Adelle Davis was one of the world’s best-known advocates of a proper diet and an outspoken campaigner for good nutrition by vitamins. Qualified in dietetics and biochemistry she worked for many years as a nutritionist. Her books ‘Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit’ and ‘Let’s Get Well’ are both multi-million copy bestsellers, focusing on preventive rather than curative nutrition. Here’s an excerpt from her book ‘Let’s Get Well’:
Before writing this chapter, I asked several persons – all intelligent individuals – to define or describe blood pressure and received the following amazing answers: ‘That’s how hard your heart pumps,’ ‘What you feel in your ears,’ ‘It means you get a stroke,’ ‘A squeeze put on something ’til you explode’ and ‘It’s when your pulse is abnormal.’ By then I decided blood pressure should be explained.
The function of blood pressure.
The force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels is the blood pressure and it is similar to the pushing of water against the sides of a garden hose. Decreasing the water in a hose or replacing a small hose with a large one and keeping the amount of water the same reduces the force against the walls, simulating low pressure. Conversely, if the amount of water in a hose is increased or a standard hose replaced by a small one, the pressure against the walls is raised, as in hypertension.
Arteries normally large enough to slip a little finger into may become so plugged with fatty substances that a match can scarcely be inserted; when most of the arteries are thus clogged, the blood is squeezed into a relatively little space, and the blood pressure naturally becomes high.
It is the blood pressure which forces oxygen and food, or plasma carrying sugar, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, into the tissues through porous microscopic capillary walls; hence normal blood pressure is vital to the nutrition of the cells.
Increasing low blood pressure.
Faulty nutrition allows the tissue forming the walls of the blood vessels to become overly relaxed and perhaps flabby or stretched; hence less oxygen and nutrients are supplied the tissues. As a result, the person with low blood pressure suffers needlessly from fatigue, usually lacks endurance, is sensitive to cold and heat, requires more sleep than healthy individuals, develops a rapid pulse on exertion, and often has little interest in sex. Such people usually feel more tired when they get up in the morning than before they went to bed.
Low blood pressure has been produced in volunteers by diets only mildly deficient in calories, 1 protein, 2 vitamin C, 3 or almost any one of the B vitamins. 4 Of all nutrients, however, a lack of pantothenic acid most quickly causes low blood pressure. 5 Since an undersupply of this vitamin inhibits the production of adrenal hormones, excessive amounts of salt and water are excreted and the amount of blood – the volume – actually decreases. Adrenal exhaustion brought on by prolonged stress, which greatly increases the need for pantothenic acid, is invariably accompanied by low blood pressure. Obtaining sufficient pantothenic acid alone often raises the blood pressure to normal.
An adequate diet which emphasizes complete proteins, the B vitamins, the antistress factors, and particularly the nutrients that simulate adrenal production [covered in Chapter 2] quickly normalizes low blood pressure. For several years I planned diets for all the patients of three obstetricians, hundreds of whom had low blood pressure; usually it was corrected in two or three weeks. Until the blood pressure reaches normal, however, salty foods and/or 1/2 teaspoon of salt in water should be taken daily. Since vitamin E reduces the need for oxygen,6 it is especially helpful in relieving the fatigue that results when the tissues are oxygen starved.
High blood pressure, or hypertension.
The blood pressure becomes elevated when larger than normal amounts of water (and sodium) are held in the body, a situation that invariably occurs during the alarm reaction to stress. In this case, the quantity of blood plasma, or the blood volume, increases. On the other hand, arteries can become smaller when tension causes the muscular walls to contract or when they are plugged with cholesterol, compressed in beds of fat, or shrunk by scar tissue that may be calcified. Most persistent high blood pressure results from a combination of these factors.
The usual symptoms of high blood pressure are headaches, dizziness, noises or ringing in the ears
and, sooner or later, haemorrhages in the eyes. 7
When oxygen is inadequate, they appear to secrete a hormone like ‘pressor factor’ which elevates the blood pressure, thus increasing the oxygen supply. 8 Because vitamin E decreases the need for oxygen, it is especially important for persons with high blood pressure. 9 Deficiencies of choline or of vitamin C or E cause haemorrhages in the kidneys and bring oxygen starvation to cells formerly depending on the interrupted blood supply.
- Keys, A., et al., The Biology of Human Starvation, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 1951
- Tui, C., J. Clin. Nut. 1, 232, 1953
- Chazen, J. A., et al., Am. J. Med. 34, 350, 1963
- Bicknell, F., and Prescott, F., Vitamins in Medicine, Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Milwaukee, Wis., 1953
- Bean, W. B., et al.,Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 86, 693, 1954
- Houchin, O. B., et al., J. Biol. Chem. 146, 309, 1942
- Parrish, H. M., J. Chron. Dis. 14, 326, 1961
- Grollman, A., et al., Am. J. Physiol. 157, 21, 1949
- Shenkin, H. A., et al., J. Clin. Invest. 32, 459, 1953
Reprinted with permission from Vitality Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved.