Cholesterol: Are your numbers too high?

Cholesterol is an interesting topic. There has been more research on it lately. It is not a good predictor of heart disease, as once thought. While a cholesterol level of 300 or more or a past heart attack may need to be addressed with a Statin drug or a red yeast rice supplement, an elevated cholesterol above 200 or 250 may be a sign that your body needs help making hormones, the body is stressed, or the body is using cholesterol to heal some inflammation in the body.

  • Discovering and addressing your health and nutrition weaknesses will usually bring your cholesterol back down to normal levels.

Section 1: Cholesterol Function
Section 2: High Cholesterol
Section 3: Balancing Triglycerides, LDL, and HDL
Section 4: Making the problem worse
Section 5: Supplements for Cholesterol
Section 6: Lifestyle changes
Section 7: Summary of what you can do to lower your cholesterol



Cholesterol Function:

  • used to make hormones including Vitamin D, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, etc.
  • essential for brain function
  • needed for digestion
  • helpful in healing and repairing blood vessels
  • essential for neurotransmitter functions which are important for mood, memory, and cognitive skills
  • essential for developing the prefrontal cortex which does not develop until age 25
  • needed for neuron membranes and all cell membranes in the body
  • essential for receptor sites on cells to make all hormones work
  • essential, without it we would die



High Cholesterol

There are many potential causes of high cholesterol, or poor cholesterol ratios. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Diet and nutrition
    • adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism
    • stress and lack of sleep
    • sugar, excess carbohydrates, fructose in the diet – usually found in processed foods, yogurts, candy, sodas, etc.
    • vitamin deficiencies – including B vitamins, D3, magnesium, etc.
    • consuming oxidized or rancid oils -including canola, vegetable oils, soybean, safflower, etc.
    • consuming trans fats or hydrogenated oils, commonly found in chips, margarine, fried foods, and traditional peanut butter
    • too much or too little exercise
    • consuming foods that you are allergic or intolerant to
    • not enough antioxidants in the diet
  • Stressed Liver
    • xenoestrogens or endocrine disruptors – found in common household cleaners, plastics, pesticides, cosmetics, etc.
    • medications, pollution, environmental toxins, etc.
    • heavy metal toxicity
    • unbalanced hormones
    • genetics



Balancing Triglycerides, LDL, and HDL

  • Elevated triglycerides usually mean that your body is having a hard time with carbohydrates, sugar, and or stress.
    • Reducing carbohydrates, especially whole grains (including wheat, rye, barley, and even rice) will help reduce triglycerides. There are studies showing individuals put on a wheat-free and grain-free diet are able to reduce their small LDL (destructive cholesterol) and increase their HDL (protective cholesterol). According to cardiologist Dr. William Davis, grains tend to raise LDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. There are also other prominent neurologists, cardiologists, and nutritionists that have shown that grains do have an inflammatory effect on the arteries and brain. So if you are having a hard time reducing cholesterol numbers, it may be a good idea to reduce wheat and grains and replace them with alternatives including sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin and other root vegetables. Do not think that using products labeled “gluten-free” will be a fix. These can be just as bad, if not worse, for causing inflammation and cholesterol problems.
  • Elevated LDL can also be caused by carbohydrates, sugars, and grains as well as oxidized oils, trans-fats, and hydrogenated oils.
    • Carbohydrates, including sugar, cause the liver to produce more cholesterol and bad LDL. A good book to check out on this is “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD. There are also studies that show that stress alone can raise cholesterol and blood sugar levels, even if you have a good diet. I saw this frequently when I would test cholesterol levels at the Health Department. Individuals who had recently gone through a divorce or stressful event would nearly always have elevated cholesterol levels in the 240’s or so.
  • Low HDL is often a sign that you are not getting enough exercise, consume too many grains or sugars, are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and/or you do not consume enough saturated fat from healthy sources.
    • If you want to raise your HDL’s, omega-3’s from a good quality fish oil, exercise, and saturated fat from good sources such as organic extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, fish, coconut oil, and butter or Ghee (clarified butter) will help these.
    • Get rid of the problem oils, (canola, safflower, vegetable, etc.) and trans fats or hydrogenated oils from processed, packaged, and fried foods, and you should see an improvement in your cholesterol and inflammation in the body.



