New Modalities.......So, I made a reference in my last post to adopting new modalities for myself and the animals. Here's an explanation: I've discovered feeding raw to the cats and dog and gluten-free for myself.
Nutmeg's new dietSo, I was inspired by my friend Inez in one of her posts from her massage business's Facebook page, Unicorn Dreams Wholistic Touch in her informative posts about feeding raw. Specifically, her link to this blog post was very interesting to me. Sushi's coat was getting dry and he wasn't eating well. This turned out to be caused by an infected fang tooth that our vet, Dr Schaupp, at Chadwell Animal Hospital and I were reluctant to pull due to Sushi's advanced age. Now that his tooth has been pulled, he'll eat anything that doesn't move faster than him :-) Nutmeg was also not eating well. She hates kibble, and while I had transitioned her to Taste of the Wild canned and kibble, overall she's just not impressed. Realize this refusal to eat on her part is not due to a lack of education or effort on our part. When we adopted her she (unbeknownst to us) had Parvo and nearly died within days of bringing her home from the shelter. Chadwell saved her, but she definitely had major digestive issues and permanent gut damage from the experience. We had to feed her Tagamet to be able to eat without pain and I eventually started giving her a homemade natural remedy of pureed papaya and aloe vera juice to help her digestive tract and remediate any ulcers she had. She also had trouble digesting protein and seemed to have food allergies when on Wellness puppy, developing severe diarrhea and also dealing with two bouts of giardia. Being a northern breed dog, we switched her to Blue Wilderness Salmon and mixed it with Nupro Lamb and Rice for about a year with good results, but she finally got tired of the combo and started going on strike with her food again. Concerned about reactions she seemed to have to samples of kibble with beef or chicken, but knowing she was VERY tired of salmon, we transitioned her to Taste of the Wild buffalo and venison. She was mildly enthused with this for a short time, but finally has gotten to the point that unless we water it down and make a gravy out of it or add TOTW canned to her dinner, she just wants nothing to do with it.
Nutmeg will stand in her crate for hours not wanting to eat her food. We have a constant mexican standoff with her laying petulantly in her crate staring at her bowl and us yelling at her that we won't let her out of her "room" until she eats her dinner. We've learned that she must be locked up with her food or else she simply won't eat, but Fiji will dine endlessly--the tiny Siamese has a strange penchant for dog food, no matter what flavor or type. Even with only 3 teeth, she will carry off the kibble pieces and gnaw endlessly until she manages to break it up enough to eat. The ADD dog, meanwhile, wanders around the house scrounging for anything she can find off the floor while the cat eats her food. So, crate confinement until she eats her dinner is a must. Needless to say, it does not make for a happy dog. Her coat was also dry and dull looking even though I feed her fish oil caplets and a great nutritional supplement daily. Her skin inside her ears was very pink and she was itchy with pink skin on her belly. She was constantly scratching and after several attempts at a remedy I decided to treat her like she had true food allergy and started looking for a new way to feed her. The more research I did, the more I thought it would be worth it to try raw, especially to try to mitigate possible food allergies. I went to Baron's Country K9 store in Bel Air and they were so helpful! They gave me a ton of samples to try and Inez helped me pick out Nature's Variety frozen raw food. They have 5 stars on Dog Food Advisor and it's SO easy to thaw in the fridge and feed the medallions. Nutmeg LOVES it, and snaps it all up within seconds. She's still on kibble at night until she finishes the bag, but her coat is already so much softer and shinier even with feeding raw only 1/2 the time so far. The pink skin is gone, and her itching is MUCH less. I did a trial of 100% raw with her for a week and it was remarkable how much her coat and skin changed in the week and she was a happy, happy, ravenous dog for her dinner. To help transition her I feed her digestive enzymes sprinkled on top. And, remarkably, I have cautiously started adding the proteins she seemed allergic to back into her diet with great success. We started with ONLY lamb, but she now gobbles down beef, chicken, duck, venison and this week we're going to try rabbit. The raw diet has made a remarkable difference in her.
