Understanding Cholesterol

Cholesterol is one of the least understood molecules and truly gets a "bad rap." Although people understand that cholesterol is only present in animal-based foods, what many do not know is that we produce cholesterol just like any other animal, and it is a very necessary molecule used to form all of the cell membranes in the body. Cholesterol is also the building-block molecule from which all of the steroid hormones are made. If there is more cholesterol in the diet than is needed, then the body synthesizes less. If the diet does not provide enough cholesterol then the body makes more.

Since cholesterol is used by the body to manufacture hormones such as cortisol, we can look at what cortisol is and make some logical connections. Cortisol is widely regarded as a "stress hormone" since the body needs and produces more of it in response to stress. This stress response takes many forms; one of them is lowering inflammation--useful if your version of stress involves hand-to-hand combat with large carnivores or fighting for your life. The lowering of inflammation is why the pharmaceutical versions of cortisol (Hydrocortizone and other glucocorticoids) are used to reduce inflammation in cases of massive trauma or major surgery. Other effects of cortisol are the elevation of blood pressure, release of glucose from the liver, inhibition of the immune system, retaining of water/reducing kidney function (probably useful if the combat with the large carnivores leads to bleeding form flesh wounds, as retaining water would help to maintain blood volume when bleeding profusely) and other effects. Taken together, when stress levels remain high, lots of cortisol is produced. It would then make sense that making a lot of cortisol requires a lot of what is made from, which is cholesterol. Therefor, during periods of high stress (a lifetime for many people), the levels of cholesterol can become very elevated. When the stress is long-term, the stress will end up raising the inflammation level through other mechanisms; effectively, stress reduces inflammation in the short-term only. Cholesterol has many other uses in the body, including the formation of myelin--the insulating/speeding sheath that wraps around the nerves, like rubber coating surrounding a copper wire, that increases their conduction velocity (and is damaged in multiple sclerosis).

Dietary modifications to reduce cholesterol has been met with mixed results. Some people can follow a strict no-cholesterol diet and achieve a lowering of their plasma cholesterol levels, while other are not able to accomplish this. This failure of dietary regimen to achieve the desired goal may be because of the body's production of cholesterol to meet the necessary levels for the amount of stress the individual is experiencing. The failure may also be because of reduced utilization of cholesterol. The gut bacteria play a role here also with Lactobacillus bacteria actively consuming cholesterol. Lactobacillus not only consumes cholesterol, but it makes bile acids that aid in the digestion of fats out of the cholesterol that it consumes. It therefore makes sense that if a person has altered gut bacteria demographies and Lactobacillus are in the minority, that person will not use up as much cholesterol and the cholesterol levels may accumulate. Elevated levels of stress reduce the levels of Lactobacillus, providing the pathway for stress to reduce the beneficial effects of a healthy diet. The same imbalance may also predispose the person to inflammation, which is the real cause of heart disease.

The use of probiotics in dairy products to control cholesterol greatly predates modern science, as the Maasai tribe in Kenya use a probiotic fermented milk in their diet. The Maasai diet is composed almost entirely of meat, milk and blood. This diet includes several times the recommended level of cholesterol, and yet the Maasai have no problems with atherosclerosis or other degenerative diseases that could be related to their diet. What has been found is that their fermented milk (no refrigeration, so it all gets fermented if not immediately consumed!) contains probiotic bacterial population s that help to consume and lower cholesterol. Other sources of probiotics, such as yogurt, have been found to lower cholesterol levels also. 

Many people incorporate yogurt into their diet because they like it or they think that it is healthy--but what makes it healthy? Much of the yogurt on store shelves has no bacterial colony whatsoever, so it is important to read the ingredients! If it has no "live active cultures," then it has little if any health benefit to our good bacteria and subsequent immune function.

Eggs have often been the poster child of high cholesterol food, if the yolk is used. However, consuming eggs may not have as much to do with elevated cholesterol level as initially thought. Similarly, fats were implicated in the disease process, as it has been observed that people with high triglycerides (fats) in their blood are at increased risk of developing heart disease. There are other variables in this equation, as is often the case. For example, abnormal populations of gut bacteria promote atherosclerosis by causing inflammatory changes and altered metabolism of lipids. The presence of abnormal gut bacteria that cause irritable bowel syndrome is directly linked to the development of thickening of the wall of arteries, which is of course the actual structural change that is at the center of what we call atherosclerosis.

Excerpt from The Symboint Factor by Richard Matthews DC DACNB FACFN

Tips for Optimal Leanness

#1: Take Control of What You Put In Your Mouth

When people let their emotions drive their eating, they end up feeling out of control and always hungry. Instead, try making informed choices about what and how you eat. By taking control of what you put in your mouth you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating and can be empowered by your decisions.

#2: Get Fat Adapted

Most people don’t have the metabolic machinery to effectively burn body fat. Instead they run on carbs all day. The solution is to restrict carbohydrates in favor of protein and fat for your first two meals of the day (or at least for breakfast) in order to force the body to fat. Anaerobic exercise such as weight lifting or sprinting will also improve your body’s ability to burn fat.

#3: Eat The Most High-Quality Proteins—10 Grams of EAAs At Every Meal

High-quality protein includes fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and Greek yogurt. Planning meals around these foods blunts appetite and keeps you full, while also preserving lean mass during fat loss;. Protein also keeps blood sugar steady and and increases resting energy expenditure because protein is the most metabolically costly food for the body to digest.

