In this episode, you will learn how to reduce cholesterol without medication and what those cholesterol numbers really mean on the lab report.
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How to Reduce Cholesterol without Medication
Do you get annual physicals? More and more often people are walking away from those appointments, meant to asses your wellness, with a prescription for statins. You know, the cholesterol-lowering drugs. And while I am definitely a practitioner that takes a yes and approach to medication there is def a time and a place where medication is needed for acute issues..., today I want to dive into cholesterol a little bit and talk with you about what cholesterol is, when you should worry, and how you can actually fix it instead of just mask the symptoms.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like waxy substance that is contained in all cells throughout the body. It’s manufactured and secreted by the liver. It is super necessary in your human suit although it has been really vilified in medicine as something to be scared of.
In your body, cholesterol is a precursor or a necessary ingredient in the creation of Vitamin D, it is a precursor for the hormones that break down fats, carbs, and proteins so that your body can use them. Your brain also needs cholesterol to be floating around because it helps to create really important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
How did cholesterol get such a bad reputation?
What if I told you that the study that was published that largely leads the way traditional medicine views and treats cholesterol was actually published in a really misleading way?
Much of modern medicine’s view on normal cholesterol and what it means has stemmed from a large study published in the 1970s. For nearly 40 years since then, one of the biggest cash cows for pharmaceutical companies is cholesterol-lowering medications, also called “statins” (things like Lipitor).
You can look at the impact this study has had for Americans as a population and for the pockets of drug companies: between 1988–1994, the CDC reports less than 2% of Americans were on a cholesterol-lowering drug, in 2011-2014, we were at over 14% taking them and now…a shocking 50% of people over the age of 65 take medication to lower their cholesterol.
As I said those studies were flipped the cholesterol culture on its head and the way they were published was SUPER misleading. The way medicine measures cholesterol levels and even what is believed for them to mean has been based on a false premise. Doctors are pressed and sold to prescribe drugs like statins (Lipitor, for example) to tens of millions of “qualifying patients” to reduce cholesterol levels.
As you may have heard me say before, their goal of reducing cholesterol levels is a mostly pointless effort with statins only actually reducing cholesterol levels about 2%.
Despite the inaccuracy of what has become the cultural norm...normal cholesterol levels are important to maintain because extremely high cholesterol is a sign that something isn’t right — or could go very wrong in the future, like with heart disease. Further, these risks increase when you have high triglycerides BUT the cause isn’t dietary cholesterol or trying to a cholesterol surplus. It’s important to get to the root of WHY there is too much cholesterol and/or triglycerides floating around in the bloodstream.
Good Cholesterol vs Bad Cholesterol
There is a lot of talk about “my good cholesterol” and “my bad cholesterol” here’s the thing….it's all just cholesterol. The difference between LDL and HDL isn’t good or bad, it's more in how the size of the particle and how the particle functions.
HDL (which stands for high-density lipoprotein) is often called the good cholesterol. I heard a cool reference for it - you can can think of it as a hybrid car. It’s small, and it drives around picking up cholesterol particles from the cells to take it to the liver for breakdown and disposal.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is bigger than HDL, it's like the suburban or van. It transports cholesterol from the liver to the peripheral tissue for uptake and metabolism by cells. LDL picks up the loads that HDL can’t and oxidizes it in the arteries creating sticky areas that catch calcium, fatty acids, fibrous stuffs that turns into plaques leading to heart disease.
Again more important than either number standalone is the inclusion of the triglycerides and even the ratio between the cholesterol numbers and triglycerides.
Most often people with elevated cholesterol levels find out from lab work, but if you haven’t had lab and you are experiencing elevated cholesterol levels it can show up a very broad range of symptoms, digestive troubles, allergies, decreased energy and stamina, hay fever, hypertension, obesity, infertility...the list goes on and on.
