GAPS and High Cholesterol

For many people switching to 'real food' significantly lowers their cholesterol.

I am not one of those people.

In fact my blood analysis this week came back stating that my LDL cholesterol levels (the 'bad' cholesterol - I'll talk about that more in part 2) was 7.9, when it should be less than 2. Eeek!

There are however several good reasons why your cholesterol levels might be temporarily high if you are working through the GAPS diet, and a few things you can do about it too.

Firstly, rapid weight loss. I have dropped from over 13st to 8st 12lb in the last nine months. So long as your weight loss is healthy i.e. you are losing fat and not muscle or water, you should see an increase in the amount of free flowing cholesterol temporarily in your blood whilst your body processes it.

For example, if you are losing 1 lb a week, you are releasing a steady stream of 3500 calories of saturated animal fat in to your blood stream as trigycerides and fatty acid.

The solution is obviously not to halt weight loss, as obesity is more of a health risk than raised cholesterol, but simply to re-check your cholesterol levels once weight loss has stabilised. Don't worry, it will stabilise - nobody loses weight on GAPS if they don't need to.

Secondly, you may be doing more intense activity than you should be on a low-carb diet. My doctor has chastised me for going on a big run every couple of weeks and doing nothing in between. Apparently I should be doing at least an hours brisk walk every couple of days, but ideally 20-30 minutes daily.

What has this got to do with GAPS? Well, most of the functions of our body on GAPS are provided energy from fat. This is called a ketogenic diet. Our bodies are actually very happy running mainly on fats and do a very efficient job of it. There are however some key brain functions that require glucose and simply cannot be replaced by fats.

Don't worry though, your body can produce glucose from proteins through a process called Gluconeogenesis.  When we are exerting ourselves more than our body thinks it can handle, it reduces production of a hormone called T3. Normally T3 helps us use up glucose, so that we don't have excess in our blood, but your body drops the levels to try and conserve glucose for essential brain function.

What does this have to do with cholesterol? Well, the drop in T3 also has the effect of meaning that LDL receptors drop some of their activity. These receptors have the job of feeding back to the brain how much LDL is in your blood, and with them temporarily out of action, your brain doesn't bother doing anything about the LDLs present, hence the levels are higher.

women weight training
photo credit
Thirdly, you aren't lifting anything heavy. Yep, even ladies, weight training is important. You don't have to beef up massively, but a little lifting a couple of times a week can rapidly reduce your cholesterol. In fact, one study says that it reduces your cholesterol for 72 hours after a single weights session.

Lifting weights breaks down muscle, which the body then repairs and makes stronger. Cholesterol is required in this repair process. If you have high cholesterol, use the opportunity to build some lean muscle mass - it will help you look more toned and generally feel fitter and healthier.
Whilst all of these things explain my elevated cholesterol levels, none of them are good enough solutions for someone as far out of the 'normal' range as I am - but that's okay, because I have a treatment plan, and it doesn't involve statins.

Check back tomorrow for part 2!


  1. This is my experience. I had issues with cholesterol so much that I even tried generic zetia as well. They did help, however, one person once told me about some foods that are more natural way to reduce my cholesterol. I was lazy to start exercising so I had to turn to healthier food. After 6 months my cholesterol was down to 4 which is great. And guess what, I actually ate about more than 70% of the food listed here, so I am definitely into lowering cholesterol that I even started my own blog about it but I am glad that many more people are writing about it. We need to help out each other. Great post man!


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