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Nutrition

"You are what you eat." Nutrition is foundational to providing animals with what they need to self-heal and maintain themselves.

Inflammation is at the root of virtually every disease

"Analysis comparing British nutrient data from 1930 and 1980 indicates reductions of essential minerals in both fruits and vegetables. "

According to the report, published in the British Food Journal (1997, vol 99, no. 6, pp 207-211), average calcium content has declined 19%; iron 22%; and potassium 14% in the 20 vegetables compared. The report's author, Anne-Marie Mayer, now at Cornell University, says,

"Changes in agricultural practice during this time could have contributed to the decline - for instance, soil compaction, use of agricultural chemicals, disruption of soil life, or lack of organic matter. "

Nutrition

Healing requires a higher level of energy intake and is enhanced by the best nutrition. This is backed up by more recent findings that genes are expressed according to the cellular environment which is largely dictated by the quality of food consumed.

Commercial pet foods are the junk food industry for our dogs, cats, ferrets and rabbits and others. We know a poor diet is responsible for many illnesses in people. Recent studies in human medicine have proven links between periodontal disease and serious conditions including heart disease, liver and kidney disease and cancer. Of course our pets are equally effected. Commercial pet foods claim to help keep our pets' teeth clean, yet the British Small Animal Veterinary Association figures for pets requiring veterinary dental intervention, is 80% of pets over 3 years old. Clearly the pet foods aren't as effective as we are led to believe! It is a logical conclusion that the failure of commercial pet foods to clean teeth is directly responsible for many of our pets' problems and resultant high vet bills.

Animals require a species-appropriate diet.

Our carnivorous cats, dogs and ferrets need a natural diet of raw, meaty bones to maintain their general health and well-being. Similarly, rabbits require an appropriate vegetation-based diet that most closely resembles what they eat in the wild - i.e. primarily grass. The majority of health issues suffered by rabbits is directly attributable to a poor diet linked to commercial rabbit food.

The increasing reliance by horse owners on hard feed fuelled by magazine articles written by those with a vested interest in selling more feed is setting horses up for more colics, allergies and other diseases. Molasses and other inappropriate ingredients are added to everything to increase palatability and to increase intake by up to 40% - great for sales income, but not so great for the welfare of the horses.

See the dedicated pages for further information on nutrition for dog & cats, horses and rabbits.

Nutrient Levels in Food

Firstly, although Organic food is theoretically produced using a higher standard of farming it has limitations. It takes less than 5 years for a non-organic farm to switch to being classified as organic and whilst I encourage this, it tends to guarantee the minimum usage of chemicals in food production more than a higher level of nutrient ingredients. Of course farms that have been Organic for much longer, or are bio-dynamic (eg according to Rudolph Steiner methods) should be producing food that is significantly more nutritious too.

So why is food often nutritionally inferior? Well most commercial farming fertilizers are based on adding Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium which is where the N:P:K ratio displayed on fertilizer bags comes from. We all know there are many more nutrients required for good health and whilst farmers with stock animals go muck-spreading, if their stock animals' diet is somewhat lacking then it can't go into the muck. As was said as early as the 1930s in the USA

"Never have we been so well fed but so under-nourished."

As an example of how soil and feeds grown in it are significantly depleted here is a chart showing mineral changes in various different foods.

Minerals Vegetables
(27 varieties)
Fruit
(17 varieties)
Meat
(10 cuts)
Milk
Sodium -49% -29% -30% -14%
Potassium -16% -29% -16% -3%
Phosphorus +9% -19% -28% -2%
Magnesium -24% +2% -10% -21%
Calcium -46% -16% -41% -2%
Iron -27% -24% -54% -62%
Copper -76% -20% -24% -100%

I think this makes mineral supplementation compulsory to optimise health in all species. Tablet/powder options are often made cheaply from grinding up mineral rocks which means that the content of the tablet will not be very absorbable by the body - this is termed low bio-availability. Research shows that 64 minerals and trace elements are needed for DNA to function properly. On the basis that DNA is fundamental to cell function and replication it follows that these 64 elements at least should be present in any diet.

Science is now realising that the balance of trace elements in supplements is important too. The interdependence of all the elements is the key to the correct functioning of metabolism. Supplementing one trace element in isolation just because some research says it's useful for a certain condition (or a multi-mineral supplement but not in the correct proportions) will upset the inter-relation of all the other trace elements reliant on it. Likewise each trace element requires the presence of others it interacts with in the correct proportions to function optimally too.

The gut Microbiome and Dysbiosis

The microbiome in the digestive tract has been getting more coverage in the news as researchers discover it's far-reaching consequences when things go wrong. The microbiome is the fancy name for all the micro-organisms that inhabit a healthy gut. There are other communities of microbiome too in the mouth, nose and nasal sinuses, the skin surface etc. The microbiome out-numbers mammalian cells by 10:1 but this is probably a gross under-estimate for those herbivorous species that rely on fermentation of food either in the foregut (ruminants such as cattle, sheep, goats) or the hindgut (horses, ponies, donkeys etc).

The gut microbiome contains bacteria and other micro-organisms that confer benefits in terms of helping digestion function, others which are regarded as neutral and some which can cause digestive problems. It is the relative balance of these that determines whether the digestive tract is healthy. The "friendly" bacteria should out-number the pathogenic ones and the degree to which one group out-numbers the other determines how well our digestive tract works and degrees of health; but conversely how poorly the digestive tract works and what symptoms we see. When the proper balance of the gut microbiome is upset this is termed a Dysbiosis.

When the diet is not species-appropriate and/or food contains unnatural chemicals then the gut microbiome will tend towards a pathogenic balance. From the research we know that this gut microbiome has implications for health elsewhere, so it is entirely possible for a disease elsewhere in the body to manifest symptoms without any indication that it is related to the gut dysbiosis. Skin allergies and itchiness etc are a classic example of this. Anal furunculosis which is most commonly seen in German Shepherd Dogs is an extreme example of gut dysbiosis.

Roger has found a number of products that can help re-establish a healthy gut microbiome. Micromax® is a naturally fermented live gut reconditioning supplement that helps to optimise the bacterial population profile in the gastrointestinal tract. Nucleotide nutrition supplements help heal damaged villi in the intestine which can complicate the transition from the wrong diet onto the correct species-appropriate one.