According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), abnormal cholesterol levels and a resulting buildup of arterial plaque is due to imbalances of the Spleen energetic organ system and Liver energetic organ system. Those who develop high cholesterol may not show any symptoms beyond noticing fatigue, or lower than normal energy.
Spleen Qi Deficiency and High Cholesterol
The Spleen energetic organ system in TCM is functionally, vastly different from western medicine; this difference is a source of confusion for those trying to apply Chinese medicine in our culture. In TCM, the Spleen system is linked with the Stomach, and the Spleen is central in transforming our food in to nutrients that can be correctly digested and utilized.
Additionally, the Spleen transforms fluids, and along with the Kidneys and Lungs, manages how fluids are utilized in the body. When the Spleen falls out of balance, Internal Dampness can begin to accumulate. This would be seen during the early to late stages of high cholesterol and could have symptoms of fatigue, a feeling of heaviness, or loose bowel movements. Other symptoms and diseases that have elements of Spleen Qi Deficiency would include diabetes, obesity, chronic sinus congestion, and easy bruising.
Liver Qi Stagnation and High Cholesterol
Because the Liver synthesizes cholesterol for export to other cells and works to removes cholesterol from the, Liver Qi Stagnation is a common underlying imbalance with abnormal cholesterol levels. In order for the Liver to function properly and efficiently, the Qi energy must be able to move freely according to Chinese medicine. When there are constraints of the Liver, it tends to heat up contributing to inflammation.
Internal Dampness Transforming to Phlegm and High Cholesterol
As the Liver Heats up, Internal Damp Fluids begin to condense and become pathogenic Phlegm. This Phlegm then adheres to the vascular wall of the blood vessels and results in atherosclerosis.
High LDL cholesterol levels are linked to many cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. Elevated cholesterol levels are often seen in those with hypothyroidism, obesity, liver disease, metabolic syndrome X, and diabetes.
Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap recently; many are unaware that cholesterol is vital to the structural integrity of every cell in our body. In recent years, people have become more educated in “good” HDL cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol; the truth is that everyone has both, and the true trick to wellness is maintaining healthy levels of both.
Diet and Cholesterol
Most of the focus in treating high cholesterol is in lowering LDL levels. Luckily, raising HDL levels is a strategy that is beginning to gain momentum. In order to do this, adding omega 3 fatty acid rich foods, such as fish and flax seed, is imperative. Substituting oils such as olive and canola oils for animal fats is also critical. However, in Chinese medicine, food therapy is taken to a high art form, and those who are concerned with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels will want to follow the food therapy guidelines for the Spleen energetic organ system.
Exercise and Cholesterol
One of the major contributing factors in high cholesterol is a sedentary lifestyle. Just walking 9 miles per week can help to protect you from a plethora of chronic disease patterns, including heart disease. Additionally, tai-qi and qi-gong exercises are especially beneficial for chronic disease patterns and help to maintain flexibility and mobility.