Making the problem worse

  • When the liver becomes “congested” with too many toxins from pesticides, household cleaners, antibiotics, medications, poor quality food, stress, alcohol, lack of sleep, GMO’s, and other chemicals it decreases the ability of the liver to detoxify and mobilize cholesterol.
  • While cruciferous vegetables and “greens” help to detox the body,fructose raises cholesterol levels. Fructose is a natural sugar when found in fruit and vegetables. In our world of processed food, it is found in nearly everything, specifically agave nectar, honey, fruit juice, candy, soda, yogurts, cereals, high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, and processed or packaged foods.
  • Cooking oils that have been heated above their smoke point, or that are rancid are contributors to inflammation, heart disease, depression, arthritis, and other ailments.



Supplements for Cholesterol

  • Fish Oil

    Fish oil has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and sudden death. It decreases inflammation and has been shown to be better at raising HDL’s than medication. They also help decrease triglycerides. 1-2 grams a day in divided doses (AM and PM) works well for most people. Some people may need up to 4 grams a day in divided doses. However, if you find you are not sleeping well, back the dose down. Omega-3’s are very good at increasing energy levels and helping with depression. I recommend that you take a higher quality fish oil supplement because you will not need as much. I do not recommend buying the bulk ones found at Sam’s Club or Costco. The quality of these are not very good and they are often made with soy and go rancid quickly. Nordic Naturals and Carlson Labs have some of the best tested fish oils. Nordic Naturals ProDHA and ProEPA work well for most people. If these are taken, you will most likely only need the serving size recommended on the bottle.Decreasing or eliminating processed and packaged foods and rancid or oxidized oils (canola, vegetable, safflower, etc.) will decrease your need for this over time as you build your ratio of omega-3’s vs omega-6’s. While DHA is best for improving memory, alleviating depression symptoms, and assisting with brain function, EPA is best for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and autoimmune conditions. You can also buy Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega if you feel you need both. But I have had the best responses out of the Nordic naturals ProDHA, ProEPA, and Daily DHA. The best places to buy Nordic Naturals is pureformula.com and vitacost.com.

  • Vitamin D3

    Vitamin D3 – A typical Doctors’ prescription for D2 is for a cheap form which is not converted by most people into usable Vitamin D. For example, one of my clients was on a prescription Vitamin D for months with no increase in their levels. When we switched her to a liquid D3 form, her levels were up within a few weeks. Most people need about 4000-8000 IU a day. Liquid D3 is a good form because it will absorb easier than a pill. Xymogen, RX LiquiD3 , and other companies make some good ones. You can buy these at amazon.com

  • Pantothenic Acid (B5) or Pantetheine

    Pantothenic Acid (B5) or Pantetheine helps lower cholesterol, helps with the stress response, and helps with those that frequently wake up in the night. 500-1000 mg once or twice a day is usually adequate for most people. The best place to buy this is puritan.com

  • Magnesium

    Magnesium is probably one of the most important supplements you can take. If there is only one supplement you take it should be this. I cannot stress enough how important it is for heart health and preventing other diseases including diabetes. 80% of people are deficient in this and the top cardiologists and specialists will tell you that magnesium is one of the biggest predictors of heart health. It has been shown to significantly decrease plaque in the arteries. It also helps lower cholesterol, decreases or eliminates muscle aches, charley horses, helps with sleep, constipation, headaches, etc. In addition, magnesium is crucial to take if you take a calcium supplement because calcium taken without magnesium leads to a magnesium deficiency. Some common symptoms of this are heart problems, palpatations, headaches, insomnia, constipation, and more. It is my favorite vitamin and all my clients love the results from it. Not all magnesium supplements are made the same. The cheaper forms do not absorb very well into the cell (where most magnesium is utilized and stored – which is why a blood test to tell if you are low in magnesium will always be inaccurate.) Magnesium oxide is very poorly absorbed and is not a good source. Magnesium glycinate is gentle on the stomach and is absorbed at a higher rate than most. This form of magnesium also helps people relax more. Some good brands are Solaray Magnesium Glycinate, Doctor’s Best Magnesium Glycinate, Albion and their related brands, and my favorite Klaire Labs Magnesium Glycinate at blueskyvitamins or thenatural.com. Take 400 mg at night or 200 mg a.m. and p.m. During stressful times I always take more of this, up to 1000 mg a day. You can always tell if you have taken too much, because you will have loose stools. So just back the dose down until your stools are not so loose. But take it daily. Some neurologists and cardiologists will put their patients on 1500 mg a day of magnesium. If you have a history of heart disease this is crucial for you to take.

