A kinder, gentler approach to high cholesterol

You could cut off a bunion with a hatchet -- but you're going to be left with much bigger problems than a bunion!

That's just what it's like when you try to lower your cholesterol with a drug.

Sure, statins will slash those levels -- often quickly and dramatically -- but you might not like what you're left with. The drugs can lead to far bigger problems, like muscle pain, memory loss, and diabetes.

They've even been linked to cancer!

So if you need to cut your cholesterol, don't take the hatchet route by taking statins.

There are far better ways to slash those levels without the risks of drugs -- and new research spots three simple additions to your diet that can help.

#1 Oats: With cooler weather now here, it's time to put oatmeal back on the menu. It's not only an excellent source of dietary fiber, but it's also packed with beta-glucan, which can bring cholesterol levels down.

In one new study, beta-glucan -- found in both oatmeal and in even higher levels in oat bran -- cut LDL cholesterol by 4.2 percent and total non-HDL cholesterol by nearly 5 percent.

It even cut levels of apolipoprotein B, which carries LDL cholesterol through the blood, by 2.3 percent.

Sounds like a good excuse to have some oatmeal for breakfast!

#2 and #3 Garlic and Lemon: When it comes to dinner, garlic and lemon are a great combo for chicken, fish, and vegetables. And they can do more than punch up the taste -- because a second new study shows they can deliver a one-two punch to your cholesterol levels.

Just 20 grams of garlic -- about three to five cloves, depending on how big they are -- and one tablespoon of lemon juice per day cut levels of LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen, a key marker of thickened blood -- and a cardiovascular risk factor that's, in many ways, far more important than cholesterol.

Garlic and lemon even reduced blood pressure levels, about as effectively as drugs in some cases.

But it's the cholesterol part of the study that's been getting attention, because as more patients battle the side effects of statins -- and as more people turn away from the drugs as a result -- these natural therapies are starting to get a closer look.

While the changes might seem small, it's actually what you want, in most cases.

Despite what the mainstream guidelines say... despite what your own doctor will tell you... lower isn't always better when it comes to LDL cholesterol.

You actually need a certain amount of cholesterol to carry fat-soluble nutrients around your body. It also plays an essential role in your immune system.

When levels drop too low, you could face health risks. And, in most cases, meds will bring your levels down far too low.

So if you need to trim a few points off your cholesterol, turn to these natural therapies first -- and for some on-one-one assistance, make an appointment to see me here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in the San Diego area.

Not in Southern California? I'm also available for advice by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule a consultation.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook!