We are a sleep-deprived nation. A recent study revealed that 70 million Americans do not get adequate sleep.  Experts say we need seven to nine hours a night consistently, but many of us get about five to seven. Furthermore, while our bodies were made to recover from one interrupted night’s sleep, studies now show that less than optimal sleep for a few nights in a row can change your sleep pattern, weaken your immune system and lead to an increased likelihood of weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, loss of long-term memory and more. Even one off night can increase your blood sugar levels and impair your sensitivity to insulin.

Sleep is directly linked to many mental processing functions including maintaining a positive mood (and managing irritability, anxiety, anger and depression), brain activity, learning, memory, concentration and our ability to handle stress. Many experts now say sleep is as important to your health and wellness long-term as a healthy diet and exercise.

Let’s look at what happens in a typical night of sleep.

Sleep Cycles and REM

Our bodies know whether we are awake or asleep through nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, which act on nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, are produced in the brainstem, where the brain and the spinal cord connect. These keep parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons located in the base of the brain appear to turn off the signals that keep us awake. A chemical known as adenosine is now shown to build up in our bodies and cause drowsiness; it then breaks down while we sleep. Healthy functioning of these neurons is required for normal sleep cycles.

There are five phases of sleep: They are known as sleep cycles 1,2,3,4 and REM (or rapid eye movement.) We pass through all five, building up from 1 to REM and then begin the cycle all over again. We spend about 50% of our total sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the remaining 30% spread out across the other sleep cycles. (Infants spend 50% of their sleep in REM.)

Stage 1 sleep is very light sleep, where we drift in and out, our eyes move slowly, our muscle activity slows down and we can be awakened easily. We may make sudden muscle contractions in this stage or remember visual image fragments. In Stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves become slower. Stage 3 brings in very slow waves, known as delta waves, as well as some smaller faster waves. In stage 4, we are almost exclusively in a delta wave phase.

Stages 3 and 4 are considered to be deep sleep and it’s hard to awaken someone from those stages; those awakened don’t adjust immediately. It takes a few minutes for them to stop feeling groggy and disoriented. In this phase, kids may experience night terrors or bedwetting and adults and kids both may sleepwalk.

After stages 3 and 4 deep sleep, we enter REM during which, true to its name, our eyes move rapidly in many directions. Our muscles become temporarily paralyzed and our breathing becomes irregular and more rapid and shallow. During REM, we dream.

Each sleep cycle takes 90-110 minutes on average, with our first REM cycle typically occurring 70-90 minutes after we fall asleep. During the first cycle, the REM period is relatively short, with longer periods of deep sleep. But as we progress through the night, REM cycles get longer and deep sleep cycles become shorter. By the time we awaken in the morning, most of our time is spent in sleep stages 1, 2 and REM.

Caffeine, diet pills and other stimulants can cause insomnia, or an inability to fall asleep. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but keeps you in lighter stages of sleep and limits deep sleep and REM. Antidepressants can suppress REM sleep cycles. Heavy smokers often stay in lighter sleep stages and have less REM sleep. They may also wake after three to four hours due to nicotine withdrawal. Temperature changes disrupt REM as well.

Research shows that if we miss one normal REM heavy sleep cycle, the next time we sleep, we will go quickly into REM and stay there longer, to make up for lost sleep. But after a couple nights of disrupted sleep in a row, our bodies will no longer compensate and drop into REM. They will simply adapt to the new sleep cycle, shifting the sleep balance away from the healing and restorative deep and REM sleep cycles.

Spending less time in the healing deep sleep cycles affects your immune system, as your body cannot repair, restore and rebalance as it is meant to with less time in deep and REM sleep. Research also shows a number of interesting connections between health and insufficient sleep, including metabolic function and cardiovascular disease.

Sleep and the Connection to Health

In one study, after only three nights of deep and REM sleep suppression, participants became less sensitive to insulin; they required more insulin to dispose of similar amounts of glucose, but the body did not compensate by increasing insulin levels. They had reduced glucose tolerance and an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. The study equated the decrease in insulin sensitivity to gaining 20 to 30 pounds.

Recently, a groundbreaking study showed that the body’s metabolic functions could be disrupted by only one night of inadequate sleep. In this study, participants were examined after a normal eight-hour night of sleep and also after a night of only four hours of sleep. The study revealed that “Insulin sensitivity is not fixed in healthy subjects, but depends on the duration of sleep in the preceding night,” according to Dr. Esther Donga, of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and lead author of the study.

Another study monitored participants after two nights of regular sleep and then five nights of sleep restriction. After five nights of only getting four hours of sleep, the results indicated a statistically significant decrease in the heart rate variability, which can result in cardiological and non-cardiological diseases, according to Siobhan Banks of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

A recent study of insomniacs showed that sleep deprivation also increased the risk of hypertension. Those who slept for less than five hours had a 500% higher risk for hypertension than those who slept for six hours or more. Insomniacs with sleep cycles of five to six hours a night had a 350% higher risk of hypertension than normal sleepers.

Another study revealed that four nights of REM sleep deprivation reduced cell proliferation in the part of the forebrain that is responsible for long-term memory.

And a 16-year study revealed that women who slept for five hours a night were 32% more likely to gain weight (defined as an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese versus women who slept for seven hours.  Six-hour-a-night sleepers fared a little better, with a 12% increase in major weight.

Even though our busy lives tempt us to put off sleep in favor of getting more things done, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, make a good night’s sleep a priority–you’ll have more energy–and feel better–tackling your tasks the next day.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!

Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Many cultures have arranged their work days around digestion and its link to time and the position of the sun. The Latin term for our midsection is solar plexus, which means gathering place for the sun. According to Marc David, former nutrition expert at Canyon Ranch, we digest and assimilate better — and burn more calories — the more efficiently we harness the warmth of the sun.

We are meant to be outside in sunshine and to time our eating to the position of the sun in the sky. The fact that most of us now avoid the sun and stay inside (or block its absorption with sunscreen) means that we are not harnessing our peak metabolic power because we are not in rhythm with our world anymore.

While we sleep, our body temperature drops. As soon as we awaken, body temperature begins to increase. Your metabolism is waking up as you do and now it’s time to take on our tasks for the day. Interestingly enough, your body temperature would still increase as the day goes on even if you stayed in bed all day because we are naturally programmed to align with the sun’s rhythm. As your body “heats up,” this is a good time to eat because you are stoking your body’s fuel burning furnace.

Called breakfast because it means we are breaking the fast of the night’s slumber, eating in the morning, especially eating some protein, is critical to setting the pace and regulation of our metabolism for the rest of the day. Eating carbohydrates such as bagels and donuts will result in a sugar rush and crash that will cause us to eat more later on.

As will calling a cup of coffee breakfast!

While coffee is not bad in and of itself, it does chemically mimic your body’s stress response and can lead to abdominal weight gain. If you skip breakfast, your body enters into a survival response due to lack of food and raises cortisol levels, add in anxiety or stress which also increases cortisol, and then throw in caffeine, which mimics the stress response and raises cortisol as well, and your cortisol levels have now skyrocketed. This will suppress your digestion and metabolism and ultimately lead to weight gain, as well as numerous other health and metabolic impacts.

So if you do enjoy a cup or two of coffee, be sure to eat some protein along with it and take the time to sit down and eat in order to relax and reduce the stress response in your body. Grabbing a coffee on the run and drinking it in your car will feed the body’s stress response and increase your tendency to gain weight.

Now back to the sun. As the morning progresses, body temperatures will continue to rise and then will peak around noon. In fact, our body temperature is so closely aligned with the sun that it will peak at the exact moment that the sun reaches its highest point in the sky! As we reach our metabolic peak for the day, that is when our digestive force is strongest and our ability to burn calories and absorb nutrients is highest. Eating the largest meal between 12-1:30 is the ideal time to maximize digestion, enhance nutrient absorption and minimize excess calorie storage as fat.

From 2-5 pm, our body temperature dips. This is when many cultures take a siesta and slow down because our natural body rhythm slows, so why fight it? Instead of embracing this natural body rhythm, we tend to resist it and turn to caffeine or sugar instead. Some slow down between 2 and 5 is normal, natural and to be expected but extreme crashes are not. So if you are crashing mid-afternoon, you’ll want to re-examine what you are eating at lunch.

In our society, we can’t always take a nap, but there are things we can do to align with our natural body rhythms. First, make sure that your midday meal has high-quality protein and fiber to slow down the digestive process. This ensures you won’t spike your blood sugar levels, burn through your lunch and then crash between 2 and 5. Next, studies show that one or two 15-20 minute rest periods during the afternoon will improve your energy, mood, performance and even cognitive function.

You don’t need to go to sleep: simply take some quiet time to rest meditate or just be still. Close your office door, go sit on a bench outside or sit in your car and just take 15-20 minutes to recharge. If you take these mini breaks (which you are entitled to in most every workplace but most of us never do), you will be in alignment with your body’s natural rhythm and you will also find you don’t need that caffeine or sugar pick me up after all.

From 4-6 your body temperature will rise and energy will pick up again until around 9pm when it will begin to drop. We have probably all heard that it is best not to eat anything 4 hours before bed. We also know that when we eat a big heavy meal in the evening, we feel sluggish and tired but despite our fatigue, we don’t sleep as well as we should.

Not a surprise since the body must direct all its energy to digestion instead of detoxification, healing and repair and regular body maintenance. A main reason for this is because we cannot fall asleep soundly unless our body temperature is dropping. Eating a meal raises your body temperature so eating within a few hours of sleeping will not only interfere with sleep, it can also result in weight gain.

One study looked at the timing of calorie intake and its effect on weight in support of this. The study allowed people to eat 2000 calories a day but they had to eat them all in one meal. First, the participants ate 2000 calories all at breakfast. Every person in the study either lost weight or maintained their weight.

Then the same group ate 2000 calories all at once at dinnertime. Every single person in the study gained weight. So even though they consumed the same 2000 calories, when they ate them made a significant difference in how their bodies responded.

Another study limited more calories severely, spreading out 1400 calories throughout the day among two groups of women. The first group ate 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 200 calories at dinner. The second group ate 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 700 at dinner.  Both groups had 500 calories at lunch, but one at their biggest meal at breakfast, the other at dinner.

The women who ate most of their calories at breakfast lost 2 1/2 times as much weight and more than 4 1/2 more inches from their waists than than the women who ate more at dinner. The bigger breakfast eaters also had higher HDL or good cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, better insulin sensitivity (lower blood sugar) and said they felt less hungry and more satisfied than the group that ate less in the morning and more at dinner.

I’m probably not the first person to tell you that breakfast is important and that it’s better to eat your heartiest meal mid-day. But now you know that your metabolism is tied to the sun and that our bodies are designed to follow its natural rhythms.

Breaking these rhythms interferes with many biological functions. While our workdays and stressful lives may not naturally align with the sun, the more you can alter and adjust your rhythms to realign with it, the healthier and leaner you will become — and remain — over time.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!

Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.nehealthadvisory.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


What is Stress?

Just Breathe

Not long ago, we had a severe storm in New England that knocked out power lines across the region. I lost my power on a Thursday evening and the kids and I did homework by candlelight. It was kind of fun sitting together in the dark without the normal daily distractions. We talked about a lot of things, including what it must have been like for kids years ago to eat and do homework by candlelight with no TV, radio, Nintendo DS or Wii.

While some in the area began to get their power back on Friday, we remained without power until late Sunday afternoon. Over the weekend, I had planned to write this section about managing stress and some other pieces as well. Instead, I dealt with water in my basement and no heat, electricity or water where I needed it! So this week, as we talk about managing stress, I can assure you I have practiced what I will preach in this newsletter.

