Low cholesterol may be causing your depression and anxiety

Your blood work came back normal but you still feel like crap?

Why low cholesterol is not as healthy as you were led to believe.

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You go to see the doctor because you have been feeling depressed, or have anxiety, aggression, low sex drive, memory issues, fatigue or you basically just don’t feel like yourself.

It can be good news to hear that your blood work is normal but yet a sinking feeling because you still don’t know why you are feeling the way you are.

As a nutrition consultant I cannot diagnose or treat based on your blood work however blood work can provide me with a great deal of information that a doctor may not see because he is not trained in nutrition just like I am not trained in medicine, surgery or drugs.

Today I am only going to address one marker on your blood work that may be affecting your mood, physical and mental health. And this one may surprise you!

Cholesterol: Why low cholesterol is not as good for your health as your think

Note: in this blog I am only addressing total cholesterol.

 Many people have low cholesterol either through diet or via medication.  This may seem like a great thing-your doctor tells you this is great. You eat low fat food products, limit the amount of meats, butter and eggs you consume and think you are doing all the right things however if this is the case why don’t you feel well? 

Yes, I said low cholesterol not elevated-I know you strive to get your numbers low but I am going to provide you with some information as to why you don’t want your numbers too low for overall health and wellbeing.

What do I mean by low? Anything below 160 mg/dl is considered too low based on research and studies.  I however think that even this can be too low for some and some may benefit from being in the 180-200 range. (Some studies show that cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dl are beneficial for some age groups)  But studies link cholesterol below 160 mg/dl with depression, aggression, premature aging, anxiety and low sex drive.

How can low cholesterol have this effect on your body?

Before I go on to tell you why you DON’T want low cholesterol I want to also recommend a book that can give you more information on cholesterol, cholesterol medications and much more. It is “The Great Cholesterol Myth” by J. Bowden and F. Sinatra.  This book however will focus more on the issue of heart disease which is not being addressed in this article. 

Here’s the thing-you need cholesterol for healthy brain function so stop trying to get it down so low Cholesterol is needed to make brain cells! Yes, you need cholesterol; it is not your enemy.

For instance, you need cholesterol to make your vitamin D. This is extremely important.   Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin and it is made from cholesterol in the body.  So having low cholesterol may contribute to low D status.  Low D is also linked to depression so if you are also on a statin, this can contribute to low D status and thus contribute to feelings of depression.  Vitamin D3 supplementation is cheap-just be sure to take it with a meal that contains fat in order to get the greatest absorption rate. 

Cholesterol is not just found in your bloodstream. Cholesterol is present in every cell in your body where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids to help you digest your fats. It will improve the absorption of vitamins A, D, K and E.  It strengthens your cell walls.  It is vital for immune function. It is also important for neurological function, which is why low cholesterol is linked to memory loss. 

Think about this: if your cholesterol is too low you will have difficulty making your hormones. Low hormone levels can be associated with numerous physical and mental health issues.   Cholesterol is the building block for steroid hormones.  I think this is so important!  You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and other vital hormones without cholesterol!

Your liver also needs to be functioning well in order for optimal cholesterol production. So as you can see, each health issue should not be treated as a separate entity but instead look at the body as everything is connected.

Again, having too low of levels of cholesterol in your body can increase your risk of suicide, depression, aggression, cancer and even Parkinson’s disease. Yes, it can do all that!  Cholesterol is there to help you not kill you! 

It is not the cholesterol per say that can be harmful for your body but is only detrimental when it is oxidized and contributes to inflammation. So for this reason, eat cholesterol rich foods such as organic grass fed meats and poultry, shellfish, fish, raw dairy, grass fed butter and pasture raised eggs and instead avoid the foods that will contribute to inflammation such as oxidized oils and highly processed high simple carb and high sugar foods.  This means avoid breads, donuts, pastries, cookies and so forth.  Cook with healthy fats such as coconut oil and tea seed oil and avoid vegetable, corn and safflower oils which will contribute to inflammation.

Enjoy foods in their natural state and reduce the amount of sugar in your diet instead of fearing cholesterol.

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Seasonal Allergies:

Find out what to do “off-season” and what to do right now for allergy symptom relief-the natural way!

person sneezing

It is that time of year when eyes start to itch; you have a runny nose or congestion, an itchy throat and are constantly sneezing. Do you rely on OTC anti-histamine products or just suffer through it? 

There are natural ways to relive your seasonal allergies. Read on for allergy relief!

Everyone is different so it may take a few tries before you find the right product that works for your body. After allergy season (and even during and before) it is best to start working on supporting your gut health and immune health so that you can reduce or eliminate your allergies come next season. 

Why you should avoid OTC allergy medication

A new study found that medications such as anticholinergics (of which Benadryl is classified) found an increase in brain atrophy, dysfunction, and cognitive decline in users, especially older adults. Don’t think that just because a medication is OTC that it is safe. 

