Cholesterol and Eastern Medicine


     Cholesterol is an essential part of every cell in our body and without it, we would not have proper brain or nerve function. Cholesterol is also the fundamental basis for manufacturing sex hormones, both estrogen and testosterone. It also helps digest fat and is vital for the production of vitamin D. But despite the importance of cholesterol, we know that high cholesterol may raise the risk for heart disease in some people. This is the leading cause of death and attributes to stroke for the 5th leading cause of death. We also know that high total cholesterol levels vary by ethnicity, race, and sex. Major contributors for hypercholesterolemia are improper diet, genetic constitution, and emotional stress.

In Eastern Medicine, improper diet injures the spleen and stomach (middle jiao) which leads to phlegm-dampness accumulation. This causes the digestive system to be deficient and unable to extract the food essence causing aggregation of lipid fats into the blood stream. With genetic constitutional variances, there are already pre-existing phlegm-dampness accumulation. Constitutional obesity is directly related to a higher incidence of phlegm accumulation as well. With liver and kidney yin deficiencies present, empty heat consumes the fluid and furthers the generation of phlegm leading to this lipid accumulation. Lastly, emotional stress injures the heart and spleen energy and or liver. When this occurs, phlegm damp accumulation develops which results in hyperlipidemia.

Other basic patterns seen by an Eastern Medicine Practitioner assessing hyperlipidemia patterns are damp-heat accumulation, phlegm-blood statis complex, constrained liver with spleen qi deficiency, and as mentioned before liver and kidney yin deficiency and phlegm-dampness accumulation. These are the most common patterns seen with patients suffering with high cholesterol.

With basic phlegm-dampness accumulation, the goal of the practitioner is to dry damp, transform phlegm and strengthen the spleen. This is done with certain herbal supplements that do just this. Typically, there is elevated plasma lipids or lipoproteins, obesity, acid regurgitation, and a thirst without the desire to drink. Many of the herbs include ginseng root, white atractylodes rhizome, poria, licorice, aged tangerine peel, ginger, and amomum fruit.

     For damp-heat patterns, herbs are incorporated to clear heat and dry dampness. With this pattern, there are elevated plasma lipids and fullness in the epigastrium. The patient will usually complain of a stick dry mouth with a bitter taste.

For both deficiency patterns, there can be poor memory, blurred vision, and tinnitus if liver and kidney yin are involved. Or with spleen deficiency, the appetite will be affected.  Acupuncture is utilized in all patterns using spleen, liver, stomach, and pericardium acu-points. Major herb prescriptions used to reduce plasma lipoproteins and lipids usually include dan shen , da huang, dang gui, he shou wu, ze xie, shan zha, san qi, yin chen hao, pu huang, ling zhi, and nu zhen zi.

     Food therapy for high cholesterol is soluble fiber like oats, brown rice, legumes, and fruits. Some of these should be consumed in every meal. Essential fatty acids also have so many heart healthy effects and should also be a staple in your daily diet. These are flaxseeds, salmon, mackerel, olive oil, and many others. Nuts and seeds should be consumed daily and have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Spices that are known to prevent cholesterol oxidation include basil, oregano, rosemary, and cayenne. Food selection is the biggest factor in reducing cholesterol and research has shown that simply incorporating one daily bowl of oatmeal can significantly lower cholesterol levels up to 23 percent in only three weeks.

Also, certain supplements can also be taken with herbal prescriptions and acupuncture to help optimize the reduction of cholesterol. These are artichoke extract. This has been shown to reduce both LDL and total cholesterol. Aged garlic up to 500mg twice daily helps increase HDL and reduce total cholesterol. Red yeast rice extract of 1200mg twice daily and combine with CoQ10 to prevent deficiency. Others include fish oil, Plant sterols, and Niacin up to 1,500-3,000 mg daily.

Lastly, avoid the bad fats. These include fried foods, processed baked foods, and even crackers. Any fats that are partially hydrogenated, saturated or hydrogenated can increase cholesterol levels. Especially foods like margarine and vegetable shortening should be avoided. Limit red meats, sugar, and alcohol. These actually stimulate the liver to produce more cholesterol. The body needs fats but unfortunately most Americans consume the wrong type of fats.

There are many different opinions on the effects of high cholesterol. There has been significant research done showing that inflammation is the culprit for heart disease, not directly high cholesterol itself. However, an improper diet leads to inflammation which in turn causes almost every disorder known to mankind. Many medical professionals do not believe there is a direct correlation between heart disease and high cholesterol due to the lack of studies. In fact, the studies reveal that inflammation is what allowed the vessels to be compromised causing arteriosclerosis and/ or atherosclerosis. My thoughts are that to have the best health we need to eliminate inflammation from the body so this can only be done through a healthy diet So a healthy diet, less stress, and seeing your Eastern Medicine Practitioner to balance constitutional deficiencies are the keys to staying healthy and managing high cholesterol. CALL TODAY FOR YOUR FULL ASSESMENT AND  TREATMENT 772-626-6419