snips Nutraceuticals...   
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by Joseph A. Crock, D.V.M

    The saying "We are what we eat" rings true and applies to animals as well as people. A proper diet, combined with necessary nutritional supplements, forms the basis of any holistic therapy. In many cases, diet plus supplements will be all the treatment or prevention that is required.

    Holistic practitioners usually manage animal disease by addressing diet first; reflecting the idea that diet is the cornerstone of health. Nutritional approaches will always include manipulating the basic diet, sometimes by advocating a home prepared diet to ensure that phytonutrients and other, unidentified essential dietary factors are provided to the degree possible. Once frank food intolerances or relative deficiencies are corrected with basic diet, nutritional supplementation may include vitamins, minerals, nutraceuticals, as well as herbal or animal "pharmafoods".

    A nutraceutical is defined as any non-toxic food component that has scientifically proven health benefits, including disease treatment or prevention. Even adhering to guidelines provided by the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA), however, definitions of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements are broad enough to include many herbal and animal components not necessarily considered normal pet food components.

    These supplements may be used for very specific purposes or for the broader purpose of "tonification", a concept not fully utilized in conventional medicine. Dietary components recommended for tonification purposes may range from simple diet changes to concentrated "green foods" to tonifying herbs. Examples described below are based on both my clinical experience and a number of experimental and clinical studies.

    Aloe Vera is highly effective for burn treatment, and it speeds wound healing and cell growth. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory and purgative agent. It is helpful in wound management, constipation and bowel disease associated with inflammation. It has tonifying effects similar to the Chinese herbal combination called Rehmania 6.

    While proven to be useful for cardiac disease, Coenzyme Q-10 may also boost the immune system and boost phagocytic properties of the white blood cells. It is useful in periodontal disease and may benefit diabetics which are always deficient in Coenzyme Q-10. Give 50 mg a day for a small dog or cat, 100 mg daily for a medium dog, 200 mg for a large, and 300 mg for a giant dog.

    While commonly used for various bowel disorders, digestive enzymes are useful for several conditions including allergies, cancer, borborygmus, voluminous feces and decreased gastric emptying. Digestive enzymes are commonly indicated to detoxify the pet's system. Plant enzymes are preferred, as they are bioactive in a wide range of pH conditions. Pancreatin and papaya enzymes are excellent supplements and are readily available. Give one or two tablets daily, according to weight.

    There are a number of uses for garlic including diabetes (Garlic increases the half-life of insulin and improves circulation, cardiovascular disease (circulatory improvement, decreased platelet aggregation), immune support and cancer prevention. Give one tablet daily for the smaller dog, two to three twice daily for the larger dog.

    More and more people are becoming familiar with the use of glucosamine and similar compounds for relieving the pain and inflammation seen with various arthritis conditions. Glucosamine is a compound that I think must be included in any treatment of arthritis, hip dysplasia, or any other crippling disorder because of its invaluable influence in healing these disorders.

    Glucosamine sulfate is safe for dogs, safe for cats and safe for humans. It is no problem to give to a pet because it can easily be added to their food and it's tasteless. By adding glucosamine sulfate directly into the diet, you can be certain that you are giving the cells of the joint the material they need to create healthy cartilage. Other inflammatory disorders for which glucosamine might be indicated include inflammatory bowel disease, spinal disk disease, chronic colitis and food allergies.

    The root of the Western and Chinese herb, Licorice, is indicated for ulcers, stomatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. It helps digestion and stimulates the qi of the body. Avoid it if your animal is hypertensive.

    Milk Thistle is a popular remedy for liver disease. This herb helps to restore liver and gall bladder function. It is particularly helpful after bouts of lipidosis, hepatitis and toxins accumulated through fever. Milk Thistle also strengthens the blood cell wall, so is recommended for ulcers and healing tissues in the body in general. Milk thistle can therefore be used as both an infection fighter and a tonifying herb. Mix 10 drops tincture to 1 ounce distilled water, using 1 to 3 droppers twice daily, depending upon the size of the animal.

    The Chinese herb, Astragalus, has become reknowned in the West for helping to treat cancer. Astragalus contains flavones, which help circulation and blood production. Because it enhances circulation, it helps prevent stagnation which can cause tumors to form. Astragalus also contains polysaccharides which helps to inhibit tumor formation. It has been shown to increase strength, stamina, and digestion after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and to increase survival rates in cancer patients after these treatments. It is a qi tonic. It is good for food absorption, normalizing urination and blood production.

    It is accepted that saw palmetto inhibits conversion of testosterone and decreases absorption of dihydrotestosterone into cells, making it extremely useful in treating benign prostratic hypertrophy in people. Some veterinarians are having luck with this herb for similar problems in dogs with this disorder.

    Super green foods such as algae, spirulina, wheat grass sprouts and barley grass are among the nutrient-rich foods that contain antioxidants, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. These supplements can be used as general healthful supplements for all dogs and cats, as well as for consideration in skin problems (including allergies) and arthritis. There are no side effects, and barley grass is very effective in treating many "gassy" dogs. Additional uses for these products include periodontal disease, cases which require vitamin/mineral/antioxidant supplementation, geriatric patients and those requiring additional antioxidant support such as radiation and chemotherapy.

    Some herbs are best given on an empty stomach or between meals, although all the herbs and nutraceuticals listed above can be given with food. It is sometimes best to mix the herbs with a small amount of food and feed it to your dog or cat with a fifteen-minute break before giving him the rest of his meal. This way the herbs don't get lost in the shuffle and diluted by a lot of food. However, when this is impossible, the herbs can be given with the entire meal.


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