Much of what we will talk about in this blog (and in the Raw Pet Digest magazine) is related to naturopathy and its principles. So, I wanted to share some basic information about naturopathy here, so you have a solid foundation on which to build moving forward. Naturopathy is a powerful way of supporting the body to heal itself naturally. At its foundation, naturopathy relies on proper nutrition to achieve true wellness. However, nutrition alone does not give the body enough to heal itself and maintain balance. Besides nutrition, there are seven other laws of health that must be adhered to for complete wellness. Each law is vital and must be followed; failure to do so means that eventually the body will be thrown out of balance and dis-ease will occur.
By following the eight laws of health, all living beings can remain in balance and thereby prevent or cure dis-ease. This holds true for carnivores, such as dogs, cats, and ferrets; herbivores, such as horses; and omnivores, such as people. Of course, while this concept is simple, it does not necessarily follow that it is “easy,” especially since over time we have been conditioned to do what is convenient instead of what is right. We have also been led to believe that those in authority (such as vets and doctors) possess accurate knowledge and are somehow omnipotent forces to which we should surrender all authority. We have been told that health care (which, in our modern-day world, is more accurately labeled disease care), whether it is for ourselves or our pets, means addressing and suppressing symptoms instead of viewing the individual as a whole—mind/body/spirit. Embracing the naturopathic path means taking responsibility for our own animal’s lives, along with our own lives, instead of surrendering that responsibility to someone else. It means taking a truly holistic approach towards caring for our animals and ourselves. The eight laws of health guide us in all of these things, though, and allow us to approach health care organically, holistically, and naturally, while retaining our own power and letting go of our fear.
Nutrition, which is the first law of health, is at the core of naturopathy. Broadly defined, nutrition as it relates to this law means species-appropriate food in the appropriate quantities. This means that carnivores must be fed a diet appropriate to a meat eater, while herbivores must eat the appropriate plants. Omnivores, of course, can eat a mix of things, but they too should eat the foods that nature intended, such as whole, unprocessed foods. In the last hundred years or so, however, pet food companies have managed to convince us that the correct diet to feed our animals are processed, biologically inappropriate foods; this goes for both our carnivores and herbivores. Unfortunately, these processed, biologically inappropriate foods throw our animals’ bodies out of balance and lead to acute conditions which, if allowed to continue, will eventually become full-blown chronic illnesses. Take a bag of dog kibble, for example. When the dog eats the kibble, its body perceives the kibble as a foreign invader and moves to attack it. That it does this should come as no surprise; 80% of the body’s immune system is in the gut. When the immune system is healthy, energy (electricity) flows freely and the body is balanced. The kibble, though, has little to no electrical frequency/energy. It is essentially made up of some combination of “4-D” animals (dead, diseased, dying, disabled), fillers, and often grains (which are essentially poor quality chaff). These are then cooked at very high temperatures and synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in (often with other synthetic materials, depending on the brand). The kibble can cause a flood of basophils, which then release chemicals like histamines. This can result in symptoms such as itching, vomiting, and diarrhea—to say nothing of the fact that the dog could not get the nutrients it has evolved to need. This means that in addition to its body spending energy attacking what it perceives as a threat, the dog’s essential energy is not replenished. If this continues, the body’s acute reaction can become a chronic condition.
The second law of health is exercise. All animals must have appropriate exercise, both for their species and for themselves as individuals. Horses, for example, were designed to be able to move fast when necessary to escape from predators. This means that, unlike cows, horses are “trickle feeders” that continuously eat small amounts over long periods of time. They evolved that way so they aren’t bogged down with lots of heavy food in their stomachs at any one time. This means that, in order to thrive, they must constantly move as they graze and forage. They constantly eat small amounts while standing and moving, in general between 14 and 16 hours per day. This constant movement, interspersed with periods of intense effort (running and playing) keeps their lymph systems healthy, their blood pumping properly, and their feet at the appropriate length. Dogs and cats must also exercise, although unlike horses they do not tend to move constantly for hours at a time. They must have intense exercise (taking into account, of course, their age, condition, and any other factors, such as whether or not they are currently recovering from some sort of dis-ease). This exercise (such as a good run) pumps their lymph nodes, much as the heart pumps the blood, and also keeps them from becoming obese. And it ensures that they burn excess energy that otherwise might come out in very inconvenient ways (anyone who has dealt with a cat pouncing on their feet and biting their toes while they’re trying to sleep, or had their dog chew up the furniture while they’re away, can attest to this!).
3. Pure, clean water
All animals, of course, need pure, clean water. In this day and age, that means filtered water that is free of chlorine and fluoride. Making sure that animals have access to pure water at all times is essential, for without this pure water, their bodies cannot function properly. Like us, our animals are about 70% water, and they must be able to maintain that level for all systems to function properly. If we look at it even more closely, we find that blood is 83% water, muscles are 75% water, the brain is 95% water, and the lungs are 90% water. Clearly, water is critical, both to maintain and cleanse the body.
4. Sunshine and supplements
Sunlight, which is one aspect of the fourth law of health, is critically important. Of course, as we will see later, all things must be done in moderation, so it is not beneficial for either our animals or us to go out and bake in the sun for hours at a time. However, animals have an innate sense of how much sunlight they need. By giving them access to sunshine and letting them decide how long to stay in the sun, they will ensure they get enough sun. My own dogs regularly go outside and sun themselves daily, even when it’s 100°F or more, but often it’s only for 10 minutes or so at a time. Then they move to the shade or come back inside, before going back into the sun a little while later. Because they innately know to practice moderation when it comes to time spent in the sun, they don’t get sunburned, but they do get the benefits of sunshine.
