Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Do you really need statins when you have high cholesterol? What are the natural alternatives to statins?

High cholesterol has been preached so much as a cause of heart attacks making statins one of the best selling drugs in the world.  In 2010 alone, Simvastatin was the third most prescribed drug in New Zealand with 1.3 million prescriptions, according to the 2010 Pharmac Annual Report.  The USA Food and Drug Administration has issued warning on the use of statins with increasing the risk of diabetes, raised blood pressure and memory loss.  The first two risks are specifically related to cardiovascular health, and it is a paradox to work on lowering cholesterol and the side effects of the drug is causing the increase in cardiovascular risk itself!

So what does the scientific research say about the use of statins?  In a nutshell, statins are protective against heart disease for patients who have had a heart attack.  However, in healthy patients who have not had any cardiac event, especially women, there is no evidence to support the use of statins!  It is interesting that many doctors are still trying to push statins onto their patients just because their cholesterol is elevated even though the patient is healthy otherwise.

You need to know that your liver produces the bulk of your cholesterol.  Eating well – with adequate good fats, not low fats!  The Heart Foundation Diet has not been found to be effective in the reduction of cholesterol. Looking for the Heart Foundation tick is not the answer.  The tick is given to companies willing to pay to get the tick.  We should really have the tick on every head of cabbage and broccoli, should we not?

Have 2-3 tablespoons of cold pressed olive oil in your diet daily.  Eating plenty of raw seeds and nuts will help with the plant based fibre and healthy fat intake.  And keeping your liver well is the key, removing excess sugar, processed carbohydrates and having lots of fresh vegetables will help you win the game.

If working through all these strategies still leaves your cholesterol in limbo, you need additional help.  These are people who would benefit from a Hemaview Live Blood Screening test to take a snapshot about your nutritional status, oxidative stress status and inflammation status to address any other underlying causes of your elevated cholesterol.

I have emphasized the importance to keep your blood pressure in the normal or low-normal range.  The increase in blood pressure puts you at high risk of a cardiac event, probably higher than having high cholesterol!  And if you have high homocysteine levels, correct that!  You need to know your homocysteine levels if you are truly interested in having a healthy cardiovascular system. 

Why using Proton Pump Inhibitors long term can be detrimental to your health?

If you suffer from gut pain and have been using proton pump inhibitors to control that pain for more than 12 weeks, you need to read this!

Professor John Cooke, in his paper published in Circulation in August 2013, showed that long term use can increase risk for heart disease from it causing low magnesium levels, deficiency in Vitamin B12 and low calcium levels.  Other studies have also shown long term use of PPIs causing an increase in bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, particularly C. difficile, increases the risk of pneumonia, osteoporosis and it increases the risk of gastric carcinoma!

A study done on 138 hospitalised patients 88 who developed C.difficile infections were on PPIs and 63% of them had no valid indication for the PPI use!
The worst outcome anyone can get from a drug is dependence on it.  This is shown for PPIs that on withdrawal without correcting the underlying problem, an increase in acid production is noted.  Therefore, this is a drug that needs supervision on withdrawal and if you have been on it for a long time, DO NOT go cold turkey.  The underlying pathophysiology needs to be corrected while maintaining manageable amounts of acid in the stomach.

It is more important that there is an investigation as to why there is persistent high level of acid in the stomach.  Some diet and lifestyle modifications could be safer and more natural.  The common foods that trigger overacidity and reflux include, but not limited to, chocolate, citrus, tomatoes, peppermint, onions, garlic, dense fat foods, and carbonated drinks.  To remove these foods is a good starting point.  And not eating within 3 hours of sleeping!

If you have been using proton pump inhibitors to control your over-acidity symptoms, you should work on why you are overacidic and correct the problem rather than mask the problem.  When the red light comes on your car dashboard, you don’t plaster over the red light and pretend that the light is not there, so don’t do that to your stomach!

Simple recipe ideas for winter

In the last month, I have very commonly heard from many clients that they have found it difficult to eat well because of the cold.  I would like to give you some ideas about eating well with warm foods.  Eating well does not mean raw salads everyday.  Especially in the cold winter, balancing the energetics of the cold with some warm food is great.  Warm food can still be very healthy.  I find it hard to have a meal, especially dinner, without soups these days. 

Making a bone broth on the weekend, with quantity enough for a whole week helps to keep cooking time on the weekday manageable.  I often get over 1kg of chicken carcass, add onions and garlic, carrots and about 5L-6L of water to boil for 1-2 hours.  I strain the soup, throw out the carcass, divide the soup into small containers and freeze them ready to use for the week.  Adding broccoli to it makes a good broccoli soup, adding turnip and lotus root makes one of the soups my children love, or simply chopping up some leek and ham makes a good chunky soup. Other options include leafy greens like watercress or spinach and/or some seaweed for the extra minerals and iodine that you can benefit from.  Another popular option I use is barley, lentils, cauliflower and carrot cubes added to the stock and boiled. Vegetable stir fries with a protein of your choice makes a simple, warm and satisfying dinner.

If you want to make some warm breakfast without cereal, grains or flour, try our flourless pancake.  It’s our family favourite when eaten with cashew or almond butter:

Flourless Pancake Recipe
1 rounded scoop Shape Up Protein Plus or 1 sachet Shape Up
1 rounded scoop ground almond
100ml soy milk (or any milk of your choice)
1 egg

Mix above mixture and pour into a heated stainless steel pan with coconut oil.  Cook until mixture sets.  Makes 2 medium size pancakes.  Add some cashew or almond butter or some blueberry coulis to serve.  Blueberry coulis can be very simply made by cooking 1 cup frozen blueberries (bruise them), 1 teaspoon honey and some lemon juice. Cook until mixture thickens.