What About Cholesterol??
By Dr. Bonnie Wick
If anything gets me on my soapbox, it’s the cholesterol fad! Actually, a very interesting thing happened recently that was encouraging, and frustrating at the same time. For several months, I have been going over in my mind all the things to write about cholesterol. In so doing, I thought of a term that fit this problem of doctors and cholesterol well – “cholesterolphobia”. Well, lo and behold, this newsletter came out by another doctor saying almost the same things I say about cholesterol AND he labeled one section , yes, you guessed it – “Cholesterolphobia”! I don’t know if someone else has also used the term, but I guess I can’t call it mine – not that I care who said it first, but I thought it was funny that he said a lot of the same things I’ve been saying for a while and used the same term! It was encouraging that other doctors feel the same way regarding the way conventional doctors are viewing cholesterol levels. So, let’s try to understand why it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Physiologically speaking, cholesterol is a vital part of our system. It is NOT a bad word! It is at the top of the pathway to extremely important things like bile acids for digestion, adrenocortical hormones, sex hormones, D vitamins, and a very important co-factor in energy production for every cell – co-enzyme Q 10 or COQ10. It is a necessary component of every cell. The human body is constantly striving for homeostasis or balance. A lot of systems in the body run on feedback loops which respond to levels of different substances like hormones. When our hormones are low, cholesterol can go up to help replace the needed hormones or your cholesterol may run high trying to keep the hormone levels as they should be. There are other reasons for cholesterol to go up, but the big issue is not to stop the body from making cholesterol, but find out why it’s going up – if indeed it’s truly up! And, my favorite analogy – if your engine light goes on saying there is a problem, you don’t just cut the light and say the problem is fixed because the light is out do you? You MUST find out why the light went on and fix it.
Now we get to a very important issue – when is cholesterol too high? Well, that’s hard to say! Years ago, the lab “levels” were 300 as normal – because that was the level that most healthy people had. As the cholesterol drugs came out, the “normal” levels dropped (amazing!). This drop is not based on any scientific reasoning or statistics. The fact of the matter is, many people with high cholesterol do die of heart disease, BUT many people with low cholesterol also die of heart disease. Also, many people do die from the side-effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs – that is a fact. Yes, you can have cholesterol that is too high. But, find out why! It may be familial which involves a defect in the enzyme or receptor systems. Remember to not just look at “Total cholesterol” – look at HDL and LDL. HDL is the “good” stuff – think of it as “Happy” (the H!). The HDL’s are the guys that go pick up the LDL’s that can cause some trouble and take them back to your liver for recycling. (Our bodies are the best at recycling!) If your HDL’s are really high and LDL’s normal or a little high, the “Total” number will be up, but it’s no problem (although, there are also different HDL’s – some not as effective as the others). But, if there is a definite change and increase, have your hormone levels checked, and change your diet and lifestyle. You may also want to get your liver checked. The liver is vital for many functions and cholesterol production is one of them (cholesterol is also produced in the intestines). But, if your liver is weak, your cholesterol levels could change. If your cholesterol must come down, there are herbs, vitamins, and combinations of such which will naturally bring down cholesterol levels. One popular item is red yeast rice. This can be very effective, however, it is like the statins in that it blocks cholesterol production by blocking HMG CoA reductase, albeit more “naturally” or gently. I still don’t think we need to be blocking production of cholesterol MOST of the time. Diet is also important to help “normalize” or equalize levels. However, eggs are usually fine and intake of them has not been proven to increase cholesterol levels. But dietary saturated fats will as well as refined sugar. You may also have sensitivities which will increase your levels, but that’s another issue.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your cholesterol remains around 250 or a little higher and you can’t get it down – unless you take the drugs. It appears your body functions best at the 250 or so levels. Check family history, all your functions – liver, heart, etc. keep your diet “clean”, exercise, and enjoy your life! If levels keep increasing, add some herbs, vitamins, etc which will help lower it. You should be taking vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols to help as an anti-oxidant, because the problems with cholesterol come from its oxidation, so make sure you take plenty of anti-oxidants.
There are many issues we face today which can destroy enzymes and interfere in our normal processes. The most prevalent is the level of toxic chemicals our bodies are exposed to. So, it is important for all of us to do a good bowel and liver cleanse every 1-3 months (depending on the strength of the cleanse), and try to “lower the toxic load” each day by eating organic and being aware of what we’re exposed to. Also, exercise is extremely important! With all our “advances” in technology, we have become sedentary in this country. Get outside and walk, go hiking, get a mini-trampoline, join a gym, just DO something physical and sweat. Of course, don’t overdo it. So, gradually increase your exercise levels and eat healthy to give your body the right nutrients to stay healthy.
Some doctors recently have been trying to get people to get their total cholesterol levels below 100!! That is NOT GOOD! Please tell them to look at their old physiology and biochemistry books and look at why we need cholesterol! We need our hormones, and COQ10 is VITAL to every cell for energy function – ESPECIALLY THE HEART! Those who practice functional medicine, advise not to get the cholesterol below 140 in order to keep hormone and CoQ10 levels adequate. Please, talk to your doctor, then ask questions, think logically, and investigate. You will hear me say again and again – our bodies are AMAZING CREATIONS! Made to be in balance and healthy. Don’t mix up the system with so many powerful synthetic substances that you cause more problems than you already have. You have choices and do not have to do what any doctor (even me!) says. But make informed choices by researching and asking questions. Educate yourself, treat your body with respect, and be healthy and happy!