How I Treated My Cholesterol Without Statin Drugs
The Phone Call From Family Doctor
Somewhere in the 1990s, I think it was around 1997 or so, my routine bloodwork came back not so routine. I always go once a year for the annual physical checkup which included bloodwork and certain earmark screenings. Usually our family doctor called within a week with the blood test results and I was quite accustomed to hearing, "It's all good, John. No areas of concern. See you next year."
On an otherwise pleasant summer day, the annual phone call came in and the words were not the same as previous years. "John, your cholesterol and triglycerides are a little high and your numbers are a little concerning to me. I want to put you on a statin drug to reduce your cholesterol about 30 points to under 200 and get your triglycerides down to 150 or so. Only one pill a day will do it. I'll call it in to the pharmacy......" He was still talking into the phone, but after he said "only one pill a day", I wasn't hearing much more of what he had to say.
Well, you could have blown me over with a feather. Yeah, I know...being married to a doctor should have had me better prepared for things. But I had never taken a prescription medication for anything, I'd been healthy all my life, never overweight, always exercised and ate healthy, never been a patient in a hospital, never been sick with anything other than a cold or mild flu. And now this.
I was now considered "sick" and required daily prescription medication.
That may not seem like a big deal to you, but in our house, you had to be really sick to get a prescription. My wife was one of those doctors who didn't believe in writing a prescription if you could get the same benefit from something else - an herbal remedy, something over the counter, by adding or taking away a particular food, implementing more exercise, making a diet restriction (example: low fat) or adding a supplement. I can remember only one time she ever gave prescription medications to one of our sons, and that was for extreme pain of a compound leg fracture. Ordering a statin drug for me was a big deal, and I was worried she wouldn't have anything in her bag of tricks for me.
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Daily Vitamins and Supplements
Every day, I took a small handful of vitamins and supplements that television and print advertisements said were supposed to take care of me so I wouldn't get sick and, now I felt they had let me down. I already took Niacin and Omega 3 Fish Oil daily, wasn't that supposed to be taking care of my cholesterol? Maybe I just needed an increase in one of those, I hoped.
My wife always prescribed our vitamin and supplement intake. Even though she prepared nutritious meals for me and our sons, she made sure we each got tailor made schedules of extra vitamins. Some of us got more supplements than the others as our dietary needs changed or being finicky about eating some types of foods, but she looked after us just swell.
So what the heck happened? How did I end up with cholesterol problems?
My wife was at work when I got the call. I called her at the hospital to tell her about the family doctor's phone call being a bit disturbing to me (an understatement, for sure) and what did she think? Did she think I really needed to add a prescription drug to all the vitamins and mineral supplements I was taking each day?
She said she was busy with patients from a multi-car accident but she would talk to me about it when she got home. Even though I totally understood the importance of her job, a simple yes or no answer wouldn't have left me with the feeling of impending doom of more bad news.
Because she was the doctor and I was not, I turned on the internet and put in a search for "cholesterol drugs and side effects". I wanted to learn all about these drugs and what kind of side effects they had, my main concern. I was still hoping there was something that could replace this 'statin' drug with and still get my cholesterol numbers down to a happy level.
My "Imagined" Future Pill Intake
The list of side effects was devastating
My Afternoon on the Internet
Even though I had to get a nap in order to work third shift that night, I settled down on the computer for the afternoon to get educated.
The more I read, the more upset I got.
From what I had been reading, no one got lucky the first time around with the choice of statin drug and their doctors played around with dosages and different cholesterol drugs until the blood test numbers started looking better to them. It could take months to figure out the right drug and the right dosage!
It sounded like guinea-pigging to me.
Every site I went to, each drug company touted their drug as the best thing since sliced bread. Brand X was the miracle cure for cholesterol problems and their drug was the only drug to choose.
Until I got to their side effect lists.
Some lists were as long as 10 bulleted items! With the most common side effects of statins being headache, insomnia, muscle aches, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, this list alone scared me away because I didn't suffer from any of those and didn't want to start.
By now, I was more concerned about the side effects than if the drug would ever take care of my original problem!
Add in that certain drugs caused memory loss, confusion and possible diabetes down the road and I didn't like the picture of me at the end of that road. I had terrible visions of how many daily pills I'd be taking in the future.
Public opinion matters sometimes!
I skipped around a lot on the internet. If I didn't like what I read on one drug company's website, I bounced to another. Some pills were 10 milligram and others were 50 milligram and that was their LOWEST dose. Some were big pills, some were small (this means a lot if you are the one taking the pills).
I figured somewhere, someone had to have had a bad experience with these drugs. Where were all those dissatisfied customers?
I put in the search bar "bad experiences with statin drugs" and got over 20,000 posts in results. I had hit paydirt when I found something called "Internet boards" and "internet forums".
