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Using drugs to curb high blood pressure? It might lead to gut problems

A word of caution for those with hypertension: A drug you’re taking for treatment could increase your risk of a potentially serious gut problem, according to a new study.

Conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, the study, published in the medical journal Circulation, found that calcium-channel blockers – a type of anti-hypertensive medication – may be linked to an increased risk of a type of bowel condition called diverticulosis.

These findings are the result of an investigation by the researchers into the efficacy and side effects of three common high blood pressure medications: ACE-inhibitors, beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers.

The researchers used genetic analyses to study the effects of the drugs, noting that aside from checking for potential side effects, they also wanted to check the drugs’ potential to treat other diseases.

As detailed in the study, the researchers first looked at the proteins targeted by the drugs and identified the ones that help lower blood pressure. Next, they analyzed genetic data from around 750,000 people and identified the so-called genetic variants that code for the identified proteins.

According to the researchers, they studied whether these gene variants – which increase the production of these proteins – were linked to either an increased or a decreased risk of other diseases and conditions.

The researchers explained that while they found proof that the genetic variants were indeed linked to lower risk of heart disease and stroke, they also discovered that versions of genes related to the effects of a particular type of calcium channel blocker – the non-dihydropyridine class – were linked to an increased risk of diverticulosis. (Related: Exploring the ”gut-heart” connection: Can heart failure be treated by boosting gut microbiota health?)

Diverticulosis is a condition wherein a person develops small pouch-like growths on the wall of their colon. This condition is extremely common in the United States, where it manifests in one out of 10 people over the age of 40.

Diverticulosis itself is not really a problem, as the pouches or growths themselves are harmless and rarely cause any symptoms. However, the situation can become more serious and even potentially life-threatening if the pouches become infected. Once the pouches become infected, the condition is then called diverticulitis.

“This is the first time that this class of blood pressure drug has been associated with diverticulosis. We’re not sure of the underlying mechanism – although it may relate to effects on the function of intestine muscles, which perform contractions to transport food through the gut,” said Dipender Gill, co-lead author from Imperial’s School of Public Health, adding that the study needs further investigation with larger trials.

However, while Gill said the findings should not change current prescribing guidelines and that people should not stop taking their medication unless they were first told to do so by their healthcare provider, it may be time for people to look for natural alternatives for their medication since these are less likely to have adverse effects on overall health and wellness.

Among the steps people can take to support their heart health without resorting to artificial medication, are the following:

  • Follow a vegetable-rich diet.
  • Incorporate more healthy fats such as avocados, legumes and nuts in their diets.
  • Eat more antioxidant-rich fruits such as berries, pomegranates and grapes.
  • Limit their consumption of red meat, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils.
  • Limit their consumption of sugary beverages and sweets.
  • Eat more lean protein, such as organic, free-range poultry and wild-caught fish.
  • Minimize salt intake by avoiding canned and overly processed food items.
  • Drink more water.

Supporting your heart’s health need not be at the expense of your body’s other systems. Read more about natural ways to promote overall wellness and health at

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