Vomiting and Low Blood Pressure -- A
Hidden Danger for Vegans?
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A Global Look at Hypertension-Where Is It Lowest?
August 29, 2018

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

There I was, sitting at one of my favorite restaurants in
France. I had just eaten a meal of fresh garden salad, folowed
by a "dos de salmon" and beautiful vegetables when I
announced to my sister that "I feel, I don't know, I'm going
to pass out". And so I did. When I came to, I found my entire
meal of beautiful salmon in my lap, and the waiters and owner
fluttering around me in a panic.  I had passed out. But why? I
had never vomited before in public? Why now, right after a

There were clues. We had skipped lunch, and just had a tiny
bit at the bed-and-breakfast before setting out to explore.
Once out, we had stopped at a cafe for drinks but they didn't
have my brand of iced tea so I ended up drinking something a
little sweeter than usual.  Then, because we were in the
mid-afternoon, during that time of the day when restaurants
in many traditional French towns are closed, we had to either
grab a fast food snack ---something my sister was adamant
she would not do on her French vacation --- or wait until
7/30PM for the traditional dinner hour to start at our favorite
bistrot. We opted to wait.  That was a mistake.

Low Blood Pressure Plus Big Meals Equals Vomiting

Here is something most people do not know --- eating lowers
your blood pressure.

During digestion, blood is directed to your digestive track to
help your body process the food.  Your blood pressure falls by
up to 20 points as your stomach and upper intestines do their

If you already have low blood pressure, you may then
experience lightheadedness or vomiting.  Vomiting occurs
because digestion stops in its tracks.  

The condition of having blood pressure so low that you
experience lightheadedness and possibly vomiting is called
"postprandial hypotension". The "postprandial" part of the
term means within 2 hours after eating.

Normal blood pressure is 120/70 to 120/80 and low pressure
starts at 90/60.  So, even if you lose 20 points off the systolic
(top number), you still are at 100 points, plenty of blood
pressure to avoid feeling faint or stopping digestion.

We Americans typically don't have to worry about having
blood pressure that is too low. Our problem is hypertension,
the deadly condition of having blood pressure that is way too
high, above 140/90.  

Another reason you may not have heard much about the
problem of low blood pressure after eating is that it mainly
affects the elderly. In nursing homes, about 40% of the
residents tend to have this problem.  Why? Because the
elderly tend to get dehydrated and
being dehydrated lowers
your blood pressure. Also, the elderly are not as physically
active, and exercise is one way that we naturally raise our
blood pressure during the day. Being sedentary is in fact a
leading cause of low blood pressure problems.

As I said, the problem of low blood pressure is up until now
mostly been a problem for the elderly. But that may be
changing, for a reason that, ironically, is connected with
improving your overall health --- increasing numbers of
vegans and vegetarians.

Being a Vegan Lowers Blood Pressure Dramatically

Throughout my life, I have had ups and downs with blood
pressure. More accurately, most of my life has seen ups and
ups. Around age 40, I started to eat more sensibly, and saw
my blood pressure steady.

This way of eating has been refined over the years, so that
now, I eat pretty much vegan, with fish two or three times a
week, and a serving of chicken once per month. I'd say
between 90% and 95% of my meals do not involve animal

One of the first things you will notice if you start eating a
plant-based diet is how it affects your blood pressure.  Vegans
have low blood pressure.

In fact, the average blood pressure for vegans is 104/62,
according to 2007 study carried out by researchers from  
Washington University School of Medicine. The precise result
of the study on 21 sedentary vegans was a systolic (top
number) of 104 plus or minus 15, meaning it ranged from 89
to 119, and a diastolic number averaging 62 plus or minus 11,
so it ranged from 58 to 73. Thus, the lowest vegan reading
was 89/58 and the highest vegan reading was 119/73.

