Feed X for Y
Many supporters of holistic care value supporting the whole being. In contrast, a differing approach may include taking ibuprofen by somebody to “treat” pain may remove the symptom, but fails to address the underlying condition should the ailment occur long term. Failure to address the underlying condition may very well result in more complications. There are many shortcomings to the “fix the symptom” mentality. While many may think I am talking of conventional medicine here, the truth is that I speak of many in the nutrition world who pursue holistic care but unknowingly are using an allopathic approach.
Feed X for Y
Consider the popular advice to feed turmeric for joint pain. Turmeric, a fantastic herb, is potent with its own set of characteristics suitable for some depending on the person or dog, and therefore may or may not be ideal. Perhaps the dog was eating a homemade diet, short in nutrients essential for joint health. Turmeric or high doses of fish oil may indeed alleviate symptoms. However, the predicament seen in conventional approaches remains: The whole dog was not addressed. Of course, I am not comparing pharmaceutical drugs to fish oil. I am simply comparing the approach to health and this particular school of thought.
Nutrition, while utilizing generally safe ingredients, is not exempt from these errors. The common advice to “feed X for Y” may or may not be relevant and healing to the dog. Another common example is to “feed more bone to firm stools.” While an increase in bone indeed hardens stool, it also plays with the mineral balance of the entire diet and does not address any possible underlying issues.
An Intricate Order
Another example of the downfalls of feeding “X for Y” is that much of the body’s complex systems are overlooked. When many think of antioxidant defense, they think vitamin E (and humans with an absolute requirement for vitamin C). While not incorrect, supplementing vitamin E in the name of free radical protection will not help if vitamin E was not deficient in the first place. Oxidants are not bad- they are really only harmful if they are in the wrong place in the wrong amounts. Take for example the cellular composition of immune cells- a membrane consisting of polyunsaturated fatty acids. While vitamin E may prevent the chain reaction of an oxidized fatty acid, it is not the end of the process. While out of the scope of this post, one could follow the antioxidant defense system in regards to lipid peroxides and see that selenium, glutathione, b vitamins, and manganese all eventually play a role in the body’s impressive and intricate response to free radical protection. So while a vitamin E supplement does indeed help in the protection from free radicals, there is much more occurring. Even then, the different vitamers and the dose are still critically important as it all pertains to the entire dog and the entire diet. High doses can even work against the owner’s goals of antioxidant defense.
Think the Whole Dog & Nutrients- A to Z
As I mentioned, the body is extraordinarily complex and undeniably orderly. For acute issues, a quick fix is often very appropriate. However, for long-term health, it is necessary to think of the whole dog. My goal as a nutritionist (student) is to look at the big picture down through each specific nutrient and its functions. A well formulated recipe that is balanced and nutritionally adequate may be so for one dog, but not another. The couch potato macronutrient needs (among other needs) will differ than the search and rescue dog.
The very first service I began to offer was a full recipe(s) analysis after evaluating a health intake of the dog. It is important to me to look at the whole dog and every detail of their dietary intake before making any direct and specific suggestions to the owner- based on sound science and a holistic approach. Many who mask a symptom through the incorrect use of foods are often unknowingly doing the very thing they critique. Perhaps fish oil really is the answer in some instances- but let’s be sure that nutrients A-Z have been addressed, health beyond the diet has been addressed, appropriate ingredients are used and we feed the dog in front of us through nutrition, exceptional pet ownership, and fantastic veterinary care.