Did you know every cell in your body has and uses cholesterol? In the past 5-10 years cholesterol has practically turned into a curse word. Getting preventative screening via lab testing is a good thing, but can result in an unnecessary fight against a non-evil. Cholesterol is not a fire to be put out. This little waxy molecule is a vital to every cell in our body, in multiple ways.
Each of our trillions of cells has a wall (aka cell membrane). The cell walls are built using cholesterol. We have to have walls to keep certain things inside the cell, and certain things outside the cell. In other words, cholesterol is keeping your insides from becoming the a big hot soupy mess.
Did you know your brain is super fat? In a great way, your brain is loaded with fat and cholesterol. Fat not only helps your brain float in your skull (otherwise it would be pretty heavy – we’d all have evolved giant necks), but it also keeps you happy. Without fat and cholesterol, our brains can’t process at a high enough speed to keep us happy and healthy. Know anyone with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? MS symptoms occur when the fatty cholesterol coating around nerves deteriorates. Recent studies have found that people with higher cholesterol have the best memory, and people with low cholesterol have higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Cholesterol helps us digest and absorb our food. Every time you eat, it comes out of your liver through a little tube called a bile duct, and breaks down the food in your intestines. Ask someone without a gall bladder how they feel after eating out at a restaurant. Chances are, they make an extra bathroom trip. Why? The gall bladder is also crucial for getting cholesterol and bile salts to the intestines to digest food.
We’re in love with vitamin D for a good reason. Most people don’t naturally make enough for their body because of low sun exposure. IF we were all able to run naked all day (or go on vacation a lot more!) at a perfect latitude and longitude, vitamin D wouldn’t be a problem. Why? Because the recipe for vitamin D is as follows: plenty of cholesterol + sunshine = vitamin D! Unfortunately this isn't the case, so if you're not regularly in the sun, stock up here (...especially heading into winter).
What? That’s right. Super sexy. In fact, good luck having sex without cholesterol. Cholesterol is the starting material for our sex hormones: testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Testosterone is crucial in both men and women. Without cholesterol there is no testosterone, and libidos (and erections) plummet. The misery continues outside the bedroom, because low “T” is also linked to Alzheimer's, dementia, and heart disease. Don’t forget about estrogen and progesterone. They also come from cholesterol and are responsible for female libido, fertility, and stable moods, to name just a few!
Yes. Obviously there can be too much of anything in the body, but high cholesterol doesn’t come out of blue in a healthy person. The most common cause of high cholesterol in our society? Carbs and sugar. Processed foods filled with grains, sugar, and other carbohydrates cause our insulin levels to spike, stimulating an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase which produces excess cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, talk to a functional medicine practitioner about changing your lifestyle to change your numbers. A natural and functional approach can put you in the safe cholesterol range, without depleting one of the most useful molecules in your body. Starting on your own? Many people have seen healthy cholesterol levels after trying a paleo, whole 30, or ketogenic diet first to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. Eating cholesterol (in animal products) is not bad for you! For more information on the good and bad types of cholesterol, read here…. Then go grab a steak for lunch!