03 Sep Manage Your Cholesterol Naturally
Everyone has heard of cholesterol. It’s a front-line health marker that your GP will often add to a blood test called a ‘Lipid Profile’ or ‘Cholesterol Studies’.
Unfortunately, people will often find themselves on cholesterol lowering medications called statins. Statins can create a whole host of health issues and are often completely unnecessary.
But, there is a better way. You can manage your cholesterol without medication, and improve your health at the same time!
What is cholesterol?
You liver actually makes all the cholesterol you need. Cholesterol is a steroid and lipid (fat) molecule that is vitally important for the human body. I want you to consider cholesterol in a different light because it’s not simply something bad that builds up in the body. It has many roles, with the most important being:
- Structural support for EVERY cell membrane in the entire body.
- The precursor molecule to your steroid hormones- A.K.A your sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone). Without cholesterol you don’t make these hormones- yikes!
- Needed to make vitamin D (something many people are deficient in).
The Good and the Bad Explained
Cholesterol shouldn’t be feared. As we’ve just discussed, it’s ridiculously important for your health!
Its impact upon your health is determined by the levels of different types of carrier proteins your cholesterol clings to:
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol: Known as the ‘good cholesterol’
- This cholesterol helps to remove excess cholesterol from the blood and transport it to your liver so it can be broken down.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol: Known as the ‘not-so-good cholesterol’**
- There is an associated with higher LDL-cholesterol and an increased risk for heart disease
- The LDL carrier protein is less effective at transporting cholesterol and may deposit cholesterol in arteries, leading to a build-up of plaque in the artery walls and may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
- Higher LDL-cholesterol levels are linked with inflammation, an underlying factor in all chronic disease states.
**While this type of cholesterol is branded as being ‘bad’ I urge you not to think of it as such- both types of cholesterol exist in the body and therefore have their purposes. I also must note that the scientific literature provides evidence for an association with heart disease and LDL-cholesterol. This is important to note, because association does not imply that it is the cause. We’re just going off the evidence we currently have.
Triglycerides are not cholesterol, but are included in a lipid profile blood test. They are the fatty acids in your blood and they are a good indication of your health status. High triglyceride levels have also been linked to heart disease and they can be a marker of metabolic dysfunction.
So, to summarise, this is what you want from a lipid profile blood test:
- A higher level of HDL-cholesterol
- A lower level of LDL-cholesterol
- A lower level of Triglycerides
But what if your results aren’t like this? You can easily modify your lipids levels with diet and lifestyle changes!
Support your cholesterol metabolism
Cholesterol is broken down in the liver and used as a component in bile. Bile is what we use to emulsify and digest dietary fats, and also makes up a large part of our poop. Along with cholesterol, bile is made up of other waste products, excess hormones and toxins that we want removed from the body. Ideally, bile is removed when we poop, so the liver is able to constantly produce fresh bile and continue the waste removal that is so necessary.
Fibre is needed to remove bile (and therefore cholesterol) from the body.
Fibre binds to bile and removes it from the body as part of our poop. If we don’t eat enough fibre, our bile will be reabsorbed and head back to the liver where this used cholesterol will circulate around our body again, depositing toxins and waste products- this is not a good thing!
One of the most important things you can do to promote healthy cholesterol levels is to eat more fibre (around 30 grams a day to be particular!).
Good fibre sources include:
- Apples (especially stewed apple!)
- All wholegrains including oats, brown rice, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa
- Nuts and seeds
- Chia seeds
- Kidney beans
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Brussels sprouts
Reduce your sugar intake and be mindful of carbohydrate consumption
Excess carbohydrates actually get converted to triglycerides in the body to be stored as fat. High carbohydrate and sugar intake may lead to high triglyceride levels which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease like type 2 diabetes.
To prevent this, avoid all added sugar in your diet and stay away from ‘sweet treats’ and processed food. This may take quite a bit of getting used to, but many of us eat far too much sugar, and the sooner you can reduce your intake the better your health will be. Also, steer clear of refined, white, fluffy carbs like white bread, pasta, cakes and pastries. Opt for whole-grains instead.
Some foods have been shown to reduce your LDL-cholesterol profile, while supporting good HDL-cholesterol levels. This includes:
- Olive oil and olives
- Green Tea
- Oily fish
And lastly, here’s a huge cholesterol myth that needs addressing: Cholesterol and Eggs
Please, please eat eggs- yes even (and especially) the yolks!
The cholesterol found in eggs has little-to-no impact on your cholesterol levels (as we know, the liver produces our cholesterol). Eggs are a perfect little oval of nutrition, providing many essential nutrients to keep us healthy. They are a great source of easily digestible protein- something we need to control blood sugar levels and stop us reaching for more carbs (which has a much greater impact on our LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides). Eggs also contain sulphur and choline, both necessary for the proper function and detoxification of the liver. The liver produces bile (breaking down excess cholesterol), so it’s important that it functions optimally.
I hope now you might view cholesterol in a slightly different light. We don’t want to just ‘get rid’ of all cholesterol, we want to make sure the excess, old cholesterol is moved along appropriately and that the different types are at the right levels. You can often do this with diet and lifestyle modification.
Some conditions related to an impaired cholesterol profile may require more complex treatment, so it is important to work under the care of a qualified health practitioner. These conditions include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions I would recommend that you come in for a Free Naturopathic Wellness Assessment at the clinic with Emily to discuss a more comprehensive treatment plan. You can make an online booking here.
About the Author
Emily Robertson is the naturopath and nutritionalist at Balanced Life Health Care. Emily has a bachelor of Naturopathy and has a passion for al things gut, skin and children’s health. To find out more about Emily click here or to make an appointment with Emily click here