The other aspect of the fourth law of health is supplements. It is important to realize that most animals have had some sort of damage done because their owners have not followed the eight laws of health. Therefore, a species-appropriate diet and supplements help repair the damage that has been done. Some examples of supplements are probiotics, enzymes, and colostrum. Probiotics and enzymes are especially critical when switching carnivores from a kibble diet to a raw diet. Many of our carnivore pet’s enzymes, vitamins, and minerals have been depleted by their diet, and often they are further reduced by the toxic vaccines and other “preventatives” (such as flea and tick medicines and heartworm pills) we give them as a matter of course. Even after switching to a raw diet, though, supplements may still be needed. Because so much of our soil has been depleted through improper management, the herbivores that graze on the soil are also depleted, which means that the carnivores are depleted when they eat them.
Temperance, or moderation, is the next law of health. This comes into play in so many areas of naturopathy and health care. When I think of this law, it reminds me to slow down and be ok with taking things a step at a time. Nature works over the course of time, and as long as balance is achieved over time, a perfect formula does not have to be followed each and every day. Follow moderation with feeding: feed your pets the correct amount of food for their species and as individuals. Overfeeding, even if your pets are on a SARF (species-appropriate raw food) diet, can lead to obesity. It’s also important to feed the right things in moderation. For example, while bones are very important for carnivores, just eating bones without moderating them with other foods will lead to an imbalance, just as only eating meat without the bones will lead to an imbalance. Temperance reminds us to maintain a balance in everything we do, which in turn maintains health.
6. Fresh air
Giving our animals access to fresh air is the sixth law of health. Hopefully, by letting them have an appropriate amount of sunlight and exercising them appropriately each day, they will get lots of fresh air, but it is important to keep fresh air moving as much as possible throughout the day, for our sakes and theirs. This means opening up the house or office, if possible, even if you only open the windows a small amount because of the weather. This will keep everything fresh and will also help mentally and emotionally. Making sure that we, along with our pets, get plenty of fresh air, is one of the things that truly nurtures the mind, body, and spirit.
One of the biggest examples of rest (seventh law of health) for our animals is fasting. Fasting reduces inflammation and is a form of healing. Fasting, which is done by animals in the wild, gives the body a break from the duties of digestion. When the body is sick, it must focus on healing—it cannot heal and digest at the same time. When fasting, the body detoxes by digesting morbid matter and pushing it out. You can fast your dogs by feeding them once per day and/or skipping feeding them for one day. And of course, on their rest day, you don’t need to exercise them intensely (remember the fifth law of health: all things in moderation!)—just let them rest.
The eighth and final law of health is trust. Just like each of the other laws, this one is critically important. Naturopathy is slow to work, and if you do not have trust in the process, you will not stay the course. As I mentioned above, we have been conditioned to believe that our vets know more than we do about how to properly care for our animals. However, what vets do, most of the time, is disease care, not health care. They suppress symptoms instead of healing the root problem. Naturopathy, on the other hand, allows the body to cure itself, which can be a long, slow process. It can involve a healing response (also sometimes called a healing crisis. For more information about the healing response, see the April/May 2015 issue of Raw Pet Digest). If you begin to fear that the process is not working or try to suppress the symptoms of the healing response, the process will be halted and healing won’t take place. It is vitally important to remember this law and trust the process rather than going back to conventional medicine.
The role of mind/body/spirit cannot be overlooked in any discussion about naturopathy. While conventional medicine takes a mechanistic and reductionist view of health and the body, naturopathy looks at the individual holistically. When the mind and spirit are depressed, the immune system (which is innate and throughout the whole organism) is also depressed, and therefore not operating at full efficiency. On the other hand, when the mind and spirit are happy and light, energy flows more freely throughout the whole individual. Everything is connected. As Caroline Myss (1996) says in her book Anatomy of the Spirit:
As neurobiologist Dr. Candace Pert has proven, neuropeptides—the chemicals triggered by emotions—are thoughts converted into matter. Our emotions reside physically in our bodies and interact with our cells and tissues. In fact, Dr. Pert can no longer separate the mind from the body, she says, because the same kinds of cells that manufacture and receive emotional chemistry in the brain are present throughout the body.[i]
Myss (1996) goes on to quote Dr. Pert as saying “Clearly, there’s another form of energy that we have not yet understood. For example, there’s a form of energy that appears to leave the body when the body dies…Your mind is in every cell of your body”[ii]. Our animals pick up on our energy and often take our emotions into themselves, so if you feel negative about the healing response your dog is experiencing, for example, or if you are worried about your cat’s sickness, the emotion becomes a part of the animal’s being as well; this depresses their immune system and makes it more difficult for their bodies to handle it. Therefore, it is really important to stay positive. The added bonus is that staying positive will have a beneficial effect on your own health as well as your animal!
At its essence, naturopathy is about supporting the mind/body/spirit to come back to and maintain balance. Naturopathy uses nutrition as the foundation for this, but as we have seen, every one of the eight laws of health is critical to keeping the body in balance. To truly support our animals on their path to true, sustained health, we must look at the mind/body/spirit connection and treat them holistically, rather than working to suppress symptoms and looking at the body from a mechanistic and reductionist viewpoint. And, just as importantly, we must remember that every individual, whether that individual is a human or an animal, possesses the innate ability to heal him or herself.
[i] Myss, C. (1996). Anatomy of the Spirit. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press., pg 35
[ii] Myss, C. (1996). Anatomy of the Spirit. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press., pg 35