food in grocery you can feed your horse
So many of us have been here: Our equine companion is nowhere near optimal health, yet the blood work has come back from the vet and all of the lab numbers fall within normal range. No one can pinpoint the cause of our horse's problem.
Welcome to the world of equine naturopathic medicine. My world is a world where clarity almost always comes at the point where so many others give up.
People come to me and say with great anxiety, “The blood work says my horse is fine. I have tried everything and still my horse is not quite right.” And I say, “Please send me a copy of the blood work as soon as possible.”
In this world, ancient in concept yet still deemed "alternative" by many, there is so much more to be taken into account than the black and white prognosis of a disease.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
The naturopathic steps that I take to assess a horse's blood work, and then to come up with a naturopathic, whole-food-solution are logical and straightforward.
First, just as a vet might do, I pull together various pieces of information from a blood work panel like pieces of a puzzle. This gives me a big picture of the inner world of a horse's immune system as well as his/her major organs and musculoskeletal system. What I do next exemplifies how the naturopathic paradigm is so far outside the conventional model of thinking: I view each horse's blood work through the lens of the possibility of health instead of the lens of disease.
To understand how an equine naturopath views a horse's blood work panel I share two of my recent equine cases. Each case begins with a concerned horse owner who has had her horse's blood work analyzed. The standard approach of viewing that blood work proclaimed their horses as "fine."
CASE ONE – Daisy
Daisy is typically a happy and active 15-year-old Paint mare who was nipping at her owner and showing signs of girthiness and soreness in the hind end.
Primary Concern: Gut Discomfort
Veterinary Assessment from Blood Work: No immediate health issues. However, anecdotal evidence from owner steered vet toward probability of ulcer.
Dr. Cassie’s Naturopathic Assessment:
* Glucose levels at the low end of acceptable, indicating that the body is (a) not handling sugars efficiently, and (b) failing to break down food properly.
* BUN value at lower end of health range – Blood Urea Nitrogen is a measurement of the amount of protein in the blood. Low values suggest the digestion of protein is not at optimum efficiency.
* Liver enzyme values provide information such as possible damage to the liver. In addition, these enzymes play an important role in helping the liver to convert proteins and fats into chemical substances that the body can use for healing and repair. Low levels act as a warning flag that the conversion rate of food into energy is not taking place at maximum levels.
* High calcium levels with low phosphorus levels. This particular imbalance can create a domino effect through which the following occurs: (a) magnesium levels dip, (b) lowered magnesium levels compromise insulin production and (c) the body’s ability to process glucose/sugars is hindered.
Naturopathic Conclusion: Provide foods that assist in the breakdown and digestion of sugars and starches (to assist in insulin regulation). Add easily digested sources of protein to the diet. Protein consumption slows down the rate that glucose enters the bloodstream, which is helpful in managing the body's insulin response after ingesting starches, especially when digestion is weak.
Customized Whole Food Healing Plan:
* Chia – easily digested source of protein
* Bladderwrack – sea vegetable with magnesium for sugar regulation
* Dandelion – helps break down fats for better digestion
* Pumpkin seeds – source of magnesium and phosphorus
* Sesame seeds – source of magnesium and phosphorus
Treatment Results: After one month of treatment, Daisy is experiencing significant relief. She is far less girthy and her entire demeanor is much more relaxed. Continued improvement expected with time.
CASE TWO -- Gretzky
Gretzky is a 3-year-old Standardbred gelding experiencing continuous skin problems on his heels, which were swelling and then cracking open. Application of external skin products offered no relief and the intense discomfort from this unresolved skin issue kept Gretzky from his job, racing harness carts.
Primary Concern: Severe skin issues with resulting heel pain.
Veterinary Assessment from Blood Work: No obvious health issues.
Dr. Cassie’s Naturopathic Assessment:
* High GGT value – GGT is an enzyme found in multiple organs of the body. When this enzyme is in the high range it is a good indicator that the liver filter is not up to par. Skin issues are common with stressed liver ability, as is measured by the GGT value.
* Low Total Protein – protein is required for every metabolic activity. A low protein value can indicate poor digestion of nutrients.
Naturopathic Conclusion: Provide nutrients for adequate/proper circulation, as adequate blood flow and circulation aid digestion by moving nutrients timely within the body to where it is needed for healing and repair. Along with moving nutrients, good circulation improves the flow of oxygen in the blood. Oxygen repairs and heals tissue.
Customized Whole Food Healing Plan:
* Cleavers – for circulatory support
* Ginger – for circulatory and digestive support
* Turmeric – for liver support and to increase digestive enzymes
* Rosehips – for overall nutrition to provide vitamin C which supports healing
* Licorice – for adrenal stress
Treatment Results: Within 30 days, Gretzky’s owner reported he was doing “much better.” Within another 30 days, Gretzky was pain-free and given the track vet’s go-ahead to return to racing. During the next four months Gretzy was a multiple stakes winner and experienced no signs of swelling, cracking, bleeding, or heel pain.
What Exactly Are Whole Foods?
A whole food is any food derived from nature in its most simple form, unaltered by man.
Whole foods contain the WHOLE of the food itself, intact and full of all its synergistic benefits: an orange complete with its bitter pith, thick rind filled with beneficial oils, vitamin rich juice, and fiber; an apple with its skin rich in antioxidants and pectin, the meat containing beneficial fiber, and the juice that contains vitamin C .
The constituents contained in whole foods are easily assimilated because they contain molecules structured similarly to those within the body consuming them. In other words, whole foods speak the same language as the living tissue needing their nutritional support. This is the opposite of synthetic or fractionated forms of food , which the body must decipher and decode before utilizing.
Whole foods carry within them the ability to build, repair, and renew cells. A holistic, whole food eating plan that is consistently and purposefully varied in its ingredients can – with the appropriate synergistic combinations of whole foods – address and heal long-standing issues. Indeed, live, whole foods are the only way to build long-term health.
SOUNDS TOO EASY?
To those unfamiliar with a naturopath's very practical reliance upon blood work information, naturopathic whole-food prescriptions can appear overly simplistic.
At first they sound too easy, but then people experience their own success stories with their horses. And those same people learn about the beauty and power of nutrition -- specifically its ability to provide vitamins and minerals that the body recognizes and can utilize exactly as it needs.
Whole foods come to your table -- and your horse's feed bucket -- with the ability to build, repair, and renew cells. A living body needs living substances and whole foods provide that substance.
Dr. Cassie Schuster is a nationally board certified traditional naturopath who specializes in the rehabilitative care of equines. Also a Master Herbalist, Dr. Schuster is the owner of Wellness Ranch, an equine facility in Texas that provides holistic care for hard to heal cases. Dr. Schuster is available for local and long distance consultations, AskDrCassie@gmail.com. Article written with creative assistance from Lori Teresa Yearwood (firstname.lastname@example.org)