Have you ever wondered  why the sun must go down at the end of the day ? Have you ever wondered why when a day is finished darkness must follow?


One of the  reasons we are able to survive  is because we sleep every night. When we sleep, the body  enters the phase of repair, restoration, regeneration and rejuvenation. During sleep, cells repair and clear out metabolic waste products, tissues regenerate, endocrine organs realign and reconnect again, memory circuits consolidate, hormones re balance, ….

And the grand switch to sleep is the substance called melatonin. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin switches on the sleep cycle. As we enter dusk, natural light diminishes and the light sensitive receptors in the retina of the eyes send signals to the pineal gland to active the production of meletonin, which helps to initiate sleep. When morning comes, natural light enters the eyes and activates the retinal light receptors which send signals to the pineal gland to switch off melatonin production, so that we could exit the sleep cycle. This is one of the many aspects of the famous ” circadian rhythm”.

The invention of electricity and artificial lighting means our retina is exposed to light for a much longer period each day than nature intended. Hence the term “light pollution” is derived. To combat the rising rate of insomnia and sleep deprivation in our society, restriction to light exposure at night and setting good bed time hygiene practices  is paramount. This is especially important for young children in terms of their development as growth hormone is secreted during sleep.

Try some of the bed time hygiene practices listed below, and observe the positive changes in the body.

  1. Setting a routine bed time, preferably before 11pm (earlier the better, before 9pm for children)
  2. Dimming light or wearing sunglasses one hour before going to bed
  3. Restriction on using electronic devices before bed
  4. Natural light exposure in the morning



Vegetable Feast

Vegetable Feast

Christmas greetings!

Much eating, drinking, and partying after,  I hope your digestion is still sound and well.

It feels right to do a vegetable dish today.

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’ s cook book.  It requires a little bit of patience but it is well worth it, as it captures the beautiful flavors of fresh vegetable and would surely make you feel spoiled eating it.


1.  One large egg-plant (aubergine)

2.  Two zucchini (courgettes)

3.  One red capsicum (pepper)

4.  One bunch of asparagus

5.  A few  fresh basil leaves

6.  Two cloves of garlic, minced

7.  Olive oil  3 to 4 tablespoons

8 .  Red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons

9.   Salt and pepper


1.  Slice eggplant and zucchini lengthways into long strips ( about 1/2 cm thick)

2.  Remove the wood end of asparagus and cut them in half

3.  Heat up a flat bottom pan (preferably a cast iron one) to high heat without any oil

4.  Put the whole capsicum into the pan and leave to slowly grill

5.  At the same time arrange some vegetable slices to cover the rest of the pan

6.  Dry grill the vegetable slowly adjusting the heat, turning them occasionally until charred and soft

7.  Remove the cooked vegetable to a plate and add another batch of  uncooked vegetable to the pan, while leaving the whole capsicum continue to cook

8. When all the vegetables are cooked , the capsicum should be thoroughly cooked by now with charred skin separating from the flesh

9.  Remove carefully the black skin on the capsicum as much as possible and open it up to scrape away the seeds. Tear the capsicum up into strips and add them to the other vegetables

10.  Dress the vegetables with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss it gently together

11.  Fold in basil leaves and garlic

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, you might think you are in heaven…

My Kind Of Fried Rice


I love fried rice. It is a dish that could change according to the appetite, the mood, the occasion, the season…and yet it is so easy to make!

But there is one dilemma.  The main component of traditional fried rice  is rice. The carbohydrate to protein ratio tends to be very high ( too much carbohydrate, too little protein).  For a lot of us in a sedentary working environment, or trying to lose some weight, excessive starch /rice provides unnecessary calories that could not be burnt off. Traditional fried rice also uses white jasmine type rice which has a very high glycemic index (too much sugar released into the blood stream too quickly causing insulin surge and potential diabetes).

So I made some modifications to this well-loved dish.

Remember when making fried rice,  all ingredients should have as little moisture as possible to avoid the dish turning out soggy. Long grain rice is usually better than the shorter grains as they have less moisture when cooked.

Ingredients ( for 1 person)

1.  Black rice, cooked, 100g to 150g (cooked weight): Sunrice black rice is available at Coles supermarket. Alternatively red rice or basmati rice can be used to lower the glycemic index. Rice is cooked and placed in an open container in the fridge the night before to  reduce moisture

2. Fresh whole prawns  0.5 kg ( frozen prawn meat is OK ) which makes about 250g prawn meat after shells and veins removed

3.  Garlic 1 clove, minced

4.  Organic butter

5.  Soy sauce

6. Fish sauce optional

7. Shallots, chopped


1. Pat dry prawns and season with sea salt

2. Heat a wok with some oil (coconut oil the best, when using olive oil make sure the wok is not too hot), add prawns to wok and stir till they turn pink and curled up. Sprinkle minced garlic and add a knob of butter to the prawns. Stir some more till you could smell the garlic then quickly transfer prawns to a bowl.

Note: prawns cook very quickly so take care  not to overcook them

3. Pour some more oil in the same wok (with the residual prawn flavor), add cooked rice (which has been in the fridge over night) and stir well till the rice is soft

4. Season the rice with some soy sauce to taste, and a few drops of fish sauce (optional)

5. Add the cooked prawns back to the wok and mix well with the rice. Sprinkle shallots in.

6. Serve with a plate of steamed vegetable to complete the meal

Common Sense

They say, common sense is not common anymore.

It seems the more knowledge we have,  the more confused we become.

This is particularly true when it comes to health.  As we are bombarded daily by new researched information, miracle drugs development, advancing medical technology, we lose the big picture, the basics, the common sense.

It is the routine obstetric advice that a pregnant woman should eat exactly the same way as when she is not pregnant, apart from taking some extra folate, calcium and iron. Common sense would ask why. As common sense knows when we have  increased demand, we have to increase supply. A fetus could not grow out of just combining folate, calcium and iron.  It turns out that pregnant women have many folds increase in need for protein, zinc, magnesium, iodine, essential fatty acids, to name a few. Pregnant women do not just need to eat, they need to have a special eating plan catered for the special need.

It was such a marketing success when Coke zero was invented. I had countless people coming up to me and said proudly:” At least now when I drink Coke, I drink Coke zero.” When something is advertised  to contain absolutely no sugar and yet tastes sweet, common sense would ask why.  Common sense would look for the substance that brings the taste and find out if that substance is better than sugar. It turns out that substance is aspartame. The adverse effect of aspartame on health is another topic for another day. All I would say simply is that if you have to drink Coke, drink the proper one.

And then we have the cholesterol super fear. Advice is often given to patient to bring the cholesterol down as low as possible. Common sense would ask why. Why on earth we have cholesterol in our body  in the first place?  I have never seen a patient with a zero cholesterol reading before. Because they would be dead. It turns out that all hormones are produced from cholesterol. ( see post”So you think you know cholesterol”)

And what about our appendix?  We are often told it is useless. So much so that some surgeons remove them “prophylactically”. Common sense would ask why. Why everyone is born without fail with an appendix? Are we satisfied  that it is merely a side product of evolution?  It turns out that the appendix contains lymphoid tissues in the highest density compared with other parts of the gut and it acts as the “point of entry or border control” for food allergens. Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) indicates  fighting with unwanted food particles is occurring.


Medical care is not rocket science. Common sense  is often priceless. Keep it if you can.


Collective Adrenal Crisis

This, I believe would haunt us, our next generation, and the generations to come, if we are not determined to make a change.

Adrenal glands, are the two grape size organs situated on top of the kidneys. One of the  functions of the adrenals is to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help the body deal with stress.

Stress hormones (cortisol in particular) production is most active during the day to help us to stay alert, to provide the necessary drive for our daily activities and provide energy to cope with occasional (hopefully) crises. The levels of stress hormones will go down to a background low during the night so we could have a good night sleep (who wants to have high levels of stress hormones running around in our blood stream while we sleep?). More precisely, cortisol production is at a peak in the morning and gradually declines during the course of the day. The level would drop to the  lowest from around 6pm and onwards, getting us ready to go to bed.  During sleep, the adrenal glands only produce minimal amount of hormones and are rejuvenated and restored, happy to restart the next day. And the body has a peculiar habit to repair the adrenal glands before 12 midnight . It is other organs’ turn to repair themselves after midnight– This is our natural body rhythm.

