We often see the phrase “let food be thy medicine” bandied around, and for all intents and purposes it is accurate. We see that both health and disease are nutritionally responsive. What we mean here is that the food we eat, and feed our pets can influence their health and/or disease states. Where most think this ends with physical health, what we are seeing more and more is that food can also influence emotional states. So, can food support your anxious dog?
You bet it can! So let’s take a look.
Omega-3’s, in particular DHA, play critical neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory roles in the brain. Supplementation of omega-3 has been seen to:
– Improve cognitive function
– Reduce anxious symptoms
– Reduce aggressive behaviours
– Reduced stress-related hormone production
Omega-3 levels are regularly noted as being low in aggressive dogs. This isn’t indicating causation, simply an observation worth noting.
We find these super-omegas in fish! Think SMASH – sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring!
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of the most widely used herbal remedies in the world. While there are many varieties of chamomile, Roman (A. nobilis) and German (M. recutita) are the most widely used forms. These are members of the Compositae (Asteracae) family.
German chamomile is considered the more potent and is most widely used. It has many medicinal uses including carminative (anti-colic), antiseptic, and anxiolytic.
Chamomile is notorious for its continuous bloom!
Chamomile serves as a safe, general-purpose calming herb that doesn’t taste too shabby either. In human tests it has been effective in mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder.
It can be served as a tea, but is also available as an oil infusion, tincture, salve and ointment.
Can we even talk about anxiety without mentioning this super-important mineral?
Often noted as the ultimate chill pill, magnesium is an essential nutrient that many are deficient in. Its low levels are regularly established in cases of depression in humans, so it is clear it plays a role in mood modulation and the stress response.
Magnesium affects several neurotransmitter systems. Firstly, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters. Excessive excitation can lead to the death of brain cells, which affects the overall structure and functioning of the brain. Magnesium also acts as a cofactor in the serotoninergic system. As we know serotonin is that happy chemical, and low levels of magnesium are regularly linked to low serotonin levels.
Magnesium excretion is increased during times of stress.Catecholamines and corticosteroids enhance the shift of magnesium from inside the cell to outside of the cell leading to increased urinary excretion. In turn, low magnesium levels increase the release of stress-associated hormones. This unfortunately creates a cycle of a reduced resistance to stress. So, if you have a stressed pet, you may want to take a look at how you can increase their magnesium intake.
Magnesium is found in leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. The ones packing the highest punch are spinach and pumpkin seeds. No wonder Popeye always looked so happy!
Many of the B-Vitamins are involved in functions which directly impact the brain and nervous system. To single them out specifically, B12 and folate are reportedly low in cases of mood disorders in humans.
B-vitamins can become depleted during times of stress, the more the body requires them for tasks, the more they need replenishing.
Stress also affects the lining in the stomach and compromises its function. Intrinsic factor is essential in B12 absorption but lack of production due to compromised function can significantly affect B12 levels.
B-Vitamins can be found in eggs, liver, kidneys, chicken, red meat, tuna, mackerel, salmon, shellfish and dark green vegetables like spinach and kale. There’s a reason you were always told to eat your greens!
Skullcap and Valerian are some more of our trusted herbs to support the anxious pet.
Many will recognise valerian for its similar smell to old, dirty socks!
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is commonly used for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety disorders in humans. It has a mechanism of action similar to benzodiazepines. Valerian has been shown to decrease the removal or metabolism of GABA, thereby allowing GABA to stay around longer and do its thing, and as we know, GABA is the brake-like neurotransmitter in the body.
Valerian is available in tincture, tea and fresh or dried root.
Skullcap has a similar mechanism of action to Valerian in that it is thought to be GABAergic. But it is also thought to have an effect on serotonin receptors, which is why it has reported sedative and relaxing effects.
A small, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study of 43 human participants demonstrated that skullcap reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in some individuals without causing an observable reduction in energy or cognition.
In both cats and dogs, skullcap has been effective in general nervousness and excitability and in any condition where there is oversensitivity in the nervous system.
Skullcap is usually found in dried herb or tincture form.
Food is certainly a tool in your box when supporting your pet’s well-being, if you would like any guidance then please check out our services to see how we can help.
Thanks for reading,