An allergy medication that has been linked to increased suicide risk is Singular. This medication is also used to treat asthma attacks.  While this drug is by prescription only, many may take Sudafed as an OTC alternate for relief.  Sudafed has also been related to suicidal ideation in some.  If you do choose medication, please do your homework first or talk to a professional first about whether these meds are the safest option for you. 

Why has there been an increase in seasonal allergies?

  • Cleanliness, our lack of exposure to environmental microbes-do kids play in the dirt anymore? Look at all the anti-bacterial soap we buy and use. While having good hygiene is a plus, too much of a good thing can disrupt the normal immune development and will increase your risk for allergies.
  • Antibiotics
  • Birth by C-section
  • Not having pets in the home
  • formula feeding
  • Pollen counts continue to rise-blame it on air pollution. Many types of pollen such as ragweed are toxic. They contain enzymes that damage the lining of your nose and lungs when you breathe them in. This sets the stage for rising allergies.

All this sets the body up for lack of diversity in our microbes and contributes to allergies. When on antibiotics, especially repeated usage, this will disrupt the gut microbiome.  A birth by C-section means the baby did not get the healthy bacteria from its mother.  Studies show that those who have pets in the home or those who grow up on farms tend to have fewer incidences of allergies. Studies also show that if you have access to and drink raw milk your chance of seasonal allergies is also reduced. 

When is the best time to address allergy symptom relief?

Actually, it’s not when your symptoms appear every season, rather you should be addressing them by supporting your immune system year round.

As always, food first! If you take supplements and herbs but still eat like crap then you are wasting your efforts and money! 

What to add in year round to support your body

  • Address delayed food allergies/sensitivities:  Seasonal allergies may be related to delayed food allergies (see my blog post April 2016) or food sensitivities. Get tested or do food elimination diet.
  • Manage stress: stress can impact your immune system and your adrenal glands. Support the body with whole foods, mineral salts and adaptogens if adrenal fatigue is an issue for you. (for more on adrenal fatigue read Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. Wilson or go online and take the adrenal fatigue quiz)
  • Reduce/eliminate sugar: sugar lowers WBC count and reduces immune function. Opt for raw, local honey in small doses instead. (see note below on bee products and seasonal allergies)
  • Address gut health with Probiotics and Prebiotics: probiotics will help to populate the good bacteria in your gut. The prebiotics are essentially food for your good bacteria to help them thrive. Choose supplement form or add in raw garlic and onions, raw asparagus, kombucha, kefir, raw fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and fermented soy
  • Vitamin C: while we get vitamin C from our whole foods such as fruits and vegetables the amount that we get from these foods has been greatly diminished over the past 80 years or so. Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids at 500-1,000 mg. daily. Children can take ¼-1/8 this amount depending on size.
  • Vitamin D: in studies with children with seasonal allergies, low vitamin D status was associated with higher risk of allergies, especially to birch, ragweed and oak. It is best to know your vitamin D levels before supplementing. Safe dose is 2,000 IU daily of D3. Avoid D2 as it is synthetic. If you choose products fortified with vitamin D, know that this too is vitamin D2, the synthetic form which is difficult for the body to absorb.
  • NAC: this stands for N-Acetyl-Cysteine. This is the precursor to glutathione, our master antioxidant which also helps to balance the immune system. Take NAC at 50-100 mg. 3 times daily.
  • Curcumin: this is a compound found in turmeric. This enhances the immune system and can be taken year round. It also reduces inflammation and thus may also be good for symptom relief. (I like a brand called Curamed by europharmausa.com and it can also be found in many natural health stores.)

Symptom Relief

You do not need to try all of these-pick a few and see what works for you. Always check with your doctor, ND, nutritionist or herbalist before adding in herbs if you are on any medications, are pregnant or breastfeeding or have chronic health conditions.  Some herbs can interact with medications while others are safe to take short term but not long term. It is best to work with someone knowledgeable in herbs for these reasons. 

  • Butterbur: butterbur can relax smooth muscle spasms and inhibit inflammatory histamines. Take in standardized form for symptom relief. Studies show that those who take butterbur in standardized tablets or in extract form 3 times daily get the greatest relief of their symptoms.
  • Nettle: stinging nettle can provide dramatic relief from hay fever and stops a runny nose due to its anti-histamine properties. In capsules or tablets take 500 to 1,000 mg. 3 times per day. In some studies patients were given 600 mg. of freeze dried stinging nettle leaf at the onset of allergy season and then 300 mg. as needed with the average dose 3 times per day during the allergy season.
  • Serrapeptase: this is an enzyme that can help reduce swelling in the lungs and make breathing easier. It is helpful for congestion, runny nose and post nasal drip associated with allergies. It is marketed as a joint supplement due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Veganzyme is a trusted brand from globalhealingcenter.com. This product contains Serrapeptase but other supportive enzymes as well such as bromelain which is also known to be effective for seasonal allergy symptoms. 
  • Quercetin: this can help prevent seasonal allergic reactions if started soon enough. Quercetin can also be found in onions and apples. Take in tablet form 125-250 mg. 3 times per day between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins.

