Dear Pharmacist: I'm taking Norvasc, Atenolol and a statin cholesterol drug, Crestor.
The side effects are intolerable. Do you know of any natural ways to lower blood pressure?
— T.E. Salt Lake City
A: You have many options, but I only have space to elaborate on one impressive option — beets. They pack a crimson punch like no other veggie because they contain powerful compounds that may reduce blood pressure, promote bile flow, ease digestive disorders, improve heart disease, lower cholesterol and prevent cancer. I can't name one drug from my pharmacy with a bio like that. And a bunch of beets is only $4!
In our heavily medicated country, it's considered bizarre to tell a person to drink beet juice for blood pressure. The expectation is that you need to take Norvasc or Atenolol to get well, am I right? We have become programmed to take super drugs, not superfoods.
Studies point to amazing heart-healthy benefits. Beets even look like hearts if you think about it. They lower blood pressure by increasing levels of 'nitric oxide' in your blood vessels. The anti-platelet action of beets reduces risk for blood clots. Beets can dissolve inorganic calcium deposits that clog up your pipeline. Beets can lower total cholesterol and triglycerides by 30 and 40 percent, respectively while increasing those good HDLs! Has your statin done that for you? They are rich in folic acid and betaine, two substances which neutralize inflammatory chemicals like C reactive protein, homocysteine and interleukin 6. With all this in mind, I'm thinking fewer strokes and heart attacks, are you?
A 2008 study in Hypertension found that drinking two cups of beetroot juice reduced blood pressure by up to 10 points for 24 hours! There were no major side effects. Blood pressure medications often cause dizziness, weakness, body aches, muscle cramps, arrhythmias, heart attack and stroke. Wait, it gets better.
That beautiful purple-reddish color of beets occurs because of a compound called "betacyanin" which has demonstrated itself as a powerful cancer-fighter, especially against colon cancer. In one study, animals with colon cancer were fed beet fiber and researchers noticed an increase in the activity glutathione, which helps rid your body of toxic cancer-causing poisons. In another study, beets increased the number of cancer-destroying cells in the colon (CD8 cells) and the animals in the study showed fewer pre-cancerous changes. Beet juice may negate the effects of eating processed meats laden with dangerous "nitrosamines." Envision less stomach cancer.
Beets may color your urine or stool slightly pink; that's harmless. If you have oxalate kidney or gallstones, limit intake of the leafy beet greens because they contain oxalates. Beets themselves are probably fine but ask your doctor. I've posted a few beet recipes at my website and facebook. While I prefer you eat fresh beets/juice, beetroot juice and oral supplements are sold at most health food stores.
Did you know?
Most prescribed pain medications cause constipation, dizziness, drowsiness and dependence.
This information is not intended treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of "The 24-Hour Pharmacist." For more information, visit www.dearpharmacist.com.