My Battle With High Cholesterol and What I’m Doing About It

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To read an update to this post, please check out UPDATE: My Battle With High Cholesterol and How I Avoided Statins.

I’ve been a little quiet around social media this week, in fact I’ve been quite quiet in real life, too. I got some information a couple of weeks ago that sparked something of a paleo crisis for me and caused me to do a lot of thinking.

Cholesterol up, way up.

Every other year I get my cholesterol checked. Not for fun but because I believe that information is power and in light of the fact that three of my grandparents died of heart disease, two of them not much older than I am now, I want to be as informed as I can be in order to make good decisions should it become necessary.

Up until now, my test results were always OK although I’d been watching my LDL (bad cholesterol) jump around in the high-normal area. This was my first test since going paleo and I was very curious to see what my results would be given that the lifestyle and especially diet has a reputation for reducing cholesterol blood markers.

LDL sky-rocketed.

You never want to see a comment from your doctor that starts with ‘Wow!’ and ends with ‘ASAP.’ My cholesterol number was through the roof. Way, way too high. My doctor told me to make an appointment as soon as possible to discuss treatment and I knew from past experience that this would involve me leaving her office with a script, depression and a feeling that I’d just failed to communicate effectively with someone who speaks a different language.

Cholesterol, Total 327 <200 mg/dL
Triglyceride, Ser/Plas <20 <150 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol 100 >40 mg/dL
Direct LDL Chol 205 <130 mg/dL
Cholesterol/HDL Ratio 3.3 <5 ratio
Non-HDL Chol, Calc 227 <160 mg/dL
High Sensitivity CRP 0.5 <3.0 mg/L

How could this be?

I am a 48 year-old woman, I eat no processed food, sugar, or grains, I sleep well, I am not chronically stressed nor am I dealing with any major life stressor. I weigh 125lbs. Was I really about to be put on statins? Possibly for the rest of my life? The idea appalled me.

But, wait.

As I studied my results, I noticed something very weird, my HDL (good cholesterol) was fantastic! And if my LDL was through the roof, my triglycerides were through the floor. And that’s a good thing. Vitamin D levels, fasting blood sugar, C-reactive protein, blood pressure  – all great. There was just that LDL thing pushing my cholesterol number over the top. And my GP into a panic.

Worshipping at the altar of Google.

I started doing some research. I read an article on cholesterol at Marks Daily Apple. And a podcast transcript concerning a very similar case to mine over at Robb Wolf. I found someone with a similar test profile who was going for further testing. And then I read this one on the sophistication (or not) of more advanced cholesterol testing. The information ruminated in my mind all week.

Could I be a paleo blogger on statins?

I would do anything to avoid that, honestly. Anything. But I am also not prepared to play with fire. If there is a problem, it needs to be addressed. Just not with drugs as a first resort. So what is my plan of action to attempt to avoid that?

A new doctor.

I haven’t made an appointment to see my original doctor but I have found a new one. One who was familiar with the paleo diet and not inclined to fill out a script for Lipitor as a reflex reaction.

I put a little video together describing the threads that came together to find my paleo doctor and what I learned from that process.

I’ve had a repeat test to check the first wasn’t an anomaly (it wasn’t) so now I will have another round of testing to see if we can further clarify the situation. Sadly, cholesterol testing is very imperfect and I will not get a complete picture of the situation purely from that so I have other plans.

Deepen my commitment to paleo.

This might seem counter-intuitive given that my cholesterol situation has worsened (at least on paper) since I adopted this lifestyle. In the past, my response to finding my dietary experiments were not working would be to throw out whatever it was I’d put in place to address my problem. And eat sugar.

But paleo isn’t an experiment. It makes total sense to me from a scientific, evolutionary and anthropological standpoint. I am not throwing it out, nor have I eaten any sugar. And I am not about to go back to the standard American diet. Instead I’m going to tweak how I apply paleo principles. As Mark Sisson described to me in a recent email about the future of paleo: “I see it growing in scope. Right now, you have high-carbers, near-fruitarians, raw-foodists, and everyone else aligning themselves under the ancestral or Primal or paleo name, putting together their diets according to similar principles.” I’m going to be one of those people.

More fish, more grass-fed beef and chicken

For a while now I’ve been thinking of adding more fish into my diet. Currently, I eat it about once a week. I don’t particularly like it, it is expensive and more delicate to cook so I’ve resisted this step. But I do feel better when I eat it. I take fish oil capsules to give my Omega 3’s a boost but as we absorb nutrients from our food better than via supplements, eating more of the real thing seems a smart thing to do.

I’ve been a bit wonky on beef, not always eating grass-fed because of the cost so I will be cleaner on that and I will lower the amount of beef in my diet in favor of fish and chicken. My grocery bill is higher because of these decisions but as I’ve said before, it is important to bet money on our health. We can pay our grocer or we can pay our doctor. I choose grocer.

Treat my leaky gut

My cholesterol news this week was further compounded by the fact that I came to the realization that I had a leaky gut. I’ve been on the autoimmune protocol for paleo for several months and had been adding back in the foods (or perhaps more truthfully, not resisting them as well ;-).) As I did so, all my symptoms returned! Pain, sleepiness, itchy eyes, restless legs, I even got a bout of interstitial cystitis this week right after telling someone that paleo had helped so much with it!

Being soooo sensitive to even supposedly healthy foods like blueberries gave me pause. I’ve read about leaky gut for years but never seen it as applying to me. It wasn’t until I got well and then got sick again that I realized I had to face up to it. Still, I resisted.

I read a few websites and the leaky gut series of posts by Paleo Mom on Paleo Parents. Chris Kresser talks a lot about fermented foods but they don’t sound very tasty to me and the idea of growing my own yogurt cultures has always seemed like a fantastic opportunity to poison myself with unhygienic kitchen experiments. In the podcast I mention above, Robb Wolf talks about the importance of reducing systemic inflammation resulting from ingesting foods that irritate the gut lining as a way to help high cholesterol issues and avoid statins. But it was after reading Dean’s book, Make Shift Happen, and specifically the shift on resistance, the penny dropped. I needed to shift myself. Literally.

So I’m also going to embark upon the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) protocol. I have ordered the book, a step-by-step guide, bought some sauerkraut and will be working on the introductory phase of the diet over the next few weeks.

Less time spent at my keyboard.

GAPS can be done entirely in accordance with paleo principles but it takes some effort. It will take more time than I am used to spending on food especially in the beginning. But as Edward Stanley said: “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” I’ve already spent enough time being ill. Time to switch it up. That may mean fewer blog posts while I concentrate elsewhere but I will come back with updates on my progress. And I aim to continue a once a week schedule. I might just slip here and there so bear with me.

So that’s been my week. I am clearly still a work-in-progress but using all the resources at my finger-tips, a proactive state of mind and a little bit of luck, I have a good plan to address these bumps in the road on my way to great health. Onward and upward!

What proactive actions do you take when you get some negative feedback on your journey to good health? Do you have any experience with high cholesterol or the GAPS diet? Tell me in the comments!