Some people prefer Source Naturals Activated Quercetin at 2 capsules 3 times per day.

Do not take quercetin if you are on the immune suppressing drug cyclosporine or the calcium channel blocker nifedipine.

  • Ginger: reduces allergic inflammation. Take capsules, 1,000 mg. 3-4 times daily between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins. 
  • Horseradish: this will relieve sinus congestion and helps to deter future allergy attacks. If you can handle it, eat ½-1 teaspoon daily until symptoms subside. 
  • Rooibos: many know rooibos tea as very antioxidant rich herb with the green rooibos being higher in antioxidants than the red but either way both are still good sources of antioxidants. Rooibos also acts as an antihistamine and is also helpful if you have food allergies. Drink one cup of the tea 1-3 times per during allergy season but it is also good to drink all year round. This tea is caffeine free and can withstand long brewing times and does not get bitter with reuse.
  • Chamomile: this can reduce the intensity and duration of allergic reactions due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Drink one cup of tea 2-3 times per day. Chamomile is relaxing for the nervous system so you may want to save one cup for before bedtime.Chamomile is considered a very safe herb, however those who are allergic to ragweed may be allergic to chamomile-use with caution the very first time you try it. Teas are less potent than in tincture form. 
  • Scutellaria (skullcap): It is used for allergies, hay fever and other respiratory conditions. It contains chemicals that may prevent histamine from provoking hay fever attacks. One of the compounds interferes with a complex set of hormonal reactions that constrict the bronchial tubes during asthma attacks. This also relieves headaches that are associated with hay fever. Take in capsule form 1,000-2,000 mg. 3 times per day. Do not confuse this herb with American skullcap as the two herbs are not interchangeable. You want the Asian form and may have to get it via online. Do not purchase one that also contains germander, an herb that can cause liver damage. Do not use if you have chronic diarrhea. 
  • Bee pollen: this must be local! Please talk to your doctor first since you may react to the pollen if you have seasonal allergies. When starting out with local bee pollen take only one pellet at first to make sure you do not react. With each new batch of pollen you purchase, do this test first. If no reaction, then start with 1/8 of a teaspoon daily, gradually working your way up to 1 teaspoon per day. This should be started several months before the beginning of hay fever season. Bee pollen is rich in B vitamins and other nutrients and if no reaction you can eat this daily, year round. You can add it to cold dishes such as smoothies, yogurt or chia seed pudding or just eat your dose daily off the spoon! Bee pollen is like a natural allergy shot-giving you small doses of the pollens you are allergic too and building your immune system over time. Find local farms for your pollen.
  • Green Tea: the xanthines in green tea help relax bronchial spasms and can be effective for allergy symptom relief (and asthma too). Drink 1 cup in the morning (due to caffeine content) daily during allergy season.
  • Diamine Oxidase: This is an enzyme that is responsible for histamine breakdown. For some, the root cause of the allergy symptoms may be due to histamine intolerance. This can be from excess histamine or from a deficiency of the enzyme that breaks it down. Histamine can act as a neurotransmitter and also regulates the production of stomach acid. You need some histamine but you don’t want it too elevated (or too low for that matter). Restore gut balance to resolve the histamine issue but take this enzyme to assist with high histamine levels. Take in supplement form. This enzyme also requires vitamin B6 to function properly.You can also try a low histamine diet. This would include limiting or advoiding foods such as fermented foods, aged cheese, citrus, fish, shellfish, avocado, spinach, cocoa, and left- over meat to name a few. 

Sources

Balch, P. (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2nd Edition.  NY: Avery

Galland, L & Galland, J. The Allergy Solution: Unlock the Surprising Hidden Truth behind Why your Sick

   and How to Get Well.  www.terrytalksnutrition.com

Hoffmann, D. Medical Herbalism. (2003) The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Vermont:

   Healing  Arts Press.

Kresser, C. (4/28/16) Got Allergies? Your Microbes could be responsible. www.chriskresser.com

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide To Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications Inc.

Mercola, J. (5/12/16) Suicides are surging. www.articles.mercola.com

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press.

Tweed, V. ( April 2016) Seasonal Allergies? Get Natural Relief. Better Nutrition, Vol. 78.  No. 4.

Wood, R. (2010) The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. Penguin Books

www.consumerlab.com

www.ehealthme.com

www.hammernutrition.com

This information is for educational purposes only.  Always seek out the care of your health professional. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

 

 

Sources

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College

Bowden, J. & Sinatra, F. (2012) The Great Cholesterol Myth. MA: Fair winds press.

Ji, S. (9/5/12) How low cholesterol can harm your health. Retrieved from greenmedinfo.com

Mercola, J. (11/17/11) The Cholesterol Myth that could be harming your health. Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com

Mercola, J. (7/15/08) Why low cholesterol is not good for you. Retrieved from articles.mercola.com

 

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