In this episode, I’m speaking with Dr. Christopher Pickard, a hypertension expert with decades of expertise studying nutrition and lifestyle on how to get your blood pressure back down into the healthy range.
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Dr. Pickard and I discuss:
- The link between high blood pressure and the risk of dying from COVID-19…and how Dr. Pickard is using this knowledge to help his patients
- What high blood pressure is actually trying to tell you—it’s not a disease; it’s a warning sign of something more
- 3 unexpected causes for hypertension and the problem with simply “fixing it” with a pill
- 7 practical ways you can start addressing high blood pressure NOW
- Why breathing through your nose (versus your mouth) might be the missing piece to solving some people’s hypertension
- One amazingly simple step you can take to increase nitric oxide (and decrease blood pressure!)
- Learn the best fruit to eat to support healthy blood pressure levels!
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Ari: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me today is my friend Dr. Christopher Pickard, who is a doctor of chiropractic and has many decades of expertise studying nutrition and lifestyle more broadly. He has developed a specific focus on blood pressure using natural ways to normalize and optimize your blood pressure levels. That’s what we’re talking about here in this podcast. I think you’ll get a lot of good insights from it so enjoy.
Dr. Pickard, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been a long time in the making. We have known each other through the interwebs for many, many years at this point. We’ve had a ton of communications over the years. You have been a member of my Energy Blueprint program. I think you’re one of the first members for many, many years ago. Seven years ago-ish, something like that.
Dr. Christopher Pickard: Second year maybe.
The role of blood pressure and COVID mortality
Ari: I feel like I’ve known you forever. You are, in your own right, very much your own health expert and health practitioner. You are helping a ton of people. You have your own body of expertise and one of the things that we talked about that you have focused on extensively and you’ve been getting great results with is blood pressure. Let me ask you to start things off, what made you focus so much on blood pressure that now you are the first podcast I’ve ever done on the topic of blood pressure?
Christopher: Thank you very much, first of all for having me on the show, Ari. You’re looking fantastic. You’re looking younger and younger. Your blood pressure, I suppose, it’s because all of my grandparents had high blood pressure, and then my father had high blood pressure. It was really at the beginning of the whole COVID pandemic situation or the first initial few weeks or few months, it was shown that so many more people were dying from COVID if they had preexisting conditions.
At the beginning, it was high blood pressure. I just did a deep dive into, “Why high blood pressure? Why not asthma or COPD? Why not the lung-related stuff? Why not cancers? Why not immune system? What is it about blood pressure?” Very quickly I found out there was a link between blood pressure and the immune system, a chemical called Endothelin-1, which since then I found out is involved in all kinds of stuff. I’d never heard of it beforehand.
I thought, “I need to, basically, help everyone that’s got high blood pressure get it under control as quickly as possible so that they can survive this oncoming storm.” At the beginning, we didn’t know what was going to happen. It was, basically, me just trying to get out there and realize that, “Half of all adults over a certain age have got high blood pressure. We need to do something about it and quickly.” That’s why. That’s why I focused on it for the last three years.
Why blood pressure lowering drugs shouldn’t be the first treatment option
Ari: There are already lots of doctors out there focused on blood pressure. Lots of cardiologists who are routinely measuring the blood pressure levels as a basic checkup practice. I guess speaking of the United States, I’ll be a little country centric here. Millions of people every year get their blood pressure checked and talk to their general practitioner or their cardiologist about it and are prescribed blood pressure drugs.
Why are you here? Why are you on my podcast right now talking about blood pressure? Why should people not just go see their general practitioner or cardiologist and take the betalockers, take whatever blood pressure, lowering drugs, and boom, bada bing, bada boom, they got their blood pressure levels down a bit maybe into the normal range, problem solved. Or is it that simple? What’s the deal?
Christopher: It’s because when it comes to blood pressure lowering drugs, what they do is– Blood pressure, you’ve got is, basically, a symptom that something is wrong, but blood pressure itself doesn’t just happen as a disease by itself. There are many underlying reasons as to why your body may intelligently want to raise the blood pressure. While blood pressure medication does lower the blood pressure, what happens if you stop taking it? It goes back up again.
Now, if you had a cut and you were bleeding everywhere and you put a plaster on and it stopped the bleeding, but every time you took the plaster off you were bleeding, it surely tells you that there’s something still wrong. With blood pressure, according to Dr. Mark Houston, who’s a very, very, very, very good indicative cardiologist, and I found his knowledge on all kinds of stuff. He says there are three main reasons for high blood pressure.
There’s inflammation, there’s oxidative stress, and there’s immune-related vascular disorders. Each of those three have myriads of other causes. If you are just lowering blood pressure with a drug, but you’re not fixing the cause, you can end up causing another problem. Say, for instance, blood pressure is very much linked to the endothelium, which is why endothelium came up as the immune system thing with this started this all for me.