Remember, this was around 1997, so this was all new stuff to many people of my generation! I shortly figured out that I had to create a screen name and password, so I could read what they were talking about on the various message boards, and boy, did I get an education!
I already took Niacin and Omega 3 Fish Oil, but this was where I learned about other cholesterol-reducing supplements I'd never heard of like Red Rice Yeast, CoQ-10, and IP-6 Inositol. One post led to another and another and before I knew it, my wife was home from work and I had missed getting my nap before going into work for third shift. But I was now an "informed patient."
My Wife To The Rescue
By the time my wife got home from work, I had myself so worked up, she didn't understand why I was even considering the proffered prescription.
It was the Internet that got me so worked up, I told her.
And the family doctor didn't offer any other choices, just statin drugs, I told her.
After talking to him on the phone, I took that ball and ran with it.....all the way to the list of side effects that people were suffering. I was feeling like no other choices were available. Then I mentioned the supplements I read about and she, of course, already knew about them.
She had my bloodwork faxed to our house and after she looked the results over, my wife said "Look, we'll tweak your supplements, add some Vitamin B8, put you on a lower fat diet and get repeat bloodwork in 8 weeks or so. It might take a few months to lower your numbers, but don't worry. It's not like your cholesterol is over 400 and your triglycerides are off the charts. You'll be fine."
The next day, I had a large white capsule replacing my little Niacin tablet. If I thought Fish Oil capsules were large, IP-6 Inositol had it beat in size.
So what is IP-6 Inositol and why isn't everyone considering taking it?
What is IP-6 Inositol And What Is It Good For?
IP-6 Inositol is Vitamin B8 but goes by a lot of other names: chiroinositol, cis-1,2,3,5-trans-4,6-Cyclohexanehexol, Cyclohexitol, Dambrose, D-chiro-inositol, D-Myo-Inositol, Facteur Anti-alopécique, Hexahydroxycyclohexane, Inose, Inosite, Inositol Monophosphate, Lipositol, Meso-Inositol, Méso-Inositol, Monophosphate d’Inositol, Mouse Antialopecia Factor, Myo-Inositol, Vitamin B8, Vitamine B8.
If you ever read what it is meant to be used for, you might think Vitamin B8 covers every ailment that people have, but really it is not a jack-of-all-trades type of supplement.
When I started taking IP-6 Inositol for reduction and maintenance of cholesterol and triglycerides, I didn't matter much to me that it boasted being an excellent antioxidant and being a boost to the immune system.
Because of working shift work and running my boys to sports games and practices, my sleep has always been catch as catch can - only to lay awake in bed going over the day's events in my head. I'm semi-anxious by nature and within 3 months of daily use, maybe it is a coincidence, but I found that my anxiety levels were easier to deal with and I was getting more restful sleep as well.
I generally get a haircut every 7 to 8 weeks, and I noticed my hair was growing faster than normal, a fact not lost on my uncles because I am the only one who is not bald or going bald. I found I was scheduling appointments to the barber every 4 to 5 weeks and I still do. To this day, I have thick wavy hair at age 65.
I was curious about what other uses Vitamin B8 had and was surprised that according to various medical websites, it is used for a variety of ailments:
- Diabetic Nerve Pain
- Panic Disorder (as Myo-inositol)
- High Cholesterol (Proven to me)
- Insomnia (I can attest to that)
- Depression (requires dosages up to 12 grams per day)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - requires dosages up to 18 grams per day
- Alzheimer's Disease (comforting to know)
- Dementia (another comfort to me!)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Metabolic Syndrome in post-menopausal women
- Hair Growth (yes, it is true!)
Prescription Or Supplements?
If you were given the choice of taking a prescription drug or a supplement that would give you the same results but over a longer period of time, would you consider it?
IP-6 Inositol comes in several different forms (and goes by different names as I listed above) but the most common is IP6 - inositol hexaphosphate, which is the one I use.
While balancing certain hormones in the body and it metabolizes my other vitamins and minerals, especially the calcium and magnesium. Calcium has a tendency to make some people gassy so you should always take a calcium supplement that has magnesium added.
IP-6 Inositol is found in many fiber-rich foods: beans (definitely not my favorite food), brown rice, corn, seeds and wheat bran.
If you have issues with certain foods like I do (beans, for example), this supplement is an ideal way to get the benefits you need.
The only drawback I found is that other vitamins and minerals I take are not absorbed as easily and my research shows that IP-6 Inositol may be to blame. So I spread my vitamins and supplements out over the course of the day. I take some of my vitamins and supplements with breakfast and some with lunch, and tweak my dosages periodically so that I know I am getting therapeutic dosages as reflected in my bloodwork results.
I started out at a little higher dose of IP-6 Inositol to get my cholesterol and triglycerides in a good range and I now stay at 1000mg per day.
