By Dr. Sara Hart, ND, MSOM, LAc
Deep fried pickles, a rack of ribs, sweet potato fries and pan roasted duck breast are some of the menu favorites here in Lyons. Who doesn’t want to indulge in the bottom of a keg filled with fried foods from time to time? While this might sound appealing, it also makes many folks'
bellyies turn with the impending indigestion that is sure to result. With the fat-free era just shortly behind us, high cholesterol and gall-bladder disease nearly ubiquitous with aging, we still have a lot to learn about fats.
We all know high cholesterol is bad, but low is problematic as well. High HDL (high density lipoprotein or the good fats) is considered good but too high signifies problems as well. Monitoring the details of our health to prevent disease becomes more and more important as we grow older. We can learn a lot about how our self-care is affecting our health with an understanding of fat metabolism.
The basic tests monitored for our fat metabolism are cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL. These four basic tests are helpful for recognizing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune processes, and hormonal imbalances. Research has continued to improve our understanding of what the numbers mean.
Cholesterol: the body makes cholesterol as the backbone for every hormone in the body. It is an integral component of every cell membrane in the body in addition to being a main component of tissue healing. Cholesterol is made in the liver and reflects the capacity of the liver to support health. There is an indirect relationship between fat consumption and cholesterol, but the greater influence is the health of the liver and gallbladder.
Triglycerides: these are the main fat storage molecules in the body. They are what we convert excess food energy into for later use. The triglyceride level in the blood tends to be a more accurate reflection of our nutritional status, particularly carbohydrate intake. As carbohydrates are broken down in the liver, they are converted into triglycerides to be stored.
LDL: low density lipoproteins (aka LDL’s) have come to be known as the “bad cholesterols” in the body. These fatty acid transporters have a unique role in physiology. Fats help tissue heal. An analogy to this is that LDL’s are like ambulances. They are constantly going out into the system to address inflammation in the body. The higher the LDL level, the higher the inflammation.
HDL: high density lipoproteins (aka HDL’s) are considered the “good cholesterols” in the body. The HDL level in the blood is considered a reflection of how much beneficial fats a person is consuming. However, they also serve to help with tissue healing. The HDL’s are like the clean up crew. They are going out into the body tissues to clean up the messes made that called the LDL’s in the first place.
One of the most common misperceptions about fat is that dietary fat equates to body fat. Consuming fats such as butter, oils and dairy products do not make us fat alone. All traditional diets have relied heavily on natures most calorie dense food sources including with much variation; dairy products, eggs, insects, land, and sea animals. However, the misconception of dietary fat in the US’s early understanding of nutrition drove the “fat-free fad” to indoctrinate every man, woman, and child to be convinced that it was better to eat margarine than butter. What we have observed is higher incidences of heart disease, diabetes, and atherosclerosis, which are the main concerns with high cholesterol to begin with.
What you need to know:
If you have high cholesterol: Support for liver function is critical. Increase leafy green vegetables, exercise, and minimize toxic exposures. Major detoxification work may be necessary to create change.
If you have low cholesterol: Encourage the liver’s anabolic process, or the capacity to build up substances. Ensuring adequate fat absorption with gallbladder function is key.
If you have high triglycerides: Reduce carbohydrate intake. Refined carbohydrates (breads, pasta, cereals, crackers) offer little in terms of nutritional support and even complex carbohydrates (rice, quinoa and other whole grains) can be problematic for some individuals.
If you have low triglycerides: Support dietary habits to ensure adequate consumption by having routine mealtimes and minimizing obstacles to absorption. Support gallbladder function.
If you have high LDL’s: Addressing whole body inflammation is key to reducing LDL’s. Improving circulation, removing food allergens, minimizing stress so the body has a chance to adequately heal.
If you have low LDL’s: This is almost never an issue!
If you have high HDL’s: Concern for auto-immune processes exist with high HDL’s. Support immune function and detoxification processes.
If you have low HDL’s: Increase beneficial dietary fats and support gallbladder function to ensure proper absorption.
If you aspire to have a long, healthy life: Consume foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, allow for 5-10% of each meal to be a healthy fat including fish, olive oil, coconut oils, whole nuts and seeds. For more information on the importance of fats in our diets, please join us on for our THRIVE! Natural Medicine Essentials class on Monday, June 24, from 6 to 8 p.m., for our class Food As Medicine. We’ll explore six different therapeutic diets to find what’s best for you. For more information, please visit www.stillwaterhealingarts.com.
If you need help creating balance in your blood chemistry, schedule an appointment at Stillwater Clinic at your earliest convenience. Pharmaceutical therapies are an essential tool for unregulated physiology but to avoid side effects and long-term consequences, corrections in organ function is important so the drugs are no longer necessary.