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Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

Melisa May 1, 2012 at 6:11 am

I can understand what you’re going through, as I’m one of those people who have GAINED weight on Paleo, and I didn’t need to gain any if you know what I’m saying. I also agree with the Paleo/Primal ideas, however I’ve realized that I have to tweak it a bit–less heavy meats, more vegetables. I’m not the person who can eat bacon every day or meat for my only food. I feel best if I have a big a** salad each and every day and fill my plate with veggies first at other meals.
It’s frustrating as a health coach and fitness trainer to have gained weight and not seem to be able to take it off when I have all the ‘tricks’ at my disposal.
We just had our blood work done for health insurance and I get that report back at the end of the month. I’m interested to see what my profile looks like too-my cholesterol was 198 with LDL on the high side. Genetically, I’m predisposed to high cholesterol, so diet will play a very important role for me. Now just finding the right recipe for that diet will make all the difference.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 6:20 am

Hi Melisa! I didn’t lose any weight for over a year on paleo, 2-3 lbs maybe just. It wasn’t until I did the autoimmune protocol that the weight fell off – about 10lbs. Intuitively I feel I was designed/evolved to eat lighter meats especially meat and while I have no sound evidence for it and perhaps I’m reaching a bit, the fact that I am blonde with fair skin and light green eyes, all recessive genes, suggests that I have a north northern hemisphere ancestry who ate lots of fish. I feel strongly that our ancestors didn’t all eat the same diet. They ate in accordance with their local food source so some would have eaten red meat, some fish, others more heavily biased towards vegetation. And of course our genes are now so mixed up we can’t determine anything except by trial and error. I’ll be interested to hear how your markers turn out. Thanks for commenting! :-)
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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Melisa

Follow your intuition……..a little weight gain is a whisper, overweight is loud and obesity is a scream…..just listen the quiet voice and to your body before it starts to scream at you.

I hear you……..I have too gained weight and intuition is guiding me to overlap Paleo with the Blood Type Diet and the Plate Diet and Portion Control Diet and just using my Hand as nature’s measurement tool…….I do not believe they are mutually exclusive……nah! not too complicated……much….lol

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Julie May 1, 2012 at 6:52 am

I am sorry you have to deal with this…But I think you are absolutely right to find a new practitioner and get to the root of the issue before diving into statins :) Hope everything gets sorted out for you.
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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 6:54 am

Thanks Julie. It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure. And I have enough experience to know that these challenges, if worked through, can absolutely result in a better outcome that was previously the case. Just finding an nutrition and paleo-centric doctor that knows what I’m talking about is awesome!
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Erin May 1, 2012 at 7:13 am

Alison, thank you so much for being so open and willing to share your experience. While I am sad to know that you are having to endure quite alot, I am grateful that you have the ability to educate through your experience.
I’m not a big user of supplements, but my husband and I were turned onto one called Protandim. I’ll spare you the details here and refer you to their site if you want info; protandim.com. One of our sons Kung Fu instructors turned us onto it. It has changed his life, and his GP has started prescribing it to patients.
DIY fermenting can be a bit scary. Everytime I make kombucha, in the back of my mind I picture myself drinking straight from Ganges. If you’re not already familiar with this site,Cultures For Health, http://www.culturesforhealth.com/ has a lot of info and products.

Best of luck! Thanks again for sharing your journey.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 7:38 am

Hi Erin: Thank you for seeing the big picture. This isn’t a woe-is-me situation at all but a chance to learn and strive for an even better outcome. I had never heard of anyone actually increasing their cholesterol on paleo before this so is new territory for me and others I suspect.

I will check out those links, thank you, I had to laugh at your Ganges comment. That is *exactly* how I feel. I drink it down and wonder what on earth is going to happen. So far, so good, though I still have to make my own as opposed to purchasing it. Thanks for your comment! :-)
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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Erin

Great comment….

“I picture myself drinking straight from Ganges.”

Science has done the dirty on us having us believe germs are bad and so we pasteurise, homogenise and sterilise everything and we are sicker as a result of it. We would be better severed to think hygiene rather than sterile because our wellness depends on the bacteria we host so feed them well.

Drinking from the Ganges may just be what we need to repopulate our gut with the bacteria we need…..

Stay sane with the wealth of information out there…..and remember 60% of your body’s neurotransmitters are in your gut and only 40% are in your brain…….so believe it……you are what you eat.

Eat well….get a pinch of dirt and sprinkle it on your next meal…..lol

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Steve Skojec May 1, 2012 at 7:35 am

HI Alison,

I just had bloodwork drawn (no results back yet) for the first time since I went Primal 3 months ago. 2 years ago, the last time I had the blood draw, my cholesterol had crept into the 240s overall (can’t remember the breakdown, but it wasn’t positive.) My blood pressure was also creeping into the danger zone.

This time, my BP was 126 over 84, which is hands-down the best it’s been in years. I was hoping to see similar results on blood lipids, but this makes me wonder.

Something that’s sticking in the back of my head about this is the more recent discovery of distinctions in LDL. As I recall, type-B LDL – the small, dense stuff largely associated with high-grain diets – is the kind that is dangerous. “Fluffy” LDL is apparently starting to be viewed as harmless. Which brings the “total LDL” number into question, if it’s not being broken down this way.

I don’t know if you’ve researched these distinctions at all. I can’t remember where I recently heard about this, but I’m thinking that if your “fluffy” LDL makes up the bulk of that number, things might not be so bad as they look, especially in conjunction with your HDL and triglyceride levels.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 7:44 am

You’re absolutely right, Steve. The links in the post will take you to posts on Marks Daily Apple and one other – testing for types A and B will identify the type of LDL present. My profile – low triglycerides and high HDL (healthy) correlates with the benign particles and if that is shown to be the case it is likely I have less to worry about BUT the testing isn’t reliable (yet) and not something I would hang my hat on. I am waiting on those results and will likely have one other to check plaque levels but while I wait I’m making the dietary changes because it seems the smart thing to do.
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Steve Skojec May 1, 2012 at 7:58 am

Interesting. I found a paleo doctor here in Virginia, and she recommended that I get a Berkeley Heart Lab extended lipid panel test done. So when that comes back, we’ll have a followup to talk about the results. My understanding is that it’s a pretty thorough breakdown of all this stuff. I’m interested to see what the reults will be.
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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

Let me know how it goes.
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Monique DiCarlo May 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Good to hear Steve, I’ll ask for that one at my next blood test! Also in Virginia, wondering about your doctor, because mine prescribed statins right away…

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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Steve

Thanks for that info because my LDL is a little up too………I would love to access a ‘Paleo’ doctor as I tend to avoid them and consult with Dr Google…….not good I know.

Years ago, I saw a documentary here in Australia, about cholesterol and the presenter, a doctor used diet to decrease his cholesterol and it worked. He then visited an amateur boxer who had a dozen raw eggs in a smoothie each morning as part of his diet and his cholesterol was so low it didn’t even register.

It confirmed my commitment to questioning the SAD [Standard Australian Diet here....] and flipping the food pyramid on it head because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Fluffy sounds good…….

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PocketfluffAU May 1, 2012 at 7:50 am

You mentioned Chris Kresser in your post, but made no reference to http://chriskresser.com/i-have-high-cholesterol-and-i-dont-care , so there it is just in case you haven’t read it :) He shows the results of his blood test (which seems very similar to yours) and explains it.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

Thank you :-) I didn’t see it. I searched and searched his site and this didn’t come up.
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Diane May 1, 2012 at 7:57 am

How much excercise are you getting and what type? For me I can be very good about the food part and not so great about the excercise. A big part of the Paleo lifestyle is about moving as much as our ancestors did. Even cqnventional wisdom recognizes that excercise plays an important role in maintaining good cholesterol levels. Some of your results seem very good and surely stressing more about food cannot help but contribute to various imbalances. I am in the same boat as you on a couple of fronts and I am committed to seeing if more Paleo type activity won’t help with gut and cholesterol. Best of luck to both of us!

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

Good luck to you too, Diane. While it is true I haven’t exercised much recently (I broke my foot a couple of months ago) I have been very active for years before that. Tweaking my diet (and that’s all it is by this point – all the hard transition work has been done over months prior to this) is about finding my own personal paleo prescription. I am very anti the ‘one size fits all’ approach and feel we all need to find our own personal dietary combo that fits us optimally – within paleo principles of course. :-)
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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Diane

It sounds trite but do what you love…….