The cat's new dietAs for the kitties, I started them on raw too. It was a struggle. Fiji is a Hoover Vacuum and will eat nearly anything. Sushi is very picky and Pixel is equally picky, if not worse than Sushi. I did alot of reading and found that kitties love their crunch, so that's the hardest part about the transition. While most pet owners are trying to get their pets to lose weight, all of my pets have high metabolisms and require some work to keep them maintaining weight. In a raw diet, this means feeding organ meats and fats. Now, with Sushi's advanced age and past liver issue, I am a bit concerned about taxing his liver to try to process a high fat/high protein diet. At the same time, I have been feeding Blue Wilderness Chicken and Duck kibble to the cats, along with Buju and Ziggie cans, for about a year with good results. Unlike many supporters of raw diets, I'm ok with mixing modalities. The dog will be going 100% raw, but I feel that the kitties, due to their very slight Siamese builds and high metabolisms, plus my concern with Sushi's liver, need some carbs so I still top-dress their food several times a week with the kibble. I introduced the raw food slowly, just giving them maybe 1/4 of their canned portion of a meal as raw and mixed it with 3/4 of canned food and sprinkled some dry food on top like sprinkles on ice cream. Slowly, I was able to sneak more and more raw in and less and less canned food in to a meal. Now, as of last week, the cats are on 100% raw with either a little kibble or a little freeze dried raw sprinkled on top. During this transition, Fiji's coat went from a straw-like consistency to an amazingly soft, shiny and healthy feel. Sushi's coat has gotten EXTREMELY soft and shiny and now that his tooth is pulled and he's eating like a champ again he has gained a very decent amount of weight. If I feed him just raw for a few days, his coat looks amazing but he starts to get very lean, so I will continue to top dress his food with a good quality kibble to give him the carbs he apparently needs. I have tried feeding raw liver and he and Fiji LOVE it. They both slurp it down like I do a raw oyster. Fiji, the moment I get the bag of pre-cut liver I get from the butcher out, starts meowing like crazy and doing laps around the island in the kitchen. Pixel and Nutmeg are not fans of the raw liver, but I'm still trying to introduce it to them every chance I get. Again, though, due to the high fat content of it and just the plain difference of the food, even with feeding digestive enzymes daily, I just don't want to stress Sushi's liver, so I am careful at how much raw liver I give him.
My new diet
The catalyst:So I've discovered, thanks to reading this article sent to me by Emilie, that PERHAPS my joint pain issues and remaining neuropathy were stemming from gluten intolerance. I won't bore you all with a ton of details like I did above with the animals, but suffice to say that after a 4 week trial of living gluten free, I am able to definitively say that I have a gluten intolerance issue that is manifested by neurologic deficit, extreme joint, muscle and bone pain, and insurmountable weight gain no matter how much I work out. The Reader's Digest version of this is that I was diagnosed with Lymes Disease a little over 2 years ago, after a very severe tick bite in Nov 2009. This lead to such a severe decline in my health that I was actually not able to walk without a walking cast and had lost the bottom 1/3 of my lung function and was dependent on inhalers. When walking up the sidewalk to my front door, I was tipping over by the time I got to the door. I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes without severe lower back pain, and couldn't walk more than about 50 steps without the same issue. MRIs revealed several herniated disks in L5/S1 and C2/3, along with a chiari malformation that seemed to be causing a "double crush" syndrome, but after seeing several neurosurgeons they all agreed that the problems seen on the MRI did not need a surgical solution. I was prescribed 15mg Mobix to replace the 3200mg of ibuprofen I was taking daily just to deal with the pain from walking. I had severe foot pain and was at the podiatrist's office often to try to find a solution as well. Everyone kept asking if I had seen an infectious disease doctor, as I seemed to have Lyme symptoms and I was bloodtested several times for Lyme with no positive result. There was a definite attitude from doctors wondering if the pain and symptoms I was exhibiting was "all in my head". Trust me, you begin to question your own sanity after a while of searching with no treatment and no answers. I learned that the standard Lyme bloodtest is often not conclusive, especially if a patient such as myself had been on antibiotics. I was constantly ill during this period--bronchitic, pneumonia, migraines, night sweats, major balance and neurological issues along with the severe back and leg pain and debilitating lethargy. I had read about this type of lethargy before, but had never experienced it. Normally a very active person who couldn't stay in bed, I was often bedridden for days on end and it was actual effort to BREATHE let alone lift my head, get out of bed or walk. I found an infectious disease doctor who was willing to start me on antibiotics and treat me according to the symptoms, which she felt was not only Lyme but also Babesia and Bartonella. I had hit the trifecta of tickborne diseases!!!! LUCKY ME! I did finally do the Igenix Lab test and I did test up on 1 band of Lyme, but that's incredibly inconclusive since I again had been on so many antibiotics for so long that I think it would be a miracle if it showed on the test.
