Beyond Paleo Dog

By Jean Hofve, DVM and Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D

51aj16WikyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As we, look toward the future for our Paleo Dogs, we see two potential paths for canine-kind. The first is the wide road, the road we seem to be most determined to travel. This road leads to more and more technology, more refined medical interventions, and more usurping of our own common sense by the pet food industry. This is really the Path of Profit, in which the nature and needs of our dogs are subsumed by a culture of greed.

            The other path goes along the edges of the first before emerging in new hope, as more and more people learn about natural, holistic options for their dogs as well as themselves. On this path, we will turn away from individual and environmental destruction and massive profit margins toward a sustainable future where the whole is the prime consideration, whether the whole person, dog, or planet.

            We see many signs of hope that humans will ultimately choose the second path:

  1. A recognition our and our dogs’ bodies contain a veritable multi-verse of microbial communities, which scientists refer to as the “microbiome.” Science is discovering that, in order to have a healthy “terrain,” as Paleo Dog’s authors Jean Hofve, DVM and I discuss in Germ Theory (Chapter 3 of Paleo Dog), we  learn that we must nurture and protect our many communities of symbiotic bacteria. Just as the Human Genome Project (completed in 2003) was quickly followed by the Dog Genome Project (completed in 2005), the Human Microbiome Project (launched in 2008) is the stepping stone to a Canine Microbiome Project. Already, a number of researchers have been working on elucidating the microbiome of the dog’s mouth, skin, and gut. Instead of declaring war on and annihilating all micro-organisms, we are approaching a system where we can learn what microbes we are deficient in and replace them, instead of seeking to destroy them all—that outdated, dangerous, throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater mentality. The new treatment of “fecal transplantation” for chronic bowel disease is in the vanguard of this return to common sense, natural therapies.

            Developing an understanding of the interaction of microbes and their hosts may provide valuable insights in the future into our disease complexes. Perhaps this study may even be deemed financially rewarding for the powers that be, as they see the value for new drug categories, and rush to patent various microbes for people and animals which can actually heal our ills instead of making them worse or causing new and more terrifying diseases like antibiotic-resistant, “flesh-eating” bacteria—which is clearly what happens when they are out of balance and thus disturb our terrain and make it vulnerable.

            A study done by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, published in Nature, stated, “Surprisingly, each of us can be identified by the collective DNA of our gut microbes,” according to corresponding author George Weinstock, Ph.D, associate director of The Genome Institute at Washington University. Weinstock goes on to say, “That collection is individualized, completely analogous to our human genome. Differences in the way individuals respond to various drugs or the way they use specific nutrients can be traced to the genetic variation in our microbial genes as well as in our human genes.”[i]

            This is, of course, not a new idea—just the way we will execute it is futuristic. Dr. Edward Bach, who invented flower essences, was a microbiologist at the London Homeopathic Hospital in the 1920s and 30s. In those days, patients would have their gut bacteria cultured. After a while, Bach found that he could predict each patient’s personality by which strains of bacteria grew in the cultures. In a very real way, he was reading the belief systems and epigenetic signatures of the patients simply by observing the way in which they manifested illness.

  1. A return to “traditional” medicine. We have been so locked into the belief system that the right approach to infection is to declare all out war on the microbes that are present during an acute disease. But there are many healing protocols that have stood the test of time across many generations and dozens of different cultures, that work more with the body than against it. We refer to these as Paleo-compatible therapies, many of which are outside the conventional medicine toolbox and therefore denigrated as “quack” or “fringe” medicine by those who have set themselves up as defenders of “evidence-based medicine.” Of course, hundreds of drugs and therapies that are currently standard in the medical bastion were never tested with a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial (RCT), which is considered the “gold standard” of medicine. For example, a surgical repair technique for cranial cruciate ligaments, “tibial plateau leveling,” has been done for 20 years—but the first study that actually validated it as an improvement over other techniques was not published until 2013.[ii]
  2. The rise of epigenetics as a new field of biology. This is a profound advance that will, in the coming decades, transform human and veterinary medicine at their most fundamental level.

            In the old paradigm, our genes, our DNA, controlled our fate, and there wasn’t a darn thing we could do about it. But now we know that the environment controls the genes. And the environment – especially diet and lifestyle – is to a huge extent within our control!

            All organisms get their signals from the environment, so if that environment is full of physical toxins, it needs to be cleaned up (see Chapter 5). But even the emotional atmosphere that exists in your home, among the people and animals that live there, has a profound effect on your family’s health, including your dog’s.

            It’s pretty obvious that the mother is all-important in a puppy’s development, and that her diet and lifestyle have huge impacts on her puppies’ health. But it turns out that fathers can shoulder their part of the load, too. Researchers have discovered that a father’s deficiency of Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid)—long been recommended as a supplement for pregnant women—can cause severe birth defects in his offspring.[iii]

            But we can take this a step further, from the physical to the energetic level. It has also been proven that mere beliefs can invoke big changes in our genes, and it isn’t at all a stretch to imagine that our beliefs can also create the future—for good or ill—for our dogs. For sure, how we express our beliefs has a big impact.

            The way our the brain develops can be influenced by something as simple as the tone