I love a clean house so I don’t economise the effort necessary to get the job done. As an example I will take those extra steps to put that one item, and another and another, away at the other end of the house. I don’ t put them in a pile and get to it later because I know those extra steps add to my activity levels.

When I go shopping I take time to go up and down all the aisles and when a new SAD or Diet product catches my eye I will squat or reach for it and I check out the food panel and compare it to Paleo, have a laugh and think “where IS the food” and I call it ‘active’ education which I share [endlessly] with others.

I have a sister who loves to garden so it is like a working meditation for her and she can do it for hours……no effort…….me I get out there once in a blue moon.

What moving activity do you love that puts you in the zone…….do it…but remember the 80/20 rule….diet is 80% and exercise is 20% of weight loss, health, fitness and wellbeing.

Feeling good makes you want to move so get that right and the rest will happen.

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Chris May 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

Hi Alison,
I am really happy to see that you did not jump on the statin wagon when you heard your cholesterol level had gone up. Many many peope do not realize that a nomal cholesterol level is an age related number and can be as high as 365 and still be normal. The <200 number which we now take as THE number is a guideline only. If you were to look in a laboratory diagnostic testing book you would see that normal levels are much higher. Just as the diet food industry and the pharmaceutical companies have us all convinced that we need their drugs and we need their pseudo-foods, the conventional medical wisdom has us convinced we need to be under the magic number of 200. You commented that your other lipid numbers are good, a couple even better, and this is the key. Wise decision to seek out a paleo friendly Dr. who can help you feel better about the numbers. I've been in the medical laboratory field for 38 years and have seen trends come and go, and in that 40 year span, cholesterol levels have been the most knocked around test there is. I am not saying throw caution to the wind, just be vigilant about where you stand. (I want to also say that a CRP of 0.5 is super good. In the lab I work in that is the lowest we can report as a number. Anything lower is reported as <0.5). You are an inspiration to many.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

Thanks for your comment, Chris! My doctor also said he’d never seen triglycerides so low. :-) Your information is very interesting to me. It just goes to how messed up thing are. I’d be on statins by now if I listened to my first doctor.
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Holly May 1, 2012 at 8:15 am

Hi Alison,
Way to take charge of your own health! I wish more people would do that. Always question! We have SO much in common-I am 49, T-tapp, have gut issues, have kids that have benefited greatly from Paleo & I just sought out a Paleo doctor myself! My issue was not cholesterol, I went to get my hormones checked since I had gained weight during the Whole30. I was alarmed so I did it again, and I gained more weight. My doc adjusted my supplements, added a few, and requested that I try sleeping grounded. I just order the mat but I haven’t received it yet. In the meantime, I decided to drop the tiny bit of fruit I was having each day (for the previous year I had not been eating fruit) and the 100% (yes, 100%) dark chocolate I was nibbling on here and there. I also cut out the yams and coconut products besides the oil. [By the way, I am detailing this for the other person that gained weight.] Basically, all I am eating is meat/eggs/seafood/veggies/natural fats (butter, ghee, coconut oil, MCT oil) and limiting myself to only 20 raw almonds a day (but I allow myself plenty of the other foods/fats). On date night with my husband, once a week, I might have a few sweet potato fries, some fruit, and a glass or two of wine. I am in my 3rd week of doing this and it’s really made a difference. The most notable effect has been with my brain-the brain fog is gone, I feel less moody, and have better focus. Interestingly, that small amount of sugar from fruit seemed to be feeding the sugarholic in me because after about a week off of it, I don’t crave snacking between meals anymore. If I do feel hungry, I cook a couple eggs in coconut oil. The way I am eating may seem very limiting to some people and it would have to me too, but I feel SO much better! One more more thing, I am drinking the Bulletproof Coffee recipe by Dave Asprey each morning for breakfast. I ordered the coffee but haven’t received it yet. Oh and another, I am doing the primary back stretch & dry brushing a la T-tapp morning and evening (which I had kind of dropped the ball on during the holidays and after). My next step is to get the 15 min. workout back in. I have been dealing with a injury and having to go to PT so I haven’t been working out much besides walking lately. Good luck, thanks for sharing, & please keep us posted!

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hi Holly! Thanks for your detailed comment. Love it. Fruit seems to be my nemesis. Just a little bit and whoof, all my symptoms pile back on. A T-Tapper huh? I’m finding more and more of us around – just not in my real life, sadly. I too am injured right now but generally walk hills three or four times a week and 15 mins of T-Tapp daily. Did you know Dave Asprey and his wife do T-Tapp? I’ve looked at his coffee but as I haven’t drunk it in years – gave me headaches and sinus pain – I daren’t add it in just at the moment. Your diet sounds identical (sure we’re not twins? ;-)) to mine, I am hoping though that I can have a little bit of leeway with it – I would like to be able to eat blueberries without getting jittery and having histamine reactions – and that’s what I’m hoping to resolve with the GAPS protocol.
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Andi Rickard May 1, 2012 at 8:53 am

Alison, please don’t forget in amongst all the fine details that, in women, the higher the total cholesterol the lower the all-cause mortality rate. Statins are completely contra-indicated in women. Please don’t add stress to your problems!! Look after yourself.x

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:39 am

Thank you, Andi, for reminding me of that. I read about this when I was doing my research. Here’s a link to a Science Daily article about how higher cholesterol levels were associated with greater stroke risk in men only. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110221071523.htm
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Chris B May 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

Alison,
I’m sure you noticed (I think it was in the post on Mark’s site) that LDL is usually a “calculated” number and that if your triglycerides are really low – like yours are – it just totally throws that number out-of-whack. Also, like you mentioned and as I understand it, with numbers like yours, your LDL is most likely all Type A (otherwise known as fluffy beachballs) and is more protective than harmful.

I thought my doctor was going to hyperventilate about my last TC number which was about the same as yours, but when I asked him why he didn’t, he just said, “Heck, as good as the rest of your numbers are, I don’t see any reason to worry about it.”

So, my unsolicited advice to you (and I have a fair amount of heart disease in my family too) is to just keep on keepin’ on … ;p

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 9:43 am

‘Keep on, keepin’ on’ is one of my mantras. :-) I find it amazing though that my original GP went straight to treatment as the default reaction. Jeez. My paleo doctor didn’t blow the idea of statins out of the water before testing further (I like conservative and investigative but not knee jerk.) Just goes to show how proactive and educated we *have* to be to maintain (and protect!) our health. Especially if we don’t fit the typical profile with unhealthy lifestyle factors. Thanks for getting back to me, Chris.
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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Chris

“Heck, as good as the rest of your numbers are, I don’t see any reason to worry about it.”

Thanks for that info…..it reflects my Doctor’s response….because all my other markers including weight are good she sent me off without a script.

We do get so caught up in numbers, don’t we….