#4: Ruthlessly Take Care of Your Gut Health

The microflora that live in your gut play a pivotal role in establishing your body composition, cholesterol profile, and long-term heart health. Support it by eating foods with fermented probiotics and lots of plant foods. Studies of groups that eat traditional diets have excellent gut health due to the high intake of root tubers, leafy vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

#5: Eat Fats That Are Good For You

Healthy fats are necessary for optimal hormone function and they provide bioavailable nutrients that will support a lean, muscular body composition.  They are also delicious and filling. Good fats include those from olive and coconut oil, nuts, avocados, eggs, dairy, wild fish, and organic meat.

#6: Eat. Real. Food.

Most processed foods are engineered to trigger food intake and make you eat more calories. Processed foods also have a lower thermic effect than whole foods, meaning that if you eat a processed meat sandwich with white bread, your body will burn fewer calories during digestion than if you ate the same amount of calories from chicken breast, rice, and sweet potatoes.

#7: Favor Plants Over Grains.

Favoring vegetables instead of grains is an easy way to fill you up and increase nutritional density, but with fewer calories. Grain-based foods, whether it's good bread, crackers, rice, or cereal are very easy to overeat and they tend to crowd out other more nutritious foods.

#8: Save Higher Carb Foods For Dinner/Post-Workout

After working out your muscles are starving for nutrition. They are extra sensitive to insulin so that any carbs you eat will be stored as glycogen instead of fat. This makes post-workout the perfect time to enjoy higher carb foods. Further, including complex carbs at dinner will help lower cortisol and raise serotonin for restful sleep.

#9: Invest In Organic Meat, Eggs & Dairy

Organic meat, eggs, and dairy are significantly more nutritious than conventional versions and they help you avoid growth hormones and pesticides that may have estrogenic activity. High chemical estrogen intake is associated with higher body fat and worse health.

#10: Strength Train & Do Sprints—Proper Exercise Makes Everything Better

Don’t let lack of exercise be your blind spot. Exponentially greater benefits will come if you combine training and the optimal diet. Find a way to make it fun so that you enjoy movement—it’s what you were put on this earth to do!

Hormones and Chronic Stress

Underlying Causes of Adrenal/Hormone Problems

Unhealthy lifestyle habits (poor diet, inadequate exercise, insufficient sleep, lack of relaxation, and internalizing emotional stress) are sources of chronic stress that may be underlying causes of adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalance. Other common sources of chronic stress include: food sensitivities, heavy metals, environmental toxins, radiation exposure, and regular use of prescription drugs. Chronic stress slowly erodes health and compromises longevity.

Under chronic stress, the adrenal glands increase their output of cortisol—often referred to as the “stress hormone.” The principal hormones produced by the adrenal glands—cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone, testosterone, estrogens, and progesterone—share a common precursor, the master hormone pregnenolone. When under stress, the adrenal glands are hyperstimulated and pregnenolone is diverted (stolen) from other pathways to produce cortisol.

Pregnenolone Steal

This increase in the production of cortisol (and the resulting diversion ofpregnenolone) causes fatigue and the general aches and pains associated with chronic stress. However, with time, pregnenolone steal has a much broader damaging effect on health. It exacerbates any developing or existing health problems because pregnenolone is not being adequately converted to other essential hormones. Refer to the following chart to see the dynamic of pregnenolone steal:

What stresses have become chronic, causing the body to divert pregnenolone to provide for the production of cortisol? The sooner you identify and deal with the offenders, the sooner you restore your patients’ health. Consider the following sources as a logical starting point:

  • Lifestyle: Diet, Sleep, Exercise, Mental
  • Environmental: Pathogen infections, chemicals, heavy metals, food sensitivities, mold, radiation.

Adrenal Fatigue is Not a Recognized Disease

A doctor's acute skills of observation, physical examination and deductive reasoning, which used to be considered his most essential diagnostic tool, have now been replaced by reliance on narrowly interpreted lab-tests and lists of numerical diagnoses allowable by insurance plans. The health insurance industry has forced the entire practice of medicine to restrict itself to pre-approved numbered codes for both the diagnosis and the treatment of all health conditions. Drugs or even surgery are usually the only therapies offered by modern medicine, even when they are inappropriate. So if an illness does not show up clearly on a lab test or fit a diagnostic code, and if there is no known surgical or drug treatment for the symptoms, then it is as though the problem is not real.

Medical doctors of today are constricted by medical licensing boards, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and their patients' expectation of quick recovery. As a result of these influences and a certain bias in their training, they think and practice primarily pharmaceutical medicine, seeking to prescribe the appropriate drug for the condition. Because of the ever-present threat of a malpractice suit and the conservative influence of peer review boards, medical doctors have become much less willing and able to try something different to help their patients...

...In addition to the fact that medical training is now dependent on huge pharmaceutical corporation for funding, modern medicine is currently in the stranglehold of insurance companies.  Under our present medical system, most physicians' incomes come primarily from insurance companies. Paperwork created by the insurance industry and licensing boards that required of therapists, physicians, clinics and hospitals demands that each patient be given what is called an "ICD" (International Classification of Disease) code for their medical condition. This ICD code puts a name on your disease or condition. No one can fit in the cracks. You must have an ICD code to classify your illness. Despite the fact that it is absurd to assume that all patients will fit into a description found in some pre-designed code-book, everyone is required to have an ICD. If there is no ICD the financial medicine wheel quickly comes to a halt for that patient and for the doctor treating them. Records are incomplete without codes and bills cannot be submitted to insurance companies without them. Consequently, physicians must identify the patient's with an ICD code or the insurance companies will not pay for them. 

Because adrenal fatigue is not a recognized disease, it is not in the ICD code book and is often misdiagnosed.