Medical herbalist Nicola Parker writes about maintaining cholesterol levels.
Doctors medication is something most of us want to avoid.
While we are extremely lucky to have many life saving medicines available to us, none of us really want to be in the position of needing to take them.
As a herbalist, I’m often approached by people who want to avoid orthodox medication after a health concern has been highlighted to them.
In some cases, medication is not unavoidable, if proper lifestyle and dietary measures are put in place.
This is where herbal medicine can really make a difference.
Our doctors monitor our cholesterol closely as we get older, as high cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a good diet can help reduce our risk of high cholesterol and if your cholesterol levels are elevated, there a number of things you can do.
Eating a diet rich in fibre and omega 3 oils can help as well as cutting out high sugar and high fat foods.
Omega 3 comes from oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and linseeds.
Extra vegetables at meal times will provide more fibre as well as swapping out white bread, rice and pasta for their wholegrain counterparts.
Enjoy oats at breakfast time and bulk out soups, stews, curries and mince with beans and pulses.
Some people are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and so dietary changes alone are not always enough.
If this is the case, your doctor may offer you statins to help manage your cholesterol.
Statins tend to be one of the less popular medications as many people don’t get on with them, reporting side effects like muscle cramps, joint pain and tiredness.
Due to their lack of popularity, statins are one of the medications I see people
trying to avoid most.
If your doctor is willing to support your decision to explore
alternative means of managing cholesterol, it’s worth being aware that there is more you can do than just altering your diet.
One of our oldest remedies is called Cholesterol Maintenance, a combination of Red Yeast Rice and nutrients that support the liver, the main organ involved in managing cholesterol.
Artichoke, turmeric and a herb called guggul from the frankincense and myrrh family, are all valued as herbs used to traditionally support the liver’s management of fats and cholesterol.
While these herbs help your body’s natural elimination processes, Red Yeast Rice packs a bit more of a punch, acting like a statin by reducing the cholesterol produced, rather than just supporting its elimination.
Since it works like a statin, I regularly get reports that it helps people with genetically high cholesterol. When I use Cholesterol Maintenance, I get significantly better results than when I work with diet alone.
Dietary adjustments for cholesterol improvement need to be a lifelong change and it can take some for blood tests to reveal significant improvements, especially if your diet is already relatively healthy.
Cholesterol Maintenance works much faster, meaning that you can often request a four to eight week period before taking statins, to try and do it without the medication.
My favourite success with Cholesterol Maintenance involved a lady of 78.
Feeling that statins had worsened her joint pain, she requested a couple of months off her statins to try something different.
She stands out in my memory for her positive and incredibly feisty attitude, so I’m not surprised that her doctor agreed.
Initially, she tried dietary changes alone but after a couple of months her cholesterol shot up to 8.5. Undeterred, she insisted that she wanted another couple of months to try herbal medicine before returning to her statins.
Once again, her GP reluctantly agreed and she began to use Cholesterol Maintenance. After two months her cholesterol went from 8.5 to 4.5 and she told me with great joy that her doctor was incredibly surprised but also happy for her to continue “whatever she was doing” as it was clearly working.
I definitely believe that living in a society that gives us easy access to medication makes us incredibly lucky.
Yet I also enjoy every success that involves someone taking control of their own health to avoid the need for medicine.