“How do I lower my cholesterol?”
This is one of the most common questions from patients. What everyone needs to know is that elevated cholesterol is more than just lab values on a page indicating a risk to cardiovascular health. Understanding what cholesterol is, its role in the body, and the cause of its elevation is key in understanding its important role in your health.
Cholesterol by definition is the fat content of the blood, however it is also much more than that. It is a template for hormones and vitamin D and serves as scaffolding for your cells’ membranes. Cholesterol is also vital for your brain and skin health as well as bile production, and it’s an inflammatory signal for clot formation in the body.
Cholesterol is divided into two main types: the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol” and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol.” Because of its composition, HDL can be thought of as an antioxidant for the body and is actually protective (lab values must be over 50).
LDL cholesterol is the opposite, it is more oxidative for the body, meaning it causes more free radical damage and inflammation (levels are optimal when they are less than 100). Like with many other processes in the human body, it is a Goldilocks world — numbers must not be too high or too low, they must be just right — and cholesterol is no different. Elevated LDL cholesterol is a sign of chronic inflammation in the body and can be a possible signal that the body is susceptible to heart disease, blood clots or stroke. However, when the HDL is too low, risks for dementia and brain health are a concern.
Dietary standards for treating elevated cholesterol levels are now being hotly debated. In the past, a low-fat diet was recommended by the American Heart Association. However, recent studies question this diet’s impact on cardiovascular health. Many times, when adopting a low-fat diet, patients opted for high-carbohydrate foods instead. Sadly, this choice actually results in increased triglycerides (the blood fats made from sugar) and thus elevated cholesterol, the opposite of the desired effect.
If one can get to the root cause of the elevation, true balance in cholesterol levels can be achieved without the use of prescription drugs. Because cholesterol is a component to inflammatory pathways in the body, it’s important to consider the sources of inflammation in order to balance out levels. With an individualized anti-inflammatory diet, proper stress management, and supplementation protocols, cholesterol levels truly can be balanced naturally.
A number of nutrients and botanical supplements have been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, including:
Red yeast rice (RYR), found in Thorne Research’s Choleast-900, is a special species of yeast grown on rice which helps the liver produce healthy amounts of cholesterol.
Curcumin, the main component of turmeric root. Many clinical studies have demonstrated curcumin’s ability to support the normal inflammatory process, help normal cell replication (the process that goes awry in cancers), and benefit mood. Thorne Research’s Meriva-500 is an advanced-absorption formula that has been used in 14 clinical studies to date.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential antioxidant nutrient that our bodies produce to ward off oxidative stress and assure an optimal amount of cellular energy. Environmental pollution, smoking and cholesterol-lowering drugs called “statins” decrease levels of this vital nutrient. Q-Best 100 by Thorne contains 100 mg of a CoQ10 formula made for optimal absorption.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential type of fat which most Americans are deficient in. Found in fish oil, they support the normal inflammatory processes in the body as well as normal levels of triglycerides. Omega Superb is a liquid fish oil supplement by Thorne Research that provides 1,500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per teaspoon in a formula that is sweet, fruity and never tastes like fish.
This month Peoples Rx is offering $20 cholesterol screenings at all store locations, and based on your test results, you may also qualify to participate in a special program with Thorne Research’s products and receive FREE before and after cholesterol tests to track results! Talk to one of our wonderful wellness specialists for details.
By Amy Nelson, ND*
Amy is available for consultation at Peoples Wellness Center North.
*Naturopathic doctors not currently licensed in the state of Texas.