The Truth Behind Elevated Cholesterol



Prepared by: Bill Leavitt

February 2009



The purpose in preparing this paper is to shed some light on the most negated cause of elevated Cholesterol. Adrenal Fatigue initiates a cascading genesis of metabolic changes within multiple organs of the body, one being the release of Cholesterol by the liver. The most common treatment is prescribing Statin Drugs to treat the symptom; yet, this is to ignore the underlying cause. The many side-affects from being on statin therapy alone should defer someone to seek an alternative course of action. Just because writing a prescription to lower a total number is the easier course of action does not make it right.

Although I may be providing more information than you care to know about, if anything, please take away the following:

- A High Cholesterol number is not necessarily an indicator of anything other than what those numbers are.

- Stress, and its numerous consequences lead to Adrenal Fatigue which can cause a host of other major health issues if not identified, intervened, and resolved

- Statin Drugs do not solve the issue of Adrenal Fatigue and in fact create a host of side-effects.

- Elevated Cholesterol is not necessarily an indicator nor cause of heart disease.


-Bill Leavitt February 2009

Adrenal Exhaustion/Adrenal Fatigue


Adrenal exhaustion or adrenal fatigue is a stress syndrome. The ability to handle stress, physical or emotional, is a cornerstone to human survival. Our body has a complete set of stress modulation systems in place and the control center is the Adrenal Glands. But, continued stress over time depletes the Adrenal Glands reserve store of hormones and continued taxation eventually weakens the glands to the point of exhaustion forcing the body to seek out other methods to manufacture vital hormones for survival.


Calling upon the liver to release Cholesterol through an intricate chain of commands is the Adrenals first and most efficient course of action to replace lost hormones. This of course shows elevated serum blood cholesterol upon testing yet the underlying cause is not examined instead opting to treat the symptom via Statin Therapy. In addition to increased Cholesterol production, a host of other serious physical, organ, immune, mental, and digestive issues occur wreaking havoc upon the entire body.


Adrenal Fatigue is caused by: stress whether it be physical, emotional or psychological, lack of sleep, overexertion, poor diet, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, too much sugar, allergies, infections, environmental toxins & heavy metal toxicity, fear.

 Its most common signs include: continued fatigue, trouble getting out of bed, sugar and/or salt cravings, lack of energy, increased effort to do everyday tasks, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle stress, light headed when standing up, low body temperature, more prone to colds and flu, depression, poor memory and less tolerance. As a result of decreased adrenal hormones, people with adrenal fatigue frequently also have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), allergies, arthritic pain and low immune response. Women with it also have increased difficulty with PMS and menopause.

It has been estimated that 80% of adults suffer some sort of adrenal fatigue however it is one of the most under diagnosed illnesses in western society. Adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia, non-Addison's hypoadrenia and in its most severe form Addison's disease, is a deficiency in the function of the adrenal glands.


Another commonly overlooked cause of adrenal fatigue is chronic or severe infection that gives rise to an inflammatory response. Such infection can occur sub-clinically with no obvious signs at all. Parasitic and bacterial infections including Giardia and H. pylori are often the main culprits.


Although there is a definite need for the body to initiate adrenal action in response to danger, everyday stress can chip away at health handing the body an inheritance of unwanted problems and the enormous task in dealing with them.


The Stress Response is initiated by the Pituitary Gland, which is located at the base of the brain. It responds to perceived stress by releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is circulated to the Adrenal Glands setting off a release of hormones. Of particular interest to us is the hormone Cortisol which, when depleted due to constant stress, the body has the liver release cholesterol which the adrenal glands convert to Cortisol, which initiates a series of profound changes in body chemistry.


The Adrenal Glands are two small glands, each about the size of a large grape, which are situated on top of the kidneys. Their purpose is to help the body to cope with stress and aid in our survival. Each adrenal gland has two compartments. The inner or medulla modulate the sympathetic nervous system through secretion and regulation of two hormones called epinephrine and nor-epinephrine that are responsible for the fight or flight response. The outer adrenal cortex comprises 80 percent of the adrenal gland and is responsible for producing over 50 different types of hormones in three major classes: glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids and androgens.


