Dr. John’s Circadian-Based Blood Pressure Strategies

According to the new blood pressure guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, almost half of Americans are now considered to have high blood pressure. This article provides healthy blood pressure strategies based on the latest circadian science.

In This Article

Do you have high blood pressure? 

According to the new blood pressure guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, almost half of Americans are now considered to have high blood pressure.1 

The new guidelines lower the stage 1 high blood pressure guidelines from 140/90 to 130/80. The latest medical evidence shows people with blood pressure in the 130-139 range carry a doubled risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure, compared to those with lower blood pressure.1  

The new guidelines also come with a strong emphasis on lifestyle changes, rather than drugs, to support the 15 million Americans newly diagnosed with hypertension! 

The Blood Pressure-Lowering Tip That Changed My Life 

In 1985, I was in my second year of practice and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. My numbers were 135/95, and I was just 27. This was when I went to have my very first Ayurvedic consultation. The Indian doctor looked at my blood pressure and asked me only one question: “What do you eat for lunch?” 

lifespa-image-mercola-fat-keto-podcast-egg-breakfast, high-fat diet

I told him that I usually had a big breakfast and a good-sized dinner, but because I had a very busy practice, I was often running late for lunch. Lunch was, more often than not, skipped or eaten on the run. I remember feeling so frustrated in my first year of practice, because I would finish each day feeling exhausted—like I’d been hit by a bus! 

I would then go home, meditate, do yoga or other exercise, and then have dinner . . . only to go do it again the next day. 

The Indian Ayurvedic doctor looked at me and said the words that changed my life: “Go home and have a big, warm, cooked, relaxing meal in the middle of the day, and you will never have high blood pressure again.” 

I begged for an Ayurvedic pill to fix my blood pressure, but he refused. So I took his advice.  I rearranged my schedule to take 1 1/2 hours for lunch every day, and went home or out for a nice, relaxing main meal in the middle of the day—European style. 

To my amazement, my blood pressure came down in a matter of weeks, and my afternoon comatose exhaustion all but disappeared. I was back, and all I did was change my lunchtime eating habits! “You’re kidding right?!” I thought to myself. 

I was so excited that I began telling all my patients about the magic of eating a big lunch. This was my first introduction to the power of circadian medicine. In fact, I did a handful of successful clinical studies with my high blood pressure patients. I was convinced about the medicinal power of a big lunch and deeply intrigued as to why this worked so well. 

Enter Circadian Medicine + the Ayurvedic Clock 

Fascinated with Ayurveda, in 1986 I moved to India, where I began my formal training. Today, I teach at two Ayurvedic colleges in the US and often teach about the Ayurvedic Clock—the original circadian medicine.  

From 10am-2pm, the body is better equipped to digest more food more efficiently. This is called the pitta time of day. This is followed by the vata time of day, 2-6pm, where the brain and nervous system are demanding the lion’s share of available nutrients and glucose. 

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  • 10am-2pm: Pitta increases, corresponding to the fire element and the seasons of late spring into summer. This is the best time to relax and eat the biggest meal of the day because digestive fire is at its strongest, hottest, and brightest, just like the sun overhead at noon.7 Eating earlier in the day, including a good breakfast and lunch, has been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced cholesterol and stress.8   

If you skip lunch, like many people do, the circadian digestive clock still goes off. Hydrochloric acid (agni) in the stomach is still produced and, if there is no food to digest, this can predispose the stomach to acid irritation and inflammation down the road. This is the one meal that you do not want to miss.  

  • 2pm-6pm: Vata increases, corresponding to the air and ether elements and winter. This is the best time for mental and creative energy, as the nervous system is more active at this time of day. Craving sweets at this time indicates exhaustion, blood sugar issues, poor digestion, or that you didn’t eat a sufficient lunch. This is the best time for a light supper, as heavy suppers do not digest well.9 

Ask yourself how you feel during these hours of the day. If you are nibbling on dark chocolate, ordering a latte, or ready for a nap, this is an indicator your blood sugar may be crashing. Many people skip lunch because they are afraid they will fall asleep in the afternoon. If you eat a meal and feel the need to pass out, you clearly are not digesting your food well enough. So, instead of injecting yourself with caffeine, sugar, or chips, let’s fix the underlying issue in your digestive system.  

When the digestive system is optimal, you will feel energized from a large, relaxing, well-prepared meal—not comatose.  

Learn how to reset digestive strength with our free Digestion Troubleshooting Guide eBook.

