We Are What We Eat: Good Food Is the Foundation for Good Health
Dr. Susan Klein, a veterinarian based in Colorado, spent several years in a conventional veterinary practice after graduating from Colorado State University. She now runs Alpine Meadows Animal Clinic, an integrative practice in the Vail Valley.
Dr. Klein’s passion for nutrition started about 15 years ago with a patient who had severe, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Her patient’s condition prompted her to begin investigating commercial pet food, since she had received no useful nutrition training in vet school.
One of Dr. Klein’s first adventures in nutrition was learning just how important a species-appropriate, real food diet is. She quickly learned that this is the foundation of good health.
If You’re Upgrading Your Pet’s Diet, the Change Should Be Gradual
For an animal that is sensitive (GI tracts, skin, or other sensitivities), switching the diet to raw will take some time. Starting with a grain-free and potato-free kibble is the first step before adding in some cooked foods that are easy to digest. Gradually work toward less cooking of the food, understanding that a pet who is in an extreme state of sympathetic nervous system stimulation may have a difficult time with a raw diet.
It’s important to understand that if you or your pet can’t seem to tolerate a diet of fresh, whole foods, there’s a problem in the body. The answers as to “why” can be found in nutrigenomics, but it’s a fairly new concept and interested veterinarians are trying to learn it on the fly.
Most Treatment Protocols Should Start With a Food Change
In her practice, Dr. Klein has to learn which patients need to make dietary changes in baby steps, and which can make faster transitions. She usually begins a patient’s treatment protocol with a food change. Many veterinarians, especially conventional practitioners, never address the diet at all.
No number of supplements or probiotics will be effective if the diet is not also addressed. Supplements are not bad, but should be used for specific reasons. Feeding your furry companion, a diet that creates disease in his body and then trying to fix the problem with supplements is not a good approach.
How Pet Food Creates Disease
Dr. Klein explains to us how commercial pet food can create diseases. From a nutrigenomics perspective, everything in the body runs on a protein-based metabolism. This means it’s very important that the body is taking in proteins it can recognize and use in an efficient manner.
Dr. Klein tells mentions that commercial pet food is sourced from ingredients unfit for human consumption, including remains of dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals. The process involved in making the average dry pet food involves heating ingredients at high temperatures, which causes the core nutrients to be destroyed. They are then added back in synthetically, and they are foreign to pets’ bodies.
The food is then dried, pressed into cute shapes, and placed in bags with shelf lives up to two years. From a nutritional perspective, there is nothing living in that food anymore, but we’re putting it into living bodies. If we want to transcribe for healthy genes, we have to have healthy, live proteins.
Pet food contains a number of byproducts as a result of the manufacturing process. The most significant is advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Simply put, this means there’s way too much sugar in the food that is coating the proteins in the in the food in such a way that the body doesn’t recognize it as a food source. It also coats the tissues of the body such that the immune system doesn’t recognize them, and we start down the path of autoimmune disease and cancer.
Pet Parents Must Continue to Push for Change
The veterinary profession is the only healthcare profession that advocates feeding entirely processed foods versus fresh foods. Veterinarians are also the only healthcare profession with practitioners that tell clients fresh food could be risky and harmful to animal companions.
Because this information is difficult to replicate in a research setting, it is unlikely it will be taught in vet school, because where would the funding come from? This is why pet parents should be the ones to push for change. If it’s good for human’s, why isn’t it good for pets?
Good Food Is Good Medicine! Pass It On!
The bad news is that most people rely 100 percent on what their veterinarian tells them. When it comes to nutrition, misinformation about processed pet food will be perpetuated. In addition, there’s a lot of money being made by the processed pet food industry.
For the foreseeable future, it looks as though information about the importance of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet will have to continue to travel by word of mouth from people who have experienced the tremendous healing of fresh, whole food.
Click here to watch Dr. Becker and Dr. Klein’s full discussion on nutrigenomics.