Is Cholesterol a Bad Thing?
Cholesterol in a Nut Shell
Instead of looking at your high cholesterol labs with a sense of doom, let’s look at how cholesterol levels in the blood rise and when it can become a problem.
One of the basic functions of cholesterol is to stabilize the mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of the cell), preventing their destruction from stress. Did you know that anytime you’re under a stressful situation, cholesterol rises as a protective response to the stressor! Yes, you read that right: cholesterol is a protective substance! Stress also lowers intracellular magnesium, which also causes cholesterol production to increase, since magnesium regulates the enzyme that makes cholesterol. Stress to the body can be what we normally categorize as normal stressors but it can also constitute skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, and eating poorly.
In our younger years and in those with high metabolisms, cholesterol is converted inside cells into pregnenolone, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, and other important protective hormones. You cannot make these hormones without cholesterol. Cells need 2 things to make the conversion: Vitamin A in its active form & thyroid hormone. As humans get older, their ability to convert beta carotene into active Vitamin A decreases, most people don’t eat much active Vitamin A in their diet, & metabolism decreases. In fact, up until about 40 years ago, high cholesterol was diagnostic of hypothyroidism, & routinely treated with supplemental thyroid hormones.
When is Cholesterol a Problem?
So high cholesterol is a problem because you’re not making youthful, protective hormones, but it’s also a problem because cholesterol oxidizes if it hangs around in the blood stream long enough, losing its protective functions. The cholesterol — or more accurately, the lipoproteins like LDL that are carrying cholesterol — get damaged by oxidation, and then the immune system’s response to that oxidative process is what causes the buildup of plaque and then ultimately the rupture of plaque and heart attack.So the real question everyone should be asking when it comes to atherosclerosis & heart disease is: “what causes LDL to oxidize?”
These are the main ways oxidized cholesterol builds up in your bloodstream:
• eating commercially fried foods.
• eating excess polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils, packaged & restaurant foods.
• smoking, alcohol & processed sugars.
What Can you Do?
If you have high cholesterol and your doctor is concerned, here is what I would recommend:
• Ask your Dr. for a cholesterol particle size test (LDL-P). Small LDL particles are more likely to oxidize & form plaques under the artery walls.
• Know your calcium status. One of my favorite things about Mineral Analysis, is the crucial information on tissue calcium that it provides. Coronary calcium scans will also give you good information about your tissue calcium buildup.
• Check your thyroid’s temperature first thing in the morning as an indicator for thyroid uptake. Anything less than 97.8 degrees is considered functionally hypothyroid.
If you want to lower your cholesterol naturally to ensure health for years to come:
• Make sure your diet has plenty of sources of active Vitamin A (eggs or cod liver oil).
• Eat more magnesium & supplement if needed. Cooked dark, leafy greens are excellent sources.
• Eat plenty of potassium-rich foods, like fruits & vegetables.
• Make sure your diet has plenty of Vitamin K2, active Vitamin K. K2 is a calcium director and can remove calcium buildup from the arteries.
• Focus on all the things that improve thyroid uptake by cells such as getting enough calories, protein, carbohydrates, potassium and other minerals, good estrogen metabolism, and good liver function – all the things I work on with my patients!