Cholesterol and Inflammation

cholesterolOur body is made of many cells held together with membranes which are called "cell membranes". These cell membranes are made of cholesterol in a form known as "phospholipids" that are essential for a healthy cell.

Phospholipids are made of cholesterol and some saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. You would have heard of fatty acids, or essential fatty acids (EFAs) if you have read about Omega 3 fish oils, or similar topics. Most people have been educated into believing cholesterol and saturated fats are bad for you and yet the truth is they are an essential part of every cell membrane. So what is actually the problem and why does cholesterol go up?

Cholesterol is made in the liver mainly – about 80-90% of the cholesterol in the body is made in the liver. When the body is injured or inflamed, or has had toxins, or infections it will produce more cholesterol and send it out into the blood in the form of "lipoproteins" to go help soothe and repair the inflammation areas of the body. Some families have a genetic tendency to produce too much cholesterol which is rarer, but does happen, so their blood is thicker with cholesterol, but the real problem is the inflammation, not the cholesterol – read on…

The lining of the blood vessels of arteries has a special cell called an "endothelial" cell and this cell can become damaged and inflamed or sore and so cholesterol is sent by the body to help soothe it – like a "band aid" lying down on top of the damaged endothelium and to help repair it. In helping repair the damage some of the cholesterol gets used up in chemical reactions and becomes ‘oxidised' or old and foamy looking and sits on the area where the damage is - thus creating a "plaque", or raised lump of cholesterol and damaged cells over the injury.

Some of these lumps can get crumbly and break off and the body can respond by trying to repair the area of damage some more with clumps of fibrous tissue and platelets and create a clot and when this happens in your brain, or your heart, or your kidney - you can get major damage if the blood flow is suddenly blocked off by the combination of the injured plaque area and the platelet clot. This is what we call a heart attack. If it happens suddenly you block off an artery, the heart muscle loses its oxygen blood supply and you die quickly or damage your heart and survive.

So the thing to notice here is that the body sends the cholesterol "lipoprotein" parcels to help rebuild and repair the injured area on the inside of the blood vessel that has become inflamed. Cholesterol is not really the bad guy, but the fireman come to put the fire out, or to help repair the broken area that is "on fire" or "inflamed".
So what causes endothelial damage?

Some of the common things are having too high a blood glucose long term, or having a low Vitamin D or having toxic metals like mercury, nickel, cadmium (from cigarettes) and other toxins that go into the blood stream and then deposit in the blood vessel "endothelial cell" lining. Infections from some types of bacteria coming into the blood stream – such as with infected, dead teeth can also create irritation to the blood vessel lining and heart.

The natural substances that help keep your endothelium healthy are natural healthy fats like fish oil and coconut oils and similar. Also anti-oxidants that stop the cholesterol getting foamy or "oxidised" are important – fresh green vegetables lightly cooked or raw, fresh seasonal other vegetables and fruits and even drinks like green tea are helpful.

I'll talk more about natural cholesterol lowering as we go with the newsletters week by week.