By Josh Redd, DC on July 21, 2017
People have good reason to worry about high blood pressure as it puts you at risk for a number of diseases. However, low blood pressure also has health risks and problems — it can impair brain function and increase your mortality risk.
What is low blood pressure? If the upper or lower number deviates by more than 10 from 120/80, which is considered healthy blood pressure, low blood pressure may be causing health symptoms.
If you are not managing your Hashimoto's low thyroid with functional medicine, low blood pressure may be exacerbating problems with poor blood flow and oxygenation.
What is blood pressure? Blood pressure is required to push blood through 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries that carry oxygen, nutrients, immune cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other vital compounds to tissues throughout your body.
If blood pressure is too high, this strains blood vessels. But if it's too low, this means not enough blood is reaching capillaries and tissues, particularly in your hands, feet, and brain. These tissues are thus deprived of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. People with this problems may suffer from chronic nail fungal infections and cold hands and feet.
In functional medicine, we see adrenal fatigue as the most common cause of low blood pressure.
The adrenal glands are about the size of a walnut and one sits on top of each kidney. In addition to manufacturing stress hormones, they also help regulate blood pressure. Many people these days have adrenal fatigue from chronic stress.
Chronic stress isn't just about feeling overwhelmed. Other sources of stress to the body are poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, gut problems, inflammation, and autoimmunity such as Hashimoto's low thyroid.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include always tired, low blood sugar, get lightheaded or irritable between meals, chronically sick, and low blood pressure.
People with Hashimoto's low thyroid often suffer from adrenal fatigue.
Orthostatic hypotension is a type of low blood pressure that is not uncommon. It causes lightheadedness or a sense of feeling faint when stand up. It happens because the blood pools in the legs upon standing and doesn't get back to the heart and head fast enough. A doctor will diagnose you with orthostatic hypotension when the top number of your blood pressure goes below 20 points and the bottom number below 10 upon standing.
Although orthostatic hypotension means you need to manage low blood pressure, it is also dangerous if it makes you faint or fall. This is especially true for older people.
Orthostatic hypotension frequently occurs in those with low blood pressure and low blood sugar, however, people with high blood pressure can have it too.
If you have low blood pressure and symptoms of adrenal fatigue, consider an adrenal saliva test. This test measures cortisol levels throughout the day — cortisol is your primary adrenal hormone. The results let you better target your therapy and doing a second and third test tell you if your protocol is working.
Although people with high blood pressure should avoid salt, quality sea salt can help help raise overly low blood pressure. In fact, many people with low blood pressure find they crave salt.
A nutritional ingredient that can raise low blood pressure is licorice root extract, also called glycyrrhiza. It extends the life of cortisol, which can help improve blood volume, electrolyte balance, and blood pressure.
However, the most important thing is to address the cause of adrenal fatigue as it is always secondary to something else.
One of the most common causes of adrenal fatigue is low blood sugar or blood sugar instability caused by eating too many sweets and starches, skipping meals, or under-eating. Eating a healthy breakfast, avoiding sweets and sweet drinks, reducing starchy foods, and eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar are helpful strategies.
These are also important strategies to help better manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Hashimoto's is an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes low thyroid symptoms. Functional medicine addresses thyroid function, immune health, and inflammation and autoimmune attacks on the thyroid. Managing these factors is an additional way to support adrenal fatigue and low blood pressure.
For more advice on addressing low thyroid function, adrenal function, and blood pressure, contact my office.
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto's disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto's, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.