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Feb 2014

Healing Power of Food

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There is no denying the benefits that Western medicine has brought to the world of veterinary medicine, but every now and then they can be at best, ineffectual or at worst, damaging. When that happens, we look to help our dogs with homeopathic and herbal remedies, many of which provide amazing results. Yet in our search for cures, we often overlook one of the most basic ingredients of life - food.

There are foods that contain certain properties that can have incredible healing benefits, especially when working in conjunction with one another. Often times they can help dogs deal with the side effects from medications, protect sensitive digestive tracts damaged by drug therapy, and boost the immune system. I have used food to help dogs with allergies, hypothyroidism, cancer, renal disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, arthritis and lupus, just to name a few. Just recently, food cured one of my dogs of ulcers and a h. pylori infection brought about by antibiotic therapy used to treat another problem. His rapid recovery surprised the team of vets working on him and made them even admit that food can be an effective treatment. Here is his story…

Elliot small

This is Elliot (aka Jelly Roll, Moose Munch). He is a two year old Shetland Sheepdog with tons of energy and the appetite of a dog twice his size. Last summer, we took care of a friend’s puppy who had been adopted from the shelter. Unfortunately after his stay, he left behind an unwelcome visitor - coccidia, a microscopic parasite that can be found everywhere, but can reach overwhelming numbers in unsanitary situations like an animal shelter. It is passed via contamination through feces. One of my six dogs came down with explosive diarrhea, four others came down with mild symptoms, and one was unaffected. Each of the infected dogs received the standard treatment for coccidiosis; 2 weeks of metronidazole and amoxicillin, both antibiotics, and Prostora, a probiotic to replace the bad bacteria with good in the intestinal tract. Every one seemed to tolerate the treatment well and the diarrhea disappeared.

About a week and a half into the treatment, Elliot started to become disinterested in his food. He would eat only a small portion and then stare at his bowl. Anyone who has ever owned a Sheltie knows that they adore food, so I knew he wasn’t feeling well. A trip to the clinic, along with some tests, showed that the coccidia was gone and everything was normal. The only oddity was that his tonsils were swollen, but no fever. After being on two different antibiotics this seemed very strange. The vets prescribed Rimadyl, which I normally avoid like the plague, but as he was acting so miserable, I thought I would give it a try to see if we could reduce the inflammation in his tonsils. I also decided to try some novel proteins thinking he might be having an allergic reaction to his normal diet.

Five days later, acting even more disinterested in food, I took him into the clinic again. His tonsils were still swollen, but other than that the tests all came back normal. I decided to have an ultrasound and endoscopy done. Two days later he was under anesthesia having the procedure. The ultrasound found all of his organs looking normal. The endoscopy discovered small ulcers, no doubt caused by the Rimadyl, and mild IBD in his duodenum. Tissue samples were taken. I also had a blood allergy test done to check for any foods he might be allergic to. Elliot went home, still only marginally interested in food, and then only with a lot of coaxing. I gave him some Manuka honey that he really seemed to enjoy.

The following morning the clinic called me to give me their diagnosis. The tissue samples showed large numbers of heliobacter pylori (h. pylori), a bacteria found in the stomach. For the most part, h. pylori does not cause any problems unless it becomes overabundant, which can happen when good bacteria in the digestive tract is killed off by mild antibiotics (which don’t affect h. pylori). Interestingly enough, h. pylori can cause swollen tonsils. It also causes ulcers in people, but there hasn’t been enough testing to know if it causes ulcers in dogs. The blood allergy test was also interesting. Elliot was highly allergic to every novel protein, moderately allergic to beef and eggs, and not at all allergic to chicken and fish.

The standard treatment for h. pylori is a combination of three antibiotics; metronidazole, amoxicillin and the most powerful, azithromycin. Elliot had been on the first two already and seemed to tolerate them so I wasn’t too worried. I picked up the third antibiotic and gave them to him. After two doses he vomited and stopped eating completely. Talking to the vets I told them that he wasn’t going to be able to tolerate the meds, and their response was that, without them, he would not overcome the h. pylori infection. I knew that I had to try a different approach and so I spent the next day doing nothing but research. Here is what I found and what I did for Elliot:

Two of my favorite food source antibacterials have been shown to be effective against h. pylori. The first is Manuka honey (medical reference here). Elliot had already been receiving a tablespoon of Manuka honey daily. I increased the dosage to three heaping tablespoons spaced evenly throughout the day.

The second food source was coconut oil. A published medical study (medical reference here) discovered that the lauric acid found in coconut oil has shown an antibacterial affect against h. pylori. I started Elliot on a teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day.

Further research led me to broccoli sprouts, which contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane that has been shown to have an antibacterial effect on h. pylori (medical reference here). As Elliot has always loved broccoli, switching him to broccoli sprouts was easy.

Lastly I changed his diet and eliminated all the proteins that he was allergic to. His meals consisted of white meat chicken, brown rice, broccoli sprouts, and coconut oil. He received Manuka honey 20 minutes before each meal and at noon. By the evening of the first day, he was already showing more interest in his food. By day number three he was scarfing it down like his old self. On the fourth day he was back at the vets a changed dog. No more swollen tonsils and another endoscopy biopsy showed no h. pylori and healing ulcers.

His diet now has a lot more variety, but he still gets coconut oil, Manuka honey and broccoli sprouts several times a week.

This is just but one story of many that I have experienced where the healing power of food has been able to do what modern medicine could not. Using food and herbs to cure may not be instantaneous but, with a little patience, it can bring about amazing results.
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