  • Fiber

    Fiber is another strong indicator of heart disease. Aim for 30-40 grams a day from vegetables, fruits, beans, and seeds (chia, flax, etc.) . It is not recommended that you get your fiver from breakfast cereals or wheat. These actually raise blood sugar levels and can lead to other ailments. Some good supplements to help you are PGX and Yerba Prima Daily Formula (this one I kind of had to choke down real quick but it helped a lot with decreasing cholesterol and toxins). I don’t usually recommend Metamucil because of the citric acid and artificial colors and flavorings that can actually wreak havoc on your adrenals and hormones. As you start eating more vegetables (about 6-8 servings a day) you will see you won’t need a fiber supplement. If you are taking fiber to help with constipation then you need to switch to magnesium glycinate. It is amazing at getting rid of constipation and other issues. You can buy Yerba Prima Daily Formula or PGX at vitacost.com.

  • Milk Thistle

    Milk thistle is awesome for cleansing the liver and bringing cholesterol down. You can try 1000 mg three times a day. Most people do well with this and it helps them significantly lower cholesterol. However, you need to listen to your body. If you feel irritable, sweaty, or experience tender breasts as a result of taking this, you may need to decrease or stop.

  • Soul and Core by Rain International

    Soul and Core by Rain International are amazing supplements that I use with clients to help lower cholesterol, increase energy, and alleviate other issues. They have the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) ratings for antioxidants than anything else out there. Antioxidants are very helpful for reducing cholesterol and inflammation in the body. In addition, Core has milk thistle seed and greens that can help individuals with toxic livers. If you take this, you will not need an extra fish oil supplement and after a month or so on it, you can eliminate the pantetheine and most likely an extra fiber supplement. Also, 1 Core is equivalent to 16 milk thistle (1,000 mg capsules). The seeds are a more concentrated and effective source of omega-3’s than any other supplement. They will not go rancid at body temperature as most omega-3, or fish oil, supplements do.

There are books and more information out there that you may find helpful. Some I might suggest are Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s “Reverse Heart Disease Now”, and “The Great Cholesterol Myth” (written with Dr. Jonny Bowden) and Dr.Steven Masley’s “The 30-Day Heart Tune Up”.


