You know you have really high cholesterol when you go to your doctor, Mary Jane, to get it tested and she’s so shocked at your results that she says “it’s higher than a weed eating mountain goat!”.
So you ask how high it is and she says “420!”.
She passes you your results and you start leafing through it and see that some of your markers are green as grass and others are rolling in the red.
She gives you a blunt recommendation and says “it would be best for you to go on a statin”, but you rather feel like bingeing on a pot full of fatty beef with tons of brownies on the side, so you get the laughies just thinking about it. You look up at your doctor and see she’s all red-eyed because she thinks you think she’s a doobie and gives you a hard stoned look.
You then kindly and apologetically tell her that you’ll try some natural alternatives for 6-8 weeks before coming back to have your cholesterol tested again.
No apologies for all the weed references above and no, I didn’t become a stoner (let me know how many you spotted in the comments below)… Bud let’s get into it. 😉
Cholesterol. The evil kenevil, arterie clogging, heart attack promoting, inflammatory substance that people (read: doctors) know so little about but is beaten with statins the moment it shows its head.
It’s pretty sad actually. Plain old innocent cholesterol is circulating in the blood to carry fats and cholesterol to tissue for energy, repair and steroidogenesis and also mounts an attack to help lower inflammation.
So in this article you’ll find out why cholesterol is actually the good guy and not the bad guy as most “experts” claim it to be. I’ll also show you how to interpret your cholesterol results so that you won’t be put on statins, unnecessarily, based on one or two markers.
But first…let’s get a little high…
High on some good info concerning cholesterol’s actual purpose in the body. 😉
Cholesterol is needed for:
- The brain. 25% of the cholesterol is found in the brain. Some anti-depressant drugs increase cholesterol and that how they have anti-depressant properties. Low cholesterol can lead to depression, anxiety, memory loss, etc.
- Joints. Low cholesterol causes joint deterioration and weakness to such a degree that your joints struggle to support your limbs. It become soft and supple from weakness. Almost like that weak jelly feeling you get in your legs when you’re swimming in the deep sea and you see a massive great white shark swimming close by.
- Synthesis of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is essential for energy production and a reduction in CoQ10 leads to a drop in energy production and reduced energy production together with dysfunctional mitochondrial function is one of the leading causes of all “problems” that start in the body.
- Cell membranes. Cholesterol ensures that cells function optimally and that they have healthy cell membranes.
- Hormone synthesis, such as pregnenolone, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, DHT, etc.
- Proper nerve function. Too low cholesterol can lead to cognitive impairments as well as other neurological damage and subsequent pains.
- Bile acid synthesis, which is needed for the digestion of fat and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
- Synthesis of vitamin D. We all know how important vitamin D is.
- Immunity. Individuals with low cholesterol are more likely to get and die from infections.
- Youthful skin. I don’t know about you but I want to look youthful for as long as I can. People on statins start to see deterioration in skin quality not long after they start.
- Longevity. More than 20 studies now show that older people with high cholesterol live the longest.
Cholesterol is super important if you ask me. Let’s dive into why measuring only total cholesterol, HDL and LDL is actually useless and tells you almost nothing.
Doctors want to see your total cholesterol levels at less than 200mg/dL. Between 200 and 239 is considered borderline high and a reading of 240+ is considered high.
But as I mentioned above, most of the healthiest and longest living individuals have cholesterol between 200 and 300. Below 200, and especially below 160, is actually a risk factor.
So cholesterol above 200 should actually not be a risk factor. Elevated cholesterol is most often the result of reduced thyroid function. Supplementing thyroid dramatically lowers cholesterol, by increasing its utilization. So if you have elevated cholesterol, get a thyroid panel (more on that later).
If you have super high cholesterol and your doctor is pressuring you like crazy to go on a statin, tell him/her that you want to try a few things on your own and then you can retest your cholesterol in 6-8 weeks. If your cholesterol is going down in that period the doctor might be more ok to let you continue before trying to put you on a statin.
