Pet Food and Pet Health

The pet food debate continues to rage on. Are commercial foods in the store healthy for our pets and what is the relation between nutrition and pet diseases? The saying “you are what you eat”, applies to both pets and humans and deficiencies or surpluses in diet will have an effect on health. Certain pet diseases can be directly associated with what and how your pet is or isn’t eating.Allergies or intolerance to ingredients will result in diarrhea, vomiting, ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections. Less than 1% of pets actually suffer from food allergies (see digestive problems.) The main food groups in order associated with allergies, in order of occurrence are beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, chicken eggs, corn, and soy. Allergies diagnosis is difficult and can be done through food trials that may last up to 3 months, or blood tests on which there is still debate on their conclusiveness.Bloating occurs when there is a buildup of gas in the stomach. This condition is mostly in canines, especially large ones. Studies have shown that bloat occurred in all types of diets that had been fed to dogs. The only definite known cause of bloating is swallowing of air. Bloating can be life threatening, as it can result in the stomach flipping over resulting in closure on both ends. This in turn cuts of circulation to the heart resulting in shock and death (Gastric Torsion). Bloating prevention techniques include several smaller meals in a day and elevation of dog bowls to head level to reduce the tendency to suck food and air into the mouth.Dental disease occurs in pets just as in humans, due to poor oral hygiene. This is one of the most ignored aspects of pet health by pet owners. Very often there is the misconception that a pets bad breath is standard. In addition some mistakenly believe that bones or dry foods are good for the teeth.You wouldn’t chew on a chop or crackers to clean your teeth and neither should your pet. It is currently recommended that pets should have their teeth brushed daily. There are pet brushes and pastes available for both cats and dogs.Digestive problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or inflammation are common in pets. These are often adverse food reactions and should not be confused with allergies. They are often manifested when there is a change of diet. Prolonged symptoms necessitate a pet visit. For pet food ingredients that might cause these symptoms visit the source page.Heart disease in both cats and dogs is often a result of taurine deficiency, an amino acid. This also causes blindness in cats. It is now an AAFCO requirement that all pet foods contain 0.1% taurine. The deficiency was caused by low levels of animal protein, and low levels of high grade animal protein in commercial foods.Obesity is a problem that plagues an estimated 30% of cats and dogs with 40% being overweight. Dry foods are high carb high calorie and are a causative factor. Feeding labeling on commercial foods have been known to be inflated. Overweight pets are prone to arthritis, heart conditions and diabetes. Dry cat food is considered a major contributor to diabetes in cats. Remedial actions include exercise and high protein, low carb diets. A word of caution, dieting too fast can lead to a condition called hepatic lipsidosis in cats.
Urinary tract and kidney diseases are often a result of dry food diets. These diets cause dehydration and due to their ingredients, highly concentrated urine. This leads to crystals and stones in both cats and dogs.The history of commercial pet food is marked with an increase in nutrition related diseases in pets. Supplemental ingredients had to be added as they were lacking. Reactions to additives, drugs, bacterias and fungi have also occurred. The numerous recalls and contaminations should also be noted.There is currently a trend towards more natural pet foods and home, organic and raw diets.

Hyper-palatable Foods and Weight Loss

I am a huge advocate of eating foods you truly love. Nourishing ourselves with foods that not only provide fuel for our bodies, but that also taste good is one of the ways we take care of our physical as well as our emotional needs and wants. Since we eat frequently throughout the day, every day (I eat up to six times a day) we have the opportunity to show ourselves some serious love! When we eat the foods we truly want at the moment we begin to experience physical hunger and stop the moment we no longer enjoy our meal or the moment we feel physically satisfied (whichever comes first), our bodies remain at a healthy weight. This process is called homeostasis and it can be observed in other bodily mechanisms as well, such as maintaining a healthy body temperature.When homeostasis is interrupted or overridden, we begin to lose touch with our bodies. In the case of food, we may ignore our hunger/satiety cues or, worse, not feel them at all. How does this happen? There could be medical reasons for this, but what I have observed and learned is that it is more commonly attributed to two factors: 1) Our thoughts about food and, for some of us, 2) consuming hyper-palatable foods (products that go beyond tasting good and make us go stark raving mad for them). Understanding and working with the first factor is vital in overcoming any food issue (or any issue for that matter), but knowledge of the second factor is instrumental in helping many people with “food addiction” get a handle on their challenge.In his new book, The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner, presents in draw-dropping detail how the food industry engineers their products specifically to override the hunger/satiety cues signaled by our bodies. Kessler describes how the reward centers of our brain become extremely stimulated when we eat a doughnut – these are the same reward centers that are stimulated when someone injects heroine into their veins. In effect, that doughnut is a drug disguised as food and like a drug it keeps its users coming back for more. This makes highly processed foods homeostasis enemy #1 and the foe of any weight loss effort for sure. Here are just some of the ways the producers of highly processed foods attempt (and many times succeed) at getting people hooked:* breaking down the original whole food so that all that is left is the nutrition-lacking portion, this accomplishes three things: 1)the product leaves the mouth quicker (less chewing involved), 2)it has an appealing “mouthfeel” (a term used by the food industry) and 3) it lacks nutrition so little to no real satiety occurs (and you need to eat more)* using any combination of fats, salts and sugar (the high concentration and methodical combo of any two really sets off the reward centers in the brain)* creating and using artificial flavors that are more intense than the natural foods they replicate* pre-frying meats in oil (that will later be deep fried again – I just learned that when a food is fried, the water content of the food is replaced by the frying oil, this means if the food was 40% water before, the food is 40% more fat after frying!)* injecting meats with solutions of sugar, salt and water and, many times, other additivesAll of these manipulations (and others) conspire to override our bodies’ natural responses to our satiety/hunger cues by hyper-stimulating the reward centers of our brains, just like a drug does.If you are a fast food regular, relax. There is a cornucopia of non- and minimally processed foods that can satisfy your taste buds as well as your nutritional needs. You are still in full control of what you put into your body. If you truly want to break your habits of eating drugs instead of food, you can do it. It is not unlike someone who wishes to quit smoking, it’s a process that starts with a desire, followed by a plan and driven by action. As a recovering perfectionist, I must also add that working with integrity and not striving for perfection is the key to achieving goals and maintaining them. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out battle either.Starting with your thoughts is the best way to gauge where you are and discover how you relate to these hyper-palatable foods. Start by making a list of foods you eat regularly. Which ones are highly processed and/or hyper-palatable? You don’t have to do anything about the list, just notice. If you are satisfied with your list, that’s great, congratulations! If you are not satisfied, brainstorm on some foods that are not processed that you do enjoy eating. Again, there’s no pressure to take any action, just observe. In fact, I don’t recommend doing a thing until you find some pleasurable (non-edible) replacements for the hyper-palatable foods you are contemplating giving up – I say if you’re going to give up one pleasurable thing (whether it’s food, drugs or internet word games), there had better be something just as, if not more, pleasurable to take its place (this could be spending more time outdoors, taking up a hobby or even getting more nookie with your honey – I kid you not, there exists a sex diet).If you find you are a compulsive person and just transfer your addictions, you have some thought work to do if you wan to break that cycle. Acknowledgement is a powerful first step in putting an end to any habit you wish to break. The rest is merely a matter of knowing what you truly want and ridding yourself of the limiting beliefs that keep you from it.