Lifestyle changes

  • Sleep is critical for healing the adrenal glands and producing anti-inflammatories for healing the body. You need at least 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep. Those with adrenal fatigue may need more. Make sure you go to bed by at least 10:30. This prevents the adrenals from being over-stressed which can help with cholesterol, hormones, and energy.
  • Stress is one of those things that is unavoidable. Learn to say “no” and take time out for yourself. Just by taking 10-15 minutes a day to read, listen to music, deep breathing, or yoga, can help turn off the stress response.
  • Diet is important for healing the body and reducing inflammation in the body that leads to elevated cholesterol and altered hormones in the body.
  • Decrease poor quality carbohydrates especially from sugars, wheat, and grains. Replace them with starchy vegetables including sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, beets, squash, and peas. Increase your non-starchy vegetables to 4 cups a day, or 2 cups with lunch and 2 cups with dinner. They should be a combination of cooked and raw vegetables. Good sources include all cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower), kale, spinach, jicama, carrots, celery, cucumbers, etc. Beets and beet greens are excellent for heart health. Pomegranate juice has shown to be excellent for heart heath including decreasing plaque and cholesterol. Also, 1 ounce a day of at least chocolate (it has to be 70% cocoa or higher) has been proven beneficial for the heart and arteries.
  • Increase good quality protein sources. Aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein three times a day to help the liver and to keep the blood sugar stable. Organic is best to decrease toxic load to the liver. However, if you are unable to buy organic, choose the leanest cuts of chicken, turkey, fish, etc. Toxins are stored in the fat so when you consume animal fat from non-organic sources, you are increasing your toxin load in the liver and body. Salmon and other low-mercury fish are also excellent choices to eat a few times a week. Beef can be eaten if it is organic or grass-fed. Otherwise I would avoid it.
  • Decrease rancid and oxidized fats and increase healthy oils and saturated fat. Oxidized oils are considered by some experts to be a big reason why cholesterol levels are escalating. Canola, vegetable, safflower, soybean and other oils are already rancid by the time we consume them which increases the inflammation and free-radicals in our bodies. Better oils and fats are good quality olive oils, avocado oil, macadamia oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee, avocados, fish, and nuts. Also, cooking oils past their smoke points oxidizes the oil, further adding to damage and increased cholesterol in the body.
  • Exercise helps decrease plaque and prevents the arteries from becoming stiff. However, the wrong type of exercise for a particular person can actually increase cholesterol levels. High-intensity exercise for long periods of time or logging hours on the treadmill for a person in adrenal fatigue will elevate cortisol and cholesterol levels. Weight lifting 2-3 times a week and 1-2 interval training sessions lasting no longer than 20-30 minutes is best for most people. For those with no energy or under extreme stress, yoga or low-intensity cardio for 10-30 minutes a day is adequate. There is no reason pushing your body beyond what it can handle. It will just cause more damage and decrease healing time.



Summary of what you can do to lower your cholesterol.

  1. Identify your health and nutrition weaknesses and they may be directly related to elevated cholesterol levels. This could be elevated hormones, Adrenal Fatigue, and/or nutritional deficiencies.
  2. Decrease carbohydrates and sugars, specifically fructose and high fructose corn syrup. It may also be helpful to decrease or eliminate wheat and grains including rye, barley, and rice. Educate yourself and read food labels.
  3. Eliminate the “bad” oils and increase the “good” oils and fats.
  4. Decrease the load on the liver by decreasing the use of chemicals (cleaners, fumes, anti-biotics, NSAIDS…) and increasing leafy greens, fiber, and cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, etc.) vegetables in your diet.
  5. Exercise according to your energy levels. Avoid endurance training activities longer than one hour. Focus more on weight training and short sessions (20-30 minutes) of interval training or HIIT.
  6. Stress management including prioritizing stressor’s, getting adequate sleep, and taking time to relax.
  7. Include supplements in the diet as needed. The most important are VitaminD3, Magnesium Glycinate, Omega 3s in the form of fish oil, Pantetheine or B5, Milk Thistle, or SOUL.

Educate yourself and make better health choices.

These are some great articles for further information.
http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Cholesterol_-_the_common_causes_of_raised_levels
http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/abundance-of-fructose-not-good-for-the-liver-heart
http://www.everydayhealth.com/cholesterol/experts-how-does-stress-contribute-to-cholesterol.aspx
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/05/dr-mercola-interviews-dr-robert-rowen-part-2-cholesterol.aspx
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/07/27/saturated-fat-cholesterol.aspx
http://www.return2health.net/articles/how-to-tell-if-your-liver-is-poorly/
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/07/29/fish-oil-works-better-than-statins-at-improving-hdl-cholesterol.aspx
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/07/29/fish-oil-works-better-than-statins-at-improving-hdl-cholesterol.aspx
http://cholesterol.about.com/od/treatments/a/cholraisingdrug.htm
https://www.foodandhealth.com/fructose.php
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/10/29/obesity-fructose.aspx
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/28/new-study-confirms-fructose-affects-your-brain-very-differently-than-glucose.aspx
http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2013/11/a-grain-eaters-cholesterol-panel/