CHOLESTEROL AND YOU
Cholesterol gets a lot of media attention due to it’s link with heart disease. The truth is that cholesterol plays an important role in your body, so it is always a good idea to be educated about the facts. Cholesterol is made up of waxy, fatty type substances and is carried in the blood vessels of the body by molecules called lipoproteins.
There are two types of lipoproteins:
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – This type of cholesterol travels in your arteries from your liver to other places in your body such as your heart. This cholesterol can build up along the walls of the arteries, obstructing blood flow. High levels of LDL increase your risk of heart disease and is often called “bad” cholesterol.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – This type of cholesterol travels from other parts in your body to your liver. Your body disposes of this type of cholesterol. High levels of HDL lower your risk of heart disease and is often called “good” cholesterol.
Despite the labels of “good” and “bad”, your body actually needs both kinds of cholesterol – in healthy, balanced amounts – in order to:
- produce hormones
- make Vitamin D
- create important digestive substances
- help cell membrane permeability
So what causes our levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol to become out of balance? The chief culprit is diet combined with genetics. Other factors include: stress, lack of exercise, and change in hormones.
Here are some guidelines for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels:
- Diet: It ís important to reduce foods in your diet such as fats from red meat, dairy products, processed foods and refined sugar. In addition, increase cholesterol lowering foods such as fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes and foods high in essential fatty acids. Oat and oat bran are especially helpful for balancing cholesterol.
- Stress Reduction: To help lower blood pressure, stress hormones, and other negative effects of stress try mindful meditation, self-hypnosis, affirmations, high quality sleep, conscious breath or light stretching.
- Exercise: Physical activity can help maintain healthy weight, lower stress and normalize stress hormones. Try 30 minutes of cardiovascular activities such as walking, dancing, biking, running, jumping rope, using a hoola hoop, or jumping on a trampoline several times a week. Add in physical conditioning such as lifting weights, yoga, Pilates, or resistance training.
When trying to manage your cholesterol, it is important to talk with your Naturopathic Doctor. There are supplements, botanicals and other therapies that can help you manage your cholesterol levels. There are also other considerations; for example, if you are on a statin medication, it is important to understand how this effects your CoQ10 levels. Your ND can help you determine the best way forward that takes into account your unique health journey.
Michael E. Reece, ND. “Naturopathic Approaches to Managing Your Cholesterol” (http://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?admin=Y&contentid=406)
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Oat Bran is the outer husk of the oat grain. Because it is not stripped away when it is processed, it retains a higher amount of fiber and nutrients than other grains. One of the most potent health benefits of oat bran is the high concentration of beta-glucans it contains. Research studies have repeatedly shown the remarkable affect that beta-glucans have on lowering cholesterol levels. For participants with high cholesterol, consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day lowered their cholesterol levels up to 23%. To put this in perspective, for every 1% drop in blood (serum) cholesterol levels there is a 2% drop in risk of heart disease. Another benefit of oat bran is the high fiber content, which helps bind cholesterol in the digestive system so it can be eliminated rather than build up in the body. Oat also has unique antioxidants called, avenanthramides, which reduce the free radical damage caused by LDL cholesterol. Other research is showing that oats can improve the immune response to infection, stabilize blood sugar, lower risk for Type II Diabetes, and help prevent cancer. Although oat may contain some gluten, a year long study of children with Celiac Disease showed that a diet containing oats did not aggravate their condition. In fact, at the end of the study, the participants eating a gluten-free diet that contained oats had the same amount of healing to the mucosal lining of their GI system as those participants who were on a gluten-free diet without oats. One reason this is so important is because it gives people with a gluten sensitivity a potent source of beta-glucans. It is important to talk with your ND before making any significant changes to your diet. Because oat contains purines, it may not be suitable for those with tendencies toward gout or kidney stones.
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- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups oat bran
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup chilled applesauce
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line or grease 12 muffin cups.
Blend together brown sugar, oat bran, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add eggs, chilled applesauce, and vegetable oil. Mix until well-blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Let stand 10 minutes.
Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
VARIATIONS: Add 1 cup plumped raisins, with a little bit of raisin water (approximately 2 tablespoons). Or, before baking, sprinkle mixture of sugar and cinnamon over the tops of the muffins. Or, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg to flour mixture.
GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute the all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour plus 1 teaspoon Xanthan gum.
CoQ10 is a fat soluble substance in the body that serves as the coenzyme to various processes such as turning food into cellular energy. It is a potent antioxidant, and as such has been studied extensively for it’s healing properties. Recent studies have shown that CoQ10 is extremely important for heart health and can help people recover from a heart attack, heart surgery, and damage to heart tissue caused by chemotherapy. In addition, it is very helpful in lowering symptoms of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, can improve symptoms of diabetes, improve immune function in people with HIV or AIDS, increase sperm motility, improve male fertility, be used as part of the treatment for Parkinson’s disease, improve exercise ability in people with angina and help prevent migraines.
CoQ10 is found in organ meats such as heart, liver and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel and peanuts. It has no known toxicity or side effects. Many illnesses have been linked to low levels of CoQ10 such as tinnitus and migraines. If you are on a statin medication to lower your cholesterol levels, it is especially important that you seek the guidance of your Naturopathic Doctor. Statin medications can lower the levels of CoQ10 in your body. In addition, talk to your ND if you are on any prescription medication because of the interaction between CoQ10 and some pharmaceuticals.
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ALFALFA (Medicago sativa)
Alfalfa is a clover-like plant that is part of the pea family. It is known for its tolerance to drought, heat and cold. Alfalfa is especially important in helping lower high cholesterol. Both the sprouts and leaves have saponins that bind to cholesterol, preventing its absorption and increasing its elimination by the body. Research has shown alfalfa’s ability to reduce plaque buildup on artery walls. In one study, a preparation of alfalfa seeds reduced LDL cholesterol levels by 17% in just 8 weeks with no other changes to diet or exercise. Alfalfa is also used to help regulate female hormones. In Ayurvedic medicine, alfalfa is used to aid poor digestion and relieve arthritis. Some traditional uses of alfalfa include improving anemia and increasing the production of breast milk.
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Yoga is a discipline founded in India but has grown widely to reach many other cultures including Western Culture. It emphasizes physical, mental and emotional balance. There is a growing body of research showing the health benefits of yoga. One of the main benefits is that it can help the body cope with stress by reducing our stress responses. It can also be used to lose weight by both reducing stress chemicals in the body and by increasing your physical activity. Some evidence suggests that group yoga classes enhance social bonds, which are just as vital for physical health and longevity. Other health conditions that can be improved with yoga include: blood pressure, pulse rate, circulation, respiratory, management of chronic health conditions, insomnia, depression and fatigue.
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