Nutrition Charlotte NC

Cholesterol Myths Busted

You’ve probably heard HDL referred to as the “good” cholesterol. But you might not know what makes it so good. Why is some cholesterol helpful to the heart and other cholesterol (namely LDL) harmful? But there’s more to the story of cholesterol and cardiovascular risk than LDL. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), dubbed the “good” cholesterol, removes LDL from the artery walls and ferries it back to the liver for processing or removal, lowering LDL.

According to Harvard Health Publications, HDL also acts as:

An antioxidant – antioxidants can protect against coronary artery disease.

An anti-inflammatory – Though inflammation is an essential part of the body’s defenses, it can cause problems, too. In the heart, inflammation can trigger atherosclerosis, and influence the formation of artery-blocking clots, the ultimate cause of heart attacks and many strokes.

An antithrombotic – Thrombosis is the forming of clots, and preventing these clots from forming in the coronary arteries can prevent heart attack and stroke. People with low levels of HDL are more likely to have heart attacks and strokes; high levels appear to be protective. In the Framingham Heart Study, low levels of HDL were an even more potent risk factor for heart disease than high levels of LDL. Other studies have linked high HDL levels to a reduced risk of stroke, greater longevity, and better cognitive function in old age with lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

Shift of Focus?

Since HDL is so protective, and increased levels will automatically then why is the traditional medical focus on lowering cholesterol? The fact is, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Since cholesterol lowering drugs are one of the most widely prescribed categories of drugs in the U.S, it may be that these ongoing efforts to lower cholesterol are actually increasing the risk of heart disease instead of lowering it. Artificially lowering LDL levels with drugs disrupts the natural cholesterol balance and can cause some unpredictable effects. Moreover, there is also rapid increase in the rate of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia which are associated with lower cholesterol levels, specifically HDL, according to the researchers at Harvard Medical School.

What can you do about cholesterol?

The goal should be to INCREASE YOUR CHOLESTEROL, specifically HDL. When you increase HDL levels, your body automatically lowers LDL levels and creates its own dynamic balance. Fortunately, increasing HDL involves simple lifestyle modifications that include eating a predominantly plant based diet, rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. These changes along with exercise, limited alcohol intake and weight loss, have been proven to be the most effective strategies for achieving heart and brain protective cholesterol levels.

Healthy Food

Happy Gut, Healthy Body

The foundation of good health starts with a healthy, happy digestive system.

The gut is where many of the most important processes happen in the body such as eliminating toxins, absorbing nutrients, filtering out viruses and bacteria, and supporting the immune system. When our gut is in optimal shape, our body tends to be healthier overall.

Below are five areas everyone can address in order to help improve their gut function. However, keep in mind that each of us has an individual picture of health. That’s why it is always a good idea to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about your own digestive wellness.

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the body. They help break down food, aid in digestion, make nutrients more available, and fight against the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. The use of medications, antibiotics, and stress all compromise levels of beneficial bacteria, making it harder for them to do their job. Many of us need daily supplementation with a high quality probiotic. Naturopathic Doctors are experts in knowing what brands, strains and doses are appropriate for individuals. Also, help feed good bacteria with soluble fiber and fermented foods.

Food Sensitivities

One thing to eliminate from your diet to immediately improve your gut health are foods to which you have allergies and sensitivities. Symptoms of food sensitivities are not always as obvious as you would think — such as producing hives, inflammation, difficulty breathing or rashes. Those symptoms and allergic reactions deal with a different part of the immune system. Food sensitivities are foods that you might eat on a regular basis that your body has developed intolerance for. If the problem is left untreated, your body can become over-reactive to many kinds of foods, even some you don’t eat regularly. Your Naturopathic Doctor can test you for food sensitivities so that you can eliminate them from your diet.

Elimination

One of the most critical parts of a healthy gut is good elimination. Naturopathic Doctors can tell quite a bit about your overall state of health by the number of bowel movements you have a day as well as the quality. Fiber will help with elimination, as does movement in the form of exercise and stretching. It is important to have the right balance in the time between when you eat and when you have a bowel movement. If you are constipated, it means that toxins and body waste are sitting in your intestines. You run the risk of reabsorbing some of these toxins. If your transit time between when you eat and when you have a bowel movement is too quick, your body doesn’t have time to absorb the nutrition from your food.

Hydration

An important aspect to elimination and a healthy gut is proper hydration. We need water to flush toxins, absorb nutrients, and help the body from becoming constipated. Staying hydrated throughout the day is more beneficial to your body than drinking several glasses of water all at once. While flavored beverages can be appealing, added sugars, caffeine, dyes, and other chemicals can reverse any positive effects. Water is necessary and vital, so make sure to get enough pure, clean water in your diet.

Stress Reduction

Our gut is often thought of as our emotional center. In truth; stress, anger and anxiety can have a negative impact on our gut health. It is important to be mindful of the amount of stress you have in your life. Conscious breath, or taking deep refreshing breaths several times during the day can help release any stored up tension in your gut. If you find yourself storing stress, try taking a walk outside, phone a friend, or listen to music that soothes you.