Cholesterol receives a negative reaction from most people; therefore, it comes as a surprise to many that our bodies naturally produce cholesterol. Produced in our liver, cholesterol is vital to our health and serves three main purposes:
- Aids in the production of sex hormones
- Building block for human tissues
- Assists in bile production in the liver
The word cholesterol breaks down into bile solid alcohol (-chole, -stereos, -ol). Its name comes from its discovery in gallstones. It is manufactured by all animals as it is essential for cell membrane structure and allows us to literally ‘move.’
Plants and many types of bacteria have a solid cell wall that prevents substantial movement. That is in part because plants and those bacteria do not contain cholesterol, but they do have small amounts of similar –sterol substances.
The Western medical system recognizes this by keeping a close eye on levels, specifically HDL and LDL levels.
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LDL vs. HDL
LDL is the the “bad” cholesterol because when our bodies have too much of it, it causes hardening of the arteries and leads to a plaque accumulation in the arteries. As the plaque build’s up the blood vessels restrict and narrow. When this occurs, it reduces and strains the flow of oxygen-rich blood from the body. Another dangerous factor of having plaque built-up in the arteries is risk of blood clots. When blood clots break loose they can get caught or blocked in the narrow blood vessels, thus causing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to keep your LDL numbers LOW.
HDL is the “good” cholesterol. HDL is beneficial to your cardiovascular system. It acts as like a “sanitation worker ”…removing the trash aka HDL. As it picks up the bad LDL, it carries it back to the liver where it gets broken down for elimination. So you want to see high numbers on your HDL test.
There are some lifestyle habits that can contribute to helping you maintain healthy cholesterol numbers. Eating a healthy diet, low in saturated fats – high in whole foods such as fruit, grains, and vegetables, getting some form of regular exercise, and managing your weight.
Statins are the most used prescription medication used for lowering LDL numbers by slowing or shutting down the body’s ability to produce its own saturated fats. It seems obvious why side effects like myopathy (loss of control in muscle tissue not due to nerve failure) can occur from this when one knows how important cholesterol is to cell structure.
However, according to Professor Sherif Sultan, president of the International Society for Vascular Surgery, “…millions of people should stop taking the heart drugs because side effects outweigh possible benefits.” He also advises these drugs should only be considered for patients who have had a heart attack, and never prescribed for a child, woman or patient over 62 years old, as there is no evidence it could benefit them.
Sultan explained that statins have done nothing to cut death rates from heart attacks since their widespread use began. He also points out the evidence from recent studies that reveal statins actually accelerate the hardening of the arteries, which is one of the key risk factors in heart attacks.
Studies show a link with statins to an increased risk of serious side effects, such as: diabetes, cataracts, renal failure, liver failure, impotence, breast cancer, nerve damage, depression and muscle pains, and neurological problems. Sultan said, “People are taking this drug to prevent a problem and creating a disaster.”
Cholesterol Balancing Herbs and Foods
Herbs and foods that directly help with high cholesterol include:
- Green Tea
- Snow Fungus (Wood Ear Fungus)
- Eating healthy fats like Avocados; Coconut Oil; Pastured Meats, Eggs, and Dairy; and quality Wild-Caught Seafood
- Eating more vegetables (they are low in cholesterol)
One of the hallmarks of a vegetarian life is the much lower level of LDL cholesterol to HDL that results. This is primarily achieved by the consumption of plant foods that contain little-to-no cholesterol. The soluble fiber plants provide also plays a major role in helping the body stabilize its cholesterol levels as well.
Cholesterol Lowering Activities
And it’s not just about what you eat. Here are a few activities you can do or not do to help improve your cholesterol.
- Aerobic Activity
- Dealing with Personal Anger Issues
- Losing extra weight
- Not smoking
Cholesterol disease is ultimately about blood. Accumulated ‘bad’ fats in solution (blood) is what is viewed as its cause. Most westerners see the Heart as the King of the blood, for the organs primary purpose of regulating the flow of vital blood that keeps us alive.
While this view is the same in the Chinese medical system, they also view the Liver as the General of the Blood. This is because the liver is so important for the cleanliness of the blood. The Heart could not work properly with toxic blood coursing through it.
The liver actually produces 80% of the cholesterol the body needs. The rest, approximately 20% comes from the foods you eat. Consumption of healthy cholesterol sources of food is important for the proper balancing of your body’s cholesterol levels.
Liver health is thus essential for healthy cholesterol levels. The liver detoxes the body in addition to its many other functions such as cholesterol production and bile secretion.
A buildup of toxins in the liver will impair its function, so the elimination of these toxins will only help your liver properly work better. Our environment is grossly over-saturated with chemicals and toxins nowadays, so it has become even more important to help the liver out.
Certain herbs that help detox the body of heavy metals, pesticides, and other aberrant chemicals will help all the entire bodies systems normalize functions by increasing the power of the liver. Some of these herbs (called hepatoprotectants) include:
- Pine Pollen
- Yellow Dock Root
- Chicory Root
- Milk Thistle Seed (a note: this is a potent Western herb for regeneration of the liver as has been found in studies)
Another way to lower high cholesterol levels is to get the liver to produce more bile. Increased bile stimulation will pull off some of the build-up of cholesterol in the body much like opening a faucet on a sink to lower overall pressure will in a water system. On average, the colon will reabsorb half of the cholesterol secreted as bile. The rest becomes excrement. This mode of excretion is an important route of detoxification for the liver. Herbs that can stimulate the release of bile (called cholagogues) include:
- Coffee Beans
- Artichoke Leaf
- Dandelion Root
- Burdock Root
- Echinacea Root
- Eucommia Bark
- Lonicera Flowers
- Chrysanthemum Flowers
In the West, cholesterol health is a keystone health indicator. However, the evaluation of one standard health point cannot usually be treated with one method of attack as that one point is generally caused by a cosmology of environmental triggers, unresolved emotional issues, activity levels (or lack thereof), mental attitude, hydration, etc. This is perhaps best shown in many people’s inability to take prescription statin drugs because of the side effects involved.
The best way to influence cholesterol is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet and making positive choices that reflect and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
Johnston, Lucy. Stains ‘don’t cut heart death risk’ said leading heart professor. 2017, April 24. Retrieved from: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/795139/statins-heart-professor-no-heart-deaths-risk-effect