2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

High Blood Pressure

One of the most common reasons people give for coming to our practice is to see if there’s “something other than all these pills” they’ve been prescribed for a medical problem. I frequently hear sentences such as, “I read the side effects of this drug and think: but those are the symptoms I’m being treated for,” or “I take all these pills and I feel pretty much the same.”

Treating high blood pressure can be especially annoying because patients often take anywhere from one to four separate meds, two or three times a day, for a condition that has no symptoms. Many people can drive down their high blood pressure with a combination of improved diet (no junk food, plenty of veggies and fruits, lean protein, limited salt), managing weight, quitting tobacco, and exercising regularly.

But can everyone with high blood pressure quit their medications using natural therapies and lifestyle changes? Definitely not. Some people make all the lifestyle changes required and still have high blood pressure. Generally, this is genetic and you’re stuck with it. Just be glad the meds exist.

However, many people do take high blood pressure meds as a consequence of the lives they lead, and sometimes due to a doctor who may have been too quick on the prescription pad. For lots of folks, just being in an exam room with a doctor is enough to ramp up blood pressure.

So let me tell you about an interesting patient we had about a year ago. “Laura” was an extremely successful businesswoman near 50.

When we met she tossed down in front of me, gauntlet-style, four bottles of blood pressure drugs. “I am really sick of these and they don’t help. My blood pressure is still insanely high and nobody knows what to do. Every time I see my doctor, I get another prescription.” Even taking the drugs, Laura’s blood pressure was 240/140, a number high enough to considerably shorten her life due to susceptibility to stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure. I said I hated to think what her numbers were without the meds. “Pretty much the same,” she replied.

Laura and I talked at length about her life, and she told me she was an angry person who rarely let her emotions show. I observed, but didn’t remark on, a deep angry crease between her eyebrows. She told me that in situations where other people might feel sadness, disappointment, or impatience, she felt anger. Also, that every morning when she was just waking, before she had time to get angry, her blood pressure tested almost normal.

Since she didn’t have a history of high blood pressure in her family, I told her I thought her anger might be triggering a constant fight-or-flight stress response, with an endless outflow of adrenalin (the stress hormone from your adrenal gland), which could certainly raise her blood pressure.

I suggested we re-frame the issue in two ways:
• First, she should consider seriously getting a handle on the stress in her life and find ways to deal with it more productively than being angry.
• Second, we should check the level of her serotonin stress buffer to see if biochemically she was more vulnerable to stress than other people. The usual emotions when stress exceeds your stress buffer are depression and anxiety, but a very strong third contender is anger. Psychiatrists often treat chronic anger with antidepressants to raise the serotonin stress buffer, but we wouldn’t go that route just yet.

We agreed to an eight-week trial of non-drug therapy. Along the way, if her blood pressure was coming down, we’d reward her efforts by dropping one blood pressure medication at a time. Right up front, Laura was eager to embark on this approach. She really wanted it to work. I ordered tests to measure her serotonin level and her adrenal function. Other tests weren’t needed as she’d already undergone extensive testing with other doctors.

On that day, right after her visit with me, she had a lengthy acupuncture treatment with Tanuja Jagernauth in our offices. I took her blood pressure at the end of the session and it had fallen to 170/100. Bringing it down even further and keeping it down would be another issue altogether.

Laura also scheduled an appointment with nutritionist Marla Feingold and another with Dr Larry Stoler to discuss the stressors in her life. He would also teach her an at-home daily relaxation ritual called Chi-Lel.

She left the office with a biofeedback device called RESPeRATE, shown in several clinical studies to reduce stress-induced high blood pressure.

When her serotonin level results came back extremely low, I started her on St John’s wort and 5HTP to boost it. Not surprisingly, the test results also showed her adrenal glands were chronically stressed, a result of the fight-or-flight response she was triggering near-constantly with her anger.

At the end of eight weeks, Laura told me she’d learned a great deal about herself, and that family members and friends were voicing concern “because she’d been so relaxed.” We chuckled over that one. The deep crease between her eyebrows had eased and she told me she’d actually discovered she had a sense of humor, which she was putting to use in the executive offices to help defuse her anger response. She was also working out regularly.

Laura’s current blood pressure? 140/70 on one pill a day (she says it’s even lower when she takes it at home). That pill is a very specific choice, a class of medications called beta blockers, which block the effect of excess adrenalin from elevating her blood pressure.

Success like this requires a truly dedicated patient. At WholeHealth Chicago, our hats are off to Laura for her sheer diligence. Daily Chi-Lel, daily RESPeRATE, hitting the gym, and eating like a farmers market poster child take real commitment. Her high blood pressure was a message from her body begging for change. She responded and will likely be rewarded with years of healthful longevity.

Leave a Comment


  1. Linda Silbert says:

    I loved reading about the patient “Laura” and learning of her personal success. It was inspiring. Thanks for sharing that story.

  2. Amy Schuman says:

    I have a new mantra thanks to you, David: “Eat like a farmer’s market poster child.” Works for me!

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • Your First Step For Any (Any!) Chronic Symptoms

    Here’s an unfortunate trend: more and more young people (at my age, everyone under 50 is young) are troubled by chronic physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes there’s a diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia. But just as often there are plenty of symptoms and no diagnosis. I can’t count how many times patients have told me they went to multiple doctors who told them Read More

  • Surge Protection

    A confession: I’ve never done well with authority figures. Those who know me, the mildest and gentlest of souls, would never guess that years back I had issues with various medical associations and physician groups about such “controversial” notions as having conventional and alternative practitioners working together or actually treating (again, “controversial”) diagnoses like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic Lyme. Believe me, I’m no Read More

  • Brain-Boosting Supplements

    In our previous two Health Tips, we discussed the most common causes of brain fog. The first of these focused on stress. When there’s so much you’re anxious about, your logical thinking, mental clarity, and memory become overwhelmed to the extent that you’ve added yet another stressor. “Is this early dementia?” you may wonder. Well at least some of you seeing the election results might Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!