For thousands of years, our ancestors subconsciously followed the nature’s biological clock, going to bed after sunset, being limited in visibility.

Then we invented electricity. We realize we could do so much more at night. We stay up. We go to bed past midnight.

And come computers and internet. We are now able to connect with the world 24/7.  We sleep even less.  Or we stop sleeping completely (some of us).

This is what happen when we stay up past the resting time for the adrenals: they restart the engines and start producing higher level of cortisol to keep us awake. If we do that frequent enough, the adrenals miss out on repair and rejuvenation while chronically over work. The consequence is the gradual loss of  adrenal function and loss of the fine balance between the adrenals and many organs in the entire endocrine system including the thyroid, the brain, the ovaries, the testes, the liver, the pancreas, to name a few.

These are some  common symptoms of adrenal dysfunction:

1. Insomnia and restless sleep, due to an over production of cortisol at night

2. Excessive daytime fatigue, due to an  inability of the adrenals to produce adequate cortisol during the day

3. Post exertion “crashes” and slow recovery time, due to a reduced ability of the adrenals to cope with increased demand

4. Weight gain around the waist, due to a disrupted balance of related hormones

5. Hypoglycaemia with excessive hunger and food craving, due to a compromised function of the adrenals to regulate blood sugar level

6. Chronic fatigue, indicating the adrenal reserve has dropped to a critical level

7. Hormonal disturbances in females, manifested as abnormal periods, premature menopause, infertility and so on

People with adrenal issue struggle to achieve their potential in life. They have symptoms that are often unexplainable by conventional medical tests and therefore the condition is  not readily recognized by the medical profession. Treatment is available, recovery is possible but slow and challenging.

We used to see people with adrenal dysfunction in the middle age or older age group, due to accumulated life stresses over the years, especially major trauma like divorce, death in the family and so on.  However, we are observing an alarming trend of increase in younger patients (in their teens) with adrenal issues in recent years, confirmed by lab testing.  One could not help but wonder, among many things, if our electronic advances are contributing to the crisis.

Adrenal’s number one enemy is chronic stress and/or late nights.  We are increasingly doing both.  Our adrenal reserve is of course  varied from one person to another, but one thing is certain: as a society, we collectively push our adrenals much more than we would a few decades ago and at times we push it beyond its limits.

Chinese medicine believes the adrenal gland is the Fountain of  Youth. Modern medicine has confirmed that.  As besides stress hormones, adrenal glands also produce an anti-aging hormone  called DehydroEpiandrosterone (DHEA). If we are serious about staying youthful and healthy, do the right thing  by starting nurturing our adrenals today.

A young patient of mine had cried all the way through the whole full hour consultation, because I removed dairy products from her diet (due to allergy issues).

“Why are you upset?” I asked.

“Because I won’t be able to have ice cream. It is not fair that I can’t have ice cream!”

And then every five to ten minutes also she moaned about her great “loss” in tears: “Oh, I can’t have ice cream!”

Mum and I were slightly shocked by the incredible pain caused by removing this important item from her diet.

That afternoon, after much doctoring, it was my turn to be a mother. My son and I went to the supermarket to shop for his upcoming 18 birthday party. We had the following conversation a few days before.

Son: “I will shop for my party food with Dad.”

Me: “I can do that with you.”

Son (hesitated): “Er… I want Dad to come as well.”

Me : “Why?”

I know too well why. I am the food police at home. I censor processed and junk food ruthlessly. “Child abuse”, as my son would call it, jokingly (or not?). My behavior is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to choosing party food.  My husband, on the other hand, is usually much more sympathetic and flexible. He reminds me to put things into prospective.  It is his 18th birthday after all. We have to look after his emotional need as well as his physical health, you know…

After some serious self talk and psychological preparation, I went on our shopping trip.

