Can These 9 Everyday Foods Be Medicine?
This topic is very near and dear to my heart. Food therapy and food medicine are absolutely two of my passions. It's what I talk to my patients/clients about every single day.
There are many foods that actually provide specific benefits for your dog's health. These are foods that can very easily be added to your dog's diet, no matter what kind of diet you feed.
The nice thing is, no matter where people are when they come to me, and depending on their openness to changing the diet, if they're not completely ready to move from kibble to raw (which is my ultimate goal), there are some very basic things they can add to the diet that can make a tremendous difference to their dog's health.
History Of Medicine = Food
Food is age old medicine. Modern day, conventional medicine has strayed quite a bit from this in the last century or so, but thankfully it's making a comeback.
Historically, in veterinary school and even for human physicians, we don't get much nutritional training at all. Much of the training vets do get is limited and may also be biased. This is why a lt of veterinarians really focus on it.
But that doesn't mean nutrition isn't important...
Nutrition really is the foundation of health. It's the body's fuel and provides the building blocks for maintenance of health, tissue repair and energy.
That's why holistic health practitioners focus a great deal on diet and nutritional supplements.
No matter what my patients come in to me for, no matter what the concern is, one of the first things we talk about is diet and digestive health.
We need to be thinking about food as the most important medicine we take every day. Feeding fresh, wholesome, low processed or unprocessed nutrition is paramount in maintaining your dog's health.
9 Health Foods for Dogs to Support Health and Promote Healing
These are some of the foods I recommend for my patients on a daily basis. As a great rule, these are wonderful things that can be added to almost any diet for dogs.
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth provides such tremendous benefit for your dog. It's literally a healing potion.
What is bone broth exactly? It's bones, simmered low for several days with apple cider vinegar. This slowly breaks down all the nutrients, making them extremely bio-available to the body.
Benefits of bone broth:
Improves digestion and helps heal "leaky gut" - All disease starts in the gut (autoimmune, allergies, asthma, chronic inflammation)! Gelatin soothes an repairs the mucosal lining to help seal the gut barrier, which can become damaged and allow toxins into the blood stream. Gelatin assists the breakdown of proteins and fats from food, making them easier to digest.
Assists in detoxing the liver - Glycine is a powerful precursor for the production of glutathione, a powerful detoxifier. The liver is such a hard-working organ - it does a lot for the body. It's most important job is to detoxify those things that our dogs are exposed to that the body has to clear. It flushed out chemicals, hormones and waste. it also provides minerals, acids and electrolytes that boost the detox process.
Reduces inflammation - Glycine and proline are powerful anti-inflammatories.
Alleviates joint pain - Recent studies show that the components of bone broth can provide relief from joint pain.
Strengthens bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments - Glycine is important for building muscle strength. It prevents the breakdown of proteins in muscle tissue and preserves it (which helps prevent atrophy in aging dogs). The collagen contains proline, glucosamine and chondroitin which support cartilage and cushion the joints.
Provides minerals and increases their absorption - Bone broth is rich in macrominerals (calcium and phosphorus) and trace minerals (magnesium and zinc). Bone broth helps with the absorption of these minerals.
Boosts the immune system - Gives the body tools to boost antioxidant activity which helps to fight infections.
Improves skin health - Collagen builds strong skin and protects the skin from aging.
Supports brain function - Glycine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. Bone broth helps improve cognition and memory and promotes better sleep.
2. Raw Goat Milk
Raw milk (unpasteurized) is one of the most nutrient-rich foods around. Just take a look at the nutrient profile:
Fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2
Healthy fats: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) and Omega-3s
Probiotics and digestive enzymes
Minerals and electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, potassium
There are many health benefits of raw milk. It's been shown to strengthen the immune system and reduce allergies. Thanks to the probiotics and digestive enzymes, it's great for gt health. It can even help to repair leaky gut and promotes better skin health.
What about cow milk? While there are many factors in cow milk that I like, I prefer goat milk. Goat milk is:
Less allergenic - lower in lactose content
Easier to digest and absorb because the fat globules are smaller
Higher levels of MCTs (30-35% in goat milk vs. 15-20% in cow milk)
Higher levels of Vitamin A, zinc and selenium
In general, I recommend about 1/4 cup per day for small dogs, 1/2 cup per day for medium dogs and 3/4 cup per day for large dogs. Start out with smaller amounts and work up to these amounts.
3. Organ Meats
No matter what you feed, be it commercial raw, homemade meals or something else, organ meat is a crucial component of the diet. Many commercial diets ad home cooks will follow the 80-10-10 rule (meaning 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% organ meats), but I like a bit more than that.
Organs and glands are nutrient dense. This includes the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, pancreas, brain, stomach (tripe) and heart. Liver and other organ meats are strength builders (also known as blood builders). In Traditional Chinese Medicine they're called blood tonics. We know that carnivores prioritize the organs - they go for the organs first.
