By: Tetee Kuyateh, Pharm D
As Africans we are always looking for “natural “ways to treat our ailments. Maintaining a healthy cholesterol level is essential in reducing the risk for Heart Disease and Diabetes, disease states common amongst our people. Fortunately, natural medicines do have a place in the management of health complications like hyperlipidemia and high cholesterol. Below are a few natural medicines that can help reduce cholesterol levels and aid in reaching treatment goals.
Niacin is Vitamin B3. It is available both as a dietary supplement and a prescription drug and is considered 2nd line therapy in lowering cholesterol. It can decrease LDL (Bad Cholesterol) by about 5% to 25% and triglycerides by 20-50%, however it is best known for being the best drug for increasing HDL (Good Cholesterol). It can increase HDL levels by up to 35%. Niacin should be taken with food to reduce GI upset. Using Aspirin or Ibuprofen 30 minutes prior can reduce the flushing experienced with Niacin use.
Fish oil is available as a dietary supplement and as the prescription drug Lovaza. Fish oil works by lowering your triglyceride levels 20-50%.
Fiber can help lower cholesterol levels. Foods that contain at least 51% whole grains may reduce the risk of heart disease. Whole grain foods, include whole wheat, whole oats, corn, and barley.
Blond psyllium or psyllium seed like other fibers can lower cholesterol by absorbing dietary fats, and preventing its absorption. This supplement can be added to your food or taken as a separate supplement. People who consume 10-12 grams of Blond psylium daily can reduce their Total Cholesterol by 3-14 %, and LDL by 5-10% . It is important to note that blond psyllium and other high fiber supplements can reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and B12. Fiber supplements should be taken 1 hour before or 4 hours after taking vitamins to avoid this interaction.
Oats and oat bran can lower total and LDL cholesterol when consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat. A component in oat bran, beta glucan, increases the thickness of food in the stomach and delays the absorption of fat. Oat bran can reduce LDL levels by up to 26%.
****It is important to realize that vitamins and natural supplements do not replace current medications. You should NOT start or stop any medications without consulting your physician and/or pharmacist.