We went from aisle to aisle.  The young man was having a ball picking up his dreamt “food”. I frantically struggled to keep my mouth shut as I saw items piling up in the trolley: E202, E331, acid 330, colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers, glazing agents, sugar, modified corn starch, MSG, stabilizers, hydrogenated oil, anticaking agent and more….  Apparently we called these “food” nowadays.  And I was watching myself walking to the check out to pay for them.  The bill mounted to more than 100 dollars. What a sacrificial act of unkindness.  But I did not say a word (with big effort). I was proud of myself.

How have we come to this, I wonder.  It seems food is no longer food.   Fresh meat intake is fiercely reduced, because they might cause cancer, we are told. Salt intake is the less the better as it causes hypertension, we are told. Animal fats? well, avoid them like a plague, because they block up  arteries, we are told.  And at the same time as a society, we have gradually given up our natural instinct and surrendered our power to “faked foods”, consciously or subconsciously. To the extent that we almost could not survive without them. To the extent that our social existence is threatened if we walk away from them.

If only we could stop and think for a moment , and being connected to our body, we would remember that our body works best with what mother nature has to offer us as food.  Because after all, our body is a synergistic part of nature. It is profoundly simple.

Growing Tomatoes

I always dream of eating fruit and vegetable that are freshly picked. I wish I had a vegie patch.

But in reality, I am busy enough running around working and doing my daily chores, the last thing I want on my plate is tending a vegie patch!

One day my neighbor begged me to “adopt” her chili plant. I reluctantly agreed, thinking secretly that at least  I am symbolically growing something. The plant was handed to me sitting in a cracked bucket, which my neighbor reminded me of returning. I frantically went through the local nurseries and managed to buy a large clay pot before the chili plant died of dehydration with its poor roots exposed in the cracked bucket. With fresh new potting soil in the clay pot, the chili plant finally settled in. I took some time to figure out where to place the pot so I could attend to it regularly without too much of an effort (a vitally important decision, otherwise the plant would definitely be left to die without a question) . The final spot I decided was on the deck outside the kitchen, just next to the back door leading to the deck. This way I could walk to the back door, open it and pour water in without even stepping out to the deck.

Things went smoothly from then on. While cooking dinner, I would soak and wash my vegetables in tap water, then rinse them in filtered water. The used filtered water would get tipped into the clay pot for the chili plant. Everyone is happy.

And then one day I saw something.  Something sprouting next to the chili. It was a young tomato plant! A tomato seed must have got tipped in the soil together with the water. My first reaction was to “weed” it out. After all I had only JUST gotten used to the idea of growing a chili plant. And the pot is not a huge one anyway. As I was tossing between “weeding” it or “keeping” it, a few days have passed and the tomato plant was quietly getting bigger, as if to show the world its determination to stay. Looking at the strong and luscious green tomato leaves, I decided to take the risk to keep it!

One pot, two plants. To my surprise, they accommodated each other very well. The softer tomato branches tended to lean on the stoic chili plant for support and the chili plant seemed to take it well. And very soon, they both started to flower! Not long after, small chili and tiny tomatoes came into sight. Just try to imagine the excitement of someone who has never grown anything successfully… 

Fussing over the fruit every morning then became my new routine. Watching the tomato fruit grow bigger each day, believe me, was incredibly therapeutic. It brings out instantly the joy and child-like amazement which are so authentically human’s when we are connected to mother earth, which, unfortunately have long-lost among the modern day hustle bustle.

One day I noticed the biggest tomato fruit was turning red. The biophotons(see previous post “May The Life Force Be With You”) it absorbed from the sun finally reached a threshold which had kicked the ripening  process into place!  My mouth started to drool.  I envisaged the first bite of the crunchy, juicy tomato flesh, I visualised the busting of biophotons  into my mouth and the lighting up of my organs…. I must choose a special day to harvest my first fruit and take time to enjoy it, I decided. Saturday morning would be the perfect time, I decided.