A normal functioning adrenal gland produces a whole array of hormones but of particular interest with adrenal exhaustion are Cortisol and DHEA as these two hormones are continuously secreted in response to long-term chronic stress. Other adrenal hormones, which include adrenaline and nor adrenaline, are secreted in short bursts in response to an acute situation, which is referred to as the fight, and flight response. These two hormones are generally not considered significant in adrenal exhaustion. Conditions where these two hormones are continuously secreted (dysautonia) cause the following symptoms: anxiety, nervousness, over stimulated, insomnia, jittery, palpitations, shortness of breath, etc. This requires the CNS to be balanced with inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA to counteract the excessive excitation.


Cortisol (or Hydrocortisone)


Although his hormone tends to get a lot of  negative press, it is an extremely important  hormone and the most important human glucocorticoid. It is essential for life and regulates or supports a variety of important cardiovascular, metabolic, immunologic, and homeostatic functions. Of importance to Adrenal Fatigue, it controls the activation of Demolase which causes the initail conversion of Cholesterol to Pregnenolone.


The adrenal glands of a healthy person produce about 20mg of Cortisol each day. Normal Cortisol levels are responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, it immobilizes fat and protein stores for more energy, it is an anti-inflammatory, controls and modifies most blood cells that participate in immune and/or inflammatory reactions, effects blood vessels and therefore blood pressure, and electrolyte levels in the heart tissue, heart beat, as well as influencing the central nervous system controlling mood and behavior.

During early stage adrenal stress Cortisol levels are usually elevated which can increase obesity, cholesterol, blood pressure, alter brain chemistry which causes depression and anxiety, causes insulin resistance and osteoporosis, to name a few.

During later stage adrenal exhaustion, the once high levels of Cortisol plummet to very low levels where it is insufficient to adequately maintain normal physiological function. Therefore it is very important that Cortisol levels are maintained at a normal healthy optimal level for normal physiological function.


Effects of Hypersecretion

-         Increases the size of the Adrenal Cortex; may increase up to 1/3 or more the size of the kidney

-         Causes Insulin resistance

-         Decreases immune function and causes shrinkage of the Thymus Gland

-         Causes visceral weight gain and obesity

-         Decreases DHEA

-         Promotes mineral loss from bone

-         Decreases gut lining and promotes ulcers and IBS

-         Hypertension by increasing blood volume and pressure

-         Suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, macrophages, and mast cells


Cortisol Regulation

The adrenal glands are controlled via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. There is an existing negative feedback loop that governs the amount of adrenal hormones secreted under normal circumstances in people with adrenal fatigue. For example, the HPA axis adjusts Cortisol levels according to the body's need via a hormone called Adrenal Corticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) that is secreted from the pituitary gland in response to signals from the hypothalamus. When the ACTH binds to the walls of the adrenal cells, a chain reaction occurs within the cell. This leads to the release of cholesterol where it is manufactured into Pregnenolone, the first hormone in the adrenal cascade. After this, Cortisol is released into the blood stream where it travels in the circulatory system to all parts of the body and back to the hypothalamus, where it is measured. This completes the negative feedback loop.


Due to the over manufacture and resulting depletion of Cortisol, those undergoing Adrenal Fatigue will have cholesterol released from the liver to manufacture more:


- Cortisone, Hydrocortisone (Cortisol), Testosterone, Estrogen, DHEA, Pregnenolone, Aldosterone, Androstenedione, Progesterone,

- Aldosterone, Cortisone, Hydrocortisone are produced ONLY in the Adrenals

- Aldosterone regulates sodium and Potassium balance and thus BP



Another adrenal hormone of particular interest that declines during periods of stress is DHEA. If low DHEA levels are not rectified, a hormonal cascade effect could occur resulting with a deficiency of other sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. If these hormones get too low then a whole range of other systems and problems can also occur such as Hypothyroidism.


Mineralcorticoids such as Aldosterone modulate the delicate balance of minerals in the cell, especially sodium and potassium which regulate blood pressure. Stress increases the release of Aldosterone, causing sodium retention, leading to water retention and high blood pressure, and loss of potassium and magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. When the body lacks magnesium, it will suffer from a variety of pathological conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias, uterine fibroids and osteoporosis.


This is one of the most important intermediate hormones being produced in the hormonal cascade. DHEA, together with testosterone and estrogen, are made from Pregnenolone, which in turn comes from cholesterol. Pregnenolone also leads to the production of progesterone and is one of the intermediary steps in the making of Cortisol. Prolonged deficiencies in Pregnenolone as that in adrenal fatigue will lead to reduction of both glucocorticosteroids and mineralcorticoids such as Cortisol and Aldosterone respectively.


Now, with all of that said, for those with more of a visual side to the brain, perhaps this chart will be of significant use.

