Can Sunshine Lower Blood Pressure? #HP-EVOO - Blog # 89
Hello Everyone! Welcome back to another Friday blog. Today I wanted to highlight the importance of getting a “healthy dose” of sunshine. Here in Texas, we have lots of sunshine - especially now that summer is upon us. Here we are with our two oldest grandkids at Fort Worth Water Gardens ❤️ We tend to practice avoidance - stay indoors in air conditioning, or slather on sunblock if we go outside. We know it is important to balance under-exposure with over-exposure in order to synthesize vitamin D - without causing skin cancer. However, there are way more benefits from getting enough exposure to sunlight, particularly early morning - and these benefits can last 48 hours or more - Let’s delve in.
Our skin is the largest organ system of the body - providing a physical barrier between the external and internal environment (preventing water loss) and protecting the body from microorganisms, allergens, irritants and UV (ultraviolet) irradiation. Check out blog # 9. Its job is to excrete waste (sweat), waterproof, regulate temperature and synthesize vitamin D from exposure to UV-B (ultraviolet-B) sunlight. It also contains sensory receptors to detect pain, sensation and pressure. The multi-layered skin provides a connective tissue foundation or base to support strength and flexibility while protecting deeper structures. However, did you know it also makes NO (nitric oxide) - to protect us from UV damage. Dr. Louis Ignarro (and others) won the Nobel Prize for discovering NO in 1998. It dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow to organs - including sexual organs of men and women. He has been dubbed the “Father of Viagra” for NO’s ability to dilate blood vessels to treat ED (erectile dysfunction).
NO is a gas (like O2) and is a chemical messenger that is produced, then goes away rapidly. We know that NO is a potent vasodilator - endothelial cells lining the smooth muscle of blood vessels produce NO to cause our blood vessels to relax and dilate - lowering blood pressure. Babies born with pulmonary hypertension are now given NO to alleviate this problem and save their lives. People in ICU on breathing tubes are given NO as well. When your body is not making the NO it needs, you end up with HTN (hypertension), brain/memory issues, T2D (type 2 diabetes) and other health issues. It functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain, which makes about 10x more than anywhere else in the body - and is involved in memory, learning and recall.
If you have a healthy microbiome, your microbes are helping to lower your blood pressure by making NO for you in your gut - to aid in digestion but your skin does this too! Our skin is a functional organ containing >90% keratinocytes (skin cells). UV-A (ultraviolet-A) exposure penetrates deep through the layers to the blood vessels and stimulates the production of enzymes (like NOS - nitric oxide synthase) within keratinocytes to produce NO. This is “part of the skin’s defense and repair mechanism, as NO is involved in inflammation, microbicidal activity, apoptosis and wound healing.” There are several steps involved to produce NO in this way. However, UV-A exposure to skin lowers blood pressure in real time! How does it do this? We now know that “nitrites in skin cells are the source of UV-mediated NO release…skin contains nitrite at levels approximately 25 times higher than that found in human plasma.” Nitrates and nitrites in skin therefore become an important reservoir for NO production to help us remain healthy and prevent HTN (hypertension). We need to get outside to stimulate this production!
“On average, keratinocytes and microvascular endothelial cells both increase NO production by approximately 7%, which may appear modest at first sight, but when we consider that human exposure to environmental sunlight would involve a significantly greater surface area and hence number of cells, these increases becomes more meaningful.” Researchers report that “even a modest change in diastolic blood pressure of 10 mmHg can result in a 2-fold reduction in cardio- and cerebro-vascular mortality risk.” A 2020 study from JAMA (journal of the American heart association) reported that “UV radiation intensity is inversely associated with SBP (systolic blood pressure) and that this association is independent of (albeit possibly modified by) the ambient temperature…insufficient sunlight is a new risk factor for hypertension.”
“Studies in the past decade indicate that insufficient sun exposure may be responsible for 340,000 deaths in the United States and 480,000 deaths in Europe per year, and an increased incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, asthma, type 1 diabetes and myopia.” Further, there is evidence that solar UV rays affect the blood transcriptome - affecting genes for immunity. It is becoming more clear that everything in our body works together in concert to protect us and keep us healthy. “Moderate exposure to UV-A in sunlight may be especially beneficial for some demographic groups such as the elderly, hypertensive patients or those with impaired nitric oxide function, not only during exposure but many hours and days after that.” Literally, taking a walk in the sunshine or doing some gardening can help to lower blood pressure and prevent a heart attack or stroke - and possibly a whole host of other disease processes.
Okay, so NO is produced by the skin, but did you know your body makes it in multiple places? The smooth muscle cells lining the nose and lungs make NO to relax the airway - allowing more air flow into the lungs - KILLS viruses and other pathogens - including SARS CoV-2, SARS CoV-1, Influenza, Rhinoviruses and many more. When you exercise, your body makes lots of NO to dilate blood vessels and allow blood flow and oxygen to the muscles in your legs and arms. This is why it is so important to breathe in through the nose - if you are breathing in through the mouth, the NO can’t get into the airway. Deep breathing exercises lower blood pressure in this way - stimulating relaxation and turning off cortisol and the sympathetic nervous system. It’s very important not to be a “mouth-breather.”
