High blood pressure and food intolerance

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High blood pressure is considered the number one risk for death and disability. It affects about one in three adults in Australia and the UK, and more in the US. Food intolerance is rarely mentioned.

1. Effects of amines

Since a naturopath suggested I take kefir ... my blood pressure has been sometimes dangerously high ... the kefir is now quite sour and very thick. Obviously, very high in amines ... I stopped the kefir after the 198/102 episode on Saturday and my blood pressure today (Monday) is perfect – 125/70” – Lorraine from story [1129]

“I am in day 4 of my elimination diet … my blood pressure has gone up to 160/95 … normally my BP is about 138/90. Borderline high ...  Day 9 - My blood pressure is actually better than before the diet ... Now it is averaging 125/80 … Day 14 - big news! … I was buying my chicken and beef at my local grocery store and it must all have been cryo vacuum packed. Everyday I got sicker and sicker… I am obviously a big, big amine reactor. 13 months later -My blood pressure is fine. I am fine. My problems were all related to eating supermarket meats, which I found were all at least a month old. Once I went back to eating (fresh) plain beef and chicken … my symptoms all cleared up" - Bradley from story [1633]

“Three weeks ago I ended up being taken to hospital by ambulance with a heart rate of 150 bpm. I had eaten a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch … my GP … mentioned that coffee and chocolate could be responsible for causing both rapid and irregular beats. Chocolate seems to be my cause … I told him that I had recently changed to dark chocolate because it was promoted as being heart healthy … He replied ‘that’s the worst of all’ … I have since stayed away from anything chocolate and seem to be fine – Sally from story [690] (Normal resting heart rate for adults is 60-100 bpm. Elevated heart rate is often associated with elevated blood pressure).

2. Effects of MSG

“I have been suffering from extremely labile blood pressure for years … about 3 weeks into the (Jenny Craig weight loss program) I woke feeling really bad …  and blood pressure that measured 217/114 … I stopped the JC food and within 36 hours began to feel well again … Some of the JC food has 627, 631 or 635 listed. Many of the foods also contain the hidden MSG such as HVP. I now have a letter from my doctor to say that there is evidence that I am highly sensitive to vaso-active food additives - Roslyn  from story [873]

“I had been suffering increasing episodes of tachycardia, arrhythmia and ectopic heart beats - two to three episodes a day. Despite escalating testing with various cardiac specialists over the past 6 months, nothing was determined apart from the fact I had high blood pressure … I have strenuously avoided any flavour enhancers (particularly 635) and all MSG in its myriad disguises … I've gone from having 2-3 cardiac episodes a day … to NOT ONE EPISODE IN MORE THAN A WEEK...” - Shannon from story [872]

“I was suffering with what the doctor said was normal for my age 39, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations ... my heart rate went over the 199 bpm that my machine could measure … the male ambulance officer … said “gee you look like my wife does when she has an attack of 635” … I ignored him at the time … I have stopped eating 635 + 621 (in chips and crackers, a 12 hour delay from eating the food to the full blown symptoms) … I FEEL LIKE A NEW MAN” – Wayne from story [564]

More info

10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication (includes “eat fewer processed foods”)

Atrial fibrillations and other heart rhythm disorders factsheet

Amine factsheet

MSG-type flavour enhancers - Note that any product that contains ribonucleotide flavour enhancers (627, 631, 635) contains some form of MSG because these chemicals are used as MSG boosters.

Factsheet (MSG, MSG boosters, flavour enhancers and natural glutamates)

And see our popular blog: 129 ways to add MSG and fool consumers

References

1. Amines

Biogenic amines are normally quickly broken down in the body with the help of enzymes such as MAO (monoamine oxidase-A) that render them harmless. In people who are taking certain drugs known as MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), the enzyme is inhibited and a build up of tyramine can occur, leading to life-threatening high blood pressure as well as a range of symptoms including headaches, itchy skin rashes, heart palpitations and diarrhoea.  A number of MAOI patients died from strokes or heart attacks before doctors realised that patients taking MAOIs needed to avoid foods high in tyramine. This is called the ‘cheese effect’ because it was recognised in the 1960s by a British pharmacist who noticed that his wife developed a headache every time she ate cheese - high in tyramine - while taking MAOI antidepressants. Similarly, some people are born with low activity enzymes that make them more sensitive to the effects of amines, so it seems that the effects of amines can include high blood pressure in some people with amine intolerance.

T S Sathyanarayana Rao and Vikram K Yeragani, Hypertensive crisis and cheese, Indian J Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;51(1):65-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738414/

Amines  by M.B.A. Glória, in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), 2003

2. MSG

A Chinese study found

  • MSG intake was associated with a significant increase in both systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) particularly in women
  • Women with high MSG intake were more likely to have increased SBP and DBP
  • Total glutamate intake was also positively associated with an increase in SBP
  • In those chronically taking antihypertensive medications, there was a strong association between MSG intake and an increase in DBP.

Zumin Shi and others, Monosodium glutamate is related to a higher increase in blood pressure over 5 years: findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese adults, J Hypertens, 2011 May;29(5):846-53. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21372742/