I have lost count how many times I have had clients come to me worried because their GP has told them they have high cholesterol. They come to me in a panic wondering what they can do to get it down as quick as possible!
Most people believe that their high cholesterol must be a casualty of their diet so they immediately start researching and cutting out foods that are high in fat and cholesterol. Now don't get me wrong, cutting out foods that are high in hydrogenated "trans" fats is most definitely a good thing, but the problem arises when people start cutting out nutritious foods like eggs and foods that are high in healthy essential fats like avocados, olive oil and oily fish. People often cut out these foods because they think this is the answer and they are reacting to fear.....fear of the unknown. But unfortunately, a lot of the population has been miseducated and are often not aware what really matters when it comes to getting those cholesterol levels back in check. And the sad part is often the dietary changes people attempt to make only make the problem worse, not better.
An important note here is that it's not all about diet! If your lifestyle tends to leave you suffering from chronic stress, this can also increase your risk of cholesterol. I'll go into the stress factor a little bit more later in this post (and you can also grab a FREE copy of my e-book, "How to Combat Adrenal Fatigue" at the same time!)
So let me educate you a little on some of the most common myths around cholesterol, what you shouldn't worry so much about and where you should focus your energy instead to help get those cholesterol levels in check.
Myth #1: All Cholesterol is the Same
People often hear the word "cholesterol" and immediately think all cholesterol is one and the same and that it can only mean trouble to your health.
But the truth is there are different type of cholesterol and they all play a different role in the body.
They're grouped into two main categories:
● HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
● LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).
And yes, it's even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.
So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.
Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad
Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells.
Talk about an important molecule!
The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.
While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.
Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. So you can stop worrying today about eating eggs! They are a nutritious portable protein whose health benefits far outweigh any negative effects on cholesterol levels. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!
What you eat can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.
Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible
As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.
People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide. Plus too low levels of cholesterol may have a negative impact on your hormones! Us busy, often stressed out ladies don't need to worry about THAT on top of everything else!
Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance
First, I must state that I am not telling you to start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor. Although I am an advocate for using natural, alternative means to bring the body back into balance, it takes time to wean off medication once you have embedded consistent, healthy habits.
Now, while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.
But guess what does?
Yep, you guessed it! Nutrition and exercise!
One of the most beneficial ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.
Don't worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.
You should also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, eat better quality fats and get your stress levels under control.
The importance of healthy stress management
It is very common for people suffering from chronic stress or adrenal exhaustion to experience elevated bad cholesterol levels. There are lots of reasons that link the two conditions but one of the primary reasons is the increased level of the hormone cortisol when our body is constantly reacting to stress.
Excess cortisol leads to raised blood-sugar levels. And when our blood sugar levels are increased quickly and often, our body resorts to fat-storage mode and converts excess glucose into triglycerides (fats). And high levels of triglycerides promote high levels of cholesterol.
Now as I mentioned before, nutrition is a major player in the game of cholesterol. Not only does healthy nutrition support the liver, the place where our cholesterol is made and regulated, but when eaten in the right balance, healthy nutritious meals and snacks can help to regulate your body's stress response by taking a load off your adrenal glands....otherwise known as your "stress glands"
If we don't make changes to reduce the pressure on our adrenal glands, eventually our adrenal glands will become so fatigued they will stop working altogether. This will then add even further stress to the liver and so the cycle continues.
The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are. And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol levels.
If you have a specific health challenge or are concerned about chronic symptoms and would like to know where to focus to heal your body naturally, I would urge you to book your FREE initial consultation so we can assess your symptoms and determine the best approach FOR YOU to help you resolve them. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY.
Recipe: Orange Hemp Seed Salad Dressing
Makes about ¾ cup
½ cup hemp seeds
½ cup orange juice
1 clove of garlic, peeled
dash salt and/or pepper
Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
Serve on top of your favourite salad and Enjoy!
Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for about a week.