When you have high levels of triglycerides in your blood, you are at greater risk for developing heart disease and other potentially life-threatening conditions. Fortunately, Ayurvedic principles teach that it is possible to manage this risk.
Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes total health and wellness of the mind, body, and spirit. At the same time, practitioners try to bring about beneficial results in the most natural way possible.
Millennia of observation and experience among Ayurvedic practitioners demonstrate that there are at least a dozen natural ways to reduce triglycerides in the blood. Using these methods not only minimizes your risk of developing heart disease and other worrisome conditions but also ensures that you are calm, energized and healthy enough to meet the challenges of everyday life.
Learning more about what triglycerides are and how Ayurvedic practice perceives them and treats them will help anyone understand how they can become healthier by making smart lifestyle choices.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat, or lipid, which is naturally found in human blood (19). When food is consumed, the body uses some of the calories right away. If excess calories are consumed, then these are stored as triglycerides in your fat cells. Hormones will subsequently release the triglycerides when your body needs energy between meals.
If you are in the habit of consuming more calories than you can immediately use, especially those that come from foods that are high in carbohydrates, then it is likely that you have an excess of triglycerides and are at risk for all sorts of health complications.
Levels of Triglycerides
Research indicates that certain levels of triglycerides in the blood are normal, while others are dangerously high. Here are the various levels as they are currently defined:
- Normal Range: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- Borderline High Range: 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High Range: 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very High Range: 500 mg/dL or above (20)
If your health care practitioner performs a lipids panel on you and your triglycerides are measured at anything above 150 mg/dL, you will be cautioned to make immediate lifestyle changes.
Why Do Triglycerides Matter?
High levels of triglycerides are known to contribute to the hardening of the arteries, which is called arteriosclerosis. People who have arteriosclerosis are at far greater risk of having a heart attack, stroke or heart disease. When triglyceride levels become extremely high, the sufferer also may develop pancreatitis.
Having high triglycerides also may signal the presence of other health threats. These may include high blood pressure, excess fat around the waist, cholesterol levels that are outside of the normal range and high blood sugar.
How Does Ayurveda View Triglycerides?
In traditional Ayurvedic practice, you will find no mention of triglycerides. Instead, practitioners refer to lipid tissue or meta datum. Ayurvedic teaching focuses on finding a healthy balance within the body, and it also recognizes that healthy lipid tissue is essential to any living organism. Accordingly, Ayurveda seeks to bring triglycerides into balance with the rest of the body.
When a person consumes too much food or food that is of poor quality, then they introduce ama into their system. Ama literally translates as “undigested,” meaning calories that the body is not immediately converting into energy. Ama is considered a toxin or waste product that the body needs to dispel in order to function optimally.
Ama also may be the result when the body’s agni, or digestive fire, is weak. Accordingly, it is wise to get rid of the ama in the body while also strengthening its digestive fire. This may be accomplished by adopting certain lifestyle changes.
How to Reduce Triglycerides in Ayurveda
While western medicine tends to focus on prescription drugs and diet to lower triglyceride levels, Ayurveda prefers a more holistic, natural approach. With the 13 ways to naturally reduce triglycerides that are described below, anyone can begin leading a healthier and more well-balanced life.
1. Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables get their name from their cross-shaped blossoms. Examples of vegetables in this class include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, and radish. While they are low in calories, cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber as well as vitamins C, E and K. These super-foods also are loaded with the phytonutrients that are associated with fighting inflammation and cancer.
Numerous studies (1) also suggest that there is a credible link between consuming more cruciferous vegetables and reducing your risks of cardiovascular disease. In Ayurveda, cruciferous vegetables are known to help balance the Kapha.
2. Prioritize Leafy Vegetables
In Ayurvedic practice, foods that have a bitter taste, particularly green leafy vegetables, are considered exceptionally beneficial. Cabbage, spinach, kale, collard greens, watercress, Romaine lettuce, arugula, and Swiss chard are just a few examples of these healthful leafy vegetables.
Studies show that many of these vegetables are rich in vitamin K, a substance that is known to protect arteries (2) as well as dietary nitrates, which make the arteries more flexible, lower blood pressure and improve the functioning of the cells that line the blood vessels (3). One analysis that covered several studies showed that eating more green leafy vegetables resulted in a 16 percent reduction in the occurrence of heart disease (4).
3. Focus on Fiber and Protein
Consuming soluble fiber such as barley and oats helps to promote healthy elimination, which is believed to help lower cholesterol levels. In Ayurvedic practice, barley is considered karshana. This means that this whole grain is vital to the metabolism of fat within the body. Fiber also may be found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes.
Studies show that when people eat more fiber, the absorption of fat in the small intestine improves. This means that fewer triglycerides are found in the blood (5). Another study found that while a low-fiber diet caused triglyceride numbers to increase as much as 45 percent in less than one week, a diet high in fiber brought those numbers back to acceptable levels (6).
