..The Intuitive Times
Ask The Expert


High Cholesteral

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Dear Intuitive Times,

I am wondering how I could go about "Asking your Experts" about treating very high cholesterol (naturally, without the use of conventional medicine). My spouse has been diagnosed with exceptionally high cholesterol - actually "double" what is considered the normal level of cholesterol, according to tests done by his doctor. Otherwise in good health, he prefers meat (animal fats), he's picky about vegetables, and does not eat fish of any kind so it is going to be hard to alter his eating habits (though we will be diligently altering his diet). His doctor has recommended prescription drugs to lower his cholesterol but neither of us are enthusiastic about medication. As an alternative I thought I might ask one of your experts for advice on any types of recommended natural herbs or dietary recommendations as an alternative to drugs (and their side-effects). After browsing through your archives, the professional contributors of your journal offer very sound advice. Though, I am at a loss for finding out about treating cholesterol "naturally." Is there any way to help, or a course of action you could recommend?
K. M

Response from Paul Stewart, Abiogen Agri-Food Services, Marshfield Manse, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Tel: (902)566-4078 Fax: (902) 569-8916
E-mail: abiogen@isn.net

"Very high cholesterol" is a serious condition that predisposes one to stroke, heart attack, and other life-threatening illnesses. I am not a medical doctor, and prefer to advise on use of natural treatments for prevention as well as treatment of symptoms, as compared to replacement of medical prescriptions, monitoring and care of serious illnesses.

I caution the writer against looking for a fast fix, a way to avoid the self-regulatory behavior that is the core of any alternate therapy. If her husband cannot voluntarily design and manage his own diet to minimize his risk, he will probably not be compliant with any regimen of natural therapy either. I believe the individual may need behavioural counselling to show him how to adjust his lifestyle, as well as several sessions over a few months with a dietician.

Treatments for cholesterol, whether they be conventional or alternative, are mainly dietary. The cholesterol is a necessary substance, created by the body from the fats in our food. It is the basic building block for our body to make the sex hormones, prostaglandins, and other necessary parts of our body's metabolism. Only when we don't eat a natural balance of dietary fats do we swing the cholesterol balance out of whack. Some people are also genetically predisposed to high cholesterol, as are people over a certain age or who are in poor physical condition. In all these cases, the metabolic reactions in the body are not functioning well, allowing a buildup of cholesterol, first in the liver, then spreading through the blood vessels to all parts of the body.

Dietary indicators are mainly the types of fats we consume. Almost all processed foods are labeled with the amount of saturated vs unsaturated fats. Saturated fats have a lot of the carbon double bonds "saturated" with alcohol groups (not booze...but the - OH groups that form alcohols), and are to be avoided. Unsaturated fats are the "good" fats, which are less liable to raise cholesterol levels. Cooking oils and fatty meats are the main source of these fats in the diet. Use highly unsaturated oils such as peanut, olive, and safflower oil (of course, they are more expensive), and reduce the amount of pork and beef in the diet, which is much higher in saturated fats than chicken and fish. Try cooking using less oil overall, too (1 tsp vs 3 tbsp).

Also, increase the amount of vegetables (sorry missus, but there's no free lunch). That's where the behavioural modification comes in. I myself am a reformed junk food junkie, and now actually enjoy salads, fruit and high-fibre cereals more than greasy french fries and cheeseburgers. You, too, can mature your dietary habits, not because you should, but because you must.

Vegetable fibre is a great way to control cholesterol. The lipids (fats) in vegetables tend to be mostly unsaturated (the good guys), and the dietary fibre of vegetables has the double whammy effect of also absorbing the HDL (high density lipids) in the digested food in the gut, passing it out with the feces. The details of lipid metabolish are tedious and complex, making generations of biochemistry and nursing students cringe in fear. But the basics are always the same: less red meat and dairy (ie: less animal fat), more vegetable fibre and oils (better HDL control and more fibre).

Of course, it doesn't matter what you eat if the body's machinery is barely functioning. SO, unless the inquirer's husband is disabled or infirmed, his best bet at living past 65 is to walk 1-2 miles every morning and evening, or do something that raises his heart rate above 120 for more than 10 minutes every couple of days.

As for herbs, some claim to lower cholesterol, but these are mainly what we call "anti-nutritives." They don't do anything to improve the body's metabolic health, they just block absorption of the fats...both good and bad fats. Examples are chitosan (Fat Buster, etc), pseudo-ephedrine ("speedy") and steroid-like products that increase metabolic rate (Fat Burners), and others. I would avoid these quick fixes, as they tend to replace good dietary health, and block absorption of things we need in the diet.

