Cholesterol is a serious problem which many people are faced with. In this post I will describe the what I have done to lower my cholesterol. You can read my last post to understand how Chinese medicine describes the problem.
The Combination to Lower Cholesterol: Food Choices, Exercising, and Chinese Herbs
The best way to address cholesterol is through a combination of lifestyle approaches. Each one will help bring down the cholesterol a little. So combined, they can have a dramatic effect.
Food Choices: A Guide
1. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Michael Pollan.
This is easy, and hard. Easy because the concept is so simple. Hard, because our food supply system favors industrial processed packaged food.
Your choice matters to your health and the health of society. For you personally, eating food that is not processed will cut out a significant amount of fat and sugar. Vegetables, fruits, and grains have more nutrition and fiber, they are more filling. This simple idea is the core of most healthy diets in the world such as the Greek or Japanese diet. For society, your purchasing power counts. It shows food markets, growers, and law makers that the consumer wants to eat fresh healthy food.
2. Cook at home: Eating mostly what you cook, you know what is going into your foods and can control it. Restaurants often add too much fat and additives to their foods.
3. Eat whole grains and beans: Whole grains and beans have protein and lots fiber. Fiber helps to slow down the the digestion of fats. Soluble fiber will help to scrub those arteries from the cholesterol buildup.
here are some of my favorite grains:
oatmeal (get the steel cut oats)
and my favorite beans:
garbanzos (chick peas)
4. Eat locally raised grass fed beef: Getting grass fed beef has much less cholesterol that corn fed beef. Beef from farm raised healthy cattle is also tastier as well.
5. Cut down on egg yolks: Egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol in them. For some people it is hard to process that much cholesterol. For me, cutting down on egg yolks helped to reduce my cholesterol significantly.
Exercising and loosing weight is very effective at lowering cholesterol. This is common sense, but easier said that done. Get it done, it works. Having your heart pumping 20-40 minutes a day can have a profound effect on loosing weight. Even just walking can dramatically improve your health.
Chinese herbs are very effective for lowering cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health. When taking an herbal formula, it is important to consult with a trained herbalist for both safety and effectiveness. Tell your practitioner if you are already taking conventional cholesterol medications, as there may be a harmful interactions with the herbs.
Most Chinese herbs are prescribed in a formula of about 5 to10 herbs. Combining the herbs provides a synergistic effect. As I mentioned in the previous post, in Chinese medicine, cholesterol is considered to be dampness or damp heat. The herbs for treating cholesterol will focus on clearing the damp heat and moving the blood. Some of the herbs in my formula are cang zhu (atracylodes), yi yi ren (jobes tears), fu ling (poria) and dan shen (salvia).
Cang zhu is very aromatic and warm. This herb is also good for digestion.
Yi yi ren and fu ling are both herbs for draining dampness. Yi yi ren is called Jobe’s tears and is sometimes used as grain for food. You can add it to your oatmeal in the morning. Fu ling is a fungus that is great at improving digestion as well. This combination can also be used for certain presentations of frequent urination. Dan shen is an important herb to move the blood. It is known as a blood thinner, so caution must be used.
Red yeast rice is one of the most famous herbs to lowering cholesterol. It has long been used in cooking, especially for Peking Duck. Generally, it is not combined in a formula, but taken as a pill. Some of the constituents in this herb are actually the chemical models which are used for statin anti-cholesterol medications. This raises the question if red yeast rice has the same risks to your liver that statin drugs pose. As opposed to the statin drugs, red yeast rice has many chemicals that are anti-cholesterol, which may make it safer. However, caution should be taken and liver tests should be performed after beginning the medicine. Also, it should not be mixed with conventional cholesterol medication. Dr. Weil has a good discussion on the issue.