If you’ve got a problem that’s, actually, causing inflammation through your body and you’re just ignoring it because the only objective finding you’ve got is high blood pressure at the time. You’re just ignoring something, and it’s going into bubble away, and it’s going to cause another problem somewhere else. It might start causing your kidneys to fail, atherosclerosis your heart to fail, your immune system to fail, or it might be covering up the fact that you’ve got a low amount of micronutrients and so your blood pressure is, actually, raising up to try and deliver oxygen somewhere. You end up with dementia earlier because you’re on blood pressure-lowering drugs and they haven’t fixed the course.
That’s the nutshell. I’d say there is one other thing that really drove me to blood pressure. It’s because of my own patients. I originally studied and trained as a chiropractor, and I know that some of my patients who came to me with neck pain, back pain, they’d get out of pain, but they’d also say, “Hey, look. My blood pressure’s dropped and I don’t need my blood pressure medication anymore.”
We know that blood pressure can be a sign that you’re in pain, but also blood pressure can be a sign that you’ve, actually, got a problem in your neck. There’s, actually, documented things of chiropractors lowering blood pressure, but also just a massage of the neck in some people can lower blood pressure. Certainly, no blood pressure-lowering drug is going to give you a neck massage. In some people it can be ridiculously simple as to the cause of their blood pressure and no more drugs are needed.
Ari: I think it’s important to point out a foundational difference in paradigm here because what we’re talking about here is, essentially, a paradigm that says that there’s really foundational difference in how one looks at this problem of blood pressure. The same is true across many, many other conditions. Here what it is, is people are saying, “Hey, your blood pressure is high. It’s for random reasons. Your body is making a mistake and we need to put you on this drug so that your dumb body can regulate its blood pressure properly.”
“Now that we have this amazing drug that lowers your blood pressure effectively,” which it does. It does lower your blood pressure. It does act through different biochemical mechanisms and pathways that alter that blood pressure level and potentially alter it back in the normal range. After taking that drug, then the doctor can measure you whatever. A few days or a few weeks or months later and say, “Hey, your blood pressure’s looking great. It’s in the normal range. We’re good to go. Problem solved.”
The other paradigm, which is what you subscribe to and what I subscribe to is to figure out why our intelligent body is making decisions in that way. Instead of just tinkering with the system to bring numbers into the appropriate ranges via drug interventions that interrupt certain biochemical pathways in the body, the idea is to say, “Why has our body become dysregulated?”
“It used to be able to maintain blood pressure in a healthy range or blood sugar in a healthy range, or whatever other parameter that we might look at. What has caused it to become dysregulated now and how can we act on those underlying root causes to allow our intelligent body to regulate blood pressure in the way that it should be doing?” Again, the same is true of depression. “Hey, your dumb body has a neurotransmitter imbalance. Here, take this drug. It will alter levels of neurotransmitters in your brain.” Boom, problem solved.
Or, “Hey, maybe the fact that you as a human being are living a life where you are depressed is a sign that something is off in your life, that either your relationships or your alignment with your purpose or spending time in a way that feels meaningful to you, purposeful to your, health status, your nutrient status, your sleep, your exercise habits, something is off in a way that is causing your brain, assuming even still within operating in the paradigm of neurotransmitter issues.
Something is off in a way that your body is dysregulated in the way it’s regulating neurotransmitters. It’s manifesting as this mood problem. Rather than just taking a drug intervention, the idea is to figure out why your intelligent body, has become dysregulated and addressed those underlying root causes. With regard to that, you said, that this other doctor, Mark Houston, I think was his name.
Ari: Talks about inflammation, oxidative stress, and what was the other thing?
Christopher: Immune-related vascular disorders.
Ari: Now I know you have a lot of admiration for him and I and I don’t want to come across as speaking negatively in any way. However, I will say I don’t like that explanation very much. The reason why is to me, it’s like substituting one biochemical mechanism for another biochemical mechanism. Fine, inflammation, oxidative stress, and, sorry, say the other one again. [laughs]
Christopher: Yes. Immune vascular disorders, basically. It’s the immune response happening that’s disturbing the vascular.
Ari: All right. Let’s just say inflammation and oxidative stress, for the sake of simplicity of what I’m saying here. Inflammation and oxidative stress also underlie dozens or hundreds of other diseases are connected with a lot. We can look up chronic fatigue syndrome. Oh, inflammation and oxidative stress. Look up fibromyalgia, inflammation and oxidative stress, diabetes, inflammation, oxidative stress, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. Cancer is a neurological disease.
You’re going to find those biochemical mechanisms are linked with lots of things. They are drivers. At the mechanism level, they’re drivers of many different diseases. My question is, what is causing, what is underlying even that? What are the underlying root causes of oxidative stress and inflammation?
Christopher: Again, Mark Houston, basically, says, there’s blood pressure, then there’s these three basic underlying causes, and then there’s about a thousand other causes that are causing those three. He does go deeper, but he says, “Look, if we just simply divide three, but then you’ve got to realize that these three, once you’ve, actually, identified that it might be one of these, there’s all of these causes. Just by giving people a blood pressure pill, you’re just ignoring a thousand different causes that could be fixable.” [crosstalk] There are all other benefits on the rest of someone’s health.