The Washington University study discovered that vegans had
lower blood pressure even than superbly trained, long
distance endurance runners. The long distance athletes
averaged a blood pressure reading of 122/72. The range was
from 109/63 to 135/81.

Vegans are more at risk for postprandial hypotension because
they start with a lower baseline blood pressure in the first
place. If you're averaging 104/62 as a blood pressure, then
you eat and your blood pressure goes down another 20
points, you're at risk for fainting and vomiting.

What Can You Do to Help Manage Postprandial Hypotension?

We've hinted at the things that you can do to counter
postprandial hypotension. You've already taken the first step,
which is to educate yourself about what causes the problem.

Here is a compilation of the best advice for managing
postprandial hypotension, from Harvard Medical School and
the Mayo Clinic (these are the first 4 tips) followed by some
tips that have worked for me:

Drink More Water 15 minutes Before You Eat. Drinking
water raises your blood pressure. Get into the habit of
drinking 12 to 18 ounces of water before you eat.  

Graze on Smaller Meals.  I vomited after eating a larger
than usual meal.  The advice Harvard gives it to avoid larger
meals and, instead, opt for 6 or 7 smaller meals throughout
the day.  This is also the advice that we have found in a 2010
study from Drs. Luciano and Brennan of the Baystate Medical
Center in Massachusetts.

Skip White Bread, Rice and Other Refined Carbohydrates.
These cause a rapid emptying of your stomach, which
exacerbates low blood pressure problems.  In fact, rapid
gastric emptying alone can cause low blood pressure.  

If offered potato chips before your meal -- as I was on that
night I threw up -- choose nuts instead. Or, better yet, just
drink some more water.

Choose slow acting carbohydrates such as whole grains,
legumes and other vegetables.

Rest After Eating. Harvard advises that blood pressure
bottoms out between 30 to 60 minutes after you eat. Try to
avoid overextending yourself during this time frame or you
may faint. If you can rest, put your feet up and wait it out.

Get Moving--- Every Day. Being sedentary lowers your
blood pressure; sometimes too much. Build in activity in your
day to raise your blood pressure.  Walking, climbing stairs,
cycling, working out to tapes at home or going to the gym all
can help to make your heart work harder and raise your blood
pressure and your heart rate.

Consider Drinking Coffee.  Coffee raises your blood
pressure and your heart rate. Actually, the scientific studies
differ on coffee's effects on blood pressure. One study seems
to have solved the mystery. It is a 2002 study from University
Hospital Zürich, Switzerland entitled "Coffee acutely increases
sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure independently
of caffeine content: role of habitual versus nonhabitual
drinking". This study found that how coffee affects our blood
pressure depends on whether you habitually drink coffee.

For non-habitual coffee drinkers, coffee raises your blood
pressure. But for those who drink coffee habitually, drinking
the black goodness
may have little to no effect on blood

I have started to sip a bit of coffee in the middle of the day
about half an hour before I eat. I also sip water at the same
time. The coffee and water do seem to help keep my blood
pressure up. Readings after meals now are 117/71 on

6. Remember Your Vitamin B-12. Being vegan is a healthy
way to eat. It can protect you from many chronic diseases
including heart disease, stroke and even cancer. But it does
have one downside. You cannot obtain Vitamin B-12 from a
plant based diet.

Vitamin B-12 is essential to make red blood cells. One of the
signs of a Vitamin B-12 deficiency fainting.

So, if you are a vegan, you are doubly at risk for fainting, both
because you already have low blood pressure and because
you are more likely than most to develop a Vitamin B-12

7. Add Cashews. Cashews are not just a delicious sweet nut.
They have also been shown to be unique among nuts in that
they stabilize and improve baroreceptor sensitivity.
Baroreceptors are the way your body stabilizes your blood
pressure when you stand up. Poor baroreceptor senstitivity
also increases your risk for postprandial hypotension,
according to a 1998 study led by Katsuhiko Kohara of
University School of Medicine, Onsen-gun, Ehime, Japan.


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