I started on a regimen of 3 different antibiotics a day, with a "cyst-buster" drug mixed in on weekends to help root out any encysted Lyme, break it open, release it into my bloodstream and then let the antibiotics attack it. This resulted in 18 months of a rollercoaster of Herxheimer reactions and me constantly oscillating between feeling well and feeling so sick I could barely move. The pain to simply move about became so intolerable that I was taking 3200mg of ibuprofen a day ON TOP of the 15mg of Mobix to survive. I spent nearly two years in various antibiotic treatment regimens, combining several at once and then switching them up to combat resistance and felt about a 70% improvement. Nearly 60% was immediately after starting the antibiotics, and then it was a rollercoaster ride between 90% and 60%, with the average day feeling like I was, perhaps, 60% back to normal and pre-Lyme functionality. When riding, my balance was sketchy, and I truly felt like I could be unseated with the smallest bump/adjustment from the horse. I withdrew from most horse training and just had to stay with my own horse, whom I trust implicitly, and trail rode. There were some days I couldn't ride, and some days I could only walk around and trot a little. I couldn't handle hills or speed well for a while due to the increased balance necessary in the saddle. Honestly, with the life I had been leading (health issues aside) I needed the break anyway.
A few months ago I was hospitalized with food poisoning. It was honestly the worst bout I had ever had with it and required ALOT of IV fluids and my blood pressure was on the floor. I was extremely reluctant to start taking the antibiotics again and my instinct told me that I had plateaued with Lyme treatment and it was as good as it was going to get, so I stopped them cold turkey. I have to admit, I didn't feel much of a change short of it being liberating that I was no longer taking such a large handful of pills 2x a day. Right about that time is when I read the article about different manifestations of Celiac Disease and how for some people the antibodies that normally attack the gut instead attack the nervous system and neuro system instead. This resulted in symptoms similar to what I was still experiencing--joint and muscle pain, balance and neurological issues. Since I was already fairly low carb/low sugar, this wasn't much of a leap for me to eliminate gluten. Now, it took some serious education as I had no idea just how many things contain gluten, and especially how many products have MSG in them. But, I had noticed a long time ago that I seemed to have a pretty significant food allergy. If I ate anything that contained wheat, I immediately began coughing, my eyes would water, I had a ton of phlegm and mucus (sorry to be so graphic) and occasionally I would actually have a full blown asthma attack. Now, I realize it seems like common sense to just simply stop eating these things, but there's two issues. 1. Your body craves what it's allergic to and 2. You'd be amazed at how many things contain gluten!
The cure:So, I decided to try a four week trial of strict gluten free. There were some general slip-ups along the way, but the results are in---that was a significant part of my pain issues. I can proudly say I now no longer take Mobix. I no longer take 3200mg of ibuprofen a day. Many days I take no painkillers at all, and my joint pain and muscle pain are nearly eradicated. For the first time since I shattered my leg, I've been able to jog again (I was an avid cross country runner). I take vitamins. No large handful of drugs anymore. No days of walking hunched over and barely able to get out of a chair or walk up stairs. I walked 15 miles for the Relay for Life. I was able to ride a couple weeks ago for 2 hours while trotting, cantering and galloping up and down hills with NO balance issues at all. NONE. I can breathe all the way into the bottom of my lungs again and haven't needed an inhaler in months. I'm starting to slowly lose the extra weight, and I can definitely tell an immediate difference if I eat something that has gluten slipped into it that I didn't know about. I have severe knee and joint pain for days and migraines return. It takes about 48-72 hours to get it out of my system and then I'm doing well again. It's still a learning process for me. I'm not at 100% yet but I'm MUCH closer than I have been in years. I can eat meat, cheese, and veggies. That's it. I've learned to cook. Not just kind of cook, but REALLY cook, and I've learned I have alot less stress when I cook for myself and know exactly what went into the food versus hoping that what I'm about to eat/drink is gluten free.
The irony--I've been a proponent of fixing animal's issues through diet for years, I just never applied the same logic to myself. Funny isn't it?