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Monique DiCarlo May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Thank you Alison for your honest “report” and commenters for their wise advise! I just started Paleo beginning of March (47, 150 lbs) at the same time I stopped taking my statins. After reading up (a huge worshipper at the Google altar I am) I decided that my 220 was not that high and although heart diseases and elevated cholesterol runs in my family, that doesn’t mean my genes are expressing the same as theirs! Last January I had my yearly check up and because I was going towards 50 doc wanted an EKG done and she discovered a delayed QT interval, which of course scared me…I wanted to stay far away from a cardiologist but made one appointment none the less. He did another EKG and said it was not that significant (also I found out that women usually have a little more QT delay than man anyway!) Of course he wanted to push me through multiple thorough cardio tests, but I thanked him and embarked on my Paleo journey. I knew I had not been exercising enough in the past 3 years, so I restarted that effort. I have not lost any weight yet, but think (reading the awesome comments here) I need to adjust a few things, one of them being the great fruit eater that I am and I also love nuts! I also need to start more weight training, but have no budget now for a club, so I’ll have to do with some at home. I am a little scared for my next doctor check up at the end of this year, yet I do feel so much better and energetic, so will shoot for the best!
Love to you all! Mo

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hey Mo! I was really inspired by your comment because you are taking charge. Fruit and nuts are devil food for me and I can’t eat them – who knew something so healthy could bother us so much? I am in favor of a gradual phase out of certain foods especially if we are addicted them – took me over a year to mentally get in the right frame of mind to stop nuts. I find gradual is much more sustainable that way. I workout at home with a kettlebell (can’t remember if was $15 or $30 now) and a DVD. Also have a pull-up bar ($20) and T-Tapp DVDs from $20 up. Clubs work for some people but for me I resent spending my time in the car getting to and from so have worked out at home for years. Thank you for commenting!
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Monique DiCarlo May 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Thanks for the home devices tips, I had already been looking into the kettlebell, and I was wondering about a pull up bar, great! I checked the Tapp videos on youtube and I think they are great because it is not too strenuous, yet feels very effective. I am transitioning very gradual because I also have a 9 year old daughter and I want to include her as much as possible. I did cut out grains completely and feel much better with that, the biggest challenge is dairy, but like Mark wrote in his book people from Dutch descent ( I moved to the US from Holland 12 years ago) do digest diary much better than most other people. Was not a milk drinker but love yogurt and cheese. Have made my own yogurt and it is really easy and very yummy. Also make kefir, well I don’t ;-) the kefir grains do all the work. I loved beans, but my gut hated them, so cutting them out was another gained freedom. Sugar was not a huge problem, but I know I can cut that down more, even though I never ate processed sweets from the grocery store (only my own home made items) and found most American food way too sweet, I realize that in order to balance my insuline more and start burning fat, I need to cut it out more. Find it very inspiring to meat other Primal friends and it is a very welcoming community!
XOMO

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Paula May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

You have faced some challenges to say the least, with the foot and this preliminary test news. I know this took tremendous courage for you to do this big reveal, but take pride because your candor is going to help a lot of people! I would do exactly what you are doing: not jump to statins (great HDL & Tri’s!), research, make some diet & fitness adjustments, get a new medical expert on board who can embrace paleo/primal and your philosophy about prescrips as the very last resort… We’re all just works in progress, ever evolving. You did a fantastic job explaining this to us.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, Paula.
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Fran K May 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

THANK YOU, for sharing this! I can’t believe how similar our situations are! I began this journey a year ago, going low carb from the advice of my doctor. had bloodwork done to have a point of reference. About 5 months into this, I found out about Paleo/Primal, and changed things. I don’t follow 100%, more like 75/25, and at my six month bloodwork, things were great. Just had my year one drawn, and my cholesterol was way up too! Everything else, (like yours) was good. My doctor also mentioned the dreaded word, prescription, and I truly don’t want to go that route! So I am eagerly looking forward to hearing what you are doing, how you are doing, and your results. I know there are a couple of things I can do, yet I sure am open to suggestions!

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hi Fran: You’re welcome, I’m glad it helped you. I’m keep you updated as I know more. Thanks for commenting.
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Lauren May 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

My doctor looked at my 347 TC and – rather calmly – said, what do you EAT!? I assured him I’m very concerned about food quality and eat 98% out of my own kitchen, so being 33 and a healthy weight (though I don’t move. Really; I’m a sloth) he could only think to request a retest in a month. It was normal and that was that, but I know exactly what you’re talking about with the googling and considering tweaking this or that and will GAPS get me this time… Have you seen the GAPS Guide book? The associated Yahoo group is supposed to be very supportive, and I find Baden a level-headed advisor via her blog. Take this time to get yourself where you need to be, and let us know how it goes when and only when you’re ready to share! First and foremost, be well.

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Alison Golden May 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi Lauren: I haven’t heard of that book only the book written in the first place. I’m on my first day of GAPS and it’s been fine – but only because I’m used to this kind of thing. Going straight into it from a varied diet would be hard! Good for you you have a calm doctor – lucky. :-)
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Allison May 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Hey Alison:

Other than spelling your name with only one “l” it sounds to me like you are doing everything right! So sorry that you are going through this but don’t let it shake your foundation. Question authority, get a second opinion, try new things and figure out what works for you. I agree with you that going on statins is not optimal and I’m in now way suggesting it but I do want to say that even if you ultimately had to or decided to you shouldn’t feel like a paleo fraud. From the thoughts you share with us in your post it sounds like you feel if you have to do something for your health that is “non-paleo” that you somehow can’t be a paleo advocate. I don’t think that is true at all. We all need to work with what life deals us, keep trying different things and pushing the envelope but as long as we’re giving it our best shot then that is all that matters. Hang in there and I think your experience, honesty, research and results will light the way for many to follow. GOOD LUCK!

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Alison Golden May 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

Perhaps we should take out ‘l’s from our names and fight a duel over them. But wait…I’d lose; I only have one. Thanks for commenting, Allison. :-)
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Jo-Anne May 1, 2012 at 6:09 pm

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

This is a popular refrain of mine and I add the fact that I will not have time to visit them in hospital because I will be doing their chores while they are laid up…….

“My grocery bill is higher because of these decisions but as I’ve said before, it is important to bet money on our health. We can pay our grocer or we can pay our doctor. I choose grocer.”

On average 80% of our medical bill is spent in the last two years of our life managing a major illness……so I agree with you pay the grocer and reserve 20% to use for any minor illness that may happen.

Thank you for being so transparent…..it truly does help.

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Alison Golden May 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

Hah! I like that:
“I add the fact that I will not have time to visit them in hospital because I will be doing their chores while they are laid up…….”

Very true.
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Catie May 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Kudos to you for taking charge of your own health! Can you tell me a little about the autoimmume protocol for paleo folks? I am battling what my doctor believes is moderate systemic inflammation, and trying to heal my gut. Allergy tests have revealed that I’m allergic to everything, and although I do seem to be getting a bit better, I still have an awful lot of bad days. I have spent the last 6 months going predominantly Paleo (the first three months I phased out gluten, and the past three I have given up all grains). I’m still consuming small amounts of whole (non-homogenized, low temp pasturized) milk and raw milk cheese, raw honey, and I eat an ounce or two of 88% pure dark chocolate nearly every day. This all started after I had my second child, so I thought it was triggered by hormones, but neither my GP or OB/GYN will order hormone bloodwork for me. My naturopath has me taking a homeopathic remedy, but I’m not convinced it’s doing anything. I’m thinking there is some other dietary issue I’m missing, so the autoimmune protocol has me curious. Any info is appreciated!
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Alison Golden May 2, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hi Catie: I often get asked this question so I’ve drafted up a page on the autoimmune protocol with a banned food list and links http://paleononpaleo.com/paleo-autoimmune-protocol/
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Catie May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Thanks!

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Jeanie Witcraft May 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Ahhh! My mom is very much soda & cigarette drenched, typical SAD….except she bikes everywhere. Her doc put her on statins after her latest visit. I’ve tried to educate her on the cholesterol myths, and told her that she needed to cut out soda, cigarettes, grains, and keep eating that real butter, just NOT on French toast soaked in syrup. I emailed this to her. Maybe her stubborn nurse self will listen to you. :)

As for me….*sigh* I’m headed to Taiwan to visit soon-to-be-family, and I’m curious what tests I should get done there since it’s 17% the cost of care here. Obese, RAI treated hypothyroid, moderately high fasting sugar (99) and having the darndest time actually sticking to Paleo. :( It’s great til we go out, and then I have some bread or some dessert.

