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Case Study 1:

Too much of a good thing can be bad. When it comes to dietary restrictions, cutting out protein and fat completely may do more harm than good. Physician Huang recalls a patient who did exactly that and ended up creating problems that were worse than the hypercholesterolemia itself. “Madam Soh, then pushing 60, was warned by a doctor about the dangers of cholesterol-inducing food items. She was so scared that she abstained from foods containing protein and fat,” Physician Huang recalls. Although Madam Soh’s level of bad cholesterol decreased, so did that of her good cholesterol. “Good cholesterol is needed to help protect the body,” Physician Huang explains. People who are deficient in cholesterol are pallid, prone to chills, and often get numb appendages due to circulatory problems.

Case Study 2:

Then 75 years old, Madam Zhang suffered from memory loss, fainting spells and numbness in her hands and feet. Physician Huang diagnosed hypercholesterolemia, and had her take a blood test, which confirmed very high levels of cholesterol. “In TCM, treatment is tailored to each individual,” Physician Huang reveals. “I decided to put her on a three-month course of medication that included red yeast rice—three capsules twice daily.” Physician Huang points out that, unlike Western medicine, which often provides almost immediate symptomatic relief, TCM takes longer for visible results. True enough, it was only three months later that Madam Zhang saw her cholesterol level drop. Physician Huang then prescribed a second three-month course of treatment, this time with maintenance in mind. He also prescribed a healthy diet and ample exercise for Madam Zhang.

Physician Luke Huang, from the Eu Yan Sang clinic at Ang Mo Kio, reveals that, there are two kinds of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels) sufferers: congenital and acquired.

Congenital hypercholesterolemia occurs as a result of an inherited disorder of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. Acquired hypercholesterolemia is due to a number of factors, including an unhealthy diet, a stressful lifestyle,and lack of sufficient exercise.

Physician Huang lists nausea, bloatedness, memory loss, and numbness in the hands, feet and chest as symptoms of high cholesterol. Left unmanaged, it can lead to atherosclerosis, a heart attack or even a stroke.

Physician Huang warns, "Hypercholesterolemia may cause mood swings and frequent gastrointestinal discomfort. Your risk increases with age, but if one has a genetic propensity and fails to follow a responsible diet, then even kids are susceptible to high cholesterol."

For people with hypercholesterolemia, Physician Huang assures that they can lead a normal life by staying calm and relaxed while going on a diet of healthy foods supplemented by a TCM regime.

According to TCM practitioners, you could have cholesterol-related problems if you display any of these four patterns of disharmony: 

• Excessive Phlegm-Dampness 

Symptoms: light-headedness, nausea, numbness in limbs, blurred vision
Prescription: erchen decoction (classical TCM formula containing orange peel and pinellia), red yeast rice capsules

• Stagnation of Phlegm-Dampness

Symptoms: a stuffy chest, spine chills, difficulty in breathing, headache, fatigue, numbness in limbs
Prescription: contains trichosanthes, Chinese chives and pinellia

• Deficiency in Liver, Spleen and Kidney Systems

Symptoms: Dizziness, ringing in ear, swelling in face and limbs, dry eyes
Prescription: contains Chinese woldberry, chrysanthemum and foxglove root

• Stagnation of Liver-Qi

Symptoms: Agitation, bowel discomfort, diarrhoea, faintness and blurry sight
Prescription: contains hare's ear root liver relief powder, red yeast rice capsules


Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.5. Find NATURA at Eu Yan Sang retail outlets, newsstands and major bookstores in Singapore.