Okay, so NO is produced all over the body to enhance our health and wellbeing. Sunlight not only triggers our skin to make NO, but also vitamin D (stimulated by primarily UV-B). Cholesterol and sulfates in the skin are used to produce vitamin D sulfate - a water-soluble form that can travel freely through the bloodstream. “Sunlight acts like a bridge between the two nutrients, as ultraviolet B rays from the sun reach the skin and activate 7-hydrocholesterol, a chemical precursor of vitamin D, converting it to vitamin D3.” Many other vitamins, neurotransmitters and hormones must be sulfated for transport via the blood to their final destination. A great example of this is serotonin - that must be sulfated in the gut prior to transport to the brain. It is extremely important to consume dietary sulfates to allow this to happen. Where do we get dietary sulfur? Animal protein, pastured eggs, EVOO, coconut oil, garlic, onions, legumes and cruciferous vegetables are primary sources.
Sulfate transport is how our body detoxifies harmful substances such as drugs, antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and heavy metals - known as xenobiotics. “Studies have linked hypertension with the chronic consumption of alcohol and exposure to metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic have also been linked to hypertension and CVD.” GMO foods and glyphosate (Roundup®) disrupts this process, inhibiting a huge class of enzymes called CYP (cytochrome P450). Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), which Seneff believes is largely responsible for catalyzing sulfate production in the body, is a CYP enzyme that is highly susceptible to damage from glyphosate and other environmental toxicants including mercury and aluminum (Seneff, S. et al. Entropy. 2012; 14(12): 2492-2530). Check out blog # 70. As glyphosate levels build slowly in the body, many processes are disrupted. “Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.” If sulfate levels are low, your NO is likely low as well. You can see how toxins can build up causing many problems.
So, what can we do to enhance our body’s ability to produce NO, vitamin D and sulfur bioavailability to detoxify our bodies, enhance our immune system and lower blood pressure to keep us healthy?
- Provide substrate required to make NO - Arginine - an amino acid found in healthy proteins - fish, meats, almonds and walnuts provide substrate for NOS (nitric oxide synthase) the enzyme that makes NO.
- Get adequate sunshine - “Studies in healthy humans showed that a 20 J/cm2 UVA exposure (equivalent to ~30 min of mid-day Mediterranean sun and suberythemal in light skin) relaxes arterial resistance in association with NO release. Exposure of the body to UVA lowered blood pressure independently of temperature and serum 25(OH)D.” Start with 5 min, gradually increase to 30 min to avoid sunburn during high intensity periods - depending on skin type, intensity and time of day. Protect your eyes from direct sunlight during these times - so getting outside early in the day is ideal.
- Breathe in through the nose - not the mouth - practice deep breathing often throughout the day
- Read or work by a window - UV-A will pass through the glass (UV-B and UV-C can’t) stimulating the production of NO.
- Exercise - bike, walk, run or jog, play some tennis or outdoor racquetball, rollerblade with your kids or grandkids - move your body. Sedentary people produce way less NO. My granddaughter says her friends’ grandmothers don’t bike with them or rollerblade with them - I asked “why?” She said “I don’t think they are able.” WHAT???!!!!
- Consume antioxidant-rich food - antioxidants neutralize the molecules that destroy NO and damage the tissues that produce NO. # HP-EVOO
- Supplement vitamin D - especially in winter or if you can’t get outside enough. Researchers “found a 125% increased risk for all-cause dementia and a 122% increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease in people with serum 25(OH)D <25 nmol/L compared to >50 nmol/L.”Sunlight synthesizes vitamin D sulfate, whereas oral vitamin D3 supplements is in un-sulfated form that requires LDL (low density lipoprotein) for transport to receptor sites throughout the body. Ask your MD to check your vitamin D levels.
- Avoid alcohol - chronic consumption or high consumption impairs endothelial function, causes penile atherosclerotic erectile dysfunction and diminishes production of NO
- Detoxify your body from environmental chemicals (like heavy metals or glyphosate) that damage the body, produce a high amount of free radicals that damage tissues that produce NO as well as oxidizing NO.
- Grounding - walk barefoot in the grass - “skin contact with the surface of the Earth allows Earth’s electrons to spread over the skin surface and into the body. One route to the body interior could be via acupuncture points and meridians. The meridians are known to be low resistance pathways for the flow of electrical currents.” This lowers inflammation and works with antioxidants to remove oxidative damage and enhance NO effects. As it turns out, our earth, our sun and our bodies work in concert (when we allow it) to keep us healthy and happy.
- Omega 3s - DHA, EPA and ALA lower blood pressure by improving endothelial function - 2022 in the journal Nutrients - 12 weeks of supplementation in running athletes researches noted results “indirectly indicates increased bioavailability/NO synthesis.”
- Avoid Omega 6 oils - Consuming a “diet high in omega-6 can increase the production of vasoconstricting eicosanoids which may promote increases in blood pressure.”
- HP-EVOO - (high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil) polyphenols are powerful antioxidants - HT (hydroxytyrosol) is a potent antioxidant - A 2023 review reported “hydroxytyrosol is capable to counteract oxidative stress, inflammation, vascular aging, and arterial stiffness; thus, it is beneficial to preserve endothelial function.” HP-EVOO stimulates the endothelial production of NO lowering blood pressure. A study over a 6-month period compared EVOO with vegetable oil (omega 6). Resting blood pressure was reduced and medications were decreased 48% - by the end of the study, several subjects were able to completely stop their blood pressure medication. EVOO also provides vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant for blood vessels - provides sulfate for detoxification - enhances bioavailability of antioxidants from other foods to compliment the antioxidant force.