Oh boy am I excited to write about this topic. I’m not sure why – it’s not something that has been a lifelong passion for me or anything – but when I started to learn more about it and realized how much of what I thought I knew was wrong, I knew I had to share it with you. I want to talk to you about cholesterol. That word has an unfairly negative connotation. It blows my mind that you can go to reputable sites from health institutions and the government and read so much about cholesterol that just is flat out wrong.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is so critical to human health that every single cell within our bodies is equipped to produce it on its own. Our liver is designed to recycle it so we can get as much use out of it as possible. Cholesterol is used to make vitamin D, to make hormones, and to make neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, a primary regulator of mood). Cholesterol is required for the formation of synapses in your brain – allowing you to think, analyze and store information.
It’s no surprise that human breast milk is naturally high in cholesterol and even contains a special enzyme to make sure that infants absorb as much of it as possible.
Nora Gedgaudas, author of “Primal Body, Primal Mind” refers to cholesterol as the human body’s version of duct tape. I love that and think its spot on. Cholesterol is deployed in response to chronic stress, poor dietary choices, thyroid issues, injury or inflammation. Because of that, it’s often found “at the scene of the crime” in the case of arterial damage.
You see, when there is damage within our bodies, new cells are generated to help repair the damage. Cholesterol is a component of those new cells. In additional to that, cholesterol – that duct tape of the human body – is carried to the scene of the crime via its carrier, LDL, to help patch up the damage. Unfortunately, because of our generally poor dietary choices and chronic stress, we never stop initiating this damage. Chronically high carbohydrate consumption keeps our inflammatory response in overdrive. Chronic stress causes internal damage and our body never gets a break. But cholesterol keeps doing its job – getting deployed out to the scene of the crime to patch things up. Well of course, if you keep slapping on additional layers of duct tape it will pile up and yes, you guessed it, you start to see “clogged arteries”.
Since cholesterol is there, it gets the blame. How about we look at what’s causing the damage!? Cholesterol is a healing substance – why is it chronically needed for healing? Where’s the damage coming from and how do we make THAT stop? It’s like saying that since police are at the scene of every crime we need to focus on reducing the number of police so that there is less crime. Um, yeah, go ahead and try that.
Now, I want to make one more point about cholesterol from food sources. Yes, your body is capable of producing cholesterol on its own. However, it’s a very complex and inefficient process. When you consume cholesterol from food sources, your body is able to down regulate cholesterol production. There is a natural system of checks and balances in place because we were designed to consume cholesterol rich foods like eggs and animal proteins. However, when you dramatically cut cholesterol and saturated fats from your diet, your body sends its cholesterol production into overdrive because it can’t possible survive without ample cholesterol.
If you want to be healthy, if you want your body to function optimally, if you want your immune system to be strong, here’s my advice: eliminate the cause of the damage within your body. Cut out processed foods and wheat products. Focus on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and high quality meat, poultry and seafood. Don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by cutting your cholesterol intake or limiting your fat intake. The real culprit here is inflammation and the primary drivers of inflammation are poor food choices and chronic stress.