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Recently, I wrote about the information we can gather from understanding our blood work results relating to our bodies fat metabolism; cholesterol, triglycerides and more in the article, “The Skinny on Fats.”  In many cases, the culprit for imbalances in our fat metabolism is the liver.  What is helpful to understand, is that fats do make us fat, when they are the bad fats.

As our society transitioned from an agrarian culture influenced primarily from ancestral dietary traditions, the convenience factor started to play into the choices we made and compromises happened. “Better Living through Chemistry, “ became the country’s moto with the industrial revolution.  Rather than primarily eating the fats that came easily to the table, systems were developed that made it inexpensive to use plant seed oils and chemically altered oils in our everyday lives.

Margarine, Crisco and processed foods containing trans-fatty acids infiltrated the food chain and they became commonplace in most households in the US.  Plant oils were “hydrogenated” to increase their saturation and shelf life.  Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.  Liquid oils are more quickly degraded with oxygen and heat.  The more saturated a fat is, the more stable it is at room temperature.  Alterations to normal fats from the natural world change the way our bodies process them.

When we eat, the body responds to the foods by releasing substances to help break them down.  When we consume fats, the gallbladder releases a burst of bile, a soap-like substance that makes the fats more manageable in the gut by packaging them up.  They are then absorbed into the intestine in small amounts.  Next, they travel to the liver where they are going to be assessed for their functional value and either processed and stored or eliminated.

Everything we eat, breath or absorb eventually makes its way to the liver, the master organizational organ of the body.  There, substances are broken apart, built up and otherwise altered into something that the body can recognize and know what to do with.  Natural substances have a commonality in their makeup and can be easily identified by the body.  Man-made substances, chemicals and altered products have a tendency to be unidentifiable by the body.  Without an enzyme to match, a pathway to go through or another way for the liver to handle these substances, they can irritate and challenge the body.  In the end, are shelved for later by storing them in the fatty tissues.

One of the biggest challenges to our health today is the degree of environmental toxins that we are subject to on an ongoing basis.  While many of the substances are considered harmless in small quantities, the dosage that we accumulate over our lifetimes is typically far beyond what is safe.  One US research center known as the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has developed an online resource for helping people learn about toxins.  Their project, known as “Skin Deep” is a database of thousands of substances used in the household, foods, health and beauty products.  If a substance has shown a tendency to cause hormone problems, reproductive issues, cancers, neurological diseases or other health concerns, this is a way to check on its track record and safety.  As consumers, we often assume that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adequately protecting our health.  However, it is always wise to be a savvy consumer to what may be slipping through the cracks.

The trouble with toxins and fats is that they love each other.  Many of our worst environmental toxins are lipophilic meaning they love fats, readily absorb into them and are very difficult to separate apart.  This is why when consuming foods to support our health, choosing organic is especially important with our fats.  This includes our meats, nuts, seeds, dairy products and oils.  In nature, toxins that are fat-soluble are known to be bio-accumulative.  This means that they are not eliminated or broken down in the food chain.  There use may have more than a lifetime of detrimental effects.

When trans-fats, hydrogenated or otherwise processed plant oils are consumed, not only is the body going to have a challenge in processing the fat, but they may also carry into the body traces of whatever was utilized during their creation.  If we can’t break down the compound to begin with, we’re even less likely to be able to recognize and deal with the toxins it contains.  All of this creates more challenge and trouble for the liver.  Trouble with the liver results in dysregulation of the body’s fat metabolism and a viscous cycle develops.

To keep the body healthy, lean and vital, choose healthy fats for your diet.  The less processing a fat endures the better it often is for your body.  Fats that are easy to acquire from their source require less processing.  Ideal fats for health include; avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, wild caught fish, free range eggs, grass-fed, organic meats and raw dairy products.  For more information on nutritional plans to support yourself and your family, please contact me for a personalized assessment of your needs.

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Deep fried pickles, a rack of ribs, sweet potato fries and pan roasted duck breast are some of the menu favorites here in Lyons.  Who doesn’t want to indulge in the bottom of a keg filled with fried foods from time to time?  While this might sound appealing, it also makes many folks belly’s turn with the impending indigestion that is sure to result.  With the fat-free era just shortly behind us, high cholesterol and gall-bladder disease nearly ubiquitous with aging, we still have a lot to learn about fats.

