Hyperlipidemia and high cholesterol are usually related to two things: genetics and dietary choices. Western medicine’s treatments for these conditions are mainly statin medications, which are not the only weapons you can use. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in combination with healthy dietary choices also work in helping lower cholesterol levels in the body and either reduce reliance on drugs or delay their usage.
Hyperlipidemia is a condition that refers to the increase in the body’s fat or lipid levels in the blood. Different proteins are responsible for transporting the lipids to areas around the body and these proteins are the substances that anyone with high cholesterol is familiar with. LDL or low density lipoproteins and VDL or very-low density lipoproteins are the substances that are responsible for high cholesterol. The lipids are moved to the liver where they are transformed into compounds appropriate for storage as fat or adipose tissue or for immediate usage. When a problem arises with the transformation of LDL and VLDL in the body causing the accumulation of too much cholesterol in the blood, hyperlipidemia occurs.
Hyperlipidemia, from the viewpoint of Chinese medicine is due to spleen qi deficiency and overabundance of phlegm dampness. Since phlegm dampness usually develops as a result of the underlying spleen qi deficiency, it is deemed a branch symptom. The spleen qi may be unable to effectively extract the nutrients from foods when its function is weak or deficient. As a result, the excess food left over as either phlegm dampness or lipids that are transported in the blood. A weakness in the functioning of the digestive system and spleen qi (the system’s engine) can be attributed to three main factors: one is a poor diet. This can overwork the digestive system and make the function of the spleen more difficult. Stress is the second factor. Frustrations, anger, or worry are typical responses to being under constant stress. Frustration or anger harms the liver, which is intimately connected to the spleen and worry directly damages the spleen. It’s not uncommon to experience that during times of stress, your digestive system can feel just a off. The third and last factor is genetic or constitutional. Each of us are born with a certain amount of yin energy in our body and as time passes, this yin energy gradually wanes which can cause damage to kidney and liver systems resulting in overabundant phlegm dampness. Like Western medicine, Chinese medicine regardless of the factor, deems unhealthy dietary choices to be the biggest pre-disposing factors for hyperlipidemia and high cholesterol.
New studies into acupuncture treatment’s ability to lower high cholesterol levels has concentrated on one specific point, the Stomach 40 acupoint, which is commonly used by practitioners to help clear phlegm dampness from the organ systems. The study performed on mice led to results that the researchers concluded could physiologically explain how triglyceride and cholesterol levels could be lower by acupuncture. Besides this acupoint, the use of other points found throughout the body can lead to the supplementation of spleen qi, transformation of dampness, and the lowering of stress levels in the body. Various types of herbs are known to reduce plasma LDL and VLDL as well. They include notoginseng, root of angelica, and reishi mushrooms.
A good acupuncturist is one who would never suggest to patients the removal of their medications without first consulting their doctor but if you are not seeing results from your medication despite assiduously lowering your stress levels, exercising, and watching your diet, then going to an acupuncturist for help might be a good option for you. Besides, a lot of people taking drugs have acceptable cholesterol levels due to the medications themselves and those levels could rise dramatically if they stop taking their medication. For acupuncturists, this can be a really sensitive matter. Being an acupuncturist myself I would suggest my patients to adhere to dietary changes and a treatment plan designed to reduce their cholesterol to levels below those medication alone can produce and then talk to their doctor about lowering the dosage. It is obviously critically important to remember that when you are getting acupuncture treatment, you are also getting extra health benefits that go beyond its cholesterol lowering abilities.
So, if you think you may have high cholesterol and are tired of having to take drugs for it every day, you can always avail yourself of Chinese medicine and regular acupuncture treatment and be on a diet mainly based on whole foods and vegetables, it will surely help you lower your cholesterol to safe levels.
Cynthia Chamberlain is a licensed acupuncturist in Overland Park, KS., practicing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Western medical pathology. She is also the founder of Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC.