I hope I can simplify this subject a bit in this article. References available as usual if you want more details!
Today many are concerned about cholesterol. However, cholesterol is necessary for brain function, hormone production, mineral assimilation, bone function, metabolism, energy production, and a healthy immune system. The body also uses cholesterol to heal wounds, and resolve inflammation. It is the building block of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Without cholesterol you can’t assimilate those vital vitamins. Every cell membrane is made up of cholesterol, (and saturated fats), which protects the cell. 20% of the myelin sheathing, (which protects our nerves), is made up of cholesterol. (1)
It is important to understand the real purpose of cholesterol and how we can help our bodies so it naturally has good cholesterol levels.
HDL (high density lipids) are ‘good’ cholesterol and are like big fluffy beach balls floating through our system. Think of LDL (low density lipids) as little pellets. LDL’s can journey into the lining of vessels or into cells to heal wounds, inactivate toxins, or deliver needed supplies. However, once they do their job, they are like dead soldiers and become oxidized. Anything that is oxidized can start a chain reaction of oxidation in our bodies (like metal when it rusts).
The HDL’s offset those used up LDL’s and deliver them back to the liver for disposal. The trouble is, many of us don’t eat enough healthy fats (like Omega 3 oils), to have high HDL levels, and our liver is overwhelmed from the chemicals and toxins we are exposed to in our diet and environment today. So the oxidized LDL’s keep circulating in the blood causing damage.
Considered the “cleanup crew,” HDLs greatly lower risk factors, even if the LDL levels are high. A good cholesterol test measures not only the total, HDL and LDL, but the ratio between HDL and LDL. (2) If your HDL (the good cholesterol) is high, it can cause your total cholesterol number to look high. But before you start to panic, look at your LDL to HDL ratio. The ratio is derived by dividing the LDL number by the HDL number.
Factors found to increase bad cholesterol include emotional stress, trauma, injuries, toxins, chemicals in our food, sugars, and refined or rancid fats. . Refined oils are rancid and cause cancer among other health problems. Most vegetable oils are refined, including most olive oil, (unless you get it made fresh from a local company), and especially canola oil. Any oil that is deep fried turns rancid. All the factors above cause inflammation.
To understand what inflammation is, an example would be to take a hair brush and rub it on your hand. If you continue to rub that brush on your skin, it will get red and start to hurt. Eventually it will bleed. Cholesterol is like a healing salve that soothes the irritation/inflammation and helps repair the damaged cells.
The body produces cholesterol to ‘put out the fire,’ heal wounds, and reduce inflammation. (3) So it has a very important purpose.
Is a low saturated fat diet really effective in keeping cholesterol low? From the early 1900’s, America’s butter intake went down 75%, and non fat dairy intake went up. Saturated fats were replaced with refined fats and oils, like vegetable oils. Our intake of hydrogenated oils went up 400%. Sugar intake went up more than 90%! If a low saturated fat diet really caused high cholesterol, one would think we’d have the lowest levels in the world.
The diet in Japan is rich in oily fish and chicken fat. In Sweden, diets include lots of whole milk, cream and cheese. So both countries have diets very high in saturated fat, yet both countries’ cholesterol levels are normal. Studies show that the cholesterol in our diet only affects the level of cholesterol in our blood by less than 15%.
Saturated fats make up 50% of the cell’s membranes and give them the integrity to protect the cell from toxins and foreign invaders. Even the fat around the heart is saturated because the heart draws from it in times of stress! The Brain is 60% fat and 40% of that is cholesterol! So we need saturated fats! The best saturated fats are organic coconut oil, organic grass fed dairy, including butter, and grass fed meats and organs. Avoid non fat and low fat items as they are less healthy than their natural whole food counterparts and more sugar is added to make up for the taste and richness of the missing fats.
Lowering cholesterol with drugs is like putting out fires in a house that are caused by an electrical short, which in your body is the inflammation. You can keep putting out the fire but if the cause of the problem, (the electrical short), is being ignored, the fires will continue to occur and the damage can’t be repaired . The electrical short in your body is stress, poor diet, high sugar and rancid fats. The fire is the inflammation that results. The body is trying to heal itself with that wonderful cholesterol, (like replacing the damaged wood and drywall in the house). But the body can’t keep up if we keep bombarding it with the above offenders and poor nutrition. So the house above will eventually collapse, and so will the body!
One of the best ways to help lower the bad cholesterol naturally (and help the good cholesterol do its job) is to cut out packaged foods and the chemicals they all contain. Avoid all hydrogenated oils, canola oils and fried foods, and eat real butter, more coconut oil, and omega 3 oils from flax seeds, walnuts, and fish. Add more raw organic GREEN produce with every meal, stop smoking, (4) and get at least 8 hrs sleep a night. Sleep is the only time the body can heal and repair. Reducing stress through exercise, laughter, and meditation is also very beneficial as well as limiting all sugars, (including alcohol), and including green organic vegetables with every meal.
Cholesterol is not the problem. More often, it is a symptom of an underlying issue that the body is trying to resolve. If we bypass the body’s amazing healing mechanisms by suppressing symptoms, we are only sacrificing health for a quick fix, and not giving the body what it really needs — high nutrient food, good sleep, and lower stress levels. This helps our body rebuild, repair, and maintain optimum health.
Jill Coleman has been a registered nurse for over 21 years working at over 15 of Southern California hospitals including UCLA’s Heart Transplant Step-down Unit and LAUSC County Hospital’s Trauma Unit. She has studied holistic natural medicine since the late 1990’s. In her practice, she tests the body for underlying problems and helps the body resolve them with medicinal grade, whole food, organic remedies.
References:1) http://www.livestrong.com/article/69148-purpose-cholesterol/ 2) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol-ratio/AN01761; 3) http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/skinny-on-fats#evidence; 4) http://www.cabothealth.com.au/health-topics/heart-health/cholesterol.Additional resources: http://cholesterol.emedtv.com/hdl/hdl-ldl-ratio.html; http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com./;http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/cholesterol-friend-or-foe
Chavarro JI and others. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Human Reproduction, Issue 28, Feb 2007.; http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/skinny-on-fats#lipid