Natural Health from A to Z
By Margaret Durst, N.D.
At least 12 million Americans take a prescription statin drug. These include Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor and Pravachol. There is even a natural statin available at health food stores that is very popular now - this is Red Yeast Rice.
Before banning cholesterol, consider its beneficial functions in the body. These include production of hormones for balancing blood sugar levels, for regulating mineral levels, and for promoting healing and balancing the tendency towards inflammation. Cholesterol is vital to proper nerve 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 the precursor to vitamin D and bile salts used for the digestion of fats. It is also an important component of cell membranes which help differentiate the inside of cells from the outside of cells. Cholesterol is also the body’s repair substance – scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol.
It’s important to understand why the body makes cholesterol and what situations actually cause excess cholesterol or the wrong ratios of the good and the bad cholesterols. These can be improper diet, constipation, poor liver function, and systemic inflammation. Since cholesterol is a repair substance and it is summoned to patch scarring in the arteries, it seems like it would be more important to figure out what is causing the scarring and fix that. Correcting the underlying cause tends to bring longer lasting, more balanced health than does taking a statin – whether natural or prescription.
All statins including red yeast rice block formation of cholesterol and ubiquinone which is also known as Co-enzyme Q10. Side effects of Co-Q10 deficiency include muscle wasting leading to weakness and severe back pain, heart failure (the heart is a muscle!), neuropathy and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments, often leading to rupture. Does this remind you of the side effects of statin drugs?
Now look at the benefits of a substance blocked by statin drugs. Co-Q10 is an important antioxidant that is required by heart tissue in high levels. Co-Q10 stabilizes heartbeat in arrhythmia patients, prevents atherosclerosis in the arteries by preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and improves blood circulation. Co-Q10 also assists the heart to function normally in the presence of blood clots, alleviates congestive heart failure, improves 91% of heart attack patients within 30 days of initial Co-Q10 supplementation, lowers blood pressure, improves the heart’s ability to survive and produce energy in limited oxygen situations. Co-Q10 helps to prevent stroke, counteracts the toxic effects of ischemia on the brain and heart, and normalizes heart function in mitral valve prolapse patients. Co-Q10 also retards the aging process within the brain and increases energy within the brain. These are just some of the benefits of Co-Q10. So if you must take a statin – natural or prescribed, add Co-Q10 to what you take. You need a minimum of 60 mg.; 100 mg. is the standard recommendation. Co-Q10 absorbs better in the softgel form. As always quality is important. Cheaper Co-Q10 tends to be crystalized – meaning oxidized and unusable.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.