THE most important thing to see in this chart is right at the top: how Cholesterol is the able to provide manufacture for all hormones down the chain.



Stages of Adrenal Exhaustion


The Stress Response is actually part of a larger response know as the General Adaptation Syndrome.

It is broken down into three phases: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion.



Stage 1 (Alarm Phase)

The first stage, which is called hyper-adrenalism, is characterized by abnormally high Cortisol levels and subnormal DHEA levels. Often called the ‘Fight-or Flight response, it is designed to counteract danger by mobilizing the body’s resources for immediate physical activity.


  • Heart rate and force of contraction increase to provide blood to muscle needed for the stress response.
  • Breathing increases to supply necessary oxygen to the heart, brain, and exercising muscle
  • Production of digestive enzymes is severely reduced.
  • Blood sugar levels are increased s the liver dumps glucose into the bloodstream to feed muscle contraction.
  • Melatonin levels decrease which adds to poor sleep
  • Immune system becomes suppressed which may result in frequent infections and illness
  • The adrenal glands also secrete another hormone called epinephrine. This hormone constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure in order to ensure that the brain has adequate blood flow and oxygen to help us deal with impending danger.


 Stage 2 (Resistance Phase)


While the Alarm Phase is usually short lived, the Resistance Phases allows the body to continue fighting a stressor long after the effects of the fight-or –flight response has worn off.


- Cortisol and other corticosteroids are secreted by the Adrenal Cortex.

- Stimulate the conversion of protein to energy so that the body had a large supply of energy after glucose stores are depleted.

- Retention of Sodium to keep blood pressure elevated

- Continued stress or prolongation of the resistance reaction increases the risk of significant disease including” Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

- Cortisol decreases serotonin levels, which may cause depression

- Excess Cortisol cannibalizes muscle for energy resulting in muscle weakness and loss in muscle mass

- ‘Moon face’ is a common condition and weight gain around the trunk as well as fluid retention


 Stage 3 (Exhaustion Phase)


Exhaustion may manifest as a total collapse of body function or a collapse of specific organs. The tow major causes are loss of Potassium ions and depletion of Adrenal Hormones. Hypoglycemia, and cellular death result.


  • Cortisol and DHEA levels are low for most of the day leaving you with low energy levels
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Lack of mental alertness, depression
  • Constant fatigue
  • Salt and/or sugar cravings


Stressors that can lead to adrenal fatigue include:

  • Anger
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic illness
  • Chronic infection
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Excessive exercise
  • Fear and guilt
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Low blood sugar
  • Mal-absorption
  • Mal-digestion
  • Toxic exposure
  • Severe or chronic stress
  • Surgery
  • Late hours
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Excessive Exercise
  • Excessive sugar in diet
  • Excessive caffeine intake from coffee and tea



  • Sleep by 10 p.m.
  • Sleep in until 9:00 a.m., if possible
  • Do the things that you like
  • Avoid coffee or other caffeine containing beverages
  • Eat early
  • Have a glass of water in the morning with ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Avoid grains such as bread
  • Avoid starchy foods such as potato
  • Avoid trans-fat such as French fries
  • Laugh several times a day
  • Take vitamin C, pantethanic acid, magnesium, and vitamin E
  • Take Pregnenolone and DHEA as needed
  • Avoid getting over-tired
  • Avoid sugary fruits such as melons
  • Never skip breakfast



by Michael Lam, MD, MPH, ABAAM, CNC and Dorine Tan, RD, MPH, ABAAHP 


1) Eat before 10:00 a.m.

2) Eat frequent, small meals: 6-8 am (breakfast),  12 noon (lunch), Snacks - 10am, 3pm and Bedtime

3) Eat 30-40% whole grains, 30-40% Vegetables (50% should be raw), 10-15% Beans, seeds & nuts, 10-20% animal foods, 5-10% fruits


Banana, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit

High in potassium - make adrenal fatigue worse

Fruit and juices in the morning

High in potassium and fructose.

Refined flour products: pasta, white rice, bread, pastry, baked goods

Drop blood sugar fast, robbed of nutrients

Honey, sugar, syrups, soft drinks

Drop blood sugar too fast in one hour

Dried fruits,  fruit juices

Most detrimental food early in the day - drop blood sugar too fast

coffee, tea, black tea, hot chocolate, alcohol, colas, chocolates

Drop blood sugar too fast in one hour

Avoid Foods you are Addicted to or Allergic or Sensitive to

These food cause more stress on your body.

