Ayurveda Tips Managing Cholesterol

Ayurveda Disclaimer: The whole concept behind Ayurveda is that one size does not fit all. There is no one right answer that fits everyone because we are all special and unique. These tips are general management tips, all designed to manage, while also not imbalancing any of the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), tissues, or bodily function. While these are great beginning tips for management, a consultation will tweak diet and lifestyle tips to be refined to your unique dosha, weaknesses, and tendencies.

Please consider taking an Ayurveda Class if this is intriguing and you would like to dive in further for your own health, wellness, and studies! Intro to Ayurveda (September 24th 10-12, via Zoom) and Ayurvedic Routines (October 15th 10-12, via Zoom) are the foundational classes to get started.

General Tips for managing high cholesterol are going to come back to:

Movement, Nourishment, and Stillness. Let’s start with an example to remind us that one size does not fit all as you consider incorporating these tips into your diet and lifestyle. Let’s consider an example of Kapha Cholesterol vs. Vata Cholesterol to give us something to ponder before we move on. The management for Vata Cholesterol, which might come with low weight, stress, and pressure issues, is going to be very different from the management for Kapha Cholesterol, which might come with excess accumulation of gunk, excess unhealthy fat, and a sluggish gut. Very different stories that need very different plans. So please consider your “uniqueness” as you explore the tips below.

There are a couple of things to consider with high cholesterol that we often forget. First, we NEED cholesterol. It’s the building block of our cells. That’s why we have “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Even “bad” cholesterol is sometimes needed in excess: it gets driven into the cells to help heal and repair damaged tissue (which is why sometimes we have high cholesterol after trauma/surgery/illness). It’s a good thing. It’s also a natural balancer when Vata is depleted. The body is smart. Our job is to help the body re-find and maintain its own homeostasis (balance).

When thinking about cholesterol, I like to think about what’s clogging the tissues and channels of the body. And how I might: clean the “pipes”.

Nourishment:

Even when cholesterol is high, we need good fat. Consider why your doctor might suggest a fish oil supplement when there is high cholesterol. Fish oil can sometimes help to balance fat and cholesterol. (Secret: fish oil is not always a good thing: it may not be helpful if the body is struggling to process/digest fat–one size doesn’t fit all).

Ghee can be a really nice, easy to digest/assimilate fat to nourish the body and balance fats and cholesterol.

It may be tempting to give up all fats and even excessively fast to eliminate cholesterol. Intermittent fasting is trendy right now and often pushed as part of a “one size fits all” option, but don’t leap to any fasting. First, we don’t want to eliminate cholesterol (see above); we need it. Second, sometimes, when we over cleanse (fast, skip meals, and even when we limit macronutrients with seemingly “healthy” diets), the body compensates by creating MORE cholesterol to nourish, repair, and protect depleted channels. Channels get depleted when there is not enough nourishment to sustain them, so in comes cholesterol. This is sometimes why “skinny” people surprise us with high cholesterol. Depleting your body, if it’s already depleted, is going to create more issues.

So…EAT!!!! Eat really, good, easy to digest foods to give the body something to work with to build new healthy tissues as it eliminates excess “gunk”. We need to nourish our bodies or our body comes in to try and nourish without enough healthy nourishment to do so which creates unhealthy tissue and unhealthy function. Eat three meals a day: we talk a lot about this in Ayurveda and Digestion (November 12th 10-12, via Zoom); and you can “ask anything” in a BeeWell Gathering session (first Friday of each month at 6pm, via Zoom-October’s will be on September 30th).

Eat good, real food. Eliminate processed food. Processed food does not nourish the channels and tissues. It can clog the tissues and channels. And…we can get unhealthy fat accumulation and icky cholesterol as a result. Remember, cholesterol is often coming in to repair damaged tissues and channels; if all the body has to work with is “gunk”, it will rebuild with “gunk” until we give it good stuff to work with. So…did I mention: EatWell?

Eat easy to digest food (cooked), not too much, and a lotta plants (including grains; grains are helpful to “scrape” clogged channels). Quinoa is an excellent choice grain for cholesterol management.

