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December 15, 2010

Natural Alternatives For Statins and Anticoagulants

Inevitably once we reach a specific age, certain drugs will be prescribed whether or not we “really” need them. They are prescribed for good measure and with good intention, like most drugs are.

When you hit the magical birthday that grants you (and your MediCare insurance) access to a whole candy-shop of new drugs to pay for, expect to see statins and blood thinners on the shopping list from your doctor.

Statins and anticoagulants are two types of drugs that are very commonly prescribed to men and women who fall into the age range of increased risk for heart attack or stroke. These drugs help prevent such an event from ever occurring.

What is a statin?

Statin drugs are known to lower cholesterol by inhibiting the liver’s ability to produce an enzyme called HMG Co-A reductase. The result of taking this drug regularly is a significant reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol and a small increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
They are sold as:
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Lescol (fluvastatin)
  • Mevacor (lovastatin)
  • Pravachol (pravastatin)
  • Zocor (simvastatin)
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Common side effects of the statins are gastrointestinal discomforts including nausea, gas and upset stomach. Less common are headache, dizziness, rash, and sleep disturbances.

What is an anticoagulant?

Anticoagulants are also called blood thinners. These drugs work to inhibit the ability of blood to clot and are most often prescribed to help prevent stroke from occurring. In the US and UK, the prescription drug of choice for this task is called a Coumadin which inhibits the body’s ability to properly modify vitamin K to do its job to help blood clot during a hemorrhage (bleeding). Popular prescriptions or recommendations are:
  • Miradon (anisindione)
  • Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)
  • Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate)
  • Sintrom (acenocoumarol)
  • Warfarin (also coumadin, jantoven, marfarin)
  • Lovenox (enoxaparin)
  • Xarelto (rivaroxaban)
Abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea are possible side effects. Things to keep an eye on when using this medication are black, tarry-looking stools which can be a sign of intestinal bleeding as well as pink or blackened/smoky colored urine, indicating blood in the urine. Signs of internal bleeding should be treated as an emergency.

What are some alternatives?

  • Guggul (commiphora mukul)
  • Garlic (allium sativum)
  • Chromium (chromium picolinate)
  • Chickpea/Garbanzo bean (cicer arietinum)

What do the alternatives do?

• Guggul (also Guggulipid and Gugu-Lipid) is another name for the Mukul myrrh tree and its gummy resin is known to lower bad cholesterol and complimentarily raise good cholesterol. Early studies were published prematurely with negative reports, however, after further study and many more clinical trials, Guggulipid is showing even more promise than statins to produce highly favorable results.
A significant lowering of serum cholesterol (av. 23.6%) and serum triglycerides (av. 22.6%) was observed in 70-80% patients Double-blind, crossover study was completed in 125 patients with gugulipid therapy and in 108 patients with clofibrate therapy. Two patients had flu-like syndrome with clofibrate and opted out from the study. With gugulipid the average fall in serum cholesterol and triglycerides was 11 and 16.8% respectively and with clofibrate 10 and 21.6% respectively. The lipid lowering effect of both drugs became evident 3-4 week after starting the drug and had no relationship with age, sex, and concomitant drug intake.
As a supplement, an excellent choice to take is when combined with Red Yeast Rice which has constituents in it that work as an anticoagulant. Only purchase Guggul where the label shows Guggul extract is standardized to 2.5% guggulsterones or better.

• Garlic has won its case as a blood thinner and is cautioned against in-taking while on other anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin. In regards to lowering cholesterol, I have this information from studies done between 2009 and 2010:
Garlic is not so much effective in reducing the bad LDL cholesterol. Instead, it suppresses the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in blood, which in turn prevents formation of plaques in the arteries, to block them. Actually, it is not LDL Cholesterol that causes the damage rather it is the oxidized LDL Cholesterol, which is harmful. Thus, though not directly but garlic is a good substitute that is useful in treating cardiovascular diseases.

• Chromium in the past was most often promoted as a supplement to help with carbohydrate metabolism, as a weight loss aid, and most recently, for assisting with regulating blood sugar. Another benefit of chromium is in fact, that it does help to lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol.
Levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B, the principal protein of the LDL fraction, decreased significantly while the subjects were ingesting chromium picolinate. The concentration of apolipoprotein A-I, the principal protein of the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) fraction, increased substantially during treatment with chromium picolinate. The HDL-cholesterol level was elevated slightly but not significantly during ingestion of chromium picolinate. Only apolipoprotein B, of the variables measured, was altered significantly during supplementation with the placebo. These observations show that chromium picolinate is efficacious in lowering blood lipids in humans.

• Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans - The wonderful benefits of this legume for lowering cholesterol are astounding.
The garbanzo-supplemented diet, which provided slightly less protein and fat, and more carbohydrate than the wheat-supplemented diet, resulted in a significant 3.9% drop in total cholesterol, which was largely due to a 4.6% drop in LDL "bad" cholesterol. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. …Just one cup of cooked garbanzo beans provides 70.5% of the DV for folate.
As a food, hummus is a beautiful combination of ingredients made of pureed chickpeas, garlic, spices, lemon juice and olive oil (which also aids to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol). I tout this as the great circulatory system superfood to add to a diet. There is actually so much to the garbanzo beans on their own as a supplemental food, it would be a shame for you to miss out on reading the data.  Check the source below:

What’s Next?

Other natural remedies and supplements exist that help to keep cholesterol in good shape. The number of them readily available is too overwhelming to list but are not difficult to find using the internet.

To keep your cholesterol in good balance, choose foods high in fiber especially in complex carbohydrates, limit your sodium intake, cook with unsaturated fats and avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Foods once thought to be bad for cholesterol from back in the day when “all cholesterol was bad” have now been re-designated as healthy choices because they have found the cholesterol in them was beneficial. Eggs and avocado are just a couple of them. Don’t forget your walking shoes and get about 20 minutes of brisk walking and some fresh air (hopefully with sunshine).

If you are already on a prescribed medication to decrease your risk of heart attack or stroke do not replace your prescription with an alternative without first consulting your physician, do not take supplements of any of the above in addition to a statin or anti-clotting medication you are already taking. Do not self-dose these supplements for a suspected condition without the advice of an experienced herbalist or a naturopath. Here’s to your health!

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