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Furry Friends: What we don’t know can hurt them

November 22nd, 2014

Michele + Junie

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
~A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Most of us switch things up now and then. We adjust our diet, start practicing yoga, go to the chiropractor or try acupuncture treatments. Might some of these same practices keep our pets in better health as well?

To feed or not to feed

Your kitty may love a lot of the same foods you do and will eat a bite of cheese when it’s offered. Your dog may eagerly gobble up just about anything you’re willing to share. It’s so easy to please our pets with food—but is it really a loving thing to do? Pet nutrition needs are not the same as ours, and while most of us are well-intentioned, we may be uninformed about exactly what our pets need..

Quality and quantity both matter

Obese animals can suffer many of the same health problems people face, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A better diet can improve overall well-being, reduce inflammation and ease symptoms—and even potentially reverse—chronic diseases.

Because dogs and cats are carnivores, the more protein they eat, the better. But the store bought, high-carb food option really isn’t the best for them. Some experts say that pet foods free of corn, wheat, soy, and peanut butter are best. Talk to your vet before making a food change, and if you do make an adjustment, introduce it gradually.

Water is nutrition too

Did you know our furry friends are made up of 60-70% water, just like us? Getting in enough fluids everyday can sometimes be a challenge (they’re like us in that regard as well!). Providing fresh, cool, abundant water in a clean container every day will help ensure they are hydrated.
Cats have special needs when it comes to water, and are at particular risk of dehydration due to a low thirst drive. If a cat is served mainly a dry food diet, the result can be serious urinary tract problems. Including wet cat food as an option helps, but again, multiple sources of fresh, clean water are an absolute must.

A holistic approach
Many veterinarians are practicing holistic medicine today. These types of vets look at a pet’s overall health, not just the ailment the pet has at the moment. While they utilize lab testing, suggest prescription medications when needed and use traditional therapies they also may offer or suggest acupuncture, herbs and other remedies to keep pets healthy. Holistic veterinarians encourage changes in pets’ diets and lifestyles to ward off illnesses. Here are some of the alternative treatments that you might want to consider for your household pets:

Acupuncture
Traditional acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles in specific points of the body by a trained practitioner to relieve an animal’s pain. This is especially beneficial for pets with back pain, arthritis, muscle spasms and other pain or ailments.

Chiropractic Treatments
Chiropractors adjust the bones in the spine and other parts of the body to alleviate pain. For pets, you won’t hear cracking sounds during an adjustment because not much aggressive force is used. Pets with neck or back problems can benefit from these treatments, just as humans often do.

Massage
Massage can improve blood flow, reduce swelling and help with anxiety issues. Plus, pets like it! But it is a therapy, and it’s important that someone with proper training administer the massage.

Aromatherapy
Scent is an important part of an animal’s life. Their sense of smell is much more developed than a human’s. Please be mindful using aromatherapy and always err on the side of caution. When used correctly, aromatherapy can greatly reduce pet anxiety and stress, but can also be toxic, especially to cats.

Herbal remedies
Herbs can help calm pets. Some holistic vets prescribe herbs like chamomile, kava, or valerian to soothe animals. They may also recommend herb combinations that are created specifically for your pet. Remember though, that herbs are like medicines, so proceed conservatively, in order to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

Be aware
Our furry friends cannot tell us what is wrong so we need to be alert to warning signs and symptoms. You can act promptly to prevent a situation from getting worse simply by paying attention. Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
• Itchy skin or eczema
• Hair loss or shedding
• Waxy or itchy ears
• Runny eyes
• Tooth tarter
• Bad breath
• Chewing feet
• Anal gland problems
• Digestive upsets
• Body odor
• Eating grass
• Energy extremes: hyperactivity or loss of energy

These are all indications that toxic matter is accumulating in the body and that the immune system is attempting to get rid of them. Take precautions and contact your animal healthcare provider at the first sign of something amiss. The animals in your life will thank you.

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The Straight Poop on Regularity

October 5th, 2014

6717762According to the popular children’s book Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, “all living things eat, so everyone poops.” But, sometimes the process isn’t as easy as we’d like. What then?

Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. Impeded elimination is usually caused by a bowel disorder rather than a structural problem. Common causes of constipation include:

• Inadequate water intake
• A diet too low in fiber
• Lack of exercise
• Excessive dairy product consumption
• Side effect of medication
• Stress, such as a disruption in the regular diet or routine

Cut the cheese, please!

Depending on the severity of the issue, there are several ways to address the condition of not being able to move solid waste out of the body. The best solution is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes choosing a variety of fresh, high fiber foods, prepared with minimal fat, salt and sugar, as well as sufficient daily quantities of pure water. Avoid foods that contribute to bowel sluggishness, such as cheese, bananas and red meat. Also important is exercise, like a yoga class or trip to the gym, and rigorous daily activities such as gardening or walking briskly. There are even yoga positions such as uttanasana (standing forward bend) and pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose), that can be beneficial.

Herbs, supplements and other natural aids
Effective constipation remedies include changes in dietary habits, laxatives and bowel stimulants, enemas, suppositories, biofeedback training and, in extreme cases, surgery. The best course of action is always to start with the most gentle and least invasive method of treatment. Sometimes, the simple, old-fashioned ways are all you need to get the job done.

Food as medicine
Relief from sluggish elimination could be as easy as adjusting your diet.

Apples are rich in digestive fiber and they contain pectin, which stimulates the bowels.

Beets not only help keep you regular, they’re great for the liver.

Cabbage has been known as a natural laxative for years. It will alleviate digestive track toxins as well. Sauerkraut—fermented cabbage—is good for your digestion because of its healthy probiotics.

Lemon juice is recommended by many Ayurvedic practitioners as a quick and simple remedy for constipation. A warm glass of water with one teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, first thing in the morning, acts as a cleansing agent for the intestines.

Prunes, sometimes called dried plums, are famous for their laxative properties.

Water About 80% of the human body consists of water, and we need a constant supply. Among other things, water helps to soften the stool. If you’re constipated, one of the first things you should do is increase your intake of pure, fresh water to at least eight glasses per day.

Supplements
Cascara sagrada has a long history of traditional use by Native Americans. Today, it is one of the most common herbal laxatives but should not be used for longer than seven days in a row.

Castor oil is well known as a home remedy for constipation. Some side effects have been reported, so use caution and be sure to purchase a high-quality oil if you do decide to use it.

Epsom salt The main ingredient in epsom salt is the laxative, magnesium sulfate. Look for epsom salt powder, which can be mixed with water and easily dissolved.

Senna is an herbal stimulant that encourages the bowel muscles to move. It’s appropriate for cases of prolonged constipation, when gentler methods don’t seem to work. Please be sure to follow package directions.

Triphala is an herbal formulation that is widely used in Ayurveda. It helps with bowel clening and digestion, and is not habit forming. Try one teaspoon with warm water or simply look for the herb in tablet form.

There are other, more aggressive ways to address the issue of constipation, including at-home irrigation procedures such as enemas and colema boards or colonics performed by a trained hydrotherapist.

Constipation is usually easier to prevent than to treat. Once you find relief from constipation, maintain regularity with adequate exercise, fluid intake and a high fiber diet. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective management may require first determining the cause.

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Brush up on dental care: Put your money where your mouth is!

September 25th, 2014

4611520You brush twice a day, avoid sweets, and you may even floss. But now you’re wondering about your healthcare provider, and whether you should choose a traditional dentist or a holistic one.

Holistic dentistry is part of the alternative health movement. Also called unconventional, biologicor biocompatible dentistry, the practice considers the patient’s dental health in the context of their entire physical, emotional or spiritual well-being. Holistic dentists approach care in ways that depart from conventional treatment. They may reject some traditional procedures—especially root canals and the use of amalgam fillings—which they perceive as being potentially harmful.

Traditional dentists often maintain that holistic and biological dentists use approaches that are not only unsound but involve procedures and body areas that are outside of the legitimate scope of dentistry.

Let’s take a look at some of the philosophical differences between traditional and holistic dentists.

Mercury Fillings
Traditional dentistry advocates mercury amalgam fillings based on their longevity, and the fact that insurance will typically cover them. They might point to American Dental Association and Food and Drug Administration statements that the mercury in dental fillings is safe and proven to back up their positions.

Holistic dentists regard mercury as a toxin and believe that even small amounts are too great a risk to the body and overall health. Long-term or heavy exposure to mercury vapor can result in brain damage and ultimately death. They point out that while amalgam fillings last longer than composites, they put exert extreme pressure on the tooth, often causing it to weaken.

Root Canals
Most traditional dentists will recommend a root canal as a means to save a tooth that has suffered severe decay and has already died or will soon die completely. They make a case that the procedure has been done for centuries and is a safe and effective means to keep a natural tooth.

Holistic dentists typically do not recommend root canals. They point to research that says root canal therapy cannot be effective unless the canal is 100% sterilized and free of bacteria, and that studies have shown that it is impossible to completely sterilize the canal. They argue that the chemicals used for sterilization—such as formaldehyde—are toxic and that the bacteria left in the canal can lead to adverse health affects later.

Fluoride
Traditional dentists are advocates of using fluoride in both a topical and ingested form. They argue in favor of fluoridating water supplies and recommend fluoride drops for infants and children. They point to research showing a decrease in cavity rates in areas where the water is fluoridated.

Holistic dentists typically argue against any form of ingestedfluoride, providing research that shows ingested fluoride is linked to cancer and various bone problems while other research has shown no benefit to the teeth. They also argue that fluoridating public water supplies is forced medication of the general public. Some holistic dentists are for topicalfluoride and some are against it.

Not always black and white

Individual dental professionals may fall into one classification or the other—traditional or holistic, and yet be in the other camp on different issues.

The real difference between holistic and traditional dentistry is essentially philosophical: traditional dentistry is the practice of treating symptoms in the teeth and gums and attempting to prevent such problems from reoccurring. Holistic dentistry is the practice of treating the underlying issues that cause symptoms in the mouth, attempting to eliminate those problems while ensuring the work done in the mouth does not have an adverse affect on overall health.

Which one for you?

So how do you find a dentist that’s right for you; a professional whose philosophies align with your own? Start by asking questions such as “How often do you think I need to get x-rays” and “How would you determine which type of filling is right for me?” The answers you receive will hold clues to the practitioner’s mind-set. If you’re looking for a holistic dentist, listen for answers that show the role your oral health plays in your overall well-being. If you want a traditional dentist, seek answers that address attention to physical symptom management.

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