The nutritional value of food is, of course, important. But is there more to food that the nutrients we count?
According to the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), there are 36 nutrients that are essential for dogs.
An essential nutrient is a nutrient that is needed for your dog’s body to function properly but cannot be synthesized by his body at all or not in a sufficient amount. Such nutrients have to be provided through your dog’s diet. These include proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
Each of them has an important function, and a deficiency in any of these nutrients can lead to serious health issues. That’s why a complete and balanced diet is vital to maintaining your dog’s health.
Western medicine also recognizes some healing qualities of nutrients, such as antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties. For the most part, though, it seems that the western approach is mainly about elimination: low-fat, low-protein, low-carb …
Beyond the nutrient counting
Are we missing something important about food? Well, according to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine we are.
This concept is not exclusive to TCVM. The first time I was introduced to the idea was when I was working on Eat • Taste • Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living.
Ayurveda originated in India and it also made its way to other parts of the world. While there are differences between TCVM and Ayurveda systems, they seem to share some similar principles and ideas. So maybe they are onto something.
Healing your dog with food?
In TCVM, food therapy is often used along with herbal therapy and acupuncture but is some cases it can be sufficient on its own.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine recognizes four properties of food: flavor, temperature, direction, and affinity to a particular organ system.
What’s in a flavor?
TCVM identifies five flavors: sweet, sour, pungent, salty and bitter. Foods with different flavors have different benefits for your dog’s body. Ayurveda recognizes six flavors and links them with similar properties.
Did you ever try Swedish Bitters? Bitter foods and herbs aid digestion and metabolism, and have cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties. Do you drink lemon tea when you have a sore throat? Sour foods and herbs cleanse tissues of mucus. Seems like even our grandma’s had some idea how this works! The flavor of a herb or food is like nature’s label telling you what function it might serve.
Hot or cold?
In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine some conditions characterized by excess heat and some are cold conditions. Naturally, you fight cold with something warm and fight heat with something cool. In TCVM, besides flavor, each food has either cooling, warming, hot or neutral thermal property. A dog with a cold condition will benefit from warming foods, such as chicken, lamb or turkey, while cooling foods, such as duck, will help balance hot conditions.
It is not possible, nor it was my intention, to explain the entire theory behind TCVM food therapy here. The purpose of this article is to give you a peek so that you might get the idea that there is more than one way of looking at things. Prescription drugs are an easy solution, but not necessarily the best one for your dog. Keep your mind and eyes open and see if your dog could benefit from some of the alternative approaches.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Food Therapy