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How do I raise my cholesterol?
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john_l97227 posted:
So I'm vegan and my 'cholesterol problem' is in the opposite direction of most americans. As a result I'm having a really hard time finding any information about how to correct it.

Here are the details: So a few weeks ago, in desperation, I went to a naturopath to try and figure out what was going on with me. I'd been experiencing severe anxiety and depression as well as almost total lack of motivation or initiative. While at the naturopath's I got a comprehensive metabolic blood test done. When it came back the number that jumped out at my naturopath was that my cholesterol level was 123 mg/dL. The other number that was outside of the normal range was my triglycerides: 178 mg/dL.

So I know that my cholesterol level is great for my risk of heart disease but what I didn't realize is that having too little cholesterol is correlated with anxiety and depression -- and even violence and suicide. According to my NP this relationship between cholesterol and mood is likely because cholesterol is a precursor for hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline which, among other things, are necessary for a healthy stress response.

Now I recognize that most cholesterol, even for meat eaters, is produced in one's liver. For a typical american only 15% comes from eating cholesterol directly; of course for vegans all cholesterol must be produced internally. So my naturopath wants me to consume fish oil. I'm willing to do this if I absolutely have to but I'd rather figure out a way to address this while remaining vegan.

So far my strategy has been to increase my intake of saturated fat, essential nutrients and calories in general. So I'm eating a lot of coconut oil, avocado and nuts. I'm also taking a good multivitamin and I'm drinking some gotu kola tea every day. (According to the Prescription for Nutritional Healing gotu kola is contraindicated if one has high cholesterol.) I'm also taking spirulina and eating walnuts on my NP's advice. This advice is somewhat counterintuitive because walnuts, spirulina and avocado are all supposed to lower one's cholesterol! My NP claims that this is really only true if you have high cholesterol and that these things will actually promote homeostasis. Is this one of those counterintuitive truths that people love? Or is it bullsh*t? I don't really know.

So today I just did another, at home, cholesterol test. This test is supposed to be 97% accurate. Well it came back literally off the charts. The test comes with a little key to translate one's score (0-50) on the device to one's cholesterol level (120-400) in reality. Because my score was below where the key starts I called the company to help me determine where I was at. The best we could come up with was that my cholesterol today was at or below 100 mg/dL!

Any thoughts? Thanks so much for your help.

John L
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jimbrown1956 responded:
I don't see anything wrong with your numbers at all. What is normal under the typical Western diet is unusually high for a lot of the world. In rural China readings of 89 are not unusual. Mine is 108 and I am Vegan.

f1jim
 
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john_l97227 responded:
I know that for many people having a cholesterol level that is as low as or lower than mine is not a problem. However there have been several studies linking low cholesterol and depression and sometimes anxiety. In one study, using a random sample from a population of 30300 men, cholesterol of 176 mg/L or below was associated with depression at 4 to 7 times the rate of the control group. A summary can be found here:

hbns.org/newsrelease/lowcholesterol3-23-00.cfm

There have many other studies that have been done on this. At this point the research only shows a correlation -- nothing that I could find demonstrates causation. Clearly having 'low' cholesterol doesn't mean that you are automatically depressed, just that your chances of being depressed are much greater than people with higher cholesterol.

So has any vegan reading this successfully raised or lowered their cholesterol while they were vegan? (I'm trying to excluding people who lowered their cholesterol by becoming vegan.)

If so what did you do?

Thanks, John
 
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bearcub1952 responded:
Hi John:

I don't see where you told us what your cholesterol level is ?? what is your Total, your HDL, your LDL ??

Namaste
 
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john_l97227 responded:
My total is 123 mg/dL,'HDL-Direct'=42, 'LDL'=45.

John L
 
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RonrlmMc responded:
Hi John,

You asked for opinions. I would suggest that you read "Reversing Heart Disease," by Dr. Dean Ornish, M.D., who is one of the founders of this website, incidentally. His book explains that a blood cholesterol under 120 is necessary to reverse heart disease by reabsorbing plaque off the arterial walls. I suggest that you are one of the fortunate people in this world who does not have to worry about diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or some 20-30 chronic, degenerative diseases! I'm no doctor, but I just re-read you post and I'll be darned if I can figure out what the problem is! You felt bad for a couple of days? What's the problem?