Ari: Yes. Just to link back to the meaning of that, the significance of that. As a simplistic example, let’s say somebody’s smashing your toe with a hammer every day, and you take a painkiller to block, let’s say it’s a really wonderfully effective painkiller. You block, successfully, your brain’s perception of that pain. Have you done a good thing by doing that or not? Because somebody’s still continuing to hit your foot with a hammer. Whether you can feel it or not, you are incurring a lot of non-emotional trauma, but physical trauma and damage to those tissues. Is blocking your brain’s perception of that a useful thing or not useful thing?
Christopher: Yes. It can be useful if for some reason you can’t stop that person.
Christopher: Otherwise, completely useless. Doesn’t, actually, get you where you want to go at all. At all. Again, one of the problems with blood pressure medication because some of the long-term studies have shown that, even though the medication can lower blood pressure, it has very little effect on improving the health and longevity of that person. It may decrease a stroke, but it increases something else. There are some studies that show that the pill that was the best at lowering blood pressure was, actually, not the one that was best at decreasing the death rate. In a lot of cases where they’ve then put it up against placebos, a lot of the time placebos work better for, actually, decreasing deaths. That pills–
Ari: Which is exactly what you’d expect if all you’re doing is altering something that is, ultimately, an end result of the problem rather than fixing the actual problem. Because as long as we’ve been saying in many different ways here, as long as the underlying problem is still present, it will simply manifest as problems in other areas. Then you’ll take a pill for your blood pressure to bring that in the normal range.
Then they’ll put you on metformin to bring that in the normal range, and you take a pill for your depression and you take a pill to thin your blood, and so on and so forth. This is why it’s not uncommon to see people who are in their 70s’ and 80s’ who are on 12 or 15 or 18 different prescription drugs. Plus you add in the fact that you got to take more drugs to correct the side effects from the other drugs you’re taking.
Christopher: Exactly. Which is just getting more and more common. It’s just crazy. Absolutely crazy.
The most common underlying causes of high blood pressure
Ari: Tell me about what are these underlying root causes? What does this, ultimately, come down to?
Christopher: Just like it is with so many of the other things that you talk about every single week in the past class, it comes down to lifestyle, diet, nutrition, decreasing stress and tension. This is where so many people then get bogged down, they say, “Where do I start? [chuckles] Because I know I’m not eating correctly, but what do I do and how do I do things?”
That’s why, just like you have in your Energy Blueprint, you have a set system of things to go through. Say, do I use them, for instance, I use just the blood test that doctors have already had, and I’d love to share with you an example of a blood test that I had from a doctor. [laughs] My favorite piece of investigative work is finding what was going on. Then I use Dr. Bryan Walsh’s, Cell Blueprint, which is a fantastic questionnaire to help highlight–
Just by using questions. You don’t need to use a laptop, just by using questions, it can help say, “Okay. This person’s probably deficient in nutrients. This person might be having a problem with oxygen delivery. This person might, actually, have a parasite. By just intelligent questioning, you can start honing in on what might actually be the true course. Then you just find and fix that, whether it’s with breathing exercises. A big fan of your Breathing Course. I start every single day with Dan Venidis.
Christopher: I start every day with one of his breathing techniques from your program. Whether it’s setting yourself up there with breathing correctly, or whether it’s going to bed and getting your circadian rhythm fixed, or whether it’s just eating more vegetables. Or changing what vegetables you’re eating. Some people it can be as simple as just taking– [crosstalk]
Ari: I thought vegetables are full of toxins that are trying to kill us. What are you saying here.
Christopher: [laughs] I know exactly what you’re talking.
Ari: At least according to some dietary gurus. Are receiving a lot of a lot of attention lately.
Christopher: Yes. Just as you said in your podcast because I know what you’re talking about, [chuckles] the lectins is, I’ve spoken to a lot of people. I’ve, actually, had people come off lectins to see what it did to them. Most people doesn’t make any difference. Then, occasionally, I’ll have a patient coming and say, “You mentioned that lectin thing. I came off lectins and now I’m out of pain.” About 1 in 10 people who I’ve suggested it to felt a difference. I know what you mean.
Ari: Yes. Now, and just to be clear, since we’re going down this rabbit hole, I’m not suggesting that people particularly people who have symptoms or illness are going to be universally tolerant of all plant foods. Of course, it’s a given that some people will be intolerant to all foods, plant or animal foods, to eggs, to dairy, to beans, to whatever. The generally the unhealthier you are and the unhealthier your gut is, the more likely you are to react negatively to one or another food.
What I was mocking was simply the view that some people are trying to promote that is a totally completely wildly distorted view of the scientific evidence that plant foods are full of toxins that are trying to kill us. While animals can run away from us, plants can’t run away from us, therefore they evolved this mechanism to build toxins that dissuade us from consuming them.
