A New Look at Cholesterol

Are you confused about good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, good fats and bad fats?

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, so we thought this would be a good time to ask Vaidya Manohar, our Maharishi Ayurveda health expert, to answer a few questions about cholesterol from the ayurvedic perspective.

Q: What is cholesterol?

Vaidya Manohar: First of all, it's important to understand that cholesterol is not mentioned in the ayurvedic tradition. Rather, the ayurvedic texts discuss meda dhatu (fat tissue) and explain how to maintain a healthy quantity and quality of fat tissue in the body. When meda dhatu is balanced and healthy, that helps to maintain balanced cholesterol.

Cholesterol in itself is not bad, and is actually essential for the body to function properly. So from the ayurvedic perspective, the production of cholesterol does not necessarily need to be lessened, but it needs to be balanced. When the digestion is balanced and healthy, then the body produces the right amount of cholesterol in the right proportion to nourish the body.

Q: How do you maintain a healthy quantity and quality of fat tissue?

Vaidya Manohar: The principle factor behind balance in the body is balanced agni (digestive fire). Digestion is quite literally the basis for good health in every part of the body.

For instance, the creation of healthy body tissue (dhatu) requires a brightly-burning digestive fire, or metabolic process. A strong agni is equally important for the body's functioning and elimination of malas (waste products). Therefore, when digestion, assimilation, and elimination are balanced, fat tissue and cholesterol will also be balanced.

Q: What is the role of the liver in producing healthy fat tissue and balanced cholesterol?

Vaidya Manohar: It's important to understand that the liver not only produces cholesterol; it's also part of the digestive system. It's the place where toxins are filtered before they enter the bloodstream. If the liver becomes overloaded with toxins, its functioning can become impaired. When this happens, it disturbs the 13 types of digestive fires.

This results in three types of imbalances: 1) an excess of meda dhatu, 2) a lack of meda dhatu, or 3) meda dhatu mixed with ama (digestive impurities caused when digestion is weak). When meda dhatu mixes with ama, it changes the quality of the tissue. This mixing of ama with fat tissue is the main cause of imbalanced cholesterol. The liver is responsible for qualitative digestion and, therefore, for the quality of the fat tissue and cholesterol that is being produced.

Q: What causes toxins to mix with the fat tissue?

Vaidya Manohar: To understand this, we need to look at how meda dhatu is formed. All of the seven tissues are formed in a sequence of metabolic transformations, and the health and strength of each type of tissue is based on the previous one. When you eat food, it is converted into the rasa (nutritive fluid) and from there is transformed into rakta (blood plasma), and sequentially converts to mamsa (muscle), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (bone marrow), and finally, shukra (reproductive fluid).

If ama has accumulated in the nutritive fluid, blood plasma or muscle tissue, which are all raw material for forming fat tissue, then that ama will also be present in the fat tissue.

Another cause of ama mixed into the fat tissue is the consumption of fats which are not easily digestible. This includes the saturated fats found in meat, butter, hard cheese and palm oils. The worst types of fat, virtually indigestible, are the trans fats, or hydrogenated vegetable oils, that are found in almost all packaged, processed and fast foods.

Rancid or overheated fats are also to be avoided. I think it's obvious why you shouldn't eat fats that are spoiled. But overheating fats is just as bad. Most polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, sesame) are processed with chemicals or heat, and their nutritional value is destroyed. They end up creating free radicals, contributing to oxidized fats, or cholesterol, in the body. This can happen even if you use cold-pressed oils, especially when frying or cooking at high heats.

Consuming too much fat overall, even if it's the good kind of fat, overwhelms the digestion and leads to ama. While all of these factors can cause high cholesterol, the most dangerous combination is eating large quantities of unhealthy fat, which can happen easily if you eat fast foods or processed, packaged foods on a daily basis.

Q: What are the good types of fats recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda?

Vaidya Manohar: The two fats recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda are ghee and olive oil. Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by boiling butter and separating out the milk solids. What is left is a clear, pure fat that can be heated to high temperatures without destroying its natural qualities.

Ghee provides essential fatty acids (fats that cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food). Ghee is the most easily digestible fat, and it contains Vitamins A and E and acts as an antioxidant. It is also a highly intelligent type of fat, because it is a food that converts quickly into ojas, the master coordinator that integrates consciousness, mind and body. Ojas is another word for nature's intelligence in the body. Ghee is known as medhya, a substance that supports mental functioning and improves learning, retention and recall, in the same way that certain herbs nourish the mind.

The other oil that is recommended is olive oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which means that it actually lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. But it is important to choose first cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, which means that the oil is pressed from the olives without heat or unnatural processing. This method of processing has been followed for thousands of years, and it doesn't destroy the nutritional quality of the oil, unlike modern processing methods, which involve high heat and chemical additives.

