Cholesterol – What to Do

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In part 1 of this article, I talked about the right tests to properly evaluate and diagnose cholesterol issues and the main causes of dyslipidemia. In the second part, I’ll talk about what to do to correct abnormal levels of blood lipids.

 

I also mentioned that for me dyslipidemia is a symptom, not the actual condition and that the main common offenders for the 3 blood lipids mentioned are:

  • Poor nutrition, with all the consequences
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative Stress

So, what is the actual condition?

Giving the body the wrong type of food! And honestly, it can also explain probably about 75% of the conditions known to man. If you add excess stress, lack of sleep, and no exercise, you’ll have the recipe for the perfect storm.

Food is powerful information and the human body is the most magnificent and outstanding “machine” ever created. It doesn’t matter how perfect the machine is, if you give the wrong information and the wrong fuel, that machine won’t be able to do what it is supposed to do.

Is nutrition the same for everyone? Absolutely not. We are individuals, and as such, different people need different approaches. As Lucretius said more than 2,000 years ago, one man’s food is another man’s poison, which brings me to my next point.

What is the right food for me?

As I wrote before, the one size fits all approach doesn’t work, but there are certain rules that I believe everybody should follow, and they are to stay away from:

  • Omega 6 fatty acids, and more specifically, seed oils.
  • Sugar, fructose, and artificial sweeteners.
  • All types of processed foods.

In my own practice, I’ve found that insulin sensitivity is not only the most important determinant for prescribing the right eating plan, but also to get optimal blood lipid levels. If the insulin sensitivity is poor and carbohydrates are consumed, the consequences are blood sugar dysregulation and excess insulin, which increases inflammation, oxidative stress, and glycation.

This means that people with low insulin sensitivity should follow a low-carb diet, and in some extreme cases, according to Dr. Mark Houston, some of them have to stay below 30 grams of carbs per day to experience profound changes.

On the other hand, a person with good insulin sensitivity won’t have the aforementioned problems when consuming carbohydrates but can cause dyslipidemia by consuming high quantities of fats.

Another important factor here is the amount of food consumed. Remember that excess amounts of any macronutrient can elevate triglycerides levels. So, let’s say that a person is not insulin sensitive and follows a low carb diet, but consumes excess amounts of proteins and fats. Most probably that person will show some form of alteration of blood lipids. If another person is insulin sensitive and is careful with the fat ingestion, but consumes excess amounts of carbs, again, this person will show some form of dyslipidemia.

One of the Metabolic Balance Practitioners can quickly assess your insulin sensitivity, hormonal profiles, and body fat percentage, and point you in the right direction, including the amount of food consumed, by re-assessing every 1-2 weeks.

Another option is to find a doctor that is willing to prescribe a cholesterol panel every week along with the types of amounts of foods to consume weekly, in order to experiment and find the right types and amounts of foods. This process can take months, will cost a lot, and the chances to find that doctor are extremely low.

In essence, the right types of foods along with their correct amounts will normalize blood lipids levels in a very short time, about 4 weeks. But there are cases when some other interventions are needed, and no, I’m not talking about medications of any kind.

Which supplements and foods can I use to improve my blood lipid profile?

Here I prefer to go lipid by lipid, and you’ll see that some supplements are extremely useful for all of them.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL):

Remember that the main offenders are

  • Affected immune vascular function
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidation
  • Blood sugar dysregulation

And the supplements that can help address them are:

  1. Fish Oil: decreases inflammation, improves blood sugar levels, increases the size of the LDL particles, therefore diminishing their number.
  2. Niacin: increases the size of the LDL particles, therefore diminishing their number.
  3. Green Tea Extract (EGCG): reduces oxidation and improves blood sugar levels.
  4. Olive Oil: reduces oxidation and improves blood sugar levels.
  5. Red Yeast Rice: reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
  6. Plant Sterols: compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestines.
  7. Soluble fibers: they can absorb cholesterol to be then excreted.

Note: when inflammation, oxidation, and blood sugar dysregulation are corrected, the immune vascular function will tend to normalize.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL):

The main aggressors are:

  • Inflammation
  • Oxidation
  • Blood sugar dysregulation

And the supplements that can help address them are:

  1. Fish Oil: decreases inflammation and improves blood sugar levels.
  2. Green Tea Extract (EGCG): reduces oxidation and inflammation improving HDL function.
  3. Niacin: improves HDL Function
  4. Flavonoids including anthocyanins, quercetin, and lycopene: decrease inflammation and oxidation.
  5. Berberine: increases HDL levels.
  6. Pomegranate juice and pomegranate seeds: better transport of LDL out of the cells.
  7. Olive Oil: decreases oxidation and improves HDL function.

Triglycerides:

Triglycerides respond to some of the supplements and foods mentioned for LDL.

  1. Fish Oil: reduces triglycerides, decreases inflammation, and improves blood sugar levels.
  2. Niacin: reduces triglycerides levels.
  3. Berberine: reduces triglycerides levels.
  4. Olive Oil: reduces triglycerides levels.

Lifestyle also must be addressed.

You can eat right and take the supplements, but if your stress levels are constantly elevated, you are chronically sleep-deprived, and do not exercise, dyslipidemia will still show on your blood panels.

Exercise:

In my opinion, the best form of exercise is resistance training, and it has been shown to have profound effects on blood lipids and overall health. Lifting weights 4 times per week has shown the biggest benefits.

Also, according to research, High-Intensity Interval Training produces important benefits for cardiovascular health.

And yes, you can do both, as long as you have a full day off.

Sleep:

Proper sleep is mandatory not only for healthy blood lipids levels but for every single function inside your body. From hormonal to brain function. Click here for a complete guide on how to get your sleep back.

Stress Management:

Controlling stress levels is also of paramount importance for healthy blood lipids and overall health. Embarking in any type of activity for managing stress will be beneficial. There are plenty of options like meditation, yoga, breathing, etc.

As you can see, having healthy blood lipid levels requires addressing multiple fields like nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle, which if not managed properly, can be the actual cause of a high percentage of human diseases.

Coach Carlos Castro