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Alison Golden May 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

Hi Jeanie:
My full workup:
LIPID PANEL PLUS RISK
CBC
TSH
Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxyvitamin
METABOLIC PANEL, COMPREHENSIVE
HEMOGLOBIN A1C WITH ESTIMATED MEAN GLUCOSE

HTH, good luck with that trip. ;-)
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Chriss May 2, 2012 at 1:31 am

Hey Alison, my total went up to 232 since going Paleo this past December. It used to be right around 200 total. I don’t have the report in front of me but the HDL’s were high and LDL’s were low with Triglycerides being low too. My doctor flipped out and immediately started writing the script for statins. I told him about my nutrition and he had that ” deer in the headlights look” which I’m sure you’ve seen. Anyway, we parted friends and I told him I would test again in June. By the way, he didn’t even check mark CRP level on the blood panel report so what does that tell you? It tells me that he doesn’t think a whole heck of a lot about systemic inflammation. Anyhow, to make a long story short, I did happily cut back the red meats and egg yolks…I don’t care much for them anyway and happily eat more fish and chicken. Like Melissa, I also got bigger since going Paleo, a real pisser. I have also started reducing portions and that has done the trick, I’m finally getting to where I wanted to be. My body just can not handle all the extra fat, bacon, and extra food period. I’m also 48 and perimenopause and know that my endogenouse hormones are slightly wonky. It’s all working out, thanks to me being in charge of my health and listening to my body. Also thanks to you and so many other Paleo pioneers willing to educate and share their journey along the way.

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Alison Golden May 2, 2012 at 9:30 am

Good job, Chriss! It requires real focus because we’ve fallen so far from the path with this food thing but it truly helps once we’ve found the right (non-medical) prescription, we can just roll right along. Still amazes me how my taste buds have changed in just a few years. Thanks for commenting!
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Jo-Anne May 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Chriss

“I did happily cut back the red meats and egg yolks…I don’t care much for them anyway and happily eat more fish and chicken.”

I see that statement as YOUR body directing you to the foods it prefers……and NO I don’t mean if you happily eat chocolate, ice cream and cheese [oh! wait.....that's me] because those food were not around when our DNA was built but fish and chicken were.

I now see my cravings as a diagnostic tool. I love salmon, beef, lamb and eggs and I am so so about chicken and other fish. If I must have chicken I will always choose the thigh and one day I realised it may be the fat my body is craving or calcium when I want chocolate, ice cream and cheese. I increased my portions of fat and greens with each meal and those cravings are diminishing and take place in my life as the treats that they are and should be.

Keep up the good work……listen to Your body.

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charity May 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Alison,
My #’s were similar:
chol-253
hdl-140
ldl- I think it was 100 or something
trig-40…I was doing a more atkins stylelow carby thing at the time. My doc did say that anyone would be “stupid” to put me on a statin. Sweet!

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Alison Golden May 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm

He sounds like a keeper, Charity. :-)
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Janknitz May 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Keep us posted. I’m inclined to think with HDL that high and trigs that low that you’re probably OK. It will be interesting to see what the paleo-oriented doctor’s take on this is.

Take a look at http://www.trackyourplaque.com. Dr. Davis (author of Wheat Belly) advocates cardiac scans to measure calcium deposits to determine relative risk. I would think that with HDL and Trigs like that your heart scan score would be very low, and that test would give you some peace of mind.

BTW, there’s some very detailed info about cholesterol in general and LDL’s in particular on Dr. Peter Attia’s blog here: http://waroninsulin.com/

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Alison Golden May 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I’ll be writing an update in a couple of weeks.
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R Bush May 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

RIGHT ON! I’m a patient of Dr Davis. Just saw him yesterday. Most people don’t believe me, but his patients who follow his coronary artery disease prevention plan which is a wheat free paleo type of diet DON’T GET HEART ATTACKS. He ignores the LDL-C calculate tests, but insists one gets a LIpoScience blood test of lipoprotein particles. It’s not cholesterol, believe me, but what it’s carried it, the lipoprotein particle especially when oxidized by old and bad fats like overheated omega 6 fats & etc. (sat fats don’t go bad, they are stable & > HDL & gets rid of small LDL). Best thing to do is go to that Track Your Plaque web and buy his Guideline book to the Track Your Plaque Program, either buy online or call them. The book tells you, if done, a calcium heart scan reveals if you have plaque in the heart arteries and how much. There is no other way to measure failure or success to a prevention plan than by these scans. If this grows too fast after you check a year later, then you are prone to heart attacks. The paleo diet stops this growth of plaque. It takes low TG & high HDL to eliminate the dangerous small LDL, a major cause of heart attacks, so says Dr D (not large fluffy LDL that usually is measured by doctors with LDL-C). But, there may be a point when high levels of oxidized LDL is also dangerous especially with high results of your hs-CRP inflammation test ( if < 1.0). Fast growing plaque in the artery can rupture under stress to create release of plaque and blockage, thus heart attacks. Eat no grains and high fats, opposite of S.A.D. Bottom LIne! Must go to a doctor who will do LipoScience tests. Medicare & some insurance pays.

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Paul N May 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

Hi Allison,

First time poster at your blog (came from MDA, where I am yet to post) but have read numerous of your excellent posts.
I can’t really add anything about the cholesterol, as I am of the same mind that most of what we have been told is a con.
But I would like to say a bit a bout fermented foods. They are great, and the more of them you eat, the better, and the more you make yourself, the better still.

An, by far, the simplest, and most reliable way to do home fermented foods is with KEFIR. Unlike yogurt cultures, kefir works at any temperature from about 15 to 40C. I use store bought milk kefir, and add some of that to milk or cream to them make cream cheese and cultured butter. I use the whey for sourdough making (using buckwheat, amaranth, almond flour, etc) .
They whey can also be used to make sauerkraut, pickles, etc etc.
In fact, the mix of probiotics in kefir is better than virtually any other lacto-fermentation culture. Whenever I have an upset stomach (often from eating a wheat thing), I just drink some kefir and problem solved!
The best source of info, and the place where I have mail-ordered my grains from, is Dom’s Kefir Site – fantastic reading.
http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html

He also has Kefir Water Grains, which can be used to ferment coconut water, fruit, and any sugary water. By kefir-ing fruit, you can get all the good stuff of blueberries etc, but without the fructose!

And, if you look at the chapter on fermented foods in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, you will find all sorts of easy to make home fermentations, from pickles to mustard. The key ingredient in all of them is some whey, and kefir whey is better than any other. A stock of 1L (or 1 quart) canning jars is all you need to do most things, and when they are fermented (usually 2-3 days) you just put them straight in the fridge, no mess. The fermentation crocks are great, but big and only worth it for large amounts of saurkraut.

Best of luck and keep up the good posts.

And, as Kurt Harris says, “you were doing fine until you had your cholesterol measured!”

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Alison Golden May 22, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I’m so sorry, Paul, your lovely comment got stuck in my spam filter for over a week. Now I’ve rescued it and can see what great information you provide. I had no idea you could ferment fruit. And indeed I do seem to have a problem with fructose so I certainly like the idea of getting the benefits of fruit without that. Thank you for taking the time to write your comment. I’m particularly pleased you commented here first. :-) And yes, Kurt is right!
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Natalie Wilby May 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I read this knowing that I too would be getting blood results back soon from my doctor as well. I’m new to paleo, but I have been on this journey for a few months now. I do fall off the wagon occasionally but get right back on. I am 5’5″ and weigh between 123-127 lbs. I am from Canada, so we measure differently but the results can be interpreted. I was a little shocked at my values too. Oh and I am 40. My LDL has always been a bit high. This time it was really high (4.59 MMOL/L). But my HDL was really high too 2.51 – Target >1.29 MMOL/L. My cholesterol was also quite high, but my triglycerides were 0.50 – Target <1.71 MMOL/L. I asked my doctor about the small vs fluffly LDL but he dismissed that. He did say that my LDL is genetic but that my HDL was very high so there is nothing I need to worry about. Not really sure how I feel right now as I am trying to figure it all out.