These toxins are poison us, therefore you should not eat plants because plants are trying to kill you. Which is about as logical as someone saying, “Hey, exercise boosts these oxidants exercise boosts spikes oxidative stress.” Didn’t you just say that oxidative stress causes all these diseases and therefore exercise must be bad for you? Exercise is trying to kill you. You should get rid of exercise out of your life, you’ll be much healthier.”
Ari: It’s, basically, the same logic as that. You can make a logical sounding argument for all kinds of nonsense if you’re so inclined. Anyway, back to the question here. Root causes of blood pressure.
Christopher: Yes. The root cause, I, from a chiropractor became a functional nutritionist, Dr. Bob Rakowski. He formulated something called the Magnificent Seven Health Strategies. Basically, you have, think right, you’ve got to get your thinking right because if you aren’t making the right choices– One of those choices is, whatever you’re doing for you now isn’t working. If you’re, basically, a complete carnivore, become a vegan for a while and see what happens.
If you’re a vegan and you’re not really well, eat some meat [chuckles] and see what happens. Try something different. You’ve got to get your thinking right, but then you’ve got to communicate with yourself. You’ve got to make sure that your immune system is working. You’ve got to make sure that your nervous system is working. You’ve got to make sure all your signaling molecules, such as nitric oxide is working. Big one for blood pressure. Then there’s all those plant molecules, of course, which are nothing more than hormetic stressors in the most case, which make us stronger. Where did I learn about hormesis?
You have, you think right, communicate right, talk right. Then you’ve got to eat right and drink right. You’ve got to have the right things going because if you don’t have the basic fuels to actually build muscles, build endothelial tissue, build brain tissue, then you’re not going to function. Then you’ve got to move right. If you’re not exercising, then it’s, basically, you are inviting depression into your life and you’re also down regulating glutathione, which is really important.
I think that’s one of the reasons why exercise is so good for people, because it, actually, makes your glutathione levels go up higher, unless you exercise too much, in which case it will plummet again. You’ve got to get just right. With a lot of my patients who are coming in with high blood pressure and they’re going out and running marathons, I say, “Look, you’re, basically, exercising too much. You got to bring it down.” I think there’s something called the Goldilocks Zone Exercise, especially for healing, especially if you’ve got high blood pressure.
Ari: This is one of my weaknesses, actually, that I sometimes I’m guilty of doing too much exercise. I can’t help myself. I’m just too much like a little kid. I love surfing, and rock, climbing, and tennis, and weightlifting, and capoeira, and jujitsu. I just do too much sometimes.
Christopher: Is that right, Ari?
Ari: It’s too much fun and I can’t help myself. Sometimes I have days, I do four or five hours of exercise, and it’s just too damn much.
Ari: I can handle it because I’m very energetic, I’m very resilient, but I’m sure my glutathione pays a price for it and a little extra glutathione support is useful for me.
Christopher: You rest well as well, don’t you? It’s the recovery.
Ari: Of course, yes. I mean, I have to.
Christopher: Which I know. I know you know. I know you know.
Christopher: I feel really sorry for you now, Ari.
Christopher: Really sorry. Really sorry. You have to move right. Then, sleep right. There you go. We’ve just moved on to that. You’ve got to recover. If you’re eating correctly, if you’re taking an arm full of nutrients, but if you’re not sleeping enough, you’re not going to heal. You have to build recovery into your daily system. Then, finally, Dr. Bob calls this “Poop right”, because he’s American, but it, basically, means detox and the whole detoxification process. He’s not just talking about the bowels. He’s talking about the liver, the kidneys. Even sweating because we lose some toxins through our sweat and our tears.
Ari: Before you go on with your explanation, how would an English person say poop right?
Christopher: Poo. We just say poo.
Ari: Poo instead of poop.
Christopher: Not poop, poo. Yes.
Ari: Got it.
Ari: It’s an important distinction I felt our listeners should be aware of.
Christopher: The curious thing is most English people, when they hear Americanisms, we know what’s meant because we listen and watch so much American TV. It’s the other way that doesn’t work. That is the Magnificent Seven, basically.
Ari: Think well, move well, poo well, and sleep well. What are we at? Four?
Christopher: That’s four.
Ari: Move well, sleep well, poo well.
Christopher: There is drink well. There’s hydration.
Ari: Eat well, hydrate well. That’s six. What’s the seventh?
Christopher: There’s think well. Talk well is communication. Talk well. Communication, there’s both outward communication, which is important, but Dr. Bob is talking about the inward communication. Nervous system, immune system, make sure your chemicals are correct, basically.
Ari: Is there any one of those that you feel you want to delve into here as having special importance with regards to blood pressure?
Christopher: It is. As I’m sure you are. There are so many amazing chemicals out there. We could just talk about glutathione and how amazing that is, but with blood pressure– Again, there’s lots of stuff about nitric oxide. That’s one of the ones that I talk about very briefly in my book, because my book is really short for a reason. I wrote it in seven days, and I wanted to keep it simple so there would be some actionable stuff, because it was the stuff that is the most basic stuff that I think if people just did these before they came to see me, they might be fixed and they might not ever need to see me.
