DIET…The conversation that no one wants to have.
These are conversations that affect us to the core of our belief systems. When did we become afraid of food? When did we become suspicious of nutrients as that which can harm us?
The answer… when the truth around that challenges the beliefs that we have and the organizations and peoples that we relied upon to support that trust.
Food is both the problem and the solution. We have been so entrenched in disease, and we have an idea about food, but it has become a one-way conversation that supports a cultural bias of a propagandized medical indoctrination. This may sound a little harsh, however, I see hundreds of animals coming into the emergency room with clinical signs and disease secondary to suboptimal nutrition and the consequences of that.
For instance, if your dog has diarrhea, or is itchy we may suspect it is food related and our solution is to ‘avoid’ food. We call this elimination diets. This may be a good short term solution, however, we think that by avoiding a situation we do not have to look at the deeper underlying problem. This allows us to feel comfortable in our ignorance of the underlying conditions and removes responsibility to help augment the healing. This is mainly due to the fact that we may not know how to help. The result of this line of thinking is to create more limited ingredient ‘scientifically proven’ foods to alleviate the symptoms and sustain your life.
It is worthwhile to note that we actually require very little to sustain life, but require more to thrive in life. The problem is, very few in the medical community are taught about thriving. We are only taught about surviving. This allows us to not have to think about the actual ways to heal and glorifies the band aid medicine disguising itself as a job well done. As consumers we learn to believe and convince ourselves that we are doing the best we can, purchasing the highest quality, most expensive food, designed as an exclusive prescription for an underlying condition, given by the veterinarians, promoted by institutions to provide a source of therapy.
The hard truth is that not only is that not true, but there are also damaging consequences that we have learned to recognize as just another part of the problem. I’m referring to all the inflammatory conditions that are created and precipitated by an industry that prides itself on highly processed, poor quality ingredients, laden with GMO foods that are infused and coated with highly toxic and cancer-causing chemicals marketed as important pesticides, herbicides and drying agents. Not to mention the carcinogenic byproducts of the formulation process. As all processed foods have their concerns, I am referring mainly to the standard dry kibble food.
All of these constituents have been lobbied for and marketed as important for economic growth, and health under a false guise of an altruistic attempt to increase supply, based upon needs and demands. Both veterinarian and medical doctor alike that are educated in conventional medical establishments are taught a limited amount of nutrition and from the standpoint of major corporations and pharmaceutical companies. These organizations are driven by one thing, and that is profit.
Disease and illness is big business. Our over all ‘health-care’ system has been designed for that, ever since the completion of the Flexner report in 1911, where the curriculum in the medical schools were dictated by wealthy industrial banking families to promote pharmaceuticals as the solution for most aliments. This has indoctrinated the teachings that natural therapies don’t work and are not good for you.
We have become so afraid of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, beef etc, that if I see a client who comes in with her dog that is not eating…
I ask them “What you are feeding him?”
They say, “His regular diet of a lamb and rice prescription kibble.”
I ask, “How long as he been eating that?”
They say, “All his life, but he picks at it and the eventually eats it. He has a sensitive stomach, and he is just a picky eater.”
I ask, “Have you offered any real food to see if he will eat?”
They say, “Do you mean people food?”
I say, “Real food. Like a piece of chicken, or fish that you cook that you bought from the store?”
They say “No. My vet said I can never give him people food he has to only eat is dog food.”
As you can see, this is where the problem starts. We veterinarians are the start of the problem. Unfortunately, we can turn around and blame it on the university where we were trained, because that’s what we were told to do. At some point, we all need to awaken and be aware of what it is we are doing and saying and start connecting the dots. We are so ingrained with the teaching of cause and effect except when it goes against our indoctrinated belief systems.
For instance, the dog that has bloody diarrhea that is eating only free fed kibble that is constantly left out and topped off, as it becomes rancid and oxidized exposed to heat and air, and promoting the growth of potential mycotoxins, is never to blame and is not even considered as a cause because it is the ‘recommended food’. But in comes the dog that has bloody diarrhea that is on a commercially prepared raw food or a fresh food diet and the diet is immediately blamed for the problem.
We have been indoctrinated into the fear of food, coupled with a decreased ability for critical thinking. It has gone so far that during the history taking process, the only question some veterinarians will ask is “Have you changed his diet?” Indicating that change itself is detrimental and the problem, thus promoting the antiquated and dangerous mindset of a monoculture of dietary ingredients.
I get it. Nobody likes diarrhea, and nobody wants to be blamed for it.
Unfortunately, in alignment with this mind-set, we have created a gut that is chronically inflamed, has an imbalance of microorganisms, and is intolerant of any other food than it is used to getting. And because of that, when you do feed something different, the system acts like it is in shock and either has vomiting or diarrhea. This leads us to believe that it was the food that caused the problem, and your pet has a ‘sensitive stomach’, when in reality it is just the opposite. It is the lack of different foods, the lack of proper nutrients, and the lack of biodiversity that is precipitating the problem and causing the maladaptive reaction to food.
The solution is to heal the gut, and not use avoidance tactics that ultimately leads you down the road to an expensive kibble-based prescription diet made of chicken feathers and rice. I will never understand why this seems like a good idea to anyone.
In essence, it is diversity that creates the greatest foundation for health, from the millions of species of bacteria in the gut microbiome, to the plethora of nutrients and ingredients we consume that supports them. Their role in the upkeep and balancing of our overall health is paramount for a system to thrive. Good gut health is the foundation for all metabolic cell function, nutrient availability, a well-functioning immune system, and balancing neuroendocrine responses that are linked to emotional wellbeing, and stress management. Unfortunately, as practitioners we need to undo what we have done, and it starts with healing the gut. Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it may sound. The GI tract is very forgiving, and the intestinal cells or enterocytes have a high turnover rate, meaning new cells are coming in all the time. This lends itself for many opportunities of a welcomed fresh start.
Sadly, a large percentage of veterinarians and human physicians do not have this knowledge and understanding about food and health. This is mainly conversations being had with integrative, functional medicine and holistic health professionals. It is also a conversation from pet owners that are becoming mindfully educated health advocates for their pets.
Hopefully, as we begin to connect the dots, expand our views on what nutrition really means, and truly embrace the power of the body to heal, we can start to be more open to the bigger conversation of wellness and like Hippocrates said, food will once again be ‘thy medicine’. Variety is truly the spice of life!