Most people think of cholesterol in a negative way. However, cholesterol actually plays a very important role in the functioning of the body. According to the research, cholesterol is found in every cell in our body and without it our bodies would not function properly. Understanding why it is there and the purpose it serves is something everyone should be aware of.
Cholesterol is a substance required for the normal function of cells, and is present in every cell of the human body. It is also found in the bloodstream. About 75% of cholesterol is created by the body itself and the rest are through external food which we eat. The soft waxy substance is produced in the body and is essential for the production of vitamin D, bile salts and hormones.
Cholesterol cannot be dissolved in the blood and has to be carried from the cells by lipoproteins which comes in two basic types:-
- The first is the low density cholesterol (LDL) which is also known as the "bad" cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol to every cell in the body for potential use in cell membranes or for making hormones and vitamin D. The cells take only what they need, so high levels of LDL can result in deposits of excess cholesterol in the arteries, causing restricted blood flow. Eventually, a blood clot may block a narrowed artery and result in a heart attack or stroke. A lower LDL number means better health.
- The second type is the high density cholesterol (HDL) which is known as the "good" cholesterol which picks up cholesterol from the cells and transports it back to the liver for recycling or waste removal. “Good” refers not to the kind of cholesterol, but to the fact that this transport vehicle takes cholesterol out of circulation. So a higher HDL number means better cholesterol control and protection for the heart.
Cholesterol is good for you; it performs so many vital functions in your body.
Inflammation raises your risk of just about every serious disease, including heart attacks and strokes. If you want to look after your health, you’d better keep inflammation at bay!
Each week we see a number of clients who are seeking help for their high cholesterol level. They can quote the cholesterol figure in their last blood test and desperately want to lower it without the use of medication. Many of our clients have tried cholesterol lowering drugs in the past and weren’t happy with the side effects. They are even more worried about the potential long term effects of these drugs on brain function and the nervous system.
I think they should also be worried about having abnormally low levels of cholesterol, which these drugs tend to induce. Several studies have shown that people with slightly higher cholesterol actually live longer than those with low cholesterol (low means less than 181 mg/dL or 4.7 mmol/L).
People with low cholesterol seem to be more prone to cancer and mental health problems.
For years we’ve been told to eat less fat if we want to stay slim and keep our cholesterol level in check. I have a problem with that advice for a few reasons:
Types and causes of inflammation and how is it related to cholesterol?
There are two main types of inflammation:
- Acute inflammation:-
If you have ever sprained your ankle or suffered a gout attack, you’ll know all about acute inflammation. It causes symptoms like pain, swelling, heat, redness and immobility.
- Chronic inflammation:-
This is the type of inflammation that occurs in a very subtle form inside your body, so you don’t even realise it’s occurring. It occurs when various cells in your body produce chemicals that cause wear and tear inside your body.
Essentially, inflammation causes oxidative damage to the cells and tissues of your body. This will cause you to age more rapidly and put you at risk of serious diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Causes of inflammation:
In most people, the overwhelming cause of excessive inflammation in their body is poor diet choices. Sugar, flour and vegetable oil high in omega 6 fats (soy, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower oil) all cause damage to your body. Having a fatty liver causes the liver to produce high levels of damaging inflammatory chemicals.
Inflammation damages the lining of your arteries. It actually causes wear and tear to the once smooth inner lining of artery walls. Once you’ve developed lesions in your arteries, the cholesterol in your bloodstream comes along and tries to repair this damage.
Cholesterol has a vital role in healing and repair of tissues in your body. The problem is, cholesterol can accumulate in your arteries, causing them to narrow and thus restricting blood flow. Cholesterol is not the initiating factor in artery damage; it is only serving a protective and healing role.
So should you be worried if your cholesterol is elevated?
If your cholesterol is high, you need to find the reason.
Cholesterol production increases when the body is under stress:
- Emotional stress can cause elevated cholesterol because the stress hormone cortisol is made out of cholesterol.
- Physical stress on the body can also elevate cholesterol because cholesterol helps to repair and heal your body, you will produce more if there is a great deal of inflammation occurring in your body. So all those factors above that raise inflammation, can raise your cholesterol too.
Therefore the cure for elevated cholesterol can be quite simple – lower the inflammation and you’ll also lower the cholesterol.
Other factors that may cause elevated cholesterol include:
- Having an unhealthy liver.
Since your liver is the main site of cholesterol production, it makes sense that the health of this vital organ determines how high your cholesterol is and how much of the good cholesterol is in your body.
I will help you provide your liver cells with what they need to repair themselves and improve their fat burning abilities.
- An under active thyroid is a very common cause of high cholesterol, especially in women. Your thyroid doesn’t even need to be very under active; quite commonly we see clients who are in the grey zone – their thyroid is not healthy but not bad enough for their doctor to take notice and recommend treatment.
- Sugar and all carbohydrate rich foods can raise your cholesterol because your liver turns the carbohydrate into fat. Therefore cutting down or cutting out foods like bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, sugary drinks and any food that contains flour or sugar is a very useful way of keeping your cholesterol in the healthy range.
- Too much unhealthy fat. Most vegetable oil is far too high in omega 6 fats which promote inflammation. When these fats are heated (during cooking) they are further damaged and become very harmful to the body.
We do need some cholesterol in our bodies for good health; you don’t want your cholesterol to be too low but you don’t want it too high either. So by making changes to your diet as a healthy lifestyle change may mean you can avoid, or at least reduce your dependency on medication to control cholesterol levels. I will promote your general health and treat conditions such as high cholesterol and inflammation. I will also work on evaluation of your meal plan and create low inflammation diet plan and will be giving you a detailed menu to work with your lifestyle and daily routine by asking you about your eating habits;
A dietician can suggest strategies and tips for adjusting to your new diet and also teach you how to keep track of the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in your diet and how to continually make gradual adjustments which inturn will make you loose weight, lower your cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, etc until you achieve your basic goals.
Most of all I may be able to make your new diet fun by suggesting creative recipes and helping you find ways to eat the foods that you enjoy the most.
However, it’s important to remember that high cholesterol is not the cause of your health problems; it is simply a clue that something is not quite right with your health, and it’s likely that the real problem is too much inflammation.
We have weekly followup systems available to ensure your wellness and also to keep a track of your vitality