They are, basically, make sure you’re eating enough. The right vegetables and varied diet. Supplement wise, probably magnesium is the number one. The number one chemical to, actually, try and work on is nitric oxide. If you’re eating the right fruits and vegetables and there are some nutrients that can help and there are some simple exercises and movements that help with that as well. Sleeping right, hydrating right, which is more than just drinking water. I don’t know. Have you read the book Quench?
Ari: I haven’t, no. It’s been recommended to me, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it.
Christopher: That was fascinating for years. Before I read Quench, I was always saying, “You’ve got to eat your water and drink your greens.” I was getting people drinking lots of green juices, but if you really want to hydrate, you’ve, actually, got to have vegetables, and fruits, and things full of water in its natural state. Then I learned about structured water, exclusion zone water.
That’s why plants have their shape and that’s why when you get rid of the water, they all wilt because it’s water that’s giving them structure. It does the same thing to our muscles and to our blood vessels. How exclusion zone water works with nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate in blood vessels to make them really smooth so that they can, actually, propel red blood cells along them is fascinating. This all interacts with sunlight as well. Anyway, nitric oxide would be one.
The role of nitric oxide in blood pressure
Ari: Okay. Let’s go deeper into that nitric oxide story because there’s, I think, a few layers of importance to it. One is that I think is really becoming less of a secret, but I think it’s really in this category of a true health secret, something that is really widespread, that we have a lot of literature on, but is very little known. That is the importance of nasal breathing. When you are a mouth breather, you generate virtually no nitric oxide, but when you breathe through your nose, you have a sixfold increase in nitric oxide production.
We know that nasal breathing is extremely important for nitric oxide production. We also know that a large proportion of people are mouth breathers or mouth breathers at night. That one simple little hack of taping your mouth shut while you sleep can ensure that you’re breathing through your nose while during those seven, eight hours you’re asleep at night, which makes a big difference for nitric oxide production. Also, there’s a strong link between breathing through your mouth and poor oral health.
Speaking of that, we now have literature emerging on the use of common mouthwashes like dental mouthwashes for oral hygiene showing that it creates a systemic rise in blood pressure. Why? Because it turns out that these antimicrobial mouthwashes, we have this conception that we need to sterilize our mouth and kill all these bad germs that are causing cavities and gum disease. Unfortunately, our mouth is not only filled with bad germs, it’s also filled with good germs, good bacteria like our gut is.
When we use antimicrobials, broad spectrum antimicrobials in the mouth, we also, it turns out kill off bacteria that are responsible for producing nitric oxide, and that is also a factor in systemic blood pressure. Simple things that most people are totally unaware of. Breathing through your nose, supporting your oral microbiome have a profound impact on systemic blood pressure levels as a result of nitric oxide production. Do you have anything that you want to add to that story?
Christopher: Yes. I mean, certainly, breathing through your nose and nitric oxide. One of the things I ask my patients is hum as well. I don’t know if there’s some research, but, basically, when you hum and get your nasal sinuses to, actually, resonate, they, actually, produce a lot more nitric oxide like 200-
Ari: Yes, 15 fold.
Christopher: Basically, you hum and then you breathe in. With the measuring nitric oxide in the mouth, I’m, actually, skeptical about the relevance of that because it is only in your mouth. Is it, actually, enough? I don’t know. There are probably other ways that it’s, actually–
Ari: No, no, no, no. To be clear, there’s studies where they’ve shown that use of mouth washes alters the oral microbiome in a way that alters systemic blood pressure. [crosstalk]
Christopher: Yes. I’m aware of that. Yes. Right. Okay.
Ari: It’s altering nitric oxide levels that go systemic.
Christopher: Okay. I just thought it might be another mechanism rather than just that. I know the microbiome of the mouth will speak through the microbiome and we know that oral health is related to heart health, perhaps through the bacteria and the virus causing inflammation through the actual immune system around the heart.
Ari: It’s possible there are other mechanisms as well. Usually there are. Usually in the body, it’s not just one.
Christopher: I know oral health has always been tied to heart health. That’s another reason why you keep your gums healthy. I wasn’t aware about the oral mouth washes. I wouldn’t have thought that the amount of nitric oxide produced by the bacteria in your mouth would’ve been very high or very useful.
Ari: It is.
Christopher: Oh, it’s just fallacy? [crosstalk]
Ari: It is and all you have to do to discover that is kill the germs in your mouth and then you can discover the measurable impact it has on your systemic blood pressure.
Christopher: Nice. Lovely.
Ari: What about diet and supplements to support the nitric oxide pathway?
Christopher: With nitric oxide diet, loads of people are keen on beets and beetroot. Because of the nitrates in it. Spinach as well. Pretty much eating more of all kinds of different vegetable. In England we call it rocket, but in America it’s called arugula. That is very good. There’s foods that, actually, contain the stuff that you need to make nitric oxide. There’s also other elements in other foods that can, actually, help you both regulate the nitric oxide and improve the whole cycle.