Came Saturday morning. Well groomed and dressed, I solemnly walked to the tomato plant. I froze. In fact nearly fainted. A crime had been committed the night before. The only thing that was left of my first fruit was a piece of tomato skin hanging to the tomato plant. The thief had the evil skill of shelling the tomato flesh from the skin and leaving  scattered tomato skin  in the crime scene under the tomato plant. Ahhhhhhh! My first fruit! My sweat! My biophotons! I could think of a thousand ways to kill the devil(what ever that was)!

A war had been declared. This is now a national security issue!  I drew up a plan: a special trip to Bunnings hardware store. I came back armed with a piece of  “antibird netting” and netting hooks. The net went over the plant and was secured by the hooks buried in the soil. Finished, I looked at my piece of art work and smiled at the prospect of the devil returning tonight feeling completely mad and disappointed!

Two days later, I finally harvested my second tree ripened tomato and officially put it in my mouth. It is a common practice nowadays that fruits and vegetables get picked before they are ready or ripened so that they could last longer for storage and transportation. And then the ripening process is chemically induced when they are ready for sale. The human body has long been deprived of the intense solar energy transfer from eating tree ripened fruits and vegetables, except for that rare moment of eating a ripe tomato from one’s own tomato tree.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 24 new posts, not bad for the first year!

The busiest day of the year was October 12th with 64 views. The most popular post that day was To Exercise Or Not To Exercise, That Is The Question.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were pymblegrove.com, facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, slashingtongue.com, and alhome-finance-guide.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for yuwenmd.wordpress.com, kryptopyrroluria, yuwenmd, the biological basis of well-being, and biobalance demand and supply pfeiffer treatment.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


To Exercise Or Not To Exercise, That Is The Question July 2010


About May 2010


The Biological Basis of Emotional Wellbeing July 2010


Guilt-Free Chocolate Cake May 2010


The Secret Of Natto July 2010

Kitchen Talk

Let’s do an exercise. Take ourselves now to the kitchen and have an examination of all the items there. Take notice of how many items are made from the traditional materials  like ceramics, clay, glass, wood, or bamboo, and isolate the  items that are made from modern materials like plastic, nylon (a form of plastic) and coated with on-stick coating. Are you surprised? Take another look at those items that are made from synthetic materials, how many of them are chipped , scratched, melted? Have you ever wondered where those missing bits have gone? Not to mention the chemical molecules released from those synthetic materials when they are heated, stressed and soaked without being detected by our naked eye. Maybe that bowl of delicious pasta you made last night was laced with plastic from your melted nylon turner? Or that piece of tender steak was seasoned with polytetrafluoroethelyne molecules scratched from the non-stick coating of your fry pan?

If we truly believe in “we are what we eat”, then our kitchen is the most  sacred place that we must fiercely protect.

Consider this: food is not merely food as we eat it unless the food preparation process is contamination free. And I am not concerning about kitchen hygiene or bacteria. At least bacteria is biodegradable  and most people recover well from food poisoning. I am talking about toxin that is not of natural origin, toxin that is not biodegradable, toxin that creeps in our food when we least expect it. Modern toxicology is increasingly focusing on chronic exposure of multiple toxins in low doses rather than acute poisoning from an individual toxin at a highly toxic level because of the ever presence of numerous chemicals in their dilute forms now in our environment. Research has  indicated that multiple chemicals in low doses have the ability to work together to create toxic effects that are not seen in individual toxin at a similar level. Modern day living has become a balancing art of minimizing toxin exposure while still enjoying what life has to offer.

Kitchen is one of those few places left where we still have some control over the toxins we may be subjected to.

During food preparation, food comes in contact with food containers and kitchen utensils constantly. Bear in mind that heat is an unavoidable  element in the kitchen and the temperature in the kitchen could go considerably high during cooking. Wear and tear are the other constant elements in the kitchen. So  kitchen wares must be made of materials that are natural, inert, heat-resistant, acid resistant, salt resistant, and light resistant to preserve freshness of food. Our ancestors knew too well of this principle. Kitchen wares many decades ago were made from stone, glass, ceramic, wood, bamboo, etc, all of which are naturally occurring substances, biodegradable,  and extremely stable. You can be reassured that food remains food after preparation and if any molecules that accidentally come away from the pot and get into our food, they are safe to be ingested.

As time went by, other modern materials were introduced to kitchen ware manufacturing. Among the many new materials in the kitchen , plastic and non-stick coating represent the most revolutionary changes in kitchen ware products, in that both of them contain synthetic (non-naturally occurring) molecules.

Since the invention of plastic, there has been a phenomenal increase of plastic food wares creeping in our kitchens. Plastic drinking bottles, plastic food containers, foam cups, cooking oil and sauce bottles, plastic ladles, plastic spoons, plastic turners, plastic liners for tin food containers, plastic storage bags, plastic food wrap… Every time you turn, you would find something made from plastic.

Plastic is synthetic materials derived from petroleum.  As plastic ages or is exposed to heat or stress, it releases traces of its molecules to the content that happens to come in contact with it. With the extensive  usage of plastic wares in food industry and  in domestic kitchens, there have been so far very little human studies that I know of conducted to evaluate the possible  impact of plastic on health. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducts ongoing yearly assessment of the levels of environmental chemicals in the US population(each sample size representing about 2400 individuals). A recent report has indicated the ongoing presence in more than 90% of the population of Bisphenol-A (an ingredient in plastic bottles) and phthalates (substance added to soften plastic,eg in plastic bags) in human blood samples and urine samples. Bisphenol-A is associated with breast tumor development in animals and is a potent mitochondrial toxin (mitochondria are the power houses of your cells); Phthalates are estrogen like molecules in animal studies that have the potential to disrupt human endocrine system. These are the only two molecules that are being tested and have come to our attention, I believe many other  plastic molecules are waiting to be  found circulating in the human blood as time goes by.

Non-stick frying pans and non-stick bakery products are loved by many. They have helped to reduce cooking time and improved the appearances of the end products significantly in the kitchen. It requires an enormous amount of will power to stop using one. I hope I could persuade you to do so. The primary component of non-stick coatings on cook wear is a group of chemicals called perflorocarbons. These chemicals form toxic fumes when they are being heated. There is debate about at what temperature these gas fumes would form, but it is likely that during cooking temperature could go up to as high as 300-400 degree Celsius which exceeds the manufacturer’s safety limit for gas emission. And there is the wear and tear of your non-stick cookware where small piece of coating gets scratched off and mixed into food. Studies show 98% of the population has perflorocarbons in their blood or urine. The health effect? No one knows so far, except that perflorocarbon is carcinogenic (cancer causing) in animals. While scientific research is lacking at present about the negative effect of perflorocarbons, I am a great fan of common sense and believe that what goes in our mouth (and lungs) must be non-toxic!

Choose carefully your kitchen wares would go a long way in protecting your family. Some simple changes in the way of handling of our food  maybe life saving.

1. Use glass or ceramic food containers where you can for food storage. Consider taking your own food container or cup to take away outlets.

2. Use ceramic coated cookware, corningware, cast iron cookware or stainless steel cookware for cooking

3. Use ceramic, wooden  or stainless steel  cutlery

4. Chose glass bottled sauces, oil, dressings when you shop

5. Never heat up food in plastic containers in microwave ovens

6. Never leave any plastic bottles or plastic wears near the stove.

7. Use glass or stainless steel drinking bottles

And spread the message!

We hate cholesterol.

We track it down and kill it at all cost.

We spend a fortune in developing new drugs to keep it down.

We look for “low cholesterol”  labels when we buy food products.

We are overjoyed when our annual body check shows low cholesterol level.

We simply do not want to have anything to do with it.  A cardiologist once announced at a conference,” we do not need cholesterol to function, so keep it as low as possible!”

Well, maybe we should be reminded that nature never makes mistakes. We ought to be asking ourselves  why on earth we have cholesterol present in our body in the first place. While it is true that there is a link (a link has never meant to be equal to a cause) observed between high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, the physiological function and benefit of cholesterol have been largely ignored.

Let’s look at some basic human physiological facts.

1. All human steroid hormones are made from cholesterol

Steroids are organic compounds that have a typical chemical structure. For those who are interested, this structure contains a special arrangement of four rings joining together. Every time when you see this structure, you are looking at a steroid. In the body,  steroid hormones include sex hormones, stress hormones, and mineral regulating hormones. The drug Prednisone is a steroid too.

