Monthly Archives: May 2015

Applying TCVM Food Therapy

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In my last article I wrote about Chinese food therapy and how foods have innate warming, cooling, or neutral effects on the body. We can use these food properties to balance an animal’s energy system. “Hot” pets (those who seek coolness, overheat easily, are experiencing inflammation, or are in a hot climate) can be fed cooling foods. “Cold” pets (those who seek heat, or are in a cold environment) may benefit from warming foods. Animals whose temperatures are balanced should be fed neutral foods.

Here are some examples of Chinese food therapy temperatures.

Warming foods:  Beef kidney, Chicken, Chicken egg yolk, Chicken liver, Goat milk, Ham, Lamb kidney, Lamb liver, Mutton, Pheasant, Prawn, Shrimp, Venison,  Apricot, Basil, Blackberry, Cherry, Chestnut, Chives, Clove, Coconut, Coriander, Fennel, Ginger, Garlic, Hawthorn, Horseradish, Mustard, Nutmeg, Papaya, Peach, Pepper, Plum, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Raspberry, Squash, Sweet Potato, Sunflower seed, Tangerine, Thyme, Turmeric, Walnut
Cooling foods:  Alligator, Clam or Mussel, Cod, Conch, Crab, Duck, Duck egg, Egg white, Herring, Rabbit, Scallop, Turkey, White fish, Yogurt,  Alfalfa, Apple, Amaranth, Banana, Bitter melon, Blueberry, Broccoli, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Gingko, Kelp or Seaweed, Kiwi fruit, Mango, Mushroom, Orange, Pear, Persimmon, Spinach, Strawberry, Tomato, Watermelon, White radish
Neutral foods:  Beef, Beef liver, Bison, Catfish, Chicken eggs, Flatfish, Goose, Mackerel, Milk (Cows), Pigeon, Pork, Pork kidney, Pork liver, Quail, Salmon, Sardines, Tripe, Trout, Tuna, Wild rabbit, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Date, Figs, Ginkgo, Grape, Lemon, Lotus, Lychee, Pineapple, Potato, Radish, Sweet Potato, Shiitake mushroom, Yam

The Chinese also considered that how a food is prepared affects its temperature. Raw foods are very cooling, foods that is steamed or boiled are more neutral, foods that are grilled baked or fried are warming, canned pet food is hot, and dry pet food is off the scale hot.

If your pet is hot, choose a diet made with cooling foods or feed cooling foods as treats and avoid processed foods. You may also want to add some of these cooling spices to his food – Mint, salt, honey, flax/sesame/soybean oils. If your pet is cold, feed warming foods and avoid totally raw diets. You might also want to try some of these warming spices – Chives, clove, ginger, garlic, horseradish, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, thyme, turmeric, olive oil, rice wine vinegar.

Are you ready to apply TCVM food therapy?

Chinese Food Therapy for Pets

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For the ancient Chinese, the maintenance of health was of supreme importance so much so that healthcare was not something they went to a doctor to get; it was a way of life. These wise people meditated, used massage, herbs and acupuncture, and did tai chi on a regular basis not just to treat disease, but to maintain health. In addition to these therapies, the Chinese considered every meal they ate as a form of treatment for their bodies.

The Chinese discovered that different foods had different energetic effects on the body. They worked out an elaborate diet ingredient classification system to guide them in eating the right foods for any given bodily disharmony. This Chinese food therapy method can be applied to our pets to benefit their health as well.

The intricacies of Chinese food therapy can make the therapy difficult to apply. The good news is that eighty percent of the value of TCVM food therapy is simply based on balancing bodily heating and cooling mechanisms.

From a TCVM point of view, there are foods that are warming, foods that are cooling, and foods that are neutral. To say that a food is warming does not necessarily mean that it creates a warm or hot sensation in the mouth. The Chinese determined that some foods produced a warming influence in the body while others created a cooling response. Warming foods are used to counterbalance cold conditions, cooling foods are used to bring a hot condition down in temperature, and neutral foods are given when everything is on an even keel.

