What Is the Link Between High Blood Pressure and IBS?
When you live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may have other conditions that also impact your health. These ailments could affect you both physically and mentally.
Our 2022 IBS In America Survey asked which other health conditions those with IBS are currently diagnosed with. High blood pressure (hypertension) was one of the most common conditions reported, just after anxiety and osteoarthritis. Forty-one percent of people who responded to the survey said they live with the condition.
High blood pressure happens when the force of blood against the walls of your arteries is too high, too often. If you do not treat it, the condition can put a strain on your heart and blood vessels and lead to other serious health problems.1
So what is the connection between high blood pressure and IBS? And can treating one impact the other?
Gut microbes and high blood pressure
Experts do not know exactly what causes IBS, but they think changes to gut microbes could play a role. Gut microbes are the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your intestines and contribute to your overall health. People with IBS may have microbes that differ from people without the condition.2
Researchers have discovered a link between gut microbes and other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, as well. They think that when the amount of certain types of bacteria in the gut changes, it can affect how blood vessels behave. Blood vessels may constrict more than usual, causing high blood pressure.3
Also, researchers have found that certain substances made by the gut microbes, called metabolites, could contribute to high blood pressure. But they will need to conduct more studies to fully understand the link between gut microbes and high blood pressure.3
IBS, diet, and high blood pressure
You likely know from experience that eating or drinking certain foods or beverages can trigger IBS symptoms. Trigger foods may include those with gluten or high FODMAP levels. And removing those foods from your diet can help to ease pain, cramping, and bloating.2
Now, experts are looking into whether a diet known to lower blood pressure could also help IBS. The diet is called dietary approaches to stop hypertension, or DASH. It involves eating lots of:4
- Whole grains
On DASH, you cut back on:4
- Red meat
- Saturated fat
- Refined grains
- Sugary drinks
Besides lowering blood pressure, scientists say the DASH method of eating also “cools down” inflammation in the body. They have linked inflammation to conditions such as obesity, heart and blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease), and diabetes. Scientific evidence also suggests that DASH could prevent IBS or improve its symptoms by lowering inflammation.4
A 2021 study from Iran looked at the impact of DASH on IBS. They found that people who followed the diet significantly lowered their odds of developing IBS. However, researchers noted that DASH contains some foods with high FODMAPs, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are known to worsen IBS symptoms.4
Their research did not look at the FODMAP content levels of each food studied. The researchers say more studies are needed to confirm their results.4
The 2022 IBS In America survey was conducted online from May through July 2022. The survey was completed by 1,478 people.
Do you have high blood pressure in addition to your IBS?
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?