For instance, watermelon contains citrulline which is very much needed for nitric oxide production in the body. Then you need arginine, so things like walnuts. Again, varied diet comes into handy here. Then there are also nitric oxide regulators as well. Not that I’ve, actually, actually used this because I can’t find this in the UK. Black ginger is meant to be an amazingly good nitric oxide regulator.
Then there’s medicinal mushrooms like ganoderma lucidum, really profoundly powerful nitric oxide regulator because if you have too much nitric oxide, there’s as much of a problem with inflammation and pain then not enough. Again, it’s goldilocks. You’ve got to have the right amount. It is not just about boosting nitric oxide, it’s about regulating it as well. It’s not just about just having lots and lots of beats, although that will help.
You can have supplements like arginine, citrulline, but they will only take it to a certain level. Then there are certain which I have used in some cases, there’s a milk derived polypeptide. The name of which I’ve forgotten that, actually, boosts nitric oxide way beyond arginase and then all these other supplements that you can get out there. I’m a big fan of just trying to get people to eat the right food, make sure they’ve got the basics first before going down specific nitric oxide boosting supplements.
The best exercise to help treating high blood pressure
Ari: Got it. As far as exercise is concerned, is there a particular type of exercise that is especially useful for reducing blood pressure? For example, weight training versus endurance training being the classic dichotomy, but also high intensity interval training is in that mix?
Christopher: Well, the one thing that I advise everybody to do if they’ve got high blood pressure and they are exercising is, I tell them to only exercise as much as they can while breathing through their nose. That is the single biggest difference no matter what they’re doing, whether they’re lifting weights, whether they’re running, especially if they’re running, just slowing down and breathing through the nose is sometimes fine where I see the biggest drop in pulse rate. As pulse rate goes down, blood pressure goes down.
That’s usually the biggest recommendation. I don’t tell people to start doing something they haven’t been doing. I usually just tell people to slow down, only breathe through your nose. It’s not so much what exercise as how are you exercising. Is the first thing. Then if they are exercising hours and hours a day, I then, actually, say, let’s just back off it. If they’re not exercising, I tell them to start out walking if they can. It depends on where they are as to what exercise I will actually then prescribe to people. Generally slow and breathing through the nose.
Ari: You don’t think it matters whether somebody’s doing weight training versus, let’s say endurance training?
Christopher: Well, it will do. If they’re doing endurance training and they’ve got high blood pressure, then I’d tell them to stop doing the endurance training. If they have got really high blood pressure, I wouldn’t get them lifting too heavy weights. Because while high blood pressure itself is a symptom of something, if they’ve got really high blood pressure, this is the time when I go, “I think is acceptable to, you’ve got to use the drugs.”
If it is really high blood pressure itself can cause burst blood vessels. When you’re lifting a really heavy weight, when you’re trying to deadlift 100 kilos and that’s not going to be good. If it’s really high, you want to, actually, keep the stress low because at first you want to decrease the stress. You’ve got to do everything that’s easy and gentle first of all.
In my clinical experience, I know that there are studies saying “this is going to be better than that”, but in my clinical experience, I just get people just nasal breathe. Do less if you’re doing too much and if you’re not doing any, start by doing something. I don’t care what it is. Walking, lifting weight, doing some yoga, tai chi, Pilates, just do something. Move your body in some slow way.
Ari: What if I’m already doing weight training three or four times a week and I am walking a few times a week? What would be the next step you’d recommend to me?
Christopher: If you’re doing stuff that’s primarily strength from walking, I’d, definitely, add in something that’s going to be some form of stretching. Some form of yoga practice or some other stretching program that I may give them. Calisthenics of different kinds, different body weight maneuvers. I’m a big fan of body weight and stuff. Especially things that puts me in awkward positions and challenges me.
Stuff that’s going to move your body slowly, very often to, actually, help relax your fascia because the fascia– If you’re moving fast, your fascia is not going to relax. Your fascia is, actually, a very important support structure for your muscles and for hydrating through the body. Very often I will give people very slow deliberate movements to do.
Now, you can’t see my arms. [chuckles] You, basically, just relaxing one arm, the other hand’s up and so you’re, basically, just doing this kind of very slow motion or just slowly moving the feet or massaging the feet just to get the fascia more relaxed, slowly breathing, slowly slumping, slowly unwinding, slowly bending to the side, stuff that’s slow to mobilize water through the body to help, basically, relax all your tissues so it’s easier for your body to pump the blood.
The best foods and supplements for treating high blood pressure
Ari: Got it. Any other supplements that you found are particularly useful? Have you looked into age garlic extract at all which also–
Christopher: Yes. Aged garlic, yes. Black garlic, yes. Very useful. When you come to nutrition and supplements, there’s sort of two things. One is getting the basics. If your body isn’t getting the basics from a good varied diet. I also try and encourage my patients to vary their diet through the seasons so they are getting true diet variation, not just on a daily basis, but throughout the seasons.
Maybe just a multivitamin or the amount of people that come in and they’ve got 20 or 30 different supplements. They might have like one particular B vitamin, then they’ve got some vitamin D and some vitamin A, but they haven’t got a multivitamin that just got a little bit of everything. That’s usually where I start. Just a little bit of everything first of all. Then you have specific things like hibiscus, which can be really good for lowering blood pressure.
Really good, and works wonders. You can just get hibiscus tea. There’s probably a few reasons why hibiscus tea might be so good for blood pressure, but it’s easy to get hold of. Then you have this stuff that’s specifically for blood pressure which I learned from another chiropractor called Green Medicine.
You’ve got all these drugs like ace inhibitors and ARBs and beta blockers, but then you’ve got natural things that basically do the same thing. You can substitute those in, but you don’t want to have people on green medicine the rest of their life, because even though it’s probably better, it’s not the same as, actually, fixing the cause. Then you use this green medicine to help lower the blood pressure until it’s under control.
Ari: If I can speak a little bluntly, actually, I feel that there’s been a transition within the wellness movement and the functional medicine movement where I would go so far as to say most functional medicine practitioners now are, basically, just engaged in green medicine. It’s run a bunch of tests and prescribed supplements, but it’s a similar way of thinking to the conventional model around using different chemical interventions to interrupt biochemical processes. Just as you said, replacing manmade pharmaceuticals with natural substance substances.
Christopher: Which seems like a good step, but still not just fix the causes and then use your green medicine while it’s you’re fixing the causes.
Ari: Agreed. One of the things you talk about is self-health responsibility. What do you mean by that?
Christopher: I hate the phrase. Actually, it’s self-explanatory, but it’s the fact that, certainly, in the UK we have abdicated our responsibility for health towards the NHS. Now, the NHS is fantastic, but it’s not the NHS’s job to make sure that you eat healthy food. It’s not the NHS’s job to make sure that you, actually, look after your brain. It’s your responsibility to look after your body. The more people that, actually, start truly understanding that it’s their body, it’s their responsibility to look at it.
It’s nobody else’s. It’s not the government’s responsibility. It’s not the doctor’s responsibility. It’s your responsibility. I came up with the phrase when I was talking to a friend and I thought, “That’s a good phrase. I’m going to use that.” Self-health responsibility. The more people that, actually, become more interested in looking after themselves which is pretty much anyone listening to your podcast is a Self-Health advocate. I’m sure.
Ari: You just made me think of certain people that I know that consider themselves “evidence-based” who are hardcore proponents of the position of the view that they love everything that’s within conventional medicine. They think conventional medicine is science like it is synonymous with science. Basically, by definition, anything that has not been incorporated into conventional medicine is pseudoscience.
Similarly, there’s an attitude among these people that the governmental regulatory bodies, health bodies, for example, the NHS or the equivalent bodies, the CDC the FDA, and so on in the United States and other government bodies that are regulating things as simple as like the amount of toxins in tap water. The amount of, for example, chlorine, and ammonia, and disinfection byproducts, and things like that.
Among these types of people that I mentioned that think this way, they also tend to think, “Well, these regulatory bodies are looking after my health, so I’m going to drink tap water. Because if tap water were unhealthy for me, if it had any substances in it that were, actually, unhealthy, of course, these, these regulatory bodies would be aware of that and they would regulate it.”
Obvious, I don’t need a silly, fancy water filter. That’s a bunch of quackery. That’s a bunch of pseudoscience because these governmental bodies are looking out for me. It’s amazing to me that anybody who is of even reasonable IQ can think this way when all you have to do is, look at the food supply and look at how many horribly unhealthy substances exist in the food supply, and are allowed by these regulatory bodies for people to consume.
We have advertising on television for children to go consume, glow in the dark, marshmallow lucky charms. It’s just remarkable that anybody with even a very low level of IQ can maintain these positions. I routinely encounter people who think this way. Anyway, this ties into what you’re saying because it is not only the case that these regulatory bodies are not responsible for us, for looking out for us.
They are very often in bed with industry financially in a way where these industries, for example, the producers of the breakfast cereals with glow in the dark marshmallows and whatever else are being subsidized by the government, are allowed to advertise on television. These regulatory bodies are clearly not looking out for our best interest and not taking care of us in a way where all we have to do is exist in this world that has been laid out for us. Just make the decision of drink the water and eat the food that has been presented to us and voila, we will be healthy.
In fact, it is, actually, the polar opposite of that situation where the modern world is so at odds with what is needed for the biological health of humans, the optimal, the normal function of the human body that we have to go out of our way to make all of these decisions constantly in what we eat and what we drink and other aspects of our lifestyle that are not the norm of those around us, that are different.
That get us seen by the people around us, “Hey, why are you acting so weird? Why aren’t you eat that? What are you on? Some crazy diet? Why are you so extreme with your exercise? Why do you have to go to bed at this time? You have to be a weirdo and according to the way that most people see things in order to, actually, be healthy in a world that is so seemingly almost perfectly designed for us to be unhealthy.
