr. Dan Kalish

Dr. Dan Kalish

Founder of the Kalish Institute
Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, is founder of the Kalish Institute, an online practice implementation training program dedicated to building Integrative and Functional Medicine practices through clinical and business courses.