Ask the Experts
Q: My family doctor recently diagnosed me with high cholesterol. I’m unsure of the implications of this diagnosis, and I don’t want to take the pharmaceutical drugs. How can traditional Chinese medicine help me?
A: There is a common myth that all fats lead to high cholesterol. In fact, healthy fats are necessary for adequate circulation and for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Cholesterol is a natural fat that plays an important role in producing hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisone and forming cell membranes. The problem is not the cholesterol itself but the imbalance between what is called good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Most cholesterol is made by the liver, but a small amount is absorbed directly from foods such as eggs, dairy products and other animal products. High cholesterol is a common problem in North America. It is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and left untreated it can lead to heart attack and stroke. Excess circulating LDL cholesterol tends to deposit in the inner lining of the blood vessels that become coated with scar tissue, or plaque. Plaque buildup can narrow and harden blood vessels, reducing or blocking blood flow to the heart and brain.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses a natural approach, free of unwanted side effects, to help balance cholesterol in the body. High cholesterol is the result of an imbalance within the body, so rather than focusing entirely on cholesterol alone, Chinese medicine broadens its perspective to address the overall condition. TCM treats the whole person, not just the disease. When systems in the body are functioning sub-optimally the supporting network breaks down. Based on the identification of patterns, TCM treats the underlying weakness. A holistic approach is designed to establish a natural balance of body functions, resulting in a return to physical harmony.
It is important to work with a trained TCM practitioner as each patient has a unique pattern or constellation of symptoms contributing to high cholesterol. Depending on each person’s distinct imbalance, there may be a combination of specific food choices, Chinese herbal remedies, acupuncture and lifestyle changes used to effectively treat the whole system and, in turn, restore long-term health.