By Dr. Don Davis
The concern about cholesterol and heart disease has had quite the ride. It started with the
three decades of misinformation regarding cholesterol’s ability to cause heart disease. The idea was that heart disease is caused by too much cholesterol and high LDL’s – not true. And then there was the steady stream of questionable “facts” given to patients warning them that LDL cholesterol is the only thing that needs to be tracked during treatment. Both of these little gems have been finally proven incorrect, so now maybe we can move on.
The truth is, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is an inflammatory response to lipoproteins (fat proteins). Lipoproteins deliver cholesterol, but it’s actually the number of lipoproteins (LDL-P) in the blood rather than the amount of cholesterol they carry that is the best predictor of heart problems.
Another important marker of cardiovascular disease is Lipoprotein (a) or LP(a). When testing both LDL-P and LP(a) it’s possible to get a very accurate assessment of your actual heart status. Unfortunately, these are not included in blood tests from your family doctor but should be if you have any family history of heart issues or concerns about cholesterol.
Since these two markers are so important, it is imperative that we know the cause of their elevation so that we can make changes that can turn your risk from bad to good.
What can I change to improve my cardiovascular risk?
Well, there are several. I’ll concentrate on the gut link to heart disease but other causes are:
- Insulin Resistance (pre-diabetes)
- Low thyroid problems
- Clamydia infections
- Environmental toxicity
The gut and heart health
Microbes in the gut, both bacterial and viral can increase cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL-P and LP(a). There are several reasons for this but it turns out that lipids (fats) can actually help fight off infection or the microbes may change how our cells deal with fats.
Stomach Ulcers and heart disease?
You wouldn’t necessarily think that the problems in the stomach could cause problems in the heart but a particular bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the main cause of stomach ulcers, has been linked to heart disease since the mid 1990’s. In a case-controlled study, it was found that 60% of the heart disease patients also had an H. pylori stomach infection that was detected in the blood, and they had 3 times the heart risk. Interestingly, the H. pylori infection will increase cholesterol and triglyceride but lower the good HDL cholesterol.
At first the researchers were unsure about the cause of this elevation but further studies have shown that H. pylori has several ways to give your heart an ache:
- H. pylori increases inflammatory factors (cytokines) that damage the internal wall of your heart vessels. These cytokines will then move throughout the body causing havoc everywhere, and may play a role in arthritis, PMS, gingivitis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer as well.
- H. pylori infections cause an immune response to the white blood cells in the artery wall and increase the plaques of atherosclerosis
- H. pylori will promote the release of nitric oxide by the arterial wall that interferes with the protein that will decrease relaxation in the arteries leading to high blood pressure.
- H. pylori raises inflammatory biomarkers like CRP and IL-6 that cause a multitude of problems throughout the body.
- H. pylori increases thromboxane that increases platelets and clotting, resulting in high blood pressure and stroke.
This infection can be cured by the use of a natural anti-microbial supplement called mastic, a gum resin from a tree in Greece and there is a three-antibiotic treatment as well.
High cholesterol from Gut Pathology.
The gut wall is a sensitive and vulnerable place. When it begins to fail after prolonged inflammation, it leads to “leaky gut”. This allows liposaccharides (toxins) of certain bacteria to enter the blood and stimulate an immune response. This directly increases LDL –P and the risk for heart disease. Inflammation can be increased in the gut in many ways, but this usually happens as a result of dysbiosis – when the good bacteria outnumber the bad, SIBO – when the good bacteria are in the wrong place like the small intestine and with parasitic infection. These gut problems increase inflammation and the leakiness of the gut and in the end, your cholesterol goes up.
Sometimes cholesterol is affected without having to cause extra inflammation. For example, there is a particular protozoan (Leishmania donovani) infection that will increase cholesterol directly. This is very interesting because the increase in cholesterol is actually a protective response of the body against the infection. This is another case where looking to the cause is extremely important because if you didn’t know you had an parasitic infection and took a statin drug to artificially decrease your lipid levels, you would unknowingly increase the gut infection.
There has also been several studies that show particular bacteria (Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes) are especially susceptible to antibiotics. When their population decreases, it can cause elevated cholesterol and liver damage.
Many bacteria have been associated with lipid problems but it’s still difficult to know which bacteria are responsible for the elevation. In one study, 34 types of bacteria were associated with increased triglycerides and HDL.
Any way you look at it, the gut and it’s overall health, including the bacteria that live there are a major factor in the modulation of cholesterol and other lipids. So make sure that your intestines are free of inflammation and infection by testing with some of the latest, state-of-the-art gut profiles. These will give you and your doctor a clear direction for treatment and control of your cholesterol without having to be dependent on a medication for the rest of your life.
Now, let us know about your cholesterol issues and how you have solved them by fixing your gut.
Health is on the way…..