Of the many health issues that plague our society, cholesterol has to be one of the most common. Along with being the most common issue, it's also the most commonly misunderstood. We think of cholesterol and we think of fat, fried foods, animal products, and processed foods as the culprit. These foods do, indeed, contribute to high cholesterol levels. However, I believe the two major contributors to be refined carbohydrates and a sluggish liver.
It is important to know that our livers produce cholesterol and can account for up to 60% of the cholesterol in our body. It is so vital and necessary to the functioning of our bodies that we make it each day. The less cholesterol we eat, the more we actually make. Cholesterol is involved in making hormones, keeping cell membranes healthy, and processing vitamin D from the Sun. This specific type of cholesterol is called LDL (low density lipoprotein). We actually call this "bad cholesterol", even though we would die without it. Taking statin drugs to stop the production of cholesterol is extremely dangerous and can cause life-threatening side effects.
Concentrated carbohydrates, like refined grains, sugar, and flour products, have too much energy in them for the body to process. The body is prompted to store the excess energy as triglycerides, which get stuck in our vessels, clogging cholesterol as it tries to move through and complete its necessary functions. It is this reason that I believe refined carbohydrates are most likely the leading cause of high cholesterol and overall heart disease.
The liver, which manufactures cholesterol, is very smart in making a second kind of cholesterol called an HDLs (high density lipoprotein). These HDLs are sent out from the liver to collect the LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and reuse them, or excrete them through the colon. If the liver is not working optimally, chances are it cannot produce the right amount of HDLs to balance out the output of LDLs.
A sluggish liver is caused by many things, but refined carbohydrates exhaust it nearly as much as excess fats. To make matter worse, the liver is responsible for processing chemicals. Prescription pills, like Lipitor and other statins, not only manipulate the liver into producing less cholesterol, but they themselves need the liver to process them as they are foreign to the body. This vicious cycle of inhibiting liver function, while requiring more liver function, is extremely taxing and dangerous to liver health. The liver is so important that it is constantly regenerating its cells and, every six weeks, we are given a new liver. That means it's quite easy to reverse liver damage - and it's even easier to prevent it!
An organic, whole foods, plant-based diet makes it very easy to restore health to your liver. Many herbs, such as burdock, dandelion, and yarrow are fantastic blood cleansers that can help detoxify your entire body, thus lessening the load on your liver so that it can focus on its own health and regeneration. Anyone with alarmingly high levels of cholesterol should cleanse their entire bodies, for toxins are stored in fat and fatty blood vessels are just an accident waiting to happen.