I was meant to post this over 10 days ago but couldn't let it go until it felt easy to understand. This is my third attempt, as this morning my computer crashed and decided not to save my unsaved document (I could have wept). Yes, you could say I’m not very tech savvy…third time a charm and all of that. Anyway lets’ get back to the issue at hand. ITCHY PETS! We covered itchy pets a couple of weeks ago but this is approaching it from a different angle.
Many clients come to me with their itchy pet, usually dogs, in complete dismay after trying several things to alleviate the itch. Some of these wonderful people have gone all out, trying a fresh diet, raw food, supplements, testing for food and environmental allergies, food sensitivities and so on. Whilst being armed with lots of information and avoiding the ‘supposed culprits’ the itching has not got any better. If anything, at times, it seems worse.
I’ve specialised in functional medicine for a very long time and in the exciting world of human nutrition, we are closely studying genomes, genetic polymorphisms and how nutrition can influence health, based on our genetic make-up. Welcome to the world of epigenetics and nutrigenomics!
Although we are studying the dog genome (not cats of yet), we are far behind in comparison to the world of human nutrition. Dogs in particular share a lot of the same pathophysiology in function and disease. I have therefore applied a lot of what I have learnt and researched in the human arena to pet’s health and I am getting some great results. In particular, with itchy dogs and what we know in human nutritional terms as ‘histamine intolerance’.
Histamine is a necessary part of physiological functions in animals such as protecting against infection and inflammation. It regulates gut function, especially the release of gastric acid as part of the breakdown of proteins in the digestion of food, it acts as a neurotransmitter affecting cognitive function and in dogs helps to deal with anxiety. Histamine is either stored or inactivated by degradative enzymes, Histamine-N-methyltransferase or Diamine Oxidase (DAO). DAO will reside in the GI tract where nearly all histamine from food is metabolised (destroyed/eliminated) by DAO. Due to genetics or nutritional deficiency DAO and Histamine-N-methyltransferase production can be lacking and therefore histamine can build up and here in lies the problem.
Histamine can also be naturally occurring in foods or can release additional histamine known as a ‘histamine liberators’. Those naturally containing high histamine foods are often fermented such as kefir and sauerkraut and other foods such as tomato and spinach. Foods known as liberators are those such as strawberries, citrus fruits and nuts. Histamine levels only continue to rise the longer the food sits within the gut and ferments. You’ll find many nutritionists are recommending fermented foods for digestive health and itchy dogs. This can make the problem 10 times worse until the issue at hand is resolved.
Even certain drugs such as antihistamines can cripple DAO function and make symptoms worse.
So you see, even if you remove foods that you know your dog to be intolerant or allergic to, if they eat foods containing or releasing high amounts of histamine or don’t naturally produce enough enzymes to break them down, symptoms won’t be relieved.
In my practice we go on a naturally low occurring histamine diet, considering the reactivity of the immune system, improve DAO and methylation function by adding in certain nutritional ingredients such as magnesium, vitamin C, B6, methyl folate etc, all whilst considering every system within the body.
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I hope this helps folks and sorry for the delay in posting!