It has been estimated that 75%-90% of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related concerns. Stress was called the “Epidemic of the Eighties” by Time Magazine and was referred to as our leading health problem at that time. But many studies confirm that Americans today believe they are under even more stress now than they were a decade or more ago. Stress is pervasive in our busy lives and stress definitely affects our health.

But it doesn’t have to. There are simple techniques I will explore in this newsletter that you can use to release stress in order to find peace in the moment — and to restore balance to your body over time. Bear with me because this will be a little longer than usual because I want to make sure you have some solid action steps you can take to manage stress in your life.

So many of my friends tell me they are stressed out: no time, running around in circles, feeling they are always behind, feeling like there is no time for themselves. One friend told me she got a gift certificate to a spa from her partner for Valentine’s Day, a break she sorely needs. But she was certain it would remain unused — at least until summer — because she simply had no time to fit in such an indulgence.

We want to be super moms and amazing dads while still holding down our jobs and fulfilling all of our commitments and obligations. But as the flight attendant on the airplane instructs you, in case of an emergency situation, you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting any other passengers. And that is equally true in life.

If you are run down and exhausted, stressed and tired, you cannot truly give ofyourself until you re-charge and re-fill your own gas tank.

According to Brian Luke Seaward, a leading expert in managing stress, “In Eastern philosophies, stress is considered to be an absence of inner peace. In Western culture, stress can be described as a loss of control. Noted healer Serge Kahili King has defined stress as any change experienced by the individual. This definition may be rather general, but it is quite correct.”

I am not sure which of the definitions I like best.  While they are all accurate, and perhaps in the end, all the same, the way each is expressed evokes different thoughts and responses in me. And the reality is that stress itself manifests differently in each of us.

For some people, stress makes them irritable, tense, and full of worry. For others, it manifests as low energy, fatigue, “burnout,” or disinterest or lack of motivation. And then there are those who don’t even know that they are stressed, because they go-go-go until they finally become overwhelmed. Until that moment, they never realize that being unable to slow down and just “BE”, being a workaholic or an adrenaline junkie is a way of avoiding an inner calm that would be stressful for them in a very different way.

What is Stress?

The actual term for stress came from endocrinologist Hans Selye. He found that all animals undergo a similar series of reactions to stimuli. It begins with alarm, during which adrenaline will flow to try to generate what has come to be termed as the “fight or flight response.”

Resistance comes next, as the body tries to find a way to cope with the stressor. At first the body adapts, but then over time, resources are depleted. The final stage is exhaustion, wherein the body is no longer able to maintain normal function. If the final stage is extended, long-term damage can be done to systems and glands, particularly the adrenal gland and the immune system.

Extended periods of stress wreak havoc on our bodies. But so does the repetition of moving through these phases over and over again.

Our ancestors knew no real stress other than the occasional wild animal chase, whether they were the hunter or hunted. We seem to experience it on a daily or weekly basis. The challenges of the daily commute, work deadlines and family responsibilities did not exist in the way they do now. The human body is experiencing something very new in our lifetimes, and we may not have the physiology to support it.

Stress and Wellness

Stress results in inflammation in the body. Inflammation is only just beginning to get the medical recognition it deserves, but many experts already believe that inflammation is the underlying cause of many chronic illnesses.

While many people can be confronted with stress and remain healthy, extensive research shows that stress contributes to disease. Stress has been shown to contribute to cancer, suppression of the immune system, heart disease, flu and viruses, colds, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers and colitis, asthma, tension and migraine headaches, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity and myriad other medical issues.

While we may be able to remove some, we cannot eliminate all of the stressors in our lives. But what we can do is change the way we react to them and how we deal with their effect on our bodies.