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Lauren May 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Nat, run your numbers through this:
http://homepages.slingshot.co.nz/~geoff36/LDL_mg.htm
Often only trigs and HDL are actually measured, and the rest is calculated. Unfortunately the calculations don’t work if you have very low trigs.
The particle size is absolutely relevant, but I’m not solid enough on why to go head to head with a doc about it – PaleoHacks could help you there. On one post about elevated LDL, Dr. Jack Kruse (posting as The Quilt) wrote:
“When one also has altered inflammatory levels this invariably leads to changes in the distal hormones after LDL cholesterol is converted with T3 and Vitamin A as co factors. … changing over to a paleo template actually puts us at risk of Ubiquinol deficiency because of the Mevalonate pathway’s biochemistry. So when you see your LDL and HDL rise you should not worry too bad but you might want to consider taking 400 mgs of CoEnz Q10 or the better choice, Ubiquinol.”
Admittedly about 3 people in the world know what he’s talking about, but there are some key words in there to search on: inflammation (did your doc check CRP?), T3 (you’ll need a 5-point thyroid panel), ubiquinol. In a later comment on the same thread, Kruse points out that lipids are all over the map during weight and diet changes, so he’s not too interested in his patients’ numbers until 6 to 12 months in.
Paul Jaminet has a theory (albeit unpopular with some other leading paleo lights) that paleo in general and low-carb specifically can unmask or exacerbate mineral deficiencies, particularly copper, and that these deficiencies cause hypercholesteremia. Quoting his own previous post, he writes:
“Several studies showed a clear correlation among copper deficiency and dyslipidemia. The main alterations concern higher plasma CL and triglyceride (TG) concentrations, increased VLDL-LDL to HDL lipoproteins ratio, and the shape alteration of HDL lipoproteins.”
http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/03/answer-day-what-causes-high-ldl-on-low-carb-paleo/
One final thought, how are your glucose levels?

Hope that helps. I know I’m dead tired of trying to give myself a medical education robust enough to find and then train my own doctor to be able to help me – and how pompous does that sound! Or how sad.
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Lauren May 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Geekfest on the low trig calcualtion problem: http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.de/2010/04/friedewald-and-iranian-equations.html (apparently I was wrong in saying total cholesterol os also calculated *sigh* so much to learn, so late an hour!)
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Alison Golden May 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

“Admittedly about 3 people in the world know what he’s talking about…” That made me LOL! Thanks for the great comment, Lauren. I’ve only just realized you’re *that* Lauren. From Germany. :-)

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Lauren May 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Yup, it’s me :) Sorry to hijack your comment thread like that; I had just been working on that topic for myself and had the stuff to hand.
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Alison Golden May 23, 2012 at 5:46 am

No problem at all. I’m glad you did. :-)
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Natalie Wilby May 17, 2012 at 6:41 am

Thanks. I plugged the numbers and the LDL did go down. I looked back at 2010′s results (last ones I have) and my HDL is much higher and my triglycerides are lower. The only other changes are that my weight was 118 then (125lbs now), and I was running a lot (marathons). So I think I need to stick with paleo and see where I am in 12 months. I will look into co enz10 and ubiquinol. My iron is quite low, he put me on pills (this is an on going issue). Not sure about the CRP. My doctor did not seem concerned at all so I guess I won’t worry for now either. I did notice on the requisition that LDL is a calculation. I did not tell my doctor I was eating paleo, but I told him I ate a lot of meat and eggs…he did not seem to think that mattered!! Although, he did suggest I eat oatmeal. Anyhow, thanks for replying to me. I am so busy with three young children, I don’t have tons of time to research all this, but I will do my best. Enjoy following you!!

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~Alison May 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I just found your blog (clicked over from a comment of yours at Mark’s Daily Apple). I hope you’ll post updates on your GAPS adventure! I have the GAPS book and am working myself up to doing the protocol (appropriately modified for pregnancy). A few years ago, I was on a series of very restrictive diets in an attempt to treat food allergies, hormones, and immune issues, and I am SO loathe to return to that world. While those nutritional protocols I tried before helped to control my symptoms, they did not heal me. I have had fabulous results with a homeopathic doctor since, and I thought my days of horribly restrictive diets were behind me. But while my quality of life is 4x what it used to be, I’ve never fully resolved my chronic fatigue, some nutritional deficiencies, and some lingering digestive issues (mostly mild constipation). I think GAPS could be the missing link for me. I’m 28 weeks pregnant right now, which is simultaneously extra motivating (I care deeply about the health of our child) and de-motivating (I’m already uncomfortable, do I really have to take all the fun out of my life?). Sigh. Time to take the plunge, I think.

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Jeff Puhek July 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

You need to see a doctor that uses and understands more modern lipid tests, such as the NMR . Old-school tests such as yours are way off base. First of all, with those type of tests, LDL is a fictitious number from a faulty calculation. Total cholesterol goes up, mainly because HDL is up.. .way up into the “great” zone. The calculation for LDL is faulty… when triglycerides are down, like yours are, LDL will be high because of the equation. What is more important is LDL particle count and particle size, which real numbers, not calculations. Based on the numbers you posted, I’m guessing that with an NMR test, you’d see pretty good particle numbers. Don’t do statins! See http://www.trackyourplaque.com/

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Alison Golden July 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Hi Jeff: You are absolutely right. I wrote an update to this post – you can read about it here: UPDATE: My Battle with High Cholesterol and How I Avoided Statins

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Maggie September 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

Avoid those statins if you can! I agree with your choice to change doctors, but if you keep struggling and your new doctor then suggests taking a statin, you might have to re-evaluate your position. But I agree, drugs should be a last resort, not a first.

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Dennis January 8, 2013 at 9:59 am

Hi.I have been following the paleo eating way, with addition of raw dairy (milk, cheese, butter, cream) from grass-fed jersey cows (I am in uk). I have not eaten any junk food for over 20 years and am a slim man, 5 foot 10 ” and just under 10 stone.
I buy my weekly meats from a local farmshop which is organic and predominantly grass fed/ free range ,etc. And I grow my own fruit (mostly berries) and vegetables at my allotment.
I took up this way of eating after a hair mineral tissue analysis, which showed that I am a fast type 1 metaboliser. This test was in July 2011, and I stopped the grains several months ago.
My local surgery invited me to have a health check which involved blood taken at the hospital. Today I got the results and am astonished to see the reading. I really thought it would be very good after reading how everyone hailed it as improving their blood profiles, etc.
Total Cholesterol 14.2 mmol (548 mg/dl)
TSH 4.2 (thyroid)
HDL 1.7 mmol (65.61 MG/DL)
LDL 12.14 mmol (468>6 md/dl)
glucose 5.8
Triglycerides> not given at the surgery ,but online calculator makes it 0.78

I had eaten only half hour before the blood was taken (chicken leg, onions kale, carrot). I cannot think this one meal could have skewed the results !
Maybe 10 years ago my total cholesterol when I was vegetarian was about 6 mmol, but the HDL was pretty high relative to LDL and trigs low ; however as a vegetarian I was constantly anxious and losing weight, failing to thrive, losing teeth, etc. I have convince myself that this more traditional diet was going to fix me, and to quite a degree I feel much more settled although sometimes I tend towards anxiety a little. The teeth are better with no more trouble…but these results !
Anyone got any thoughts ?

