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Green Veterinary Medicine: Veggies for Pets

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Television shows highlight modern medical miracles and the ability of doctors to handle massive trauma and horrible disease conditions. Good shows also highlight the emotional pain and suffering of doctors and patients when our medical technology fails to handle a given situation. When I went to veterinary school I was always impressed by the latest amazing surgery or newest drug, but as I approach 30 years of clinical experience, it is not the latest greatest medical advance that holds my interest. It is the miraculous power of biological systems to grow, repair and survive in a cooperative fashion. This last month a case demonstrated this to me in rather gentle terms. I entered my exam room to find a middle-aged female dog with a large fatty tumor on her right side. The tumor was about four or five inches across and tests at another doctor's office said it was a benign tumor called a lipoma. It had not changed size in several years. These are common in human and veterinary medicine. Lipomas consist of a fatty deposit and usually don't spread but they can grow to large sizes. In some cases they can interfere with muscle or nerve function and present a danger to the patient's ability to move properly. While many of these tumors are removed, it is elective surgery and not all lipomas require surgery. A small number of these tumors are actually more invasive tumors called liposarcomas and these need early surgery with wide margins. The problem is that if we wait they can invade locally and only a biopsy can accurately diagnose them. In this dog's case the guardian wanted to remove the mass but could not handle any large veterinary bills. She was a new client and really loved her dog, so we discussed the individual situation we faced in hopes of finding a productive line of action for this patient. Since the mass was pre-existing she could not obtain veterinary insurance to cover the surgery. We reviewed the facts:
  • This tumor was not growing. Nor was it interfering with any biological functions.

  • Prior testing suggested it was a noncancerous mass.

  • It was located over a major acupuncture point that governs the liver and gall bladder. This might indicate an imbalance or functional problem in that area of the body.

  • Some holistic doctors view these fatty deposits as the dog's effort to isolate toxins or respond to traumatic impacts in the area.

  • Genetics may predispose to these tumors as does obesity and hormonal imbalances.

  • Surgery can leave scars that can become active and interfere with the regulation and control of the body.

  • The tumor could start to grow suddenly and if that happened would indicate the need for reconsideration of the treatment plan.

    We decided to take a blood test to check her liver, gall bladder and hormones, and to change her feeding pattern to activate the liver's detoxification system. Chinese medicine contains thousands of years of experience with food therapy and recommends the use of green foods for patients with liver disease or stress. For years we have known that green foods provide powerful antioxidants and protective phytochemicals. Recent scientific papers show that green foods like kale can activate the liver's ability to detoxify as well as directly influence many other genes that reduce cancer risks. The juice of kale is even antibacterial. This is powerful medicine in a lovely green, crinkled leaf that anyone can obtain for a low cost.

    By just eating greens we can reduce human cancer risks. No studies have been done on dogs regarding this issue but kale is affordable and provides a step towards a healthier condition, and I have used it for many years to assist allergy patients. There is little risk from eating moderate amounts of kale for dogs, especially if we use organic kale as studies have shown that inorganic kale may be heavily contaminated by pesticides. Kale is not recommended in veterinary patients on anticoagulants (rarely seen in veterinary medicine but common in people with cardiovascular disease) or those prone to kidney stone formation.

    We discussed using some Chinese combination herbal agents, but eventually we decided to simply add one half leaf of organic kale to the diet by blending it to a puree with a bit of chicken broth and then mixing this with the dog's regular diet. I advised her that when liver detoxification occurs the liver dumps these toxins into the small intestine and this can lead to softer stools and gas. If those symptoms occurred excessively she should simply stop or reduce the amount of kale fed daily.

    The blood work came back normal. Thirty days later, I received a happy call informing me that the mass had simply vanished between three and four weeks on the kale. Needless to say that made us all happy. And as a dividend it seems that this dog is more active and happier, too. Getting rid of toxins will do that for a person or a pet. It is quite powerful and amazing therapy.

    Now none of this means that kale is a treatment for lipoma. It would take many years of study and millions of dollars to prove or disprove that and I doubt that many lipomas would vanish from kale, but this case was unique because the tumor was located right on that acupuncture point for the liver and when we addressed the liver the tumor went away. Scientifically we cannot say why that happened but it did and all parties are happier for the outcome. For me this just means doing what my mother told me:
    1. Eat a variety of good foods.

    2. Eat lots of fresh foods particularly fruits and veggies.

    3. Don't put poisons into your body and if you do then take steps to clear them out before they make you sicker.

    4. Learn and share things that help others.

    This particular client remarked that she is now eating more fruits and veggies. Seeing this happen with her dog made her aware of the power of a proper diet and this knowledge lead her to improve not only her dog's health but also the health of herself and her family. And now this story might make others eat better, too.

    That is health care reform we all can live with.

    Truth is good stuff. Seek it and healing follows. Share it and happiness and health appear. I'd love to hear your stories of improved health from proper eating habits. How did you come to that awareness?

    Suggested Reading:
    Brandi G, Amagliani G, Schiavano GF, De Santi M, Sisti M. "Activity of Brassica oleracea leaf juice on foodborne pathogenic bacteria." Journal of Food Protection. 2006 Sep;69(9):2274-9.

    Hu R, Khor TO, Shen G, Jeong WS, Hebbar V, Chen C, Xu C, Reddy B, Chada K, Kong AN. "Cancer chemoprevention of intestinal polyposis in ApcMin/+ mice by sulforaphane, a natural product derived from cruciferous vegetable." Carcinogenesis. 2006 May 4.

    Kim SY, Yoon S, Kwon SM, Park KS, Lee-Kim YC. "Kale juice improves coronary artery disease risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men." Biomedical Environmental Science. 2008 Apr;21(2):91-7.

    Jackson SJ, Singletary KW. "Sulforaphane inhibits human mcf-7 mammary cancer cell mitotic progression and tubulin polymerization." Journal of Nutrition. 2004 Sep;134(9):2229-36. 2004.

    Maiyoh GK, Kuh JE, Casaschi A, Theriault AG. "Cruciferous indole-3-carbinol inhibits apolipoprotein B secretion in HepG2 cells." Journal of Nutrition. 2007 Oct;137(10):2185-9.

    Moreno DA, Carvajal M, López-Berenguer C, García-Viguera C. "Chemical and biological characterisation of nutraceutical compounds of broccoli." Journal of Pharmaceutical Biomedical Analysis. 2006 Aug 28;41(5):1508-22.

    Stidley CA, Picchi MA, Leng S, Willink R, Crowell RE, Flores KG, Kang H, Byers T, Gilliland FD, Belinsky SA. "Multivitamins, folate, and green vegetables protect against gene promoter methylation in the aerodigestive tract of smokers." Cancer Res. 2010;70(2):568-574.

    Thimmulappa RK, Mai KH, Srisuma S et al. "Identification of Nrf2-regulated genes induced by the chemopreventive agent sulforaphane by oligonucleotide microarray." Cancer Res 2002 Sep 15;62(18):5196-5203

    Zhao H, Lin J, Grossman HB, Hernandez LM, Dinney CP, Wu X. "Dietary isothiocyanates, GSTM1, GSTT1, NAT2 polymorphisms and bladder cancer risk." Int J Cancer. 2007 May 15;120(10):2208-13.