If you do not fill the tank with fuel in the middle of the day, during pitta time, there will not be enough fuel to feed the brain and nervous system’s voracious appetite in the afternoon. This explained my 5pm after-work exhaustion, why people line up at Starbucks in the early afternoon, and why chocolate and sweets are feasted on in the afternoon in offices around the world. 

lifespa image, blood sugar, spoonful of sugar and cubes on wood table

This afternoon crash is a sign that blood sugar levels are dropping, and the brain is responding to that as a life-threatening emergency. If the emergency comes every day, soon the emergency stress will begin to break the body down in the way we are all individually predisposed to break down. For me, it was high blood pressure. 

Today, I am VERY proud to say I have very low blood pressure, and have for years! The morning I wrote this, I was 113/65–pretty much my typical BP these days, and sometimes it is even lower. Over the years, I have added additional strategies to optimize my blood pressure—see below. 

Dr. John’s Blood Pressure Maintenance Program 

  1. Eat your main meal midday. Relax, take time, and enjoy it. 
  2. Test your vitamin D3, as levels are believed to be associated with normal blood pressure.2 
  3. Turmeric Plus: turmeric has also been shown to support blood pressure levels already within the normal range in animal models.3 
  4. Exercise every day, and breathe through your nose while doing so.4 
  5. Sleep with your mouth closed and mouth tape if needed. 
  6. Meditate at least once per day, even for just one minute.5,6 
  7. Melatonin is also a powerful blood pressure supportive agent.7 Only small dosages are needed for a circadian reset. Consider long-term use if you are over age 50—when the body naturally lowers melatonin production. 

References

  1. https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984388/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3214182/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914008/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303565/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28033127 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4175768/
  8. The 3-Season Diet. The 3-Season Diet Weight Balancing Study. 2001. Douillard, J. 
  9. PubMed: Effects of Feeding Schedule Changes on the Circadian Phase of the Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System and Serum Lipid Levels. 10: 2603-2611. (2013). Yoshizaki, T., et al.  
  10. PubMed: Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 6: 876-880. (2014). Mamerow, M.M., et al.   

11 thoughts on “Dr. John’s Circadian-Based Blood Pressure Strategies”

  1. Hello,
    This is probably a common question but I haven’t found an answer, so I thought I’d ask it. I am a nurse and on night shifts. As a result, my circadian rhythm is almost non-existent. Should I stick with eating patterns as though I am a regular person that lives in the daylight? Or should I adjust my eating times (i.e. when my pitta would be around 9 p.m.)?

    Reply
    • Hi Luke,
      Thanks for your question. It is relevant to so many people. Try to have the main meal around mid day or late mid day when you wake up from the morning sleep. For your first large meal, we are trying to eat within the hours of strong digestive fire. Your other 2 meals can be during the darker hours during (and just after) your work. The difference here being that you are making your first meal of the day your largest.
      Be Well.

      Reply
      • So you’re saying that the time for my strong digestive fire doesn’t change because of my sleeping schedule? It’s the same for everyone just based on the general time of day? Thanks for the response, I’ll give it a shot.

        Reply
  2. How is a big warm cooked lunch pitta-pacifying, and do the meals of the day have to be balancing that way? Breakfast to balance kapha, lunch to balance pitta and supper to balance vata? That would leave peanut butter for the evening meal but it’s kind of hard to digest in the evening without pitta. Or does it depend on the imbalances per person’s dosha?

    Reply
  3. Hi there,

    Similar question.. I work until 2am, sleep from 3 am till 11am, then train first thing till 2pm. Should I just go ahead and eat my biggest meal at 2pm..?

    Thankyou.

    Reply
    • Hi Ben,

      Yes that makes the most sense as long as you are able to make it through the day with two smaller meals and not end up snacking.

      Be Well,
      Dr. John

      Reply
  4. Greetings:
    I have high blood pressure for more than 10 years and was taking Lisinopril 10MG along with
    Nifedipine 90 MG.
    I did a blood test last month which said these meds is affecting my kidneys. I don’t always take these meds.
    Is there anything I can do to lowers my blood pressure and stop taking these meds.
    I am 70 years old, retired and I was a bookkeeper, so I developed blood pressure from stress.
    I did yoga and meditation for years and only took the meds when my pressure was over 140.
    I did other exercises in the gym before the pandemic, now all I do is walk five times around the track in the park,
    Is there any thing else I can do?

    Reply
    • Hi Winnie,

      Try Dr. John’s Blood Pressure Maintenance Program as outlined in this article and should you need more individualized advice, work with your doctor and consider scheduling a consultation with Dr. John directly.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  5. What are the best foods for your largest Meal during the 10Am to 2Pm
    Hours. Do you have a cook book or information that is available on your website?

    Reply

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