My favourite herb for cholesterol is the liver herb Milk Thistle (Silybum marianus). The active ingredient in the seed coat (silimarin) increases bile production in the liver, which both flushes out the cholesterol that tends to build up in the liver's bile canaliculi, as well as increases the amount of bile going into the gut, which in turn increases the emulsification, digestion and proper absorption or elimination of dietary lipids.

Other supplements that go with this are multi-vitamins, anti-oxidants, minerals, trace elements, and digestive enzymes. All of these will give the sluggish, North American junk-polluted digestive system a boost towards regularity and vigour. Dietary fiber increase is especially important when you take milk thistle, as the increased bile being dumped into the gut (along with all that scrap cholesterol from the liver) will tend to get reabsorbed into the blood, unless a lot of fibre is present in the gut as well. High fibre breads (whole grains, not the solidified bubble bath we all are hooked on), dense fruit fibre such as dried apricots, and grains are needed during a milk thistle treatment, to the tune of 2-3 servings a day minimum. Also, drink lots of water and fruit juice, and lay off the coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks (pop). An exception is red wine and chocolate, both of which, in moderation (1-2 servings per day) have been shown to improve health of blood vessels, and can actually lower cholesterol. (go figure!)

Above all, don't be shy about insisting on a responsible, compliant attitude from this gentleman. Bad habits are often reinforced unknowingly by the partner, so try to set a good example by preparing meals that fit the above guidelines, or even teach him a few healthy cooking tricks! Resistance to change is natural...so is having an unnecessarily shortened life span due to poor diet. So be persistent, and bring on the salads!

Response from Irene MacLean, RHN, Charlottetown, PE

Our bodies naturally produce Cholesterol as it is an essential part of every cell structure and is needed for proper brain and nerve function, production of bile, steroid hormones, and in the synthesizing of Vitamin D.

Diet is a major influence on Cholesterol production. Excess Cholesterol in the body has definite adverse effects. Excess contributes to plaque build up in the arteries which impedes blood flow to the brain, kidneys, extremities and the Heart. It is among the primary causes of Heart Disease.

There are 2 types of Cholesterol: HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins) - "The Good" Cholesterol; and LDL (Low-density Lipoproteins) - "The Bad" Cholesterol."

Cholesterol, a fatty substance has to latch on to molecules called lipoproteins to travel around successfully in the blood. LDL's are the main transporters of cholesterol in the blood and because LDL's seem to encourage the deposit of cholesterol in the arteries, it is known as bad cholesterol. HDL's on the other hand carry unneeded cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it is broken down for removal from the body.

Saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature (includes all fats of animal origin - butter, lard, shortening), as well as coconut & palm kernel oils and refined carbohydrates (white sugar, white flour and baked goods made with such) have a great influence on cholesterol production and increases the amount of LDL's circulating in the blood.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Oils high in monounsaturated fats are preferable (Olive (cold pressed) and canola Oil in particular.

Raise your HDL's by exercising on a regular basis and by eating foods rich in Niacin (liver, very lean meats, whole grains, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, cold water fish, skinless chicken & turkey, avocados, figs, prunes and rhubarb).

Raise your HDL's and Lower LDL's by eating 4 to 5 smaller meals instead of the usual 3 square meals a day.

Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, beta-carotene, Vitamin E and Selenium help prevent the oxidation of LDL Cholesterol, which is believed to contribute to the formation of plaque, "The Ugly." Foods high in antioxidants include fruit (prunes, raisins, oranges, berries such as cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries); vegetables such as carrots, peppers (red, yellow & green), greens, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, garlic and onions.

Water Soluble Fibre (Pectin & Plant Gums) binds with bile in the intestines and is excreted from the body. Cholesterol is used to produce bile salts; therefore, the liver compensates for the loss of bile by taking cholesterol from the blood stream to produce more bile, thus lowering blood cholesterol. So eat lots of water soluble fibre as it lowers LDL cholesterol levels. Good food sources are - apples, oat bran, broccoli, carrots, dried peas and beans, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.

In Summary, eat plenty of the following:
- colourful fruits and vegetables
- water soluble fibre
- high antioxidant foods and
- cold water fish

Try to eliminate the following:
- saturated and hydrogenated fats (margarines) and refined carbohydrates and
- stress (the more stress we are under, the more cholesterol our body makes).

Eat 4-5 smaller meals throughout the day.

Exercise regularly, get plenty of rest and drink lots of good quality water.

The fact is that 999 out of 1,000 people can control their cholesterol level and their cardiovascular health by nutritional means, exercise and stress management. I urge you to take responsibility for your own health & wellness.

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