There’s more to life than worrying about cholesterol, for sure. But it’s one topic that continuously penetrates into our lives whether we want it or not: just think of the amount of ‘low fat’, ‘no hydrogenated fat’ or ‘good for your heart’ slogans you’ve seen in the last month. Impossible to count, right? But in all of the ‘noise’ about cholesterol, you have to understand 3 truths:
- Cholesterol is essential for health: it’s needed for proper cognitive function (most of our brain tissue is made up of fat), for hormone synthesis, for proper cell to cell communication, for proper digestion since bile is made up of cholesterol etc.
- Our body is capable of producing cholesterol – which means that we don’t need to eat saturated fat containing foods, since our body can produce cholesterol when and if it is needed. Simple as that.
- Diet and lifestyle has an influence on cholesterol levels. Duh – of course! Too much saturated fat containing foods, too much processed carbohydrates, too much protein, sedentary lifestyle, stress…you name it – but the fuel you put into your car, will ultimately affect it’s performance and it’s parameters. And here’s one more thing – most of our ‘food’ is either art or science fiction (those pink and blue coloured cakes, french macarons, burgers…no wonder we are the species that have to deal with early age strokes, allergies and God knows what… My ultimate message however – the power is in your hands.
What causes high levels of cholesterol?
As with anything in life, in order to make a change you have to first identify the cause of what you are trying to change, so in this particular case, you have to identify the cause of high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Possible causes:
- Poor diet: (meaning) rich in saturated fats and processed carbohydrates or excess protein intake, alcohol consumption;
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- Inflammation – this is quite a commonly used, but probably least understood term, at least among my crowd. Inflammation is basically an ‘alarm state’ in the body which can be ‘turned on’ by various stimuli. Think of it like having a blue light at home instead of your usual lights – under these circumstances you will no longer ‘perform’ the same, which is exactly what happens to the body. Due to varying degrees of inflammation, the triggers and the things that continuously ‘drive’ inflammation – normal bodily functions will be affected. Inflammation can be caused by a ‘ton’ of different things such as gluten and leaky gut, to infections, sleep deprivation, stress, diet…
- Low levels of vitamin D or inadequate exposure to sunlight – this is a theory, but in my opinion, a credible one. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin by utilising fat and sunlight. If however your vitamin D levels are low the body may ‘think’ that it doesn’t have enough fat under the skin to produce vitamin D through the skin’s contact with sunlight, and therefore may up-regulate cholesterol production. But if we don’t live anywhere sunny or/and our job requires to stay indoors, then no extra cholesterol will help to synthesize vitamin D. So check your Vitamin D levels and if given opportunity – enjoy the sun.
- Toxins (anything from amalgam fillings, high mercury fish such as tuna, to food poisoning or work related exposure to toxins…)
- Underactive thyroid which you can pretty much recognise from the signs and symptoms of having slower metabolism and therefore feeling tired, colder, having poor hair/skin/nails etc.
- Genetics which could vary enormously, from inability to ‘switch off’ cholesterol production to inability to sense when there’s enough cholesterol etc.
So is possible to reduce cholesterol naturally and how to do it?
Yes it is. But it’s important to understand that all areas of your diet and lifestyle have to be addressed meaning that while you can balance your cholesterol levels for a short while naturally, if you want long term results – you will have to commit to a sexy and exciting lifestyle of healthy eating which in my book means plant based low fat diet. Exercise including! But fear not, because making even a smallest change will bring about a massive transformation (longterm – not short term).
Ok, but what if you have plenty of vitamin D, your thyroid function is good and there’s no identifiable genetic influence on your cholesterol levels… What other techniques could be used to balance blood cholesterol level?
Here is my list of cholesterol balancing ‘tools’:
- Low fat plant based diet which means eating at least 80% fruit and vegetables. Nuts and seeds go into the additional 20% so choose wisely. No pressed plant oils or nut butters – it’s not like we have a wellspring of oil in the forest (meaning these are indeed processed foods, even if minimally). So while I am not advocating to fully remove them if you find it really really hard to do that, sticking to wholesome fruit and vegetables will be a ‘game-changer’.
- Reduce stress: emotional (No more dramas in your life! Stress is not some mosquito that comes and bites you – it’s your response to life around you, so change your attitude which will ultimately change your response. A new you with that zen attitude – wawaweewa!), physical (Injury or too much exercise too often) and biochemical (Poor diet, mineral and vitamin deficiencies which ultimately alter bodily functions etc…).
- Probiotics “For your cholesterol’ by Optibac Probiotics
- Red yeast rice – a Chinese supplement made by fermenting yeast over red rice.
- CoQ10 – a nutrient that comes in two froms: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol being a form that’s ‘ready to be used’ by the body.
- Vitamin E
I wouldn’t recommend trying any of the above without consulting qualified nutritional practitioner, so that most suitable ‘tool’, dosage and timeframe could be identified and prescribed based on personal health and lifestyle history. In the end – your health is not something you want to experiment with so educate yourself, ask questions, be patient and most importantly, stay positive.