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The surprising fact is that most of our cholesterol is produced by our body and not ingested in our foods. Although cholesterol gets a bad press, every cell in our body needs cholesterol. A large component of each of our cell walls is made up of cholesterol, the building blocks of our oestrogen and testosterone is cholesterol and vitamin D is synthesised from cholesterol. It is critical for the normal functioning of our nerves and the highest concentration of cholesterol in our bodies is found in the brain and other parts of our nervous system.

Despite the so-called healthy low fat diets, numerous studies have found that people around the world who live all their lives on a high fat diet, consistently have lower cholesterol levels than we do.

Uffe Ravnskov collaborated with 15 international colleagues, and reviewed 19 studies of people over the ago of 60, who live on a high fat indigenous diet. None of these studies found that LDL-cholesterol (the so-called bad cholesterol) predisposes to cardiovascular disease; on the contrary, most of them showed that those with high LDL cholesterol actually lived the longest.(1)

The fats tended to be natural high fats like camel milk or meat, as compared to the high fats which are commonly eaten in the West, such as deep-fried fats and transfats. These really should be avoided at all times, and in my opinion, natural fats such as nuts, avocados, eggs, coconuts, organic meat fats and fish oils – when eaten in moderation with a high vegetable diet and combined with exercise, can only be beneficial to our health.

If your cholesterol levels are too high, and you take care of your health naturally, there are a few very effective measures which you can take.

Supporting the flow of bile

Bile is secreted by your liver, into your colon and out of the body packaged in your stools. It is necessary for the emulsification and absorption of food-based fats, as well as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D & E. Bile is made up mainly of bile salts and cholesterol, so the more bile you secrete, the more you shunt cholesterol out of your body.

The way to improve bile secretion is to stimulate the flow with plenty of sour foods like fresh lemons and limes, bitter foods like rocket, lettuce and chicory, and fat thinning oils like oily fish and olive oil. Apple cider vinegar and ginger will also help to increase the secretion of bile.

For generations, herbalists have supplied their patients with Bitter Herbs which encourage the secretion of bile and in doing so, pull cholesterol out of the body.

Andreas Moritz wrote The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush, which explains why we develop liver congestion and how to flush out the bile stones which congest our liver. The book can be bought very cheaply second hand on Amazon, or see here for my summary of this flush.

Increase Plant Sterols

Plant sterols (phytosterols) are structurally similar to cholesterol, and compete with it for absorption, thereby reducing our intake. According to The British Heart Foundation, when 2g is eaten as part of a health diet, LDL cholesterol levels can be reduced by up to 10 – 15%.(2) Plant sterols are found in oranges, bananas, cashews, legumes, macadamia nuts, soy beans, kidney beans, sesame oil, pistachio nuts, lentils and almonds.

An apple a day

Oxford University researchers calculated that prescribing an apple a day to all adults aged 50 and over in the UK, would prevent around 8,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes every year, which is a very is similar statistic to the 9,400 fewer heart deaths that would be seen if everyone over 50 who was not already taking them, were to be prescribed statins.(3)

Of course, other researches denounced this research and still support the prescription of statins, but yet other researchers noted that apples have also been shown to be beneficial against cardiovascular disease, asthma and pulmonary dysfunction, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Thus, the effect of apples goes much beyond that contributed by statins, and without significant side effects.(4)

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms act like statins but they don’t seem to have the side effects. A study on rats with high cholesterol shows that when fed a diet with 5% powder of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), the rats’ total cholesterol levels fell by 37%, and triglyceride levels by 45%.(5) Oyster mushrooms are freely available in the supermarkets but if eating these mushrooms every day is too much to ask, we can supply Oyster Mushrooms in a therapeutic dose in capsules – which is easier in the long run.

Other herbs

Turmeric is known to help to reduce cholesterol levels naturally, and at the same time offer anti-inflammatory effects for arthritic joints, amongst other well known benefits. Other herbs which a herbalist might prescribe to support healthy cholesterol levels could be red rice yeast, olive leaf, garlic and ginger.(6) However, I will always say that these must be supported by a healthy diet of fish and lots of vegetables, salads, plenty of legumes, fruit, porridge oats, nuts and seeds, and SHAKE YOUR THANG (move your body, keep exercising).

(1)^ Ravnskov U, Diamond DM, Hama R, et al Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review BMJ Open 2016;6:e010401. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010401

(2)^ British Heart Foundation: Plant sterols and stanols(PDF)

(3)^ An apple a day keeps the heart doctor away

(4)^ Briggs Adam D M, Mizdrak Anja, Scarborough Peter. A statin a day keeps the doctor away: comparative proverb assessment modelling study BMJ 2013; 347 :f7267 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f7267

(5)^ Alam N, Amin R, Khan A, et al. Comparative Effects of Oyster Mushrooms on Lipid Profile, Liver and Kidney Function in Hypercholesterolemic Rats. Mycobiology. 2009;37(1):37-42. doi:10.4489/MYCO.2009.37.1.037

(6)^ Tshongo Muhindo C, Ahn SA, Rousseau MF, Dierckxsens Y, Hermans MP. Efficacy and safety of a combination of red yeast rice and olive extract in hypercholesterolemic patients with and without statin-associated myalgia.
Complement Ther Med. 2017 Dec;35:140-144. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.10.014