Excellent food choices: takra, celery, quinoa, garlic, honey, and a hot mug of water in the morning. This hot mug of water with lemon or lime or ginger is part of an Ayurvedic Healthy Daily Routine. Clean those pipes every morning while they are already nice and clear.

Watch out for foods that are not nourishing, highly processed, heavy, clogging, sticky, and too much food. Eat enough, not too much. Lotsa vegetables!!

Movement:

Cholesterol is made worse by stagnation. That’s why we need to move. Every. Single. Day. Movement warms up the channels to help “melt” things that need to be released. Remember fat “melts” to move and cholesterol is a fat. Movement helps things that are stuck to move through the channels. Movement creates a bodily “friction” action that helps to scrape and clear places where we are stuck physically (and mentally too!). Walk at LEAST half an hour every single day. Briskly. Move that stickiness and stagnation O U T.

Stress is also a big cholesterol factor. Movement, especially yoga type activities, help to reduce stress as well as all of the above happiness things of movement. Remember that “yoga” isn’t always “yoga”, so choose your teacher and class wisely. Find a teacher that meets your needs; a good yoga teacher will help you find the right teacher for you!!

High Stress exercise may not be what the body needs: a) the body might be already stressed and that’s why there’s an abundance of excess cholesterol and gunk. b) if the channels and tissues of the body are “weak”, jumping into high exertion may be too much (you might even find you increase cholesterol as the body tries to protect those weak channels). Exercise to enough and appropriate. Start slowly and build. Be Gentle with your Body…it’s not a battle. Start by walking small hills. Gain momentum from there: maybe begin short bursts of jogging or climbing small mountains. Our exercise regimes do not have to be brutal to be of good and often pushing our bodies is counterproductive.

Breath-work practices (Pranayama) are really nice to clear channels and bring balance on a subtle level, which then affects the physical channels and tissues. Alternate Nostril Breathing is the number one channel clearing and balancing breath-work practice. Bonus: it reduces stress, balances hormones, and boosts immunity (that’s just for starters!!!). Pranayama (breathing practices) Practices for Fall and Winter begins this October (via Zoom this year). There are two part this year. Part One is to cultivate a personal practice and Part Two is designed develop and practice teaching Pranayama (Part Two is not restricted to yoga teachers; reach out for more information). Fall and Winter practices are the most healing and nourishing of the pranayama practices, and the class will include alternate nostril breathing. (Spring practices will return in 2023).

Stillness:

Pranayama (breathing practices) can be really sweet for stillness. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all and often cholesterol is not about being overweight and sedentary. Sometimes, it’s about too much stress and what is needed is a reduction of stress and pressure. Often when we have high cholesterol, we are less able to handle the pressures of a sympathetic nervous system responses. So find ways to manage stress: a good night’s sleep, yoga, mediation, walking, pranayama (you can see that many of these tools overlap). Start to get away from society’s pressure to be busy and overworked. Discover and relish deeply nourishing down time! Bonus: it’s radical and sets a good example for those we love and we worry about because they are so busy and overworked! Be kind to yourself and your loved ones.

High cholesterol might be your body’s way of screaming at you to just stop. Refocus and orient around what’s most important. That might begin with discovering what’s actually most important.

A couple final tips:

  1. Choose a couple of things to begin with. I’d suggest something from each category of nourishment, movement, and stillness and see what you can stick to and what happens when you do.
  2. Commit to daily movement!!!! Whether that is a walk, a daily yoga practice, a daily pranayama practice, or a nice combination of all three.
  3. Things accumulate, often without us noticing. A gentle cleanse each season or each fall and spring, is a nice way to eliminate excess “gunk” before it becomes a problem. Ask me about gentle cleanse or explore the blog.

Medical Disclaimer: These are useful tips for managing imbalances that lead to disEase, but are not to be used in place of medical advice from your Primary Care Physician. Please seek medical advice for diagnosis and treatment. Trillium Ayurveda (and Charlotte) considers medications, medical procedures, and medical advice part of your wellness toolbox. We advise our clients to have regular check ups and seek medical care when appropriate. We strongly remind everyone that there is NO SHAME in needing medical intervention for physical and mental health.

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