Using Food as Medicine…Part 4
CONSTRUCTING A BALANCED, CUSTOMIZED DIET BASED ON TCVM PRINCIPLES
Generally speaking, the best nutrition for our pets — just like for our human family members — requires us to feed them wholesome foods. Typically, the more hands that touch food items, the less nutritional value they have.
As stated, foods have different qualities. They can have a thermogenic effect on the body and will be neutral, warming or cooling. In TCVM, food is Gu Qi, it helps provide the “life force or Qi” of your dog.
When deciding on what to feed your dog you must take into consideration the dogs age, breed, sex, energy level, history and evolution of the breed, climate the dog lives in and where its ancestors came from, season of the year and any medical or energetic condition your dog may have. Each food type, how it is prepared and in what proportions may have a specific medicinal use and effect on your dogs body.
It is important that you find a Certified Veterinary Food Therapist that can discern all these factors and help you make good medical decisions of what food ingredients, how to prepare them and what proportions to give them and construct a diet that will either maintain your dogs health optimally or to address and treat a condition your dog may have and help restore balance and health.
With that in mind, let’s dig into the specifics of feeding your dog for ideal health using my own dogs as a living example.
In an ideal world, dogs should be fed with the intent of addressing their age, breed, sex, energy level, ancestral location (climate and available food items locally to that area) and any conditions they may have. For instance, I have 2 Mini Australian Shepherds. Joey, a 3 year old male and Brody, a 10 month old male. Mini Aussies originated from Europe and migrated directly to North America. The climate and food items available here in New York are easily matched to those available to their ancestors.
Because they are young, energetic and are “working” dogs (as they are of the herding breeds) this effects the proportions of protein to fat to carbohydrates that are offered. The kind of protein I choose is based on these factors. But I will alternate protein sources or use different combinations of protein sources because the diversity helps to provide better balance.
Your dog’s breed does matter. My young, active mini-aussie is going to need more protein than an older lazy English bulldog. Also, the shape of the head and muzzle makes a difference of what protein and how it is prepared. The mini- aussie has a long muzzle that will be better at tearing and chewing the meat so I don’t have to grind it as finely.
Choosing an ideal protein source is also dependent upon the time of year (season) and climate. In the winter, I will feed dogs warmer proteins like chicken or lamb. In the summer I will use cooler proteins like turkey, duck, rabbit or cod. In the fall and spring I will use neutral proteins like beef or pork. Balance is important. My young dogs typically get 50% or more of their diet from a protein source. Another 10% of their diet consists of organ meats.
The TCVM constitution of the dog — and any present health conditions — help determine which organ meats to add. Joey, for example, is very easily startled. He doesn’t like thunderstorms or fireworks. In TCVM, this is considered a Shen disturbance and is a disorder of the heart. The “Shen” or spirit animal is housed in the heart. Because he has phobias, his Shen is disturbed and so I add in cooked heart to his diet. He is also, constitutionally, very friendly and outgoing. You could say he is of Fire constitution. The element of Fire is also associated with the heart, another reason I choose to feed him cooked beef heart. I do this because, based upon Chinese philosophy, you should feed what is broken so as to provide the body with the ingredients to fix itself. Because Joey has imbalances relating to his heart, I therefore feed him heart.
I go through the same process with carbohydrates and fats. So if I think back to what my dogs may have eaten centuries ago in Europe, they probably ate mostly meat and scavenged for small rodents, plants and garbage. Actually the perfect meal for them is analogous to a whole rabbit.which is about 70% protein (of which 10% are organ meats) and 30% vegetables and carbohydrates. The fat content would be determined upon the specific rabbit. The carbohydrates would have been provided by the stomach contents of the rabbit at the time it was hunted. Good for my dog, bad for rabbits.
There is a misconception regarding to grains…. because of where my dogs ancestors had come from they have evolved over the centuries and may have eaten some of the foods humans ate when the scavenged through the garbage. So I will use cooked grains like barley, buckwheat, millet and rice and even some other starches like potatoes, quinoa and beans. Again utilizing the specific food items energy and action to help maintain balance.
For those animals that may come from different geographic locations or that are currently living in different geographic locations would determine which items were chosen. Vegetable choices are made based on the food items energy, action and whether it is “in season” and locally available.
Typically a fast growing vegetable (i.e. lettuce) tends to be cooler that a slower growing vegetable (i.e. root vegetables). Foods with higher water content, like watermelon, tend to be more cooling. Longer and slower cooking methods (roasting or stewing) produce more warming effects than quicker methods of cooking.
Dogs that live in hot climates, or during warm seasons (summer) or with “hot” conditions should be fed diets that are generally cooling. Likewise, dogs that live in cold climates, or during cold seasons (winter) or with “cold” conditions should be fed warming diets. Depending on the time of year, a basic diet my young, healthy, active dogs get are as follows :
- 1 cup of protein (meats rotated between pork, fish, duck, lamb, beef and turkey.
- 1 cup of carbohydrates (starches rotated between quinoa, sweet potato, squash or pumpkin) 1 cup of vegetables (typically equal amounts of root vegetables and salad greens)
- I also add supplements to provide the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals. Treats are composed of fruits and freeze dried organ meats
- 1 tbsp. of coconut oil to provide the appropriate omega fatty acids
I also add supplements to provide the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals. Treats are composed of fruits and freeze dried organ meats 1 tbsp. of coconut oil to provide the appropriate omega fatty acids “It matters not whether medicine is old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories are Eastern or Western, so long as they prove to be true”
Please stay tuned for next weeks blog….. Using Food as Medicine…Part 5…Special Considerations
Michel Selmer, DVM, MS, CTCVMP – “The Caring Vet”