Here are some of the organ meats that you should try to include in your dog's diet:
Liver: vitamin A, B, Iron, Folate, Zinc, Amino Acids, Ribonucleic Acid, Research shows it's great for building strength and endurance
Kidney: vitamin A, B12, Riboflavin, Iron
Heart: CoQ10, vitamin B12, Amino Acids, Collagen
Adrenal Glands: vitamin C
Brain: Omega-3, Selenium, Zinc, vitamin B12
Tripe (green, not bleached): Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics, Selenium, Zinc, vitamin B12
** Try to get organ meats from organic, pasture-raised animals.
Eggs are considered a nutritional powerhouse. They've been called the most complete protein and are literally 100% bioavailable. And they're so easy to add to your dog's diet.
High quality protein and amino acids
Vitamins A, D, E, Complex B vitamins
Calcium, Selenium, Zinc
One of the things eggs are most beneficial for is cardiovascular health, so don't buy into the hype of the past few decades that say eggs aren't good for your heart! The cholesterol in eggs actually regulates cholesterol in the body. And the brain and liver rely heavily on cholesterol for normal function. They're also good for eye and skin health.
Try to find free range (cage free is not the same as free range) eggs. They have twice as much omega-3, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, 60% more vitamin A and are 98% less likely to carry salmonella!
Raw eggs are fine. For large dogs, an egg a day is good and for smaller dogs go with maybe half and egg. Or, go with every other day - whatever makes you comfortable.
5. Omega-3 Oils
For Omega-3 oils, I recommend feeding small, oily fish on a regular basis.
There are many health benefits to this including:
Skin and eye health
Sardines and anchovies, as very small fish, haven't had time to accumulate the toxins found in larger fish. They're cleaner and offer an amazing source of omega-3s. Also, stay away from farm raised fish.
Oily fish can be rich, so start with smaller amounts first and work your way up. For smaller dogs, you can start with 1/2 a sardine per day and for larger dogs work up to as a tin every other day.
Other sources of omega-3 oils:
Krill oil - really bio-available, but it-s over fished, so it's not great for the environment
Calamari oil - this has the highest concentration of DHA and EPA and it's the most sustainable with the least negative impact.
Cod Liver oil - comes from the liver of the fish. It's a rich source of DHA, EPA, vitamin A and vitamin D.
6. Coconut Oil
One of the other medicinal power foods that I like to recommend for all of my patients is coconut oil. Coconut oil carries a tremendous amount of benefits. It's a medium chain triglyceride (MCT), a very good fat. It's thermally stable, so it doesn't readily oxidize, even with high heat. That makes it great to cook with.
There are a vast array of health benefits:
Brain food - improves cognition and helps decrease dementia
Anti-microbial (bacteria and yeast/candida) - lauric acid
Full of antioxidants and minerals
Boosts immune system health
Good for skin and oral health
As a healthy fat, it also helps to fight cancer. One of the things we know about cancer cells is that they can't use fats. Cancer cells need glucose, or sugars, which carbs break down into, to fuel themselves. We can help starve cancer by providing a diet that contains more healthy fats and fewer carbohydrates.
Most dogs love the taste. A general recommended daily dose is about 1 tsp per 10-20lbs of body weight. Start slowly and work your way up to that.
One of the reasons kelp is so good for dogs is that it's full if trace minerals. Our soils are becoming so depleted that they're mineral deficient, so we need to look for other sources of trace minerals. The ocean is providing these minerals. It's the lifeblood of the planet.
Kelp seaweed absorbs a lot of its nutrients in its fronds/leaves, not from the roots. Compared to plants that grow on land, sea vegetables have 10-20 times more vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It's also a powerful source of trace minerals and complex phytonutrients.
Some of the minerals that are rich in kelp are iodine, selenium, zinc and magnesium. There are several health benefits of these nutrients, including:
Nervous System health
Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods that can be offered on a daily basis. I use them myself everyday. Mushrooms contain some of the most unique and potent natural medicines on the planet. They been used in Chinese herbal formulas for centuries because they provide such powerful health benefits.
Some of the best mushrooms include:
Medicinal mushrooms are packed full of vitamins and nutrients including beta glucans, flavonoids, prebiotics, digestive enzymes and antioxidants. One of the most well known benefits is the amazing boost to the immune system. Digestive health and anti-cancer benefits are also good reasons to add them to your dog's diet.
9. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are a fantastic source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). They usually contain a wider variety than supplemental probiotics with more concentrated numbers of bacteria. They're also great for supporting immune function. Fermented foods assist in detoxing the bowel and chelates heavy metals/chemicals, can help heal leaky gut and IBD.
One of the reasons foods are so awesome is because of all the nutrients. The fermentation process produces:
Vitamin C, K2 and B vitamins
Acetylcholine - a neurotransmitter
Choline - balances and nourishes the blood
Enzymes support digestion and metabolic activity
Lactic Acid - represses cancer cells
Some of the best options for fermented foods are:
Fermented Fish Stock
Fermented Fish Sauce
To feed fermented foods, work up to 1 tsp per 10lbs of body weight per day.
**Move slowly when adding new items and try not to add too many new things at one time.
***This article by Dogs Naturally is taken from a talk by Dr. Katie Kangas at Raw Roundup 2018.