Here are a few ways to lower cholesterol:
- Thyroid – use a 4:1 ratio T4 to T3. It’s important not to use only T4, because when the body is in a compromised state, it will not convert enough T4 to T3 on it’s own.
- Inositol – 500mg per day
- Alpha-lipoic acid – 800mg
- Coenzyme Q10 – 100-200mg per day
- Red yeast rice
- Get rid of endotoxins or any other infections – a major source is bacteria in the mouth (periodontal disease)
- Calm the stress
On the other hand, if cholesterol is too low, you might be low in:
- Vitamin B2
- Iron – although an excess of iron could lead to an overproduction of cholesterol and also increase the risk of oxidizing the cholesterol.
HDL is a part of the total cholesterol reading and HDL serves the purpose of transporting cholesterol back to the liver.
- Elevated HDL above the normal range is not a concern if inflammation is low. Elevated HDL could be a problem if it’s oxidized, but if inflammatory markers such as high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), fibrinogen and homocysteine is rock bottom, then elevated HDL is much less of an issue. Keep in mind that if you did a training session the previous day before your test, your inflammatory markers will most likely be elevated, albeit temporary.
- A 1:1 ratio of your triglyceride to HDL ratio is preferable and keeping triglycerides under 100mg/dL should be the goal.
- Check your total to HDL cholesterol. A 4:1 ratio is still fine, but a ratio of or greater than 7:1 should be a concern.
- Elevated neutrophils can cause HDL act as a pro-oxidant, and in that case high HDL would be a concern.
- Check for liver enzymes. Elevated liver enzymes usually correlates with elevated HDL.
Triglycerides are usually high because the cells cannot properly use the glucose/sugar that you’re consuming, so the body has to utilize fat for fuel instead, which leads to elevated free fatty acids and triglycerides. Free fatty acids and triglycerides should be low, even on a low carb diet. Elevated free fatty acids and triglycerides are usually due to insulin resistance and can lead to host of negatives and eventually disease.
So it’s not sugar that’s the culprit, it the inability to store and use it. As a side note, in diabetics, both sugar and fat metabolism and oxidation is dysfunctional.
Sulfate is very important for storing sugar as glycogen and a deficiency can lead to elevated blood sugar and triglycerides. Vitamin B1, B2, B3, biotin, vitamin B5 and magnesium are essential for proper glucose oxidation.
A few things that you can use to lower free fatty acids are niacinamide and aspirin, both of which inhibit excess lipolysis and promote glucose oxidation.
A few things that lower triglycerides include:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Lowering excess iron
- Increasing copper in the diet if deficient
- Dairy products (R)
- Citrus bergamot
But as I mentioned, if you really want to lower triglycerides, instead of cutting carbs out and avoiding the elephant in the room, fix proper glucose oxidation.
LDL cholesterol transports cholesterol to tissue away from the liver, but LDL also aids in transporting cholesterol back to the liver just like HDL. Elevated LDL is also ok if:
a) You are a moderately to highly active individual
b) Are on a lower carb diet
c) Eating a lot of saturated fat
Oxidized LDL is the problem. It becomes oxidized when there is inflammation, bacterial infection (and using anti-inflammatory drugs can lead to heart attack), chronic stress, chemicals, insulin resistance (elevated blood sugar), an excess of trans and polyunsaturated fats, excess iron and other heavy metals, overtraining, poor sleep, etc. Again, have your hsCRP tested before worrying about high LDL.
The LDL-C marker is close to useless. What you want to keep an eye on is LDL-particle count and size as well as Apo-B and Apo-A1.
ApoB containing particles’ major function is to transport triglycerides to muscles and phospholipids and apoA-I containing particles traffic cholesterol back to steroidogenic tissues, adipocytes and ultimately back to the liver and gut.
ApoB is correlated with heart disease and should be low. If LDL is high, but apoB is low, then there is no need to worry about your LDL.
