Cholesterol and diarrhea
High cholesterol levels can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which can clog them and lead to strokes and heart attacks. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, high cholesterol may be genetic, but it is mainly caused by a poor diet. You can lower high cholesterol levels by changing your diet and cholesterol intake. The side effects of cholesterol medications can be very uncomfortable, but there are medications available to treat this condition. Sometimes, changing your diet and lifestyle can be as simple as not taking cholesterol medication.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat. It is a waxy, fatty substance that is naturally produced by the liver. It is necessary for the formation of cell membranes and for the production of certain hormones and vitamin D.
Cholesterol is insoluble in water, so it cannot move through the bloodstream on its own. To help transport cholesterol, the liver makes lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are particles made up of fat and protein. They carry cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of lipid) in the blood. There are two main types of lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
When there is too much LDL cholesterol (the cholesterol carried by LDL) in the blood, it is called hypercholesterolemia. If left untreated, high cholesterol levels can lead to many health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
High cholesterol usually does not cause any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly. Know the recommended cholesterol levels for your age group.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol)
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol through the arteries; if LDL cholesterol levels are too high, it builds up in the artery walls.
This buildup is also known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque narrows the arteries, restricting blood flow and increasing the risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in the heart or brain, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
More than one-third of adults in the United States have high LDL cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Learn how to control your LDL cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol,” helps the body remove LDL cholesterol back to the liver. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in the arteries.
Healthy HDL cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of blood clots, heart disease and stroke.
Triglycerides are another type of fat. They are different from cholesterol. The body uses cholesterol to make cells and certain hormones, but it uses triglycerides as a source of energy.
When your body eats more calories than it can immediately use, it converts them into triglycerides. It stores triglycerides in fat cells. It also uses lipoproteins to move triglycerides around in the blood.
If you regularly consume more calories than your body uses, you may have high triglyceride levels. This can increase your risk of many health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Your doctor can measure your cholesterol levels as well as your triglyceride levels with a simple blood test. Here’s how to test your triglycerides.
Check your cholesterol levels
If you are 20 years of age or older, the American Heart Association recommends that you have your cholesterol levels checked at least every four to six years. If you have a history of high cholesterol or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may recommend that you have your cholesterol checked more often.
Your doctor may use a lipid test to measure your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Your total cholesterol level is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood; it includes both LDL and HDL cholesterol.
If your total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol level is too high, your doctor will diagnose hyperlipidemia. High cholesterol is especially dangerous if your LDL level is too high and your HDL level is too low. Click here to learn more about recommended cholesterol levels.
If changing your diet is not effective in lowering your cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe a pill. However, there are side effects and you may need to try a different medication. The most common side effects of cholesterol-lowering medications are nausea and diarrhea. Stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, and muscle pain can also occur with the use of various cholesterol-lowering medications.
Diarrhea is a side effect of statins, which are one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs. In addition to lowering LDL (bad cholesterol that clogs arteries), statins lower triglycerides and increase good cholesterol. Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor and Mevacor are popular. Niacin can cause diarrhea while lowering LDL levels.
According to an article in the September 2009 issue of Current Opinion in Cardiology, if you use statins to treat high cholesterol, you may need to continue taking them. If you think that once you lower your cholesterol to an acceptable level, you can stop taking the drug without its side effects, you’re wrong. On the contrary, when you stop taking the medication, your cholesterol will rise again. By making significant changes in your diet and exercise, you can reduce your dependence on the drug.
Many natural ingredients can help lower cholesterol without causing diarrhea. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the active ingredients in garlic have important health benefits, including lowering cholesterol. One or two cloves of garlic per day can cause bad breath, and larger amounts can cause gastrointestinal distress. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, soy is another natural ingredient that can help lower cholesterol, and consuming about 25 grams of soy per day can lower cholesterol levels with no adverse effects in most people.
You need enough fiber each day to prevent cholesterol buildup in your blood vessels. According to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, fiber is the part of plant-based foods that cannot be digested by the stomach. Instead, it is eliminated and cleansed at the same time. A diet rich in fiber, including enough whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes, can help maintain proper digestion and lower cholesterol levels, but it can also lead to illnesses such as diarrhea. However, for those who already have diarrhea, adding fiber can help reduce discomfort.