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Beth February 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

A day or so ago another Paleo group, Picket Fence Paleo, I think, posted a Youtube video of Dr Oz interviewing Jonny Bowden & Stephen Sinatra about a new book they wrote: “The Great Cholesterol Myth.” They said, among other things, that they would NEVER prescribe statins to young women … please check it out. Just the video is worth watching – the book may be good too.

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Monique February 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I consider myself very lucky to have found a family doctor (Jasmine Moghissi) who is an expert in lipids and maintains an ancestral diet for herself and her family. She ordered the Berkeley Heartlab blood panel, which shows the most indepth lipid and genetic blood panel I’ve ever seen. We discovered that I do have a mutated gene that causes me not to have a certain protective protein that protects the lining of your veins. This is not a problem, only until there’s inflammation and/or plaque, something we need to keep an eye on. So next step is to check the arteries in my neck via a carotid ultrasound. My HDL is high, but there are several types of HDL and the best one is not my highest one. My LDL is mostly large and fluffy. She says she is very careful with prescribing statins, but she said there are cases where it is needed and then she does prefer Chrestor as it does not “kill” large fluffy one as well, or not as much, because we need these! (Lipitor seems to do that). I have been Primal/Paleo for a year now and also without a statin for a year. We’ll see what the next step is, in the mean time she said to eat more fat (love it!) of course we know what the good fats are, and take fish oil to get my omega 3 up (to balance my elevated omega 6 level). I’ll also start Niacin. Will keep you posted!

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Randy Plett February 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hello,

My advice is to first please read “The Cholesterol Myth” found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Cholesterol-Myth-Disease/dp/1592335217. It is the most comprehensive book on cholesterol. Saturated fat intake can increase cholesterol but high cholesterol does not equal heart disease! Inflammation, oxidation, sugar intake, and stress are the main factors for heart disease. And every time you eat beef that is not grass-fed you are increasing your saturated fat intake much more than grass-fed (not that saturated fat intake is necessarily bad but too much of it can be) and raising your cholesterol, increasing inflammation and oxidation because of the beef being raised on grains and other foods that results in out-of-whack omega-6 to omega-3 ratios. Yes, I would get over it and add in more fish. Your taste buds will adjust. That’s based on the bacteria culture in your mouth that determines what you like and don’t like. And the more you introduce a food that you traditionally didn’t like that you will end up liking because you bacteria population changes in your mouth.

Also, you need a more detailed cholesterol test. Again, there is no correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease. Not only that, not all HDL cholesterol is good and not all LDL cholesterol is bad. You need a VAP test or other equivalent cholesterol test that will tell you the particle size distribution of your HDL and LDL cholesterol. Right now there is nothing to conclude from your numbers.

And please, please do not go on statins. In only a very small amount of cases is this appropriate. There are a ton of very negative side effects of statins that can affect your sex drive, your mood, etc. I liken it to a slow poison for your body. You can accomplish more with an adjustment to your diet and the right supplements.

Lastly, I’m glad you know about GAPs and it can be very beneficial for you if you think you may be suffering from leaky gut. But please read that book and get yourself very informed about cholesterol. Because your doctor is jumping to conclusions when you don’t have enough data yet.

I hope this helps.

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Monique February 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I did a VAP and the Berkely Heartlab, which is so much more comprehensive than the VAP. If you can get the Berkeley, get it!

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Monique February 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Sorry, intended to post my comment on the bottom, not as a reply. I consider myself very lucky to have found a family doctor (Jasmine Moghissi) who is an expert in lipids and maintains an ancestral diet for herself and her family. She ordered the Berkeley Heartlab blood panel, which shows the most indepth lipid and genetic blood panel I’ve ever seen. We discovered that I do have a mutated gene that causes me not to have a certain protective protein that protects the lining of your veins. This is not a problem, only until there’s inflammation and/or plaque, something we need to keep an eye on. So next step is to check the arteries in my neck via a carotid ultrasound. My HDL is high, but there are several types of HDL and the best one is not my highest one. My LDL is mostly large and fluffy. She says she is very careful with prescribing statins, but she said there are cases where it is needed and then she does prefer Crestor as it does not “kill” large fluffy LDL as well, or not as much, because we need these! (Lipitor seems to do that). I have been Primal/Paleo for a year now and also without a statin for a year. We’ll see what the next step is, in the mean time she said to eat more fat (love it!) of course we know what the good fats are, and take fish oil to get my omega 3 up (to balance my elevated omega 6 level). I’ll also start Niacin. Will keep you posted! Here’s the link for that blood panel. Forgot to mention that my homocysteine was also elevated, need to work on that as well. My doctor does not recommend the “regular” dietary recommendations for heart diseases (whole grains, low fat) http://www.bhlinc.com/patients/test-results-101/

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Randy Plett February 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Excellent. You are fortunate to have such a smart, well-informed doctor. Unfortunately this is exceedingly rare and hard to find these days. Good on the Niacin intake as well. There is a whole supplement section in the The Cholesterol Myth book that mentioned Niacin among others. You are definitely taking the right steps. Good for you.

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Randy Plett February 13, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Oh for the elevated homocysteine make sure you are taking a supplement that includes a good amount of Vitamin B6 and Folate such as this one: http://www.lef.org/Vitamins-Supplements/Item01435/Homocysteine-Resist.html?source=search&key=homocysteine%20folate%20vitamin%20b.

Here is the editor of the Life Extension Foundation magazine who struggled with stubbornly high homocysteine levels and what he need to bring them down (hint he needed 10 times the amount of vitamin B6 as a normal person would) –> http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2006/oct2006_cover_homocysteine_01.htm

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Monique February 16, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Thanks! Actually, I double checked my Homocysteine and it is good, what is slightly elevated is my CRP, the marker for inflammation and my Lpa is high :(

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Randy February 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Well I can tell you that eating any beef that isn’t grass-fed isn’t going to help with CRP and LPA since it has an out-of-whack omega-6 to 3 ratio due to the animal being grain-fed never mind if the beef comes from an industrial farm source pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. You’re strategy of incorporating more grass-feed beef and fish should help. I personally would eliminate any meat eating that isn’t grass fed. I’d also make sure you’re taking in a copious amount of good-quality Omega-3 fish oil. A supplement that can help address LPA directly is Astaxanthin –> http://www.lef.org/Vitamins-Supplements/Item26521/Astaxanthin.html?source=search&key=lipoprotein. Here is a link for some other ideas on dealing with high lpa levels naturally –> http://www.ehow.com/info_8195772_natural-alternatives-decrease-lipoprotein.html

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Monique February 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm

We are blessed to be able to eat grass fed from Polyface farm (Joel Salatin), I’ve always looked for high quality meat (better a little bit some times, than a lot bad quality every day). Just ordered Nordic fish oil, and already had astaxantin in my daily batch ;-) Upping C and E as well, to battle the inflammation. Also ordered L-carnitine. Doing meditation to eliminate stress and starting Yoga as well to keep things moving. Thanks for your feedback! Mo

Martin February 13, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I also did have LDL >200 (see here http://paleohacks.com/questions/109204/ldl-cholesterol-doubled-from-pre-paleo#axzz2KqSG5FXP). 14-20% of population carry Apo E4 gene that results in high cholesterol in response to saturated fat.

After 2 years of paleo leaky gut should have been healed. Unless alcohol (accepted by most paleo folks ) is the culprit http://leakygutresearch.com/leaky-gut-and-alcohol/
Martin recently posted..Glutamine and leaky gut syndromeMy Profile

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Randy Plett February 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm

2 years of Paleo does not necessarily mean a healed leaky gut. It means that you have avoided the foods that caused the leaky gut and stops fueling any autoimmune disease or other ailments you suffer as a result but that does not mean the leaky gut is healed. That’s what the GAPS protocol is for…an aggressive means of healing the gut lining through a very specific protocol and timeline to heal the gut through meat and fish broths, probiotics and the gradual introduction of highly digestible foods over time.

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Monique February 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

The Berkeley Heartlab does not calculate LDL, it actually shows you all 5 types of LDL and not all LDL is the same, some LDL we need! This is also true for HDL. You need a test that shows you particle size. Just looking at one number for each is not providing you any information at all.

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Dave February 14, 2013 at 3:14 am

Hi Alison

I guess you’ve found the info that, in most Blood tests, LDL is calculated, not measured. The “advanced” blood test mentioned above may actually measure it.
You may also like to find and read a copy of “The Great Cholesterol Con” by Malcolm Kendrick who is a Scottish GP (MD).
DON’T PANIC!

Dave

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R Bush May 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

See my comment way back to Janknitz’s May 7 2012 post as a reply & after Alison Golden’s reply regarding how to assess heart attack risks and about Dr Davis’ prevention program.

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Rick June 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Why do you insist on following the “paleo diet” when you have concrete evidence that it is not merely wrong but actually harmful? Don’t look at it as a doctrine, or a belief system, or some kind of mystical truth that needs to be adhered to come hell or high water. It’s just food, no more and no less.

I suspect you’d be far better off with Michel Pollan’s “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.” But again, it’s not religion, it’s just food.

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Alison Golden June 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm
Randy June 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

What is the concrete evidence that is wrong and harmful? Just because you have elevated LDL and therefore a high total cholesterol means basically nothing. What type of LDL is elevated? The large fluffy LDLs or the small APO b protein LDL? High cholesterol is not correlated with anything and it certainly isn’t correlated with heart disease risk. A diet full of sugar, grains and processed foods will fuel inflammation which is correlated to heart disease. I’d suggest reading The Great Cholesterol Myth by Johnny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra for a detailed expose on blowing up the myths around cholesterol and health.

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Scott K September 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I recommend Jimmy Moore’s new book Cholesterol Clarity – What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers. Your numbers look fine. If you want to dig deeper – get a NMR workup.

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Miles Veteranus October 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

Alison,
I just received word from my doctor my total Cholesterol jumped up 50 points in 90 days (206). Lets go back a couple of years, my numbers were bad, as bad as yours (almost). A combination of no exercise, 40 pound weight gain, stressed to the limit( full time job, full time dad, and full time college) and my fondness for all things SOUTHERN prepared cooking. Fast forward to the beginning of the year, my total was (C) 289. My doctor had my on 2 statins. We made a deal, I would try 90 days her way, and if results were shown, I would continue, (she wants me off the statins), in 90 days I drop to a total of 182. 107 points in 90 days. My triG went down 80 points, my LDL and HDL still a little high and a little low respectively, but close, those numbers were also moving in the right directions. My doctor flipped out, that I had made “progess” as steep as I had made it. I kept at what I was doing. She took me off of one of my statins, as a weening process, the next 90 days, my total was a 156, my triG was as low as they have ever been my ldl was down to a 95 and my hdl was a 30. Still low, but better. I was pumped, I mean pumped. I started watching more of what I ate, more paleo, (not all) , my sugar intake was dropped by 95%. My vitiamin regiment is full force, red meats down, “more made by plants” was ate, more made in a plant was not. I stopped all softdrinks, sportsdrinlks, sugar drinks, no tea, NADA. My works out are almost back to full bore. I have dropped 20 pounds of the 40 I am going to lose by FEB. I was excited about this last checkup a couple of days ago. Well the DOCTOR called. My total numbers across the board jumped through the roof! Up 50 points in total, my triG jump 50 points, my LDL 40 point jump. I have been on a healthy eating kick, better exercise, I have gotten my friends on board with exercising as a group, even just kicking the soccer balls around an hour a week while the kids are at soccer practice. WHAT IN THE NAME OF PETE, is going on? I am baffled, and still in shock.

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Alison Golden November 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hi Miles:

I smiled at your comment in spite of myself. I don’t know if you’ve read the update to this post (link at top) but if you have you’ll see that my cholesterol numbers (that my doctor wanted me to go on statins for, remember) had zero indication of heart disease because my subsequent heart scan was showed absolutely zero signs of calcification. I was waved away and told to come back and see them again in 5 years. That’s 5 years at least that I won’t be taking statins but only at my insistence for deeper diagnosis.

I think cholesterol is a complex and poorly understood topic and it indicates different things – thyroid and liver issues for two, questionable relationship to heart disease for another. And as you’ve seen, our bodies and the advice don’t always line up neatly. My cholesterol number seems to work in inverse relationship to the mainstream advice.

You can speak to experts and get as many different stories about what to do so I think we have to read, read and read some more about cholesterol and decide for ourselves what we are going to do.

You can read Cholesterol Clarity and follow all the links in the update to this post above and get a bigger picture view and decide what you want to do next. It may be nothing. And it maybe to continue to do what you makes you feel better. Or it maybe to follow your doctors advice to the letter. It is up to you. You are the expert on you.
Alison Golden recently posted..Paleo Recipes: Cowboy BurgerMy Profile

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Joe March 10, 2014 at 8:37 am

Great read! I’ve started to change my all my bad habits too. I was eating way too much red meats and cut way back. I virtually don’t eat it anymore. Your recommendations are spot on though.
Joe recently posted..Blood Titer TestsMy Profile

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Kathryn P. April 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Have you had you thyroid checked lately? There’s a link between hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and high cholesterol, and it has nothing to do with diet. Once thyroid hormone levels are corrected, cholesterol levels go back to normal.

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Jeff May 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Alison,

I feel for you. I experienced a similar problem on a “paleo like” plan, before the paleo diet existed many years ago. I ate mostly meat and fresh vegetables. My cholesterol also went through the roof. It was explained to me that I was one of the 30% that are affected this way by animal foods. I was devastated by this.

I loved eating that way but needed to change for my health. To correct this situation I chose a different path than you currently have and it worked well for all my health conditions as well as my cholesterol numbers. If you find you don’t get the results you are going for, you might want to consider it down the road.

It is Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution. You can find info about it by searching online. He has helped many others like us.

I wish you the best in your pursuit of ongoing health. I hope your new plan works for you and will be watching.

Jeff

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Karin August 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

Hi Alison

My husband and I are also on paleo, and initially both of us lost some weight, but we do love our wine in the evenings, which adds a bit of carbs to the diet and our weight loss have plateaued. So, about a week ago we decided to “detox”, i.e. cut out wine for about 3 – 4 weeks. Four days later my husband went for a cholesterol test and mentioned paleo to the doctor, who asked him how long he was planning to continue with it… Like it’s a diet and not a life style. She also said that he needed to add some carbs (potato, etc) to the diet for energy. I laughed so much I couldn’t continue the conversation. (I don’t think I’ll go back to her.)

Unfortunately, his cholesterol levels were way up, especially the LDL (and I think Lpa), but I’m still waiting for the breakdown. This afternoon I’ve spent a few hours reading up on cholesterol (and paleo again) and what happens when one stops consuming alcohol. Very interesting: High Lpa is hereditary (my father-in-law died of a heart attack at 62), part of LDL and responsible for cardiovascular disease. It is not lowered by medication or diet. It is lowered by alcohol…

I will do some more research but I think for now I also need to cut out some of the red meat (to start losing weight again), and tonight we’ll have a glass of wine with dinner again!

I will let you know what happens from here.

Karin

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Alison Golden August 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Please do, Karin. I’d love to know. I am teetotal but maybe that’s a bad idea….?
Alison Golden recently posted..Paleo Recipes: Lemon and Thyme Broiled Salmon with Blood Orange SalsaMy Profile

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