You seem to be in great physical health, just a little bit short of social support and spiritual stability--if you want my opinion. If you want my cholesterol level of 164 I will gladly trade with you!

Ron
 
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jschlist responded:
Hey John, I'm sorry I can't help you, but if it makes you feel any better I seem to have the same problem. I try to be a vegan as well, but I felt so terrible that I started just randomly eating stuff and found that when I eat eggs I feel TREMENDOUSLY better. Fish oil seems to help somewhat as well, though not as much as having DHA eggs. The only explanation I have been able to find is the same one you have. But like you, I very much desire to be vegan so I'm trying not to eat eggs. But so far I haven't been able to find anything else that seems to help. It's kind of a catch 22. If you've found anything since this post I would love to hear about it. Cheers! Travis S
 
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momhenrya responded:
This thread is so old I know there's little to no chance anyone will see it, but here goes...

John--Do not listen to people who tell you, "What are you so worried about? That's a great number. You're fine!"

I have very low cholesterol (105), which I only discovered after a year of realizing that I wasn't "sick" per se, but I just didn't feel great. Anxiety, yes. Depression, at times, yes. Lack of motivation/initiative, definitely. And sometimes out of control anger and emotional outbursts that were not me and felt beyond my control. And subpar skin and hair, poor memory, infertility, etc.

I'm not vegan but my cholesterol is low due to a bowel resection I had as a teenager which causes bile (and the cholesterol) to leave my body everyday instead of recycling through to the liver. It all took a serious turn for the worst last year though when I became dairy intolerant and lost what was apparently a major source of the cholesterol I was needing.

I don't know much about staying vegan b/c the whole "good cholesterol lowering your overall cholesterol" thing is still a big mystery to me. I know that eating eggs has made me a new woman. Shrimp (which I'm sure is out of the question for you) is what helped me figure out this problem--after eating an enormous plateful of it while on vacation I felt it was the first time my body really felt satiated after a meal in a very long time.

I've had to figure all this out on my own by the way. No one cares about "too low" cholesterol and it is nearly impossible to find information about it. Good luck though and don't ignore the problem. It is a real problem that you need to solve.
 
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Louise_WebMD_Staff replied to momhenrya's response:
We definitely see it momhenrya! I am glad you responded. I am sorry to hear of your bowel problems. I know that is a risk I face because I have Crohn's disease.
~Louise Sr Community Moderator
 
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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD responded:
Well there is a lot of information in your post and if I were you I would go to a cardiologist for a second opinion regarding the low cholesterol level and also discuss your borderline high triglyceride level test result.

And perhaps more importantly...you might want to focus on your feelings of anxiety and depression which you mentioned in the very beginning of your post.

I wrote an article for WebMD a while back on food and mood. Here's the link in case it gives you some additional ideas.

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-food-affects-your-moods


For tips on lowering Triglycerides through diet, there's a whole section on this in my book, TELL ME WHAT TO EAT IF I SUFFER FROM HEART DISEASE. But here's a brief listing:

* avoid a high fat diet since triglycerides come from the fat we eat
* replace saturated fat and trans fat with monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, canola oil, and most nuts
* reduce your intake of sugar and other processed carbohydrates such as white flour and white rice
* if you drink alcohol, limit drinks to no more than one a day for women and two a day for men
* maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly--both help lower triglycerides
* add omega-3 fatty acids from fish to your diet (for people with high triglycerides, the Am Heart Assoc. recommends 2-4 grams of DHA and EPA a day under a doctor's supervision)
* add omega-3 fatty acids from plant foods to your diet (such as canola oil, ground flax, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe, and red kidney beans.)
* add soluble fiber to your diet

--Elaine Magee
 
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hnihno responded:
Hi John,
as someone who is in the same position as you (vegan, cholesterol < 100), can you give us an update on what you found out during those last 6 years?


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