4. Avoid Glycemic Foods
Ayurvedic practitioners understand that high-glycemic foods are undesirable when trying to achieve a healthy balance. In general, these foods immediately are transformed into triglycerides upon consumption. This means that they serve no useful nutritional purpose. Foods included in this category are sugary drinks, desserts, bread and pasta made with white flour, refined foods like white rice and all foods containing added sugar.
5. Banish Trans Fats
Trans fats were invented by modern science through a process of adding hydrogen to liquid fats. Thus, it is impossible for them to be absorbed by the human body. As they are ama from the moment they enter the system, it is wise to avoid foods that contain these substances.
Unfortunately, many foods are loaded with trans fats. The key to finding them frequently is to read the nutrition label. Labels that say a product has zero trans fat may actually have 0.5 grams of trans fat in each serving. Moreover, any label that mentions partially or fully hydrogenated oils likely has trans fat. These foods frequently include packaged cookies, crackers, cakes, snack foods, and fried foods. More than one study demonstrates the danger of consuming too many trans fats (9).
6. Establish a Sleeping Schedule
Ayurveda encourages a well-balanced lifestyle and a predictable routine. This means establishing and maintaining a sleeping schedule. Practitioners recommend rising early each morning, perhaps even before the sun rises and retiring no later than 10:00 pm. Sleeping during the day is discouraged because it interferes with the efficiency of the metabolism and may promote the production of ama.
Studies similarly indicate that there are many health benefits, including metabolic improvements, that are associated with a sleep schedule (10).
7. Eat According to the Clock
Ayurvedic practitioners frequently recommend that their patients establish a predictable eating pattern. This means that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are consumed at the same time each day. Also of importance is meal size. Lunch is recommended as the largest meal of the day while dinner should be far lighter and preferably consumed before the sun goes down. This provides the body with a better opportunity to use all of the calories consumed at dinner before going to bed. Moreover, Ayurveda discourages snacking between meals as this may interfere with proper digestive function.
Scientific evidence suggests that adjusting meal times and eating an earlier dinner may, indeed, have a significant positive effect on overall health (11).
8. Practice Yoga Asanas
Ayurvedic therapy frequently includes the daily practice of yoga asanas as well as sun salutations. These are performed twice daily, and they are believed to assist the body to metabolize fats, thereby reducing levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Practicing the asanas and sun salutations requires no more than 10 minutes in the morning and an additional 10 minutes in the evening.
At least one study has outlined how regularly performing yoga asanas can have a beneficial effect on triglyceride levels (12).
9. Use Yoga Breathing
Also called pranayama, yogic breathing is believed to aid proper digestion. This practice further may clear the body’s channels of ama. Several different techniques are frequently used. These include basic breath awareness, victorious breath, alternate nostril breathing, breath retention and breath of fire. Your Ayurvedic practitioner or yogi may provide you with guidance or instructions regarding any of these or other breathing techniques. Some people may simply prefer to regularly engage in a soothing deep-breathing exercise to enhance calm and combat stress, which also will aid digestion.
Many studies have already established that pranayama may have several health benefits (13).
10. Cultivate a Meditation Practice
The American Heart Association endorses Transcendental Meditation (14) as a means of improving overall health and well-being. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, regular meditation practice may help individuals to manage stress, lower blood pressure, experienced enhanced feelings of balance and even sleep better at night.
Ayurvedic practitioners similarly have long recommended that patients engage in an ongoing meditation practice. This may be in conjunction with asanas and breathing exercises to bring calm and clarity to the individual twice each day.
11. Commit to Daily Exercise
Balancing cholesterol may be assisted with daily exercise according to Ayurvedic practitioners. They frequently recommend activities like walking, swimming, jogging, skiing, aerobics classes, and various sports to their patients as a means of balancing the various agnis in the body. This contributes to healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also assisting with metabolizing fat.
Research has proven time and again that regular exercise is an excellent means to lose weight, lower triglycerides and raise the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol in the body. Aerobic exercise may be particularly valuable when it comes to reducing triglycerides (15). High-intensity workouts may bring around these beneficial effects in a surprisingly short time (16).
12. Supplement with Herbs
Several Ayurvedic herbs are known to enhance the production of bile. With more bile, the body is better equipped to process healthy fatty tissue. For instance, turmeric provides essential liver support, which is critical to purifying the blood and increasing the bile. This valuable herb also may directly lower triglyceride levels (17). A combination of black pepper, long pepper, and powdered ginger helps with absorption so that it is easier for the body to process other supportive herbs. Triphala is helpful for cleaning the colon and removing cholesterol from the system.
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13. Avoid Alcohol
For some individuals, consuming alcohol can dramatically increase triglyceride levels. Ayurvedic practitioners frequently recommend that their patients forego alcohol entirely. If this is a habit that you don’t want to give up, consider restricting yourself to one drink per day at most. You may find that the health benefits are significant enough to convince you to quit for good.
Alcohol is high in both sugar and calories. Studies demonstrate that even moderate consumption may cause as much as a 53 percent increase in triglyceride levels (18). Avoiding alcohol immediately reverses this effect.