By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
1. You don’t just get cholesterol through the food you eat; you make it within your liver, brain, and almost every cell in your body. Your body uses cholesterol as a raw material – to build protective cell membranes and structures within cells, to make steroid hormones (the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as stress hormones), and to generate bile salts you need to digest food and absorb fats. Enzymes in your body also convert cholesterol into immune-supporting vitamin D.
2. Your body makes cholesterol as it is needed. The more cholesterol in your diet, the less your body makes and vice versa. On average, your body gets 15 percent of its blood cholesterol from the food you eat, and manufactures the rest of it.
3. Your brain needs a lot of cholesterol – about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body – for neuron function and to make the fatty myelin sheath coating every nerve cell and fiber. Naturally occurring cholesterol is linked to mental function, and lower cholesterol levels can lead to poorer cognitive performance.
4. Your cholesterol levels can fluctuate throughout the day.
5. Cholesterol tends to go down in the summer and up in the winter. This is likely due to lack of direct sun exposure in the winter months as a means of making vitamin D.
6. After any surgery, your cholesterol soars. It also increases when you battle infections, are under a lot of stress, or have had a heart attack. Reason being, your body relies on cholesterol as a healing agent – to help create new cells whenever they’re needed. Exposure to environmental agents and toxins can also affect your cholesterol levels.
7. Toxic chemicals, free radicals, pathogens, trans-fats and other damaging agents you’re exposed to end up in your blood stream, where they damage the endothelium – the razor-thin lining of your blood vessels. When endothelial cells need to be repaired, your liver sends LDL to the site, and when the healing process concludes, HDL carries the spent LDL particles back to the liver to be removed from your body.
8. Certain antioxidants, herbs and nutraceuticals can naturally reduce cholesterol – interestingly enough, by neutralizing toxins and other damaging agents. Hence such supplementation results in the liver not having to produce as much cholesterol for healing; it also supports other biochemical processes crucial for wound healing.
9. Rather than automatically reaching for a prescription pad upon discovering that a patient has high cholesterol, a doctor should seek out the cause. Through successful treatment of the cause, the symptom of high cholesterol often disappears.
10. Statin therapy can have many negative side effects, including muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, constipation, gas, and upper respiratory infection; they can also cause amnesia and other mental deficits. Some of these side effects are due to depletion of Co10, a nutrient your body needs for cellular energy production and a healthy immune system.
Older folks are particularly vulnerable to infections and weakness associated with statin drug use, and some research suggests that doctors should exercise extreme caution when prescribing statins to the elderly, especially if they are frail. I agree – not only because of potential CoQ10 depletion, but because lack of cholesterol can lead to decreased quality of life and mental acuity. I’ve heard from many patients that their strength, energy, appetite, and vitality returned when they stopped taking statins.
As with the elderly, the very young also need cholesterol for growth, development and metabolism. You may have heard about doctors giving statins to children, and if you think this is ludicrous, you’re not the only one.
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