It is generally recognized that we do not breathe as we should. We take short shallow gulps from our lungs instead of long deep inhales and exhales emanating from our diaphragms. While some modern Western physicians, among them Dr. Andrew Weill, have written extensively about breathing, many ancient cultures recognized proper breathing as an essential component of a healthy life.

These cultures not only believed in the importance of proper breathing, they have structured rituals and physical exercise programs around the power of the breath. Yoga and tai chi are two effective ways to integrate physical movement with breath, and as a result, to combat stress. Integrating physical exercise with breathing is especially helpful for stress release, since it combines two powerful stress release tools – breathing and exercise – into one activity.

However, simply taking a few moments to take a deep breath, or two or three, can be a quick de-stressor. I was taught a method years ago as a means of bringing heart rates down rapidly after exercise. But I found it has the same beneficial effect when a driver cuts you off or your boss says he needs that report today.

Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose slowly for a full count of four seconds. Hold the air for another full count of four seconds. Then slowly release the air out through your mouth for a full count of eight seconds, trying to ensure that you have enough air to get all the way to eight. It may take some practice! Doing that three times in a row will bring a rapidly racing heart down 10-15 beats per minute, so it’s an immediate coping strategy for a stressful situation.


I probably will write an entire book on the health benefits of meditation, but for now, I’ll give a basic overview. Meditation has been shown to improve a very long list of conditions and concerns and bring more peace and joy into your life. But despite the volumes of evidence on its behalf, many people tell me they struggle with it.

I think that’s because they have ideas about what it means or how it should be done that might get in the way. Some tell me they can’t quiet their mind or they fall asleep and that makes them even more stressed because they feel like they are doing it wrong!

But there is no wrong when it comes to meditation.

Meditation is about taking time to just be. Time to focus on your breathing and to quiet your mind.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you have a quiet moment, whether it’s in the shower or in the car, that an idea comes through or you suddenly remember something you’d forgotten? That quiet space in between is where we release stress and heal, where we find ourselves again, where we touch base with our inner dreams and yearnings, and get great ideas about everything from what to make for dinner to how to solve a problem that has been perplexing us.

And we usually emerge from that moment inspired, peaceful and happy.  How do you meditate?

How to Meditate

There are so many different practices and there are different forms of meditation depending on what you want to achieve. But when I teach people to meditate, I tell them to forget about all of that and not to worry about what they think or heard it should be.

Start by sitting or lying down and getting really comfortable. If it’s possible, wear loose clothing and take off your shoes. Close your eyes and just focus on your breath going in and out. Hear it, feel your abdomen rise and fall as the air moves through. Try to block out everything else around you except your breath.

If being this still just isn’t working for you, try adding some music to help calm and focus you. I’ll be writing more about this type of music therapy at the end of this newsletter.

If thoughts come into your head, that’s fine. Allow them in; they want to be heard. But don’t follow them or attach to them. I like to use the analogy of each thought being a red balloon. As thoughts come into your head, assign them a red balloon and then set that balloon free. Thank the balloon if you want to. But let it go and watch it float away.

At first the thoughts may be very mundane, such as I have to pick up milk. Over time, the thoughts will be deeper and more insightful, such as I have to forgive my mother. Or I want to take up painting to express myself.

It doesn’t matter what the thoughts are or how many there are: just accept what comes, assign it a red balloon, and set it free. The goal over time will be – with practice – to see if you can expand the space in between the thoughts. To slow down the rate at which those thoughts come popping in and leave more stillness in between them.

While many people extol the praises of meditation for an hour or more in the morning and an hour or more at night, that is not realistic for – and would be challenging for – most of us. If you can do that, great! Otherwise, start with what’s manageable. Can you take a minute for yourself? Are you worth that? Remember the oxygen mask!

Could you take 10 minutes before the kids get up or after the alarm goes off before you get in the shower? Could you find time during lunch or in between meetings? While you wait to pick up your kids at soccer practice? Instead of listening to the radio or doing work, take a few quiet moments for yourself and close your eyes and breathe. Even one minute will make a difference, and with practice, as with everything, you get better.

