In a previous posting I looked at the fairly common diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) focusing on its relationship to body dehydration. In this issue I want to deal with another common diagnosis – that is the diagnosis of high blood cholesterol.
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can be looked at as a symptom of dehydration. It is estimated that in the USA, for example, 75% of people are considered to be suffering from the effects of inadequate hydration.
So what is cholesterol? It is a lipid with many functions and is made in the body mainly in the liver. It is also in some foods we eat. We have all heard about so called ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ and the links to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Some of cholesterol’s functions are:
• Cholesterol is required to build and maintain cell membranes to help control what can enter and exit cells.
• Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance: scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol, including scar tissue in the arteries.
• Cholesterol is the precursor to vitamin D, necessary for numerous biochemical processes including mineral metabolism.
• The bile salts, required for the digestion of fat, are made of cholesterol.
• Cholesterol may also protect us against cancer as low cholesterol levels are associated with increased rates of cancer.
• Cholesterol is vital to proper neurological function. It plays a key role in the formation of memory and the uptake of hormones in the brain, including serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical.
• Cholesterol is a major component of the brain, much of it in the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve cells and in the synapses that transmit nerve impulses.
• Some researchers believe that cholesterol acts as an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
• Finally, cholesterol is the precursor to all the hormones produced in the adrenal cortex including glucocorticoids, which regulate blood sugar levels, and mineralocorticoids, which regulate mineral balance. Corticoids are the cholesterol-based adrenal hormones that the body uses in response to stress of various types; they promote healing and balance the tendency to inflammation. The adrenal cortex also produces sex hormones, including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, out of cholesterol.
Thus, low cholesterol – whether due to an innate error of metabolism or induced by cholesterol-lowering diets and drugs – can be expected to disrupt the production of adrenal hormones and lead to blood sugar problems, edema, mineral deficiencies, chronic inflammation, difficulty in healing, allergies, asthma, reduced libido, infertility and various reproductive problems.
The human body is composed of around 25% solid matter and 75% water. Brain tissue is said to consist of 85% water. When the body does not have enough water to carry out all its functions it begins to ration available water to the more important organs at the expense of less important organs such as the skin. Typically, around 65% of this water is taken from inside of affected cells.
Cholesterol in a natural ‘clay’ that, when deposited in the cell membrane, makes the cell wall impervious to the passage of water. Its excessive manufacture and deposition in the cell membrane is part of the natural design for the protection of living cells against dehydration. The cholesterol is transported in the blood from the liver where most cholesterol is made.
High blood cholesterol is a sign that the cells of the body have developed a defense mechanism against the osmotic force of the blood that keeps drawing water out through the cell membranes (to support rationing), or the concentrated blood cannot release sufficient water to go through the cell membrane and maintain normal cell functions.
If cellular dehydration is not addressed then over time the cholesterol coating thickens and interferes with the transfer of substances like nutrients from entering cells and metabolic waste from exiting cells thus disrupting normal cell metabolism.
The main medical treatment for high blood cholesterol is the administration of Statin drugs. What statins do is to inhibit an enzyme that controls cholesterol production in the liver. As a result, cholesterol in the blood goes down as production in the liver goes down.
High blood cholesterol has been linked to higher risk of atherosclerosis (plaque in arteries) but this is disputed in some recent research. Okuyama H, et al; present a perspective that statins may be causative in coronary artery calcification and can impair muscle function in the heart and blood vessels.
Other studies have shown that animal fats rather than been causative in heart disease are actually protective. There is little support for the benefit of taking statins where there is no evidence of heart disease. Statins, especially taken over a long period of time, can have significant side effects.
If dehydration is a cause of the body’s need to make and transport additional cholesterol for use in cell membranes this may be a reason for blood tests measuring high cholesterol. The first treatment should be to address the cells need to prevent water loss by ensuring adequate hydration.
It seems that to introduce a statin to reduce cholesterol without addressing the cause is just introducing another dis-ease state in the body. It also runs the risk of reducing cholesterol to the point it interferes with the many functions of cholesterol as outlined above.