I’ve been asked numerous times “what is an anti-inflammatory diet?” I’ve been thinking I would write a post about this for quite some time. Certainly, I can provide a general list of anti-inflammatory foods, but this may not provide the exact answer for a specific pet’s specific issue; which has been part of the reason it’s taken so long to write this post. The difficulty is that what causes inflammation for one dog or cat may not be the same cause of inflammation in another. (Just like some kids are allergic to peanuts while others are allergic to strawberries.) Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some general considerations which we can discuss below.
Understanding the process of inflammation clarifies how certain foods can be inflammatory.
In general, most inflammation begins in the gut as 70% of the immune system exists in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). The GALT consists of lymph nodes distributed throughout the intestinal tract. Just like when we have swollen lymph nodes in our throat/neck when we have an upper respiratory infection, our dogs and cats will have swollen lymph nodes in their GALT when they have inflammation their intestines.
A strong sign of “inflammation” is shedding. While we have come to believe that shedding is normal, it really should only happen twice a year. Other signs of inflammation include greasy skin, yeasty ears, ear infections, anal gland infections, and the list goes on.
Back to that lymphoid tissue, the GALT – it will become inflamed when we feed it something that doesn’t agree with it. For some animals, this is wheat; the gluten in wheat can stimulate the body to produce zonulin which is pro-inflammatory. Corn, which is a grain, and many beans, which are legumes, are high in lectins. Lectins interfere with nutrient absorption, lead to inflammation and increase one’s chance of becoming diabetic; regardless of one’s species.
These examples are just a few of the pro-inflammatory ingredients in modern diets.
Some general suggestions which can be an anti-inflammatory for one but may not be for another: avoid beef, avoid grains, but this does not mean to switch to a kibble that replaces grain with copious amounts of legumes. Avoid by-products as these ingredients can also be quite inflammatory.
Ultimately, an anti-inflammatory diet is a real food diet. What the ingredients should consist of depends on what cost causes inflammation in the individual pet. In the case of the German Shepherd with Pannus discussed in an earlier post, he was allergic to rice. Technically, we should say rice caused the inflammatory response leading to the Pannus in his eye. In other animals, beef is a major problem. In others, tomato pumice is the problem. That’s why starting with a simple food elimination diet may be the best course to clean up the gut and figure out the pet’s specific cause of inflammation. (We can talk about elimination diets in another post.)
Briefly: raw fermented goat milk as a gut cleanse for 2 to 4 weeks often works great to reset the GALT, then introduce one novel protein and one vegetable. Quite helpful is to have a holistic practitioner muscle test which foods are weak for the individual pet, or perform a Nutriscan and avoid the reactive proteins.
This is a superficial look at anti-inflammatory diets – as mentioned above, what works for one doesn’t work for another. It was a combination of good attention on the part of the owner of the German Shepherd with Pannus mentioned above and muscle testing. Patience and persistence are often the keys required to stop the inflammation.