Have you ever tried to improve your animal’s health through diet or exercise? Have you gotten some positive results only to see your efforts stall, become stagnant, or maybe even tum in the wrong direction? Did you wonder why this happened? Why, despite your best efforts, you didn’t achieve your goals and your animal is still suffering?
Simply put, if you do not address these 6 components of health together, your efforts will most likely fail. A wise man once said, “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If you only address a portion of the 6 components of health, you will get a portion of the results you are expecting to accomplish.
Let us take a look at the importance of each component and its role in optimized health.
Have you ever gone on a diet plan and lost weight, only to have a rebound weight gain often times of more weight than you lost? Many of the fad diets or diet programs advertised for our animals and ourselves are filled with processed and preserved foods. While these plans may provide short term weight loss, they take a toll on our overall health and function. Why? Because they don’t provide the right nutrition for our body to grow, build, repair, and function. Fad diets and counting calories usually ends with hormone imbalance, toxification and poor health.
The Macmillan Dictionary states that the definition of food is that which is eaten to sustain life, provide energy, and promote growth and repair of tissues. The average American diet of kibble, canned food, horse feed and of course our very own coffee, donuts, burgers, fries and soft drinks do not in any way meet these criteria. The American diet may provide short term energy, but it also leads to blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, fat production and weight gain, as well as poor health with all the problems of metabolic diseases, cancer and more.
Optimal health must include proper nutrition. Proper diet, supplementation and fluid intake are a must. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be bland. Good nutrition is full of flavor and exciting recipes both for our animals and us. Good whole foods that burst with flavor are at our fingertips.
“No Gut – No Glory” certainly applies when it comes to health. Even Hippocrates already knew that “all disease begins in the gut” and he lived 400 BC.
Studies are just now starting to discover the mechanisms behind it by investigating the microbiome, which is the sum total of all the microbes inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract. The far reaching effect of GI health on the entire body is staggering. Brain, cardiovascular system, immunity, joint health, pain modulation just to name a few are all affected by what’s going on in the gut. Autoimmunity, allergies, cancer and all sorts of other afflictions require fixing the intestinal lining and microbiome in order for the body to even stand a chance to repair itself.
The makeup of bacteria within our gut determines whether we are likely to have GI conditions like colitis or irritable bowel; psychological states like depression or anxiety, skin disorders like allergies, neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia; inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis; even susceptibility to being overweight can be mediated by the microbiome’s impact on thyroid autoimmunity and insulin resistance.
To turn the conventional paradigm on its head, the GI tract is not merely a conduit for feces, but rather a carefully engineered housing for the microbiome, which in itself may well deserve the status of an organ, with multiple functions.
Just a few staggering numbers (likely similar for animals):
- Healthy adult harbors ~100 trillion bacteria in gut alone
- This is 10X the number of human cells we possess
- Humans possess 23,000 genes
- Microbiome contributes ~3,300,000 genes
- Communal gut microbial genome (microbiome) is ~150 times larger than human genome
On a daily basis, we all breathe in various chemicals from cleaners to allergens to smog. We drink water that is often full of chemicals to “clean” it and often times full of endocrine disruptors that affect our body function. We feed processed foods that alter digestive and detoxification processes and capacities. This is an easy fact to comprehend and understand.
Our body has normal detoxification processes that occur. The liver is our main detoxification organ. The body also detoxifies through the kidneys, bowels, sweat glands and respiratory system. Our daily choices often hinder and impede the function of the detoxification systems which adversely affects the bodily functions.
A proper and complete detoxification system must address all detoxification pathways and must be addressed in a proper method to ensure optimal function and improve overall health. Then they must be maintained and nurtured to provide insurance that bodily functions work at an optimal level.
In other words, detoxification is not a one-time deal.
The nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, controls the overall function of the body. The brain is to the body as the CPU (central processing unit) is to a computer. When the CPU is functioning at top speed, the computer works great. If the CPU has issues such as viruses or junk files slowing it down, the computer doesn’t work so well.
Assuring that the neurotransmitters (NTs) of the brain are balanced is also essential. Some of you may have already heard about – serotonin, dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine, etc. NTs are the chemicals of the brains that allow the brain to run efficiently. By giving your animal proper nutritional support, we can help balance any imbalances of these chemicals as well as monitor what foods and emotions that can also alter them.
The same is true for our body function if the brain and vital sections of the brain are impeded in any way. The brain connects to the rest of the body through the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. In other words, the brain keeps the stomach working by monitoring its function and sending messages to the stomach to produce the right amount of acid or to have the right amount of motility to properly digest food. The importance of the spinal cord itself is that the tracts that extend down the cord carry information and stimulation from the brain to the target organ, gland or tissue. If that information is at all impeded or slowed, optimal function may not be executed. Over time, this could lead to decreased function and eventually, symptoms and disease.
Structural care is a largely overlooked aspect of health. Over time muscle weaknesses, postural imbalances, injuries, neglect and inactivity lead to alterations in function and even degenerative changes. All bones and joints are made to move and incorrect movements can lead to such changes and possibly impede normal nervous system function and flow. It is not an aspect of age but an issue of incorrect function. This incorrect function of the nervous system and structural integrity can cause decreased health potential and affect the other components of health adversely.
When we speak about organ and glandular function, we usually refer to their function at the hormonal level. All the organs and glands of our body serve very important purposes within the overall function of the body. This is why we always recommend maintaining health and practicing wellness in order to optimize the function of the systems of the body. It is commonplace in our country to remove vital organs such as the ovaries and testicles. These organs are essential for maintenance of health such as a healthy weight and body structure for example. Yet many are removed for convenience and the patient is left with the consequences and effects on the rest of the bodies’ systems for the rest of their life.
Hormones are chemical messages that communicate within your body. There are hundreds of different hormones that work daily to make our body a well-oiled machine. Hormones regulate everything in our body, sex properties and function, energy production, metabolism, lean muscle promotion, mood
Poor diet, hygiene, stress, behavior, body composition and more. Small abnormalities or imbalances will throw off regulatory balance and cause poor communication. This leads to poor health. The imbalance or decline can occur rapidly or slowly over the years.
If hormones/neurotransmitters are not properly evaluated and brought into balance, optimal health is not obtainable. Hormone balance is essential for proper organ/gland function, which means it is essential for proper metabolism, weight maintenance, energy production, digestion, mood, etc. both external and internal, toxicity, lack of exercise, structural issues, pain and everyday life can affect the hormone balance both positively and negatively. Too often hormones don’t receive any attention. Imbalance in one hormone can effect overall hormonal function of the body.
All of our bodies are meant to move – animal and human alike. They are meant to be in motion. That is why they are constructed the way they are. We have joints and bones, and muscles that are meant to be used. When we neglect the body and don’t exercise it, it begins to break down, lose muscle tone, become weak and flaccid and we suffer.
The good news is that a good exercise program doesn’t have to involve the same training as a professional athlete. We can transform the body, gain lean muscle, and burn unwanted fat in as little as a few sessions per week, if we are using the right methods and program.
Proper coaching and information is necessary to achieve our goals. But understand that exercise and weight bearing activities are essential to obtain optimal health, to transform our body, to look our best and to become healthier.
By focusing on all 5 components, you will allow your animal companion’s body to maximize its healing potential and its growth. This is an ongoing lifestyle change and not a temporary side path. You must work on all of them, and not just the ones you like or those that seem easy. Your commitment and love for your furry friend will give you the life you were meant to live and enjoy together.
Maybe you’ll even chose to join your animal and adapt these lifestyle changes for yourself and your family. What a wonderful adventure that would be!