Christopher: Yes. A health deviant.
Ari: Yes. Exactly.
Christopher: Have you read the book Health Deviant?
Christopher: Pilar Gerasimo? It’s another one to use.
Christopher: Health Deviant, Pilar Gerasimo. I’ll email you anyway. There’s only about 1% of the population that are health deviants because they go against the norm and are, actually, healthy because they do all this weird stuff.
How to start treating high blood pressure
Ari: We’ve got a few minutes left here. What would you like to leave people with here? I know that one topic that you wanted to mention was about blood chemistry analysis. Do you want to say any words on that before we wrap up?
Christopher: Yes. I’ll be really, really quick for you as well. This is my favorite case. It was a patient referred from America for back pain. He was already seeing a chiropractor. His son lives here and he was, actually, coming over to the UK anyway. I said, “Well, let’s have a look at your blood test.” Basically, his blood test, actually, said– His doctor said there was nothing wrong, but his blood test, actually, told me what was causing his back pain because the chiropractor wasn’t going anywhere.
It’s in the blood. The doctor says there’s nothing wrong, but, actually, he had a kidney problem which was causing acid-based dysregulation. It was, actually, the acid-based dysregulation. That was poorly being caused by one of his blood pressure pills. You could, actually, isolate from his blood test, the blood pressure pill that was causing his back pain. When he stops that blood pressure medication his back pain goes away.
Now, we worked with him to, actually, lower his blood pressure. He didn’t need the pill. He was going to a chiropractor, doctor saying there was nothing wrong. The biggest thing I’d say to people is, and even functional medical doctors, the ranges they learn are, actually, not as scientific as you’d think either. The ranges that medical doctors look at are so tremendously 30 years out-of-date and dangerous.
I see blood tests from cardiologists and the cardiologists are saying there’s nothing wrong, but there’s, actually, three or four really early warning signs that your cardiovascular system is in danger. The biggest thing I say to people is, “Get a second opinion from someone who is trained in functional medicine, or someone who’s been trained by Dr. Bryan Walsh [chuckles] in functional blood chemistry analysis because you’re going to get a lot of answers and you’re going to get a lot of early warning signs.” Yes, I’ve been trained by Dr. Bryan Walsh and I’m a big fan of the man. There you go.
Ari: Yes. As am I. He’s a good personal friend of mine. I’ve had him on the podcast at least two times and taken courses with him. Absolutely, wonderful guy. What you just said there is, actually, a great tie-in to what we’re talking about earlier with regards to these differences in paradigms. You can see right there in the example you gave, the downside of just looking at blood pressure as a mistake and treating it with a drug.
Now, all of a sudden, it’s causing this dysregulation in other areas of the body that’s manifesting as back pain. Now, the person’s going to either seek out practitioners for the back pain or take another drug, a painkiller drug, hopefully, not an opioid, to deal with their chronic back pain. You can see how things quickly spiral out of control. It all started with a simple difference in paradigm of how that health practitioner was looking at their blood pressure, and what based on the paradigm, the lens that they were looking at it through, what they felt the solution was. You can see totally different destinies and health trajectories emerge out of that.
Dr. Pickard. [chuckles] I was struggling with pronouncing his name earlier because I’ve had a researcher on the podcast previously, French researcher with the last name Picard, and this is Pickard. There’s a big difference between those pronunciations. Is there anything you want to leave people with as we wrap up? Please let people know where they can find you and get in touch with you if they’re interested in working with you.
Christopher: Yes. I think the most important thing is, no matter what’s wrong with you, if you think there’s something wrong and you want to find answers, find a doctor, find someone who’s going to listen to you and respect what you have to say. Rather than just finding someone that’s going to try and give you a list of answers and trying to fit you into their paradigm. It’s like, find a scientist who’s going to listen to you and go, “Okay. Right. I am the right person, or maybe you need to go and see this person. Try this approach.”
That’d be the best thing. If you want to find me, the best place is probably beatbloodpressure.com. Beatbloodpressure.com. There’s some free resources and there’s some places for you to sign up. I, actually, do a weekly webinar so you can listen to that and listen to those and you can ask me questions, and I’ve got a Facebook group as well. Just go to beatbloodpressure.com. That’s probably the easiest place to find me.
Ari: Wonderful. Thank you so much, my friend. Thanks for coming on the show. Is a long time in the making. I’m glad we finally made it happen. Thank you for sharing your expertise on this subject with my audience. I really appreciate it.
Christopher: Thank you. It’s a pleasure, Ari. Keep on going. You are a treasure. A goldmine.
00:00 – Intro
00:20 – Guest intro – Dr. Christopher Pickard
01:23 – The role of blood pressure and COVID mortality
03:38 – Why blood pressure lowering drugs shouldn’t be the first treatment option
16:00 – The most common underlying causes of high blood pressure
27:40 – The role of nitric oxide in blood pressure
34:34 – The best exercise to help treating high blood pressure
38:30 -The best foods and supplements for treating high blood pressure
48:00 – How to start treating high blood pressure