If possible, try to find even just a few moments before you start your day and somewhere near the end.  If you finish your quiet time with a moment of gratitude, finding a way to give thanks for the good things in your life – even if you have to really stretch to find them in that moment – your life will become more peaceful and more joyful over time.

Music Therapy

For some people, no matter how much they practice or how hard they try, they are so in their heads that they just cannot seem to escape. Forcefully trying ends up causing them more stress instead of alleviating it. If you struggle with meditation for that or any other reason, or if you want to try something different every once in awhile, music can be a great way to relax and de-stress. While singing and dancing can be a fun way to let go, in this case, I am talking about a form of meditation to music.

Some people find classical music very relaxing, for others, its new age or jazz or their favorite soul or folk singer. The key is to find music that does not draw you in and engage your mind, but rather, lets you recede and experience the music without that mental or physical stimulation.

Usually when I usually listen to music, words engage me. So when I meditate to music, I need to have music without words so as not to focus on the music but rather to just relax with the music as a backdrop. I have been surprised that some of my favorite meditation music is not music I would typically listen to; certain music just takes me to another place when I meditate to it.

While a symphony works for some, for many, the simplicity of a soloist is more effective. Other options include Steven Halpern’s new age music, Yanni, Deuter, sounds of nature like waves or rain set to music, or perhaps Native American Indian or Tibetan flutes, which surprisingly seem to resonate with many. You may need to experiment to find what relaxes you but keeps you present, versus what puts you to sleep or sends your thoughts racing.

Just as with meditation, relax and sit or lie down and just listen. If thoughts come through, honor them, assign them a balloon, and set them free. Most of the time, we listen to music while we are doing something else. You will experience the music very differently in the stillness.

And if you do fall asleep, that’s ok. It means you needed it and you were relaxed enough to get there and that is also an important part of releasing stress: getting rest and listening to your body.

Other Options

There are many other stress management therapies, including humor and art therapy, behavior modification, progressive muscular relaxation, exercise, nutrition, visualization, resource management, communication skills, creative problem solving, massage, and journaling. If they resonate with you, definitely do some research or take a class and explore them.

I personally love free-form journaling where you carry a notebook or keep one by your bed. When you are stressed, or at the end of your day, you just write, without stopping, whatever comes into your head. Don’t analyze it: just let it all flow. It is amazingly cathartic! If you want to take it further, once a week, go back and re-read what you wrote. Use a red pen and circle repetitive themes or words or comments that surprise you or resonate with you. If you go back and do that several weeks in a row, you will begin to see patterns in your red-circled words that can help you determine areas of your life you want to change, people who stress you or who you need to forgive, or judgments you make about yourself that you need to heal and release.

At a minimum, I encourage you to try breathing and meditation. It takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come easily at first. If one technique doesn’t work for you after several tries, try another one. Your physical body deserves a few moments of peaceful rest and your soul is craving a quiet moment to reconnect with you. They will both thank you.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Despite popular belief that it’s the cholesterol in your food that influences cholesterol in the bloodstream, that has not been proven to be the case. Your body makes 75% of the cholesterol it needs to survive for healthy brain and cell function. The other 25% it MUST take in from the food you eat.

When you eat more cholesterol in your diet, the body simply adjusts its cholesterol production downward to compensate. Research confirms that eating cholesterol-rich foods does not increase your cholesterol levels; the body is an adaptive, reactive mechanism which responds to changing conditions and balances appropriately.

(There are foods that will raise your cholesterol in an unhealthy way and we’ll talk about that later.)

We need cholesterol because it keeps cell membranes from falling apart and plays an integral part in cellular repair. It builds brain and nerve tissue, supports the immune system, and maintains neurotransmitter and brain function.

Cholesterol is also a vital pre-cursor to many major hormones including testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Cholesterol helps regulate mood, is required for synthesis of vitamin D and helps us digest fat-soluble vitamins such as A,D,E and K. We could not live without cholesterol!