Avoid fruits for breakfast

Raise and drop blood sugar fast

Avoid rushed and hectic meals

Create more stress for your body.

Avoid deep-frying and browning; hydrogenated oils


Most Beneficial

Eat before 10am

Replenish  waning glycogen supply

Eat frequent small meals

Coast through low energy time

Bedtime Snack (use soaked raw nuts)

Help to have more peaceful sleep.

Combine fat, protein and whole grains at every meal and snack.

Provide a steady source of energy over a longer period of time

Mix 1-2 tbsp essential oils into grains, veg, and meats daily


Good quality protein (meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy), legumes)

Provide good protein and fats

Take digestive enzymes and HCL with meals

Help to properly break down protein and high fiber foods in the stomach

Eat 6-8 servings of a wide variety of bright colored vegetables

You will not gain weight; provide vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants which are crucial for optimal health.


High quality concentrated nutrients

Sea vegetables

Rich in trace minerals, good quality vegetable protein, easily digested.

Monounsaturated fats

used for low heat cooking, put a little water in the pan before the oil to keep the oil from getting too hot

Fresh and Raw nuts & seeds (soaked in water) - store in freezer

Good source of essential fatty acids

Acceptable - take in moderation

Whole unrefined grains

provide sustained energy and nutrients             
Caution: take it easy as breakfast food. Some people may need to avoid for breakfast.

Limited intake of fruits: Papaya, mango, plums, pears, kiwi, apples, few grapes, cherries


Polyunsaturated fats (corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut oil)

Never cook with this oil, add after the food is cooked. Provide essential fatty acids


Managing Stress


Hans Selye, the father of modern stress research states that stress itself should not be viewed as negative phenomenon. It is the individuals highly personalized internal reaction to a stressor that determines the response. Understanding what stresses you out  and having your system being prepared to take it is the best form of management.


Stress Management Components:

1.      Techniques to calm the mind and promote a positive mental attitude

2.      Exercise

3.      Lifestyle factors: time management, relationship issues, work, socializing

4.      Responsible eating habits designed to nourish the body instead of creating internal physical stress

5.      Supplemental measures designed to support the body and esp. the Adrenals

6.      Restful and quality sleep



Nutritional & Herbal Support

 *Seek out the professional opinion of a Doctor of Natural Medicine or a Medical Doctor who has training in Nutrition. These are my recommendations based upon personal research. There are many more qualified people than myself to help you. And, if you are taking prescription medication some herbs may interfere with their effectiveness.


These nutrients play a critical role in the health of the Adrenal Glands as well as the manufacture of adrenal hormones. Although all of these nutrients are available in pill form, try to seek out natural sources of food that contain them.


- Vitamin C

- Pantotheic Acid (B5)

- Vitamin B6 & B12

- Zinc

- Magnesium


 There is always controversy surrounding herbal supplementation. I think that most of the confusion comes from the fact that there is not necessarily less documented research than pharmaceuticals, but that there is not one single organization that standardizes benefits and dosages. What one qualified herbal practitioner or NMd prescribes is undone by a wide variety of sources who claim to be experts. Claiming an herb will treat 20 different conditions or cure terminal illness is a problem the industry faces.

That being said, there is a lot of unneeded negative gibberish generated by the medical community and large Pharma. In addition to these companies, a large proportion of the medical field tends to downplay the importance and viability of herbology simply because they know nothing about it and do not take the time to learn. To speak negatively of something you do not know the facts of is ignorance. Yes, there is caution to be taken, but the immense benefit of Herbal Supplementation is not to be dismissed.

These are recommended herbs based on research though, as with any other program of rejuvenation, regeneration, and lifestyle change there are many different approaches in treating a problem. And, as always, seek out the advice of a qualified and experienced practitioner to address your specific concerns.


Ashwaganda (Withania)

- Rejuvenates, balances, strengthens, and calms the nervous system

- Promotes tissue regeneration, and calm sleep

- Increases red and white blood cell counts


Licorice Root Powder (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

- Purifies Liver and blood

- Great for Adrenal Insufficiency, counteracts stress and hypoglycemia

- Potent Anti-inflammatory

- Protects against cancer-causing toxins

- Stops the production of toxic free radicals


Astragalus Root

- Strengthens immune system

- Strengthens lungs


Ginseng: Panax (Chinese) & Siberian

- Classified as a General Tonic (whole body) or Adaptogen

- Extreme benefit to adrenals increasing tone and function

- Enhance resistance to stress