So back to that fancy set of numbers that your doc gives you each year - with the numbers. Let’s talk about what it means when your numbers are off. Now much like any other diagnosis there are literally millions of possibilities but one thing is for sure - you don’t have a Lipitor deficiency.
If we see a low HDL number on your labs, it could mean that your liver is overburdened and needs a break. There are many different ways we can accomplish this, generally just through lifestyle changes. And each method is as unique as you are depending on the REASON your liver is overburdened.
Some common reasons include ingesting high levels of omega 6s, processed food, too much protein, too much sugar, overeating in a single sitting, too much enzyme deficient food, drug residues (see where this might be an issue? You are burdening your liver with more things to process), alcohol, lack of movement, liver diseases.
If we see a high LDL number that is a sign there is major inflammation in the body (vs a tired liver). Its an indication of inflammation in the tissues and bloodstream, again, not a Lipitor deficiency, the cholesterol level is an important message from the body that something is not well, but it's not the cholesterol itself.
In my practice, I look at labs from a function level. Interestingly the number on the lab sheet for LDL from most labs is almost impossible to achieve without medication. When we look functionally we are looking at a different more in-depth set of numbers and comparing it with other labs levels to see the full body rather than just a system or particle.
Something that is rarely discussed is the dangers of low cholesterol. Low cholesterol can be normal but it can also be a strong indicator of a neoplasm (benign or otherwise).
How to Reduce Cholesterol without Medication
There are many approaches to reducing cholesterol as all causes of high cholesterol are unique to the person. Here’s something to understand -
If you feel medication is necessary from your doctor or if you are on it already - I encourage the yes and approach and conversation. Yes, I am on the medication AND how do we actually fix the problem instead of half-heartedly mask it?
- Nutrition. Your very first line of defense is a good offense and this starts with the fuel you put in your body. A seasonal liver detox that temporarily reduces the burden on your liver is a great place to start. Reach out to me let me know if you want to know if the program you are thinking of is right for you. The big takeaway for nutrition is to EAT MORE PLANTS. The base of your food pyramid should be green veggies, followed by lean protein, then fruits, then nuts and seeds, then good fats and oils. We often think of our meal as we are having MEAT and it should really be swapped to VEGGIES and get those cholesterol soldiers working in the right way.
- Supplements. There are 2 sides to the supplement story - First, you have to make sure you aren’t taking too many. It's easy to end up taking 25 supplements in a day because you are reading about this one or your friend told you about that one, or someone you know sells this one, or even you heard Audrey say X supplement fixes Y problem, and before you know it you are doing more harm than good. If you have a question about your supplements I do offer a virtual service to help you determine which ones you may need.
The second part of it is that supplements can effectively reduce cholesterol. Particularly red yeast rice and b vitamins can help the liver do its job better and reduce cholesterol. Supplements alone, however, are not a magic bullet. Your nutrition has to be improved and your gut has to be healed in order to allow the food and supplements to be absorbed. You can get a jump start with my free ebook 5 Days to Better Health here.
- Essential Oils. They are powerful supporters for the liver and all systems that work with the cholesterol. Two of my favorites that have studies with evidence of their ability to support the body in this way are lemongrass and bergamot. Of course, this isn’t something you will want to buy from your grocery store. Make sure you are using a reputable brand of essential oils, my preferred brand is Young Living.
- Movement. Get out of the mode that you must exercise your life away, or spend countless hours at the gym. This can add to your stress level and keep you from moving. Do you know what would be perfect? A walking meditation, barefoot, outdoors leaving your phone at home for about 20 minutes.
Need more help? Be sure and check out AudreyChristie.com/work-with-Audrey to schedule a complimentary appointment.
So let’s do a quick recap.
To wrap this up, the bottom line is DON'T let the numbers on your lab report scare you DO check with me or your holistic functional practitioner to determine if statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications are right and necessary for you and if you decide to take your cholesterol-lowering medication then take the YES and approach. YES to the medication and now what can I do to make the medication temporary. Get the download here.