Most people are familiar with sex hormones. Some of the names we commonly hear are estrogens, testosterone and progesterone. Estrogens are a group of hormones that define female characteristics. Males make them too but in a much lower level. Testosterone defines male characteristics in humans but females also make it.  Both male and female make progesterone but again in different levels. There are many more sex hormones that the general public is not  aware of  but nonetheless are absolutely critical to our wellbeing. For example, we have the DeHydroEpiAndrosterone, commonly known as DHEA, made in the adrenal glands and has the ability to slow cellular aging and maintain one’s stamina. Or we have  the pregnenolone, the product made directly from cholesterol and serves as the mother of all steroid hormones.

Stress hormones are derived from cholesterol. Cortisol is one of these. Cortisol is made from the adrenal glands. Apart from helping the body to cope in view of a dangerous situation, it is the hormone that makes us feel refreshed upon waking in the morning. Chronic fatigue patients typically make very little cortisol.

Aldosterone represents the mineral regulating hormones. It is again made from cholesterol in the adrenal glands. It regulates the keeping and releasing of minerals from and to the urine and has an influence on our blood pressure. To little aldosterone may cause hypotension and too much may lead to hypertension.

2. Vitamin D is made from cholesterol.

Vitamin D has attracted a lot of attention recently because of the realization of  endemic vitamin D deficiency in our population due to years of sun avoidance policy. Vitamin D, strictly speaking , is not a vitamin but a hormone. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and osteoporosis. The body makes vitamin D by allowing uv light from the sun to convert  cholesterol molecules in our skin into vitamin D.

3. Cholesterol is an important component of our nervous system including the brain.

Cholesterol helps to form myelin sheath. Nerve cells (neurons) have long fingers like projections (axons or dendrites) on them to connect themselves to the next neuron, a bit like the electrical wires connecting one light bulb to another. Myelin sheath is the insulation coating outside the wires to prevent  any possible losses of information during signal transmission. Cholesterol is one of the critical components of the myelin sheath. Poor myelin sheath formation leads to poor signal transmission in the  nerves, and one extreme example is Multiple Sclerosis (in this case due to autoimmune activation and self-attack against the myelin sheath rather than cholesterol deficiency).

Cholesterol is also an important nutrient to help learning and memory. Recent research indicated that cholesterol is released by the brain cells to switch on connections between nerve cells. The better the connection is, the better the memory and learning. It is observed that many autistic children have cholesterol deficiency. By supplementing these children with cholesterol tablets, improved language skill is noticed. It is no wonder that some patients developed poor memory from taking lipid lowering agents.

4. Cholesterol is an important component of cell membrane

Molecule by molecule, cholesterol makes up nearly half of the cell membrane. Proper amount of cholesterol in the cell membrane helps to maintain the integrity of the membrane and prevent it to go too soft or too rigid. The correct consistency of the cell membrane is essential for the cell to function properly.

5. Cholesterol is essential in making bile  in the liver

Bile acids/bile salts are made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When we eat a meal that contains fat (therefore fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, K, E), the  gall bladder contracts and squirts out the stored bile which then mixes with the meal and makes the fat water-soluble for effective digestion and absorption.

If one is on low-fat diet for a prolong period of time, the gall bladder becomes lazy and the bile in the gall bladder becomes stagnant. That is when the bile salt precipitates into solid lumps–one of the many reasons people get gall stones. Mind you if those solid lumps are not calcified then will not be picked up by a gall bladder ultrasound.

So in summary, a healthy body makes an adequate amount of cholesterol in the liver, allocates some for hormone production, some for nervous system function, some to form healthy cell membrane, and some in the liver to make bile to aid digestion. So cholesterol is constantly being made and constantly being utilized to achieve a perfect equilibrium, reflected by a normal cholesterol level.  High cholesterol level results when any of  these flows is interrupted. Using medications to block cholesterol synthesis is at time necessary but aiming at restoring the body’s cholesterol metabolism is  a much more rewarding exercise.