Sunday, 13 May 2012

NATURAL WAYS TO HELP TACKLE HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL



Much has been written and debated about the effects of high blood cholesterol on our health especially in relation to heart disease and hardening of the arteries and perhaps there is even more debate about the statin medications widely used to control it.  It is little wonder there is much confusion as, for example, Eskimos eat one of the highest cholesterol rich diets in the world and yet statistically they have one of the lowest incidents of cardio vascular disease.  This has now been attributed to their levels (and ratios) of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and HDL (“good” cholesterol) and not the use of statins!

Let’s have a little look at the bad v good guys.  Your cholesterol is carried in your blood by lipoproteins (fat/protein complexes).  One of these, LDL, carries 55% of your total cholesterol, if you have too much cholesterol it is likely to be deposited by LDL on the artery walls.  HDL carries 13% and takes cholesterol out of the arteries and transports it back to the liver (for processing and disposal, out of harm’s way).  VLDL carries 25%.  Very high fat diets increase your triglyceride levels so VLDL transports this to the wobbly bits – yep the fat layer around organs and under skin.  Once this is accomplished they neatly convert to the bad guys LDL, hence one of the reasons you are advised to reduce your saturated fats intake.  It is generally recommended that your total cholesterol level should be checked every 5 years and be less than 5.6 mmol/litre.  The ideal ratio of 1 part HDL to 3 parts total cholesterol.

Cholesterol is, however, a vital nutrient, among other things it makes bile acids, maintains cell membranes and makes hormones.  Our daily requirement for cholesterol is 1100mg per day.  We generally consume 300-500mg/day from our diet (eggs, meat, dairy etc) the shortfall is made up internally by your own small intestine or liver.  So my suggestions for you here are primarily to address the balance of cholesterol as well as total cholesterol level.  Obviously if you over consume fats ,especially saturated ones you will exceed the daily requirement but there are many other factors which increase the levels – namely stress, lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, predisposing hereditary factors and especially diet.

Looking at these factors in more detail we can see their relevance.  Stress produces hormones which stimulate the “fight or flight” response (sympathetic nervous system).  This directs resources to increase blood flow, hormones and lymph to your limbs, eyes, heart, muscles etc and away from the abdomen (and digestion).  Conversely, during a relaxed state, your parasympathetic nervous system sees to the internal “house keeping” producing digestive enzymes, bile from the gall bladder and a generous blood supply for digestion.  It also stimulates removal of waste products.  However these 2 opposing systems can’t work simultaneously.  A permanently stressed state of being will not allow for the correct processing, therefore, of high blood cholesterol levels. 

Stress, smoking and high blood pressure all produce free radical damage or internal “rusting”.  These stressors increase your LDL levels by oxidizing fats as well as contributing to many other diseases and maladies.  

Diet has been shown to be one of the key factors in high blood cholesterol and there are ways you can help yourself by both adding and subtracting various foods!

FAT  - Don’t ….
We have already established that fat in a necessary part of your diet but not all fats are equal!  A major influence is not only the type of fat but the quality of it.  Rancid (oxidized) fats and hydrogenated fats (also known as trans fats) are most dangerous.  Make sure you scrape off any discoloured butter and use fresh virgin olive oil.  Freshness is key!  Avoid hydrogenated fats commonly found in high temperature fried foods, fast foods, chips, shop bought cakes, biscuits, some margarines and “plastic” cheeses.  Read the labels.  These fats are highly processed and toxic, your body doesn’t know how to process them properly so they are continually circulated or dumped by our friend LDL back in your arteries.  As mentioned previously don’t over eat saturated fats (cheese, red meat, cream etc) as this stimulates your body’s own production of even more cholesterol.

FAT – do….
Some fats are essential, meaning we have to eat them as they are not produced by you.  Essential fatty acids can be found in sardines, salmon, mackerel, freshly ground linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, evening primrose oil.  Also eat avocado, fresh olives, raw nuts (walnuts and almonds) remember though QUALITY not quantity!

FOODS TO EAT:
Garlic, onions, walnuts, soya milk, tofu, oat bran, live yoghurt, avocado, artichoke, high fibre foods (whole grains, vegetables and fruit, especially red berries and grapefruit, green tea and plenty of water and ….. enjoy…..chocolate (yes!) some studies show it can boost our friend HDL!

 SUPPLEMENTS:

 Vit B3 ( niacin)

Omega 3s (fish oils)

Vit C

Vit E (speak to GP if also taking anticoagulant)

Magnesium (if high blood pressure too)

Garlic

Chromium

Psyllium or oat bran (soak husks with linseeds to take as drink, especially good if constipated also)

Antioxidant (grape seed extract, pine bark, co enzyme Q10)

 WHAT ELSE?:

Herbs: Dandelion,  alfalfa,  artichoke,  fenugreek

Tissue salts: Nat Sulph 6x and Silicea 6x

For relaxation: massage, aromatherapy and reflexology (all available at Rolls Mill!)

Foods commercially produced to lower LDL contain plant sterols from soya beans or pine bark.  This reduces re absorption of cholesterol from bile that has been released into the gut.  They lower total cholesterol and LDL but have no significant effect on HDL or triglycerides.

FINALLY:
The above is for your information only to provide natural ways for you to help yourself.  You are advised to work with your GP especially if no improvements are noted within 2-3 months by implementing the above.  Do not stop taking medications without consulting your doctor first.

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