It's also important not to heat olive oil at high temperatures for cooking. Use it for baking, for salad dressings, and for low-heat sautéing of spices and vegetables. If you need to heat the oil at higher temperatures, it's better to use ghee.

Canola oil is also a monounsaturated fat. But 50 percent of the canola grown in America and Canada today is genetically modified, which means that its natural intelligence is destroyed. For this reason, canola oil is not recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda.

Q: What kinds of products does Maharishi Ayurveda offer for general cholesterol protection?

Vaidya Manohar: Cholesterol Protection is an herbal product that enhances digestion and liver function, generating more bile and balancing the overall amount of healthy fat tissue including cholesterol. But it goes beyond the simple increasing of bile by improving fat metabolism, thus reducing the production of excess cholesterol, and creating a healthier ratio of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) to HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It strengthens liver function, enhances successful metabolism of food, and builds plasma, blood, muscle and fat tissue. It enhances the quality, quantity and metabolism of fats, helping break down fatty foods so they can be converted to healthy fat tissue.

Finally, it flushes cholesterol from the elimination tract. This is also a very important factor, because when the liver purifies toxins and bad cholesterol, it dumps them into the large colon to be eliminated by the body. So it's very important that the elimination system be strengthened to cleanse the bad cholesterol from the body.

Liver Balance is also recommended to stimulate the liver's cleansing mechanism, helping to flush out impurities that can inhibit its proper functioning. This formula strengthens the first two steps of digestion, which take place in the stomach and small intestine. There are many side benefits to strengthening the liver besides balancing cholesterol production, such as clearer skin, enhanced immunity and higher energy levels.

BP Balance cleanses and nourishes the circulatory system and helps improve resistance to stress. Managing stress and keeping the arteries and circulatory system healthy is an important preventive measure for anyone who is concerned about their cholesterol levels, hypertension and heart health.

Q: What about people who have emotional stress associated with cholesterol imbalances? Does MAPI offer anything for them?

Vaidya Manohar: This is an important point to bring out — that emotional and mental stressors affect the cardiovascular system and also need to be addressed along with cholesterol levels. Many studies have shown that fear, anger and depression can cause heart disease. With the build-up of toxins in the liver, many people experience increased anger and emotional ups and downs. In turn, emotional stressors can disrupt digestion, causing more toxins to build up in the liver and affecting cholesterol balance.

For people with emotional stress, Stress Free Emotions can build natural resistance to emotional stress and fatigue. Stress Free Emotions balances Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs emotional health, thus building self-confidence, positive thinking and feelings of fulfillment. It also supports emotional stability and improves coordination of mind and emotions.

Q: Since healthy digestion is such a big part of balanced cholesterol production, is there anything you'd recommend for better digestion?

Vaidya Manohar: Yes, for people who wish to improve digestion we recommend taking Organic Digest Tone, which is a powerful herbal elixir called a rasayana. The legendary effects of amla berry, haritaki (chebulic myrobalan) and bibhitaki (belleric myrobalan) have anti-aging and healing qualities. They act as a mild laxative, purifying the bowel and sweeping excess toxins and cholesterol from the body. When combined with Cabbage Rose, these herbs have an even greater effect. Organic Digest Tone promotes ojas, the finest product of digestion, helping to balance the digestive system for healthier cholesterol production and bringing many additional benefits of increased energy, immunity and stable mood.

Product Review: Cholesterol Protection & BP Balance

"I recently suffered a minor heart attack. One of my arteries was 99% blocked. I was told I would have a long-term struggle getting my cholesterol in balance. I took the medicine they prescribed and had some pretty bad reactions.

I added Cholesterol Protection and BP Balance to my routine, along with the host of prescriptions. In 68 days all my cholesterol numbers dramatically improved way beyond the heart specialist's goals and expectations. Also, my blood pressure went from 150/95 to 120/80."

— I. R. (Fairfield, IA)

In a continuing effort to serve you better, Maharishi Ayurveda has developed an exciting new program that will provide more profound results as well as reduce your overall costs of achieving perfect health, balance and wellness.

Based on the recommendation of Maharishi Ayurveda experts (vaidyas) and trained health professionals, and feedback from many of you, we are designing kits that target specific areas of wellness. They are especially designed to address acute health conditions and are a great way to experience faster and more profound results by using formulas in combination with one another, for a more powerful synergistic effect. Our comprehensive health solutions will now be even more affordable when purchased as a kit.

For tips on lowering your cholesterol with ayurvedic diet and daily routine, see:

MAPI Cholesterol Products

Cholesterol Protection System

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.