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High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a serious condition that blocks blood flow in the arteries, which can damage the heart and cause strokes and heart attacks. As North Americans gain more weight, cholesterol is becoming a bigger and bigger problem.

Conventional medicine provides pharmaceutical drugs called statins that lower cholesterol with chemicals. However, lately the news has been filled with reports of serious side effects of statins with some drugs being pulled from the market. Naturopathic medicine is a natural alternative for managing high cholesterol.

Why Use Naturopathic Medicine to Treat High Cholesterol?
Roughly 12 million Canadians have high cholesterol levels over 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), a level above normal that could lead to serious health problems. What used to be a concern for people over 55 is now found in children and young adults. The major culprit is the North American habit of eating fatty fast food and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Taking a lipid-lowering prescription medication for lowering cholesterol has been a marketing success story. The media is filled with fear of cholesterol and praise for drugs. As the pharmaceutical companies sell more and more drugs, the medically acceptable level of cholesterol in the blood (currently at 200 mg/dL) keeps going down.

Research into prescription statin drugs have shown them to be minimally effective (and ineffective for people over age 75), and they can cause serious side effects, such as liver damage, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain, headaches, and fever.

Statins decrease the body’s supply of Coenzyme Q10, which provides energy and strengthens the heart, and may even contribute to cancer and death. One FDA-approved statin drug, Baycol, had to be removed from the market.

Naturopathy offers an effective, natural, chemical-free alternative to controlling cholesterol levels.

How Can Naturopathic Medicine Help High Cholesterol?
Naturopathic medicine for high cholesterol helps the body regulate cholesterol production and return it to a balanced state that triggers its ability to heal itself. The aim of any cholesterol treatment is to lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol.

Both kinds of cholesterol come mainly from diet, although the risk of having high cholesterol is also hereditary. Diet, exercise, and weight loss are the most effective, safe, and natural ways to reduce high cholesterol.

Some examples of naturopathic treatments for high cholesterol:

Red Yeast Rice—Basically made by fermenting the red yeast over rice. Red yeast rice contains lovastatin, which inhibits an enzyme that produces cholesterol, the same principle by which statin drugs work.

Soy and Beta Sitosterol—This is a plant compound found in soybeans, wheat germ, and corn oil that can help stop the absorption of cholesterol in the body. In addition, polyunsaturated fats and oils—such as soybean, sesame, safflower, and corn oils—lower bad LDL cholesterol.

Guggul Extract—Guggul (Commiphora mukul) is an Indian herb that recent studies have shown has the natural ability to lower triglycerides. Some studies show it to be more effective in lowering cholesterol than some prescription drugs, but without the side effects.

Garlic—Garlic has natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. Among its many benefits is the ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and dissolve blood clots.

Coenzyme Q10—Ubiquitous in the body, CoQ10 produces energy in the cells and aids in strengthening the heart. Take CoQ10 supplements to increase energy in the heart muscle, improve heart function, and lower total cholesterol serum levels.

Policosanol—An extract of sugar cane wax, policosanol has been proven in clinical trials to help the liver control its production of cholesterol. Policosanol lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol without side effects.

Other herbs, vitamins, and supplements shown to help in the reduction of high cholesterol levels include green tea extract, ginger, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, grapeseed extract, and fiber.

What Not to Eat
It makes sense to avoid high-cholesterol foods or those with saturated fats. These foods include eggs, whole milk and cream, coconut and palm oil, animal fat and organ meats, ice cream, cheese, and cakes and pastry.

Monosaturated fats, such as olive oil and peanut oil, while touted as healthy alternatives, are actually only moderate in lowering LDL levels. As always, moderate your consumption of alcohol and quit smoking.

What Causes High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a yellow waxy substance that is part of digestive juice bile and is produced by the liver. The purpose of cholesterol is to transport fat-soluble substances throughout the body, help in the production of vitamin D, aid digestion, and protect sex hormones, blood cells, and nerves. It is a useful substance when present in normal amounts in the body. Problems occur when high levels of blood cholesterol (or hypercholesterolemia) develop, leading to heart disease.

Elevated levels of “bad” LDL (or low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol can damage blood vessel walls and contribute to coronary heart disease. “Good” HDL (or high-density lipoprotein) moves cholesterol in the body into the liver, which expels it from the body and prevents buildup in the arteries.

A high level of LDL cholesterol is an accumulative problem as blockage in the arteries grows over decades until heart problems develop or a heart attack occurs.

Page Last Updated: October 25, 2009

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