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How does gut health affect cholesterol levels?

How does gut health affect cholesterol levels?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made by our bodies and is also found in some foods. Present in every cell, Cholesterol is essential for building cell membranes, producing hormones, and metabolizing vitamin D. Cholesterol also plays a crucial role in cognitive function and preventing cognitive decline.  Cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only 20% comes from the foods you eat

You may have heard of cholesterol being referred to as "good" and "bad." Let me explain this briefly.  Cholesterol is transported in our blood via lipoproteins.  These are five main types of lipoproteins but when evaluating cardiovascular health we predominately focus on two types:

+  Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is termed "bad" cholesterol because high levels may correlate with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. However, it should not be the sole indicator of risk.

+  High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is considered "good" cholesterol as it removes LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. Therefore, higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and good health.

Maintaining a healthy balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol is the goal. At different stages of life cholesterol levels will change, during menopause for example.  This is not necessary a problem.  It is crucial to understand that cholesterol is not inherently harmful, and we can maintain healthy levels through diet, stress management, and good gut health.

Gut health impacts cholesterol levels in several ways:

1. Bile Acid Metabolism:

Bile acids, produced in the liver and released into the intestine, aid in the digestion and absorption of dietary fats. Certain gut bacteria play a key role in bile acid metabolism, modifying bile acids and influencing their recycling and absorption in the intestines. This process can impact the body's cholesterol balance, affecting both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.


2. Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs):

Specific gut bacteria ferment dietary fibres, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as by-products. SCFAs, such as butyrate, have been linked to improved cholesterol metabolism. They can inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver and promote the excretion of cholesterol from the body, contributing to a healthier cholesterol profile.


3. Inflammation and Gut Permeability:

Chronic inflammation and increased gut permeability can lead to the translocation of bacterial products into the bloodstream, a process known as endotoxemia. This may contribute to systemic inflammation and influence cholesterol levels. Elevated inflammation is associated with changes in lipid metabolism, affecting LDL and HDL cholesterol.


How to Support Gut Health and Improve Cholesterol Levels:

Dietary Fibre:

Consuming a diet rich in fibre promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fibre that can positively influence the microbiome and support optimal cholesterol metabolism.


Probiotics and Fermented Foods:

Probiotics, found in yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods, introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut. These microbes contribute to a balanced microbiome and potentially aid in cholesterol regulation.


Polyphenol-Rich Foods:

Foods rich in polyphenols, such as berries, green tea, and dark chocolate, have antioxidant properties that positively impact the gut microbiome. Polyphenols may support a diverse and healthy microbial community, influencing cholesterol metabolism.


Avoiding Artificial Sweeteners and Processed Foods:

Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners and certain additives in processed foods may negatively affect the gut microbiome. Choosing whole, unprocessed foods and eliminating artificial additives can positively impact gut health and cholesterol levels.


If you need support managing your cholesterol book an appointment with a naturopath at Elemental Health.   If you have any questions or would like to understand how we can help you with your health goals book a free Discovery call.  Alternately you can call our reception during business hours on (02) 8084 0081.



Posted on 16 December 2023
Author:Elemental Health
Tags:NutritionPreventative medicineGut healthCardiovascular health

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