We all know high cholesterol is bad, but low is problematic as well.  High HDL (high density lipoprotein or the good fats) is considered good but too high signifies problems as well.  Monitoring the details of our health to prevent disease becomes more and more important as we grow older.  We can learn a lot about how our self-care is affecting our health with an understanding of fat metabolism.

The basic tests monitored for our fat metabolism are cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL.  These 4 basic tests are helpful for recognizing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune processes and hormonal imbalances.  Research has continued to improve our understanding of what the numbers mean.

Cholesterol: the body makes cholesterol as the backbone for every hormone in the body.  It is an integral component of every cell membrane in the body in addition to being a main component of tissue healing.  Cholesterol is made in the liver and reflects the capacity of the liver to support health.  There is an indirect relationship between fat consumption and cholesterol, but the greater influence is the health of the liver and gallbladder. 

Triglycerides: these are the main fat storage molecules in the body.  They are what we convert excess food energy into for later use.  The triglyceride level in the blood tends to be a more accurate reflection of our nutritional status, particularly carbohydrate intake.  As carbohydrates are broken down in the liver, they are converted into triglycerides to be stored.

LDL: low density lipoproteins (aka LDL’s) have come to be known as the “bad cholesterols” in the body.  These fatty acid transporters have a unique role in physiology.  Fats help tissue heal.  An analogy to this is that LDL’s are like ambulances.  They are constantly going out into the system to address inflammation in the body.  The higher the LDL level, the higher the inflammation.

HDL: high density lipoproteins (aka HDL’s) are considered the “good cholesterols” in the body.  The HDL level in the blood is considered a reflection of how much beneficial fats a person is consuming.  However, they also serve to help with tissue healing.  The HDL’s are like the clean up crew.  They are going out into the body tissues to clean up the messes made that called the LDL’s in the first place. 

One of the most common misperceptions about fat is that dietary fat equates to body fat.  Consuming fats such as butter, oils and dairy products do not make us fat alone.  All traditional diets have relied heavily on natures most calorie dense food sources including with much variation; dairy products, eggs, insects, land and sea animals.  However, the misconception of dietary fat in the US’s early understanding of nutrition drove the “fat-free fad” to indoctrinate every man, woman and child to be convinced that it was better to eat margarine than butter.  What we have observed is higher incidences of heart disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis, which are the main concerns with high cholesterol to begin with.

What you need to know:

–       If you have high cholesterol:  Support for liver function is critical.  Increase leafy green vegetables, exercise and minimize toxic exposures.  Major detoxification work may be necessary to create change.

–       If you have low cholesterol: Encourage the liver’s anabolic process, or the capacity to build up substances.  Ensuring adequate fat absorption with gallbladder function is key.  

–       If you have high triglycerides: Reduce carbohydrate intake.  Refined carbohydrates (breads, pasta, cereals, crackers) offer little in terms of nutritional support and even complex carbohydrates (rice, quinoa and other whole grains) can be problematic for some individuals.

–       If you have low triglycerides: Support dietary habits to ensure adequate consumption by having routine mealtimes and minimizing obstacles to absorption.  Support gallbladder function.

–       If you have high LDL’s: Addressing whole body inflammation is key to reducing LDL’s.  Improving circulation, removing food allergens, minimizing stress so the body has a chance to adequately heal.

–       If you have loww LDL’s: This is almost never an issue! 

–       If you have high HDL’s: Concern for auto-immune processes exist with high HDL’s.  Support immune function and detoxification processes.

–       If you have low HDL’s: Increase beneficial dietary fats and support gallbladder function to ensure proper absorption.

And finally,

–       If you aspire to have a long, healthy life: Consume foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, allow for 5-10% of each meal to be a healthy fat including fish, olive oil, coconut oils, whole nuts and seeds.  For more information on the importance of fats in our diets, please join us on for our THRIVE! Natural Medicine Essentials class on Monday, June 24th for our class Food As Medicine.  We’ll explore 6 different therapeutic diets to find what’s best for you, from 6-8pm.  For more information, please visit http://www.stillwaterhealingarts.com.

If you need help creating balance in your blood chemistry, schedule an appointment at Stillwater Clinic at your earliest convenience.  Pharmaceutical therapies are an essential tool for unregulated physiology but to avoid side effects and long-term consequences, corrections in organ function is important

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