If you don’t eat cholesterol, your body will go into crisis mode and start making the extra cholesterol it needs to survive and thrive. When you are tested, your cholesterol will be high, even though you are actually cholesterol deficient.

Let’s take a quick look briefly at the body’s inflammatory process to better understand what cholesterol does. Bear with me while we talk a little science.

When you cut yourself, the damaged tissue releases chemicals to start the inflammation process. Blood vessels constrict to slow down bleeding, blood thickens so it can clot and cells multiply to repair damage and facilitate healing while the immune system calls on cells and chemicals to protect against viruses and bacteria from attacking the cut.

This is very similar to what occurs within the arteries. As damage occurs from oxidizing fats and nutrient imbalances, chemicals are released to begin the inflammatory process. Arteries constrict, blood begins to clot, the immune system sends help, and nearby cells are told to multiply. As this process occurs over and over again in the artery lining, scars called plaque form. Over time, blood thickening and artery constriction combine to make a heart attack or high blood pressure more likely.

So remember the first step after trauma: chemicals are released to begin inflammation and start the healing process. Enter cholesterol, whose primary function is cell repair. Cholesterol is sent to help repair the damaged tissue in the artery linings and elsewhere: it is actually helping your body heal and keep you alive!

Now if the inflammatory process is occurring repeatedly, cholesterol is continually being manufactured or recycled in order to facilitate the healing process. When tested, your cholesterol levels will seem high.

But your body needs that cholesterol to heal, and your body is manufacturing the exact level of cholesterol it needs for brain and cell function along with that healing.

What effect do you think forcing cholesterol levels down artificially with a drug like a statin would have on the body? And if eating cholesterol-rich foods doesn’t increase your cholesterol levels, what does?

We just learned that cholesterol steps in to help cells heal, it is released upon infection or inflammation. It is also a precursor for stress hormones.

Whenever you the body is fighting an infection, whether it is an environmental allergy like pollen, a food allergy like gluten, or a bacterial or viral infection, you will find high cholesterol levels. If the body is under stress, cholesterol, which is needed to make stress hormones like cortisol, will be high. If the stress is short-lived, cholesterol will later drop: if you live a life of constant stress, you will see chronic low-grade inflammation, and consistently higher cholesterol levels as well.

Take the cholesterol away and leave the other concerns like infections and bad food choices and your body’s ability to heal is compromised. Take the cholesterol away but leave the stress triggers and you interfere with the body’s ability produce stress hormones, which can lead to serious health concerns.

Cholesterol is actually protective in these cases and higher levels are actually beneficial to the body’s health and well-being. We’ll cover this further in a future article, but I want to help you begin to see (because I realize this is a whole new way of thinking about cholesterol and understanding its role in your body for most people so it may take some time to really register) that cholesterol and yes sometimes high levels cholesterol levels are not only necessary, they can actually be beneficial.

Several studies have shown that people with high cholesterol actually live longer than people with low cholesterol. And 75% of people hospitalized for a heart attack had “normal” cholesterol. Perhaps you can begin to see why high cholesterol may not be a bad thing, especially since it hasn’t been directly linked to heart attacks or strokes.

As we saw when we looked at the inflammatory process in the body, cholesterol is  present whenever there is inflammation in the body. The inflammation that occurs from a stressful moment, and infection or an allergy is part of the body’s natural healing process occurring as nature intends it and that’s a good thing.

Sometimes, however, there is inflammation that occurs that is not necessary or desirable; it is self-induced from food choices that are not natural for our bodies. In today’s world, we bombard our body with artificial chemicals and nutrient imbalances that the body never had to deal with before. And we do it over and over and over, each and every day.

Eating cholesterol rich foods doesn’t raise cholesterol. But there are some foods that do. And that is a topic for another article you can read for free at www.nehealthadvisory.com

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal. Learn more about Inger and receive her free bestselling ebook What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.

Article Photo: courtesy of Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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