Secondly, in terms of LDL particle size, you want as much pattern A as possible and as little pattern B as possible, but regardless of particle size, it still all comes down to the apoB number.
Ways to lower LDL and increase LDL-size include:
- Vitamin D
- Living more naturally helps to increase particle size
- Alpha-lipoic acid
Ways to lower Apo-B:
- Artichoke leaf extract
- Vitamin B5
- Coenzyme Q10
- More fruits in the diet (R)
- Berberis vulgaris fruit extract (berberine) (R)
- Royal jelly (3g per day) (R)
- Cranberry juice (R)
- Cocoa powder (R, R)
Apo-A1 aids in the action of HDL and should preferable be high.
So just to recap, what is most important:
Total cholesterol. This marker is mostly useless, except to see thyroid and metabolic function, which if high, indicates inadequate thyroid hormones. Plus, nearly every healthy person around the world has total cholesterol over 200mg/dl according to Paul Jaminet.
Thyroid panel. If total cholesterol is elevated you can almost certainly assume the there aren’t enough thyroid hormones. Never test for only TSH, but also for total and free T4 and T3, rT3 and thyroid peroxidase.
Triglyceride to HDL ratio. A 1:1 ratio is preferable and no more than a 2:1 ratio. Less than 150 triglycerides is deemed “fine”, but under 100 is preferable. Elevated triglycerides is a sign of insulin resistance.
ApoB. It should preferably be low, but even if apoB is high and you have (very) low scores on the CT heart scan calcium score test / carotid intima media thickness test then you don’t have to worry too much about it, similar to the LDL particle size.
Inflammatory markers, such as high sensitivity CRP (hsCRP; should be under 0.5), fibrinogen and homocysteine. If there markers are high and you have high cholesterol, it would be a concern. Then the next thing I would do is test for oxidized LDL with a urine test. But regardless, I would focus on lowering the inflammatory markers. Five of the major offenders are gut irritation (endotoxins), EMF, chemicals (cosmetics, pollutants, drugs, etc.), polyunsaturated fats and heavy metals, such as iron.
Lastly, if triglycerides are high you can assume you’re insulin resistant, you can test for:
- fasting glucose and fasting insulin and calculate your homa IR. The formula to do so is: (fasting glucose x fasting insulin) / 405. The optimal range: 1.0 (0.5–1.4)
- Hb1Ac. It should preferably be under 5, but not a lot of attention has to be given to this marker.
- Oral glucose tolerance test.
But if inflammation is low, then slightly elevated fasting glucose or Hb1Ac shouldn’t be an issue.
Last but not least, two good additional markers to get tested is an omega index test and a saturation index.
The omega index test the amount of omega 3 in your red blood cell membranes. Less than 4% is a risk factor and an index of around 8% is ideal. Although omega 3 is also a PUFA, it’s less inflammatory than omega 6 and an excess of omega 6 do lead to an excess of inflammation and a host of pathogenic conditions.
The saturated index test tests the ratio of stearic acid:oleic acid and a low ratio is linked to several age related diseases. If it is low, then you might benefit from eating more stearic acid rich foods such as cocoa butter and animal fat. The ideal range is between 0.97 to 1.02.
If your doctor wants to put you on a statin based on one or two readings, tell your doctor to run some more tests to actually get a proper idea of what is going on. Useless markers include total cholesterol, HDL and LDL-C.
Wellnessfx goes miles beyond just testing total cholesterol, HDL and LDL, but also the fatty acid composition of the cholesterol which could show you in which fatty acid you might be deficient in and most often it’s not the “essential” fatty acids, such as linoleic or alpha-linolenic acid.
You can get good lipid panels from TrueHealthLabs, DirectLabs, LabCorp and WellnessFX just to name a few.
As always, thanks so much for reading my article.
If you found it helpful and insightful please like and share so others can also benefit from this information and feel free to leave a comment down below if you have any questions for me.
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