Hot conditions can range in intensity. Some dogs seek cool surroundings and pant a lot. A “hot” pet may overheat easily and feel hot to the touch. In more severe cases, the heat may manifest as red, smelly skin rashes, red eyes, green or yellow discharges, or diarrhea with blood. Often the animal’s tongue will be red and dry. Any pet with these signs may benefit from being fed cooling foods.

“Cold” pets seek warmth and may shiver a lot. They avoid the cold and their skin might feel cold. Their skin and tongue may be pale and any discharges are clear or whitish. These pets do best when fed warming foods.

We must take into consideration that Chinese medical concepts were developed for people. Unlike us, different breeds of dogs were bred for different climates. If you live in Miami, Florida and your Husky pants all day long, it does not mean he has an internal problem; it merely means he is being affected by his external environment. Similarly, a Chihuahua that shivers throughout the winter in Maine is normal. Although these behaviors are typical for the breeds under these circumstances, the animals may be better able to adapt to their conditions if fed food that can compensate for the temperature stress being placed on them. Likewise, a typical, neutral dog may feel better if fed warming foods in the cold of winter and cooling foods in the heat of summer.

As helpful as the concepts of food energetics are, I do want to make it clear that the end result tends to be subtle. TCVM food therapy works best when it is employed as part of a healthy lifestyle. If your pet has a serious health issue, she needs to be seen by your holistic veterinarian for care. But, no matter what the health issue is with your companion, TCVM food therapy can be used in conjunction with any other therapy and may give your pet a leg up. As the Chinese proverb goes, “He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.”

My next post will give more details about Chinese food therapy.

Active Dreaming – What does it Mean?

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Do any of your pets move around or vocalize in their sleep? It appears they are acting out their dreams. We can only imagine what is going on in their minds – no doubt chasing after something. Have you ever wondered why some pets do this while others do not? Could there be some underlying disturbance?

For the ancient Chinese, health was all about balance; more specifically the balance of Yin and Yang. Yin refers to the cooling, moistening, and restful processes in the body and Yang relates to the heating, drying, and activating processes in the body. Yin governs the night while we sleep and Yang governs the day while we’re awake.

Western veterinarians have no concern about active dreaming; some pets do it and some do not – what’s the big deal? The Chinese have another view. For them, what they called “dream disturbed sleep” was a sign of an energy imbalance in the body.

Of course, the originators of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) were not concerned about whether or not dogs and cats dreamed because their dogs and cats were dinner. Modern TCM veterinarians are taking what the Chinese learned about human health and applying it to animals. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Let’s see how all this may pertain to animals.

The first question to answer is, “Do dogs and cats dream?” Well, animals have REM sleep which is the phase of sleep in which people dream so I think it is safe to say that pets do indeed dream. The second question is, “Is it normal for animals (or people) to move around or vocalize in their sleep?” The answer to that one is a resounding “NO.” While we are dreaming, our voluntary muscles are supposed to be turned off. All the dreaming is supposed to happen strictly in our heads and not be expressed in our bodies.

When the ancient Chinese saw people physically acting out their dreams, they came to realize that they suffered from a deficiency of the Yin, relaxing influence. This lack allows the uncontrolled Yang activity to “bleed through” in the dreams.

Whether or not active dreaming is significant depends on how it fits with other issues the individual may have. The more frequent and violent the activity, the more significant it is. Other signs of Yin deficiency (seeking coolness and over-heating easily) may also corroborate the diagnosis of Yin deficiency. Finally, if you are noticing active dreaming more as your pet ages then it is more likely to be a significant issue since we all tend to become deficient of some aspect of life force energy as we get older.

Yin deficiency may or may not be a serious imbalance for a pet who actively dreams. Even if your pet is not having a health issue, treating the imbalance early can help thwart more serious problems that are likely to eventually develop. Be sure to bring active dreaming to the attention of your holistic veterinarian so your pet can be treated preventively with herbs or diet.

Do you see your pet dream?