About one year ago, CoQ-10 was added when my sons (both are also doctors) thought it would be helpful given a slight rise in my cholesterol and triglyceride blood tests results, mostly due to bad diet choices after my wife passed away. You know how it goes..... buying ready made frozen foods, hitting the buffet with some friends, going to the drive thru for some fast food here and there, all of which drove up my blood levels. I believe adding CoQ-10 helped bring me back into normal ranges.
My Regimen With Periodic Tweaking
5 small low fat meals a day with 1 snack
Started out Walking 1 mile a day which was gradually increased to 3 miles
IP-6 Inositol, Vit E, D3, C, B-12,
more fruits and veggies
Swimming, weather permitting
Glucosamine Chondroitin, CoQ-10
less cakes, cookies and other sweets
Treadmill in winter time
Calcium/Magnesium, Omega 3 Fish Oil
Cancer and Heart Disease
Some sources believe IP-6 Inositol can prevent cancer and heart disease.
FROM AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
"Proponents call IP6 a "natural cancer fighter" (click to read full report) and claim it slows or reverses the growth of various forms of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. It is thought to be an antioxidant, a compound that blocks the action of free radicals, activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells.
"It may help to prevent the abnormal signals that tell a cancer cell to keep growing from reaching the cell's nucleus. Some research shows IP6 slows abnormal cell division and may sometimes transform tumor cells into normal cells. Supporters also claim it effectively prevents kidney stones, high cholesterol, heart disease, and liver disease."
Unfortunately when you find a good thing, sometimes you learn bad things about it. I read in one of the Internet forums today that IP-6 Inositol has been used as a cutting agent for street drugs, like cocaine, methamphetamine, and sometimes even heroin. I am sure that the relatively inexpensive price tag and the consistency of Inositol has a lot to do with that.
On television, some prop departments use IP-6 Inositol as a "stand-in" for cocaine on their shows. Imagine that! I thought they used baby powder or corn starch.
Would you consider taking IP-6 Inositol (Vitamin B8) to achieve and 'maintain' good cholesterol blood test results?
Prescription vs. Supplement
- When told you need a medication, get on internet and research it for alternatives
- Read what other people are saying about the proposed drug
- Read up on the side effects
- See how many more medications are offered for side effects
- Determine if the benefit outweighs your risk of taking the drug
- Network with other patients and/or friends to see what they are doing for their cholesterol management
- Don't accept what your doctor tells you as the final answer; INVESTIGATE
- If a vitamin or supplement can be do the same job as a prescription, try it first under a doctor's care
Here are some links to learn more about triglycerides, statin drugs, and alternatives to statin drugs
- Red Yeast Rice is Natural Cholesterol Solution | Peak Health Advocate
Red yeast rice is a natural statin alternative, and is more effective at lowering cholesterol, without all the side effects of statin drugs.
- Triglycerides: Why do they matter? - MayoClinic.com
Triglycerides are an important measure of heart health. Here's how to lower your triglycerides.
- Muscle Pain and Statins
A definite correlation exists between muscle pain and statin dosage. It is worth noting that statins vary in strength with the newer statins being much stronger than earlier drugs in this class. CoQ-10 benefits....
- Statins can cause muscle damage without necessarily exhibiting pain symptoms
The cholesterol-lowering properties of statins directly damage muscle fibers, and are responsible for....
Finally, A Solution!
The Blood Test Results
What I accomplished in an afternoon learning about IP-6 Inositol was very beneficial and now 16 years later, adding it to my regimen has proven to be the right choice. To this day, I've never taken a statin drug, never had to deal with their side effects and when I read about people who are now diabetic after five years of being on statin drugs, I am thankful for the choices I made.
My cholesterol has been in the consistently healthy 180 range, and my triglycerides are well under 150. I still limit my sweets and salt snacks and keep up my exercise schedule.
I didn't think this way back on that fateful afternoon when our family doctor called with my blood test results, but it was thanks to him for the heads up he gave me to investigate statin drugs so that I could make an informed decision.
I also am so very thankful to have had a wife who was so knowledgeable about nutritional supplements.
One Extra Pill A Day
I've been taking 1000mg of Vitamin B8 (IP-6 Inositol) per day since then and I wouldn't be without it in my vitamin and supplement list.
Whenever you are steadily using mixes of herbal, vitamins and supplements, it is a good idea to schedule your bloodwork every three to six months to make sure you are getting the therapeutic benefit of them, not getting toxic levels from your dosages, and to keep a check on your major organs for damage.
Vitamin B8 is a supplement that you have to dedicate some time to - you can't take it for just a few weeks and expect to see great results. Sometimes you have to fiddle with the dosage amounts after blood work results. You have to be consistent, have frequent blood work and give it at least six months of steady usage to see benefit in your blood test results.
Sometimes adding CoQ-10 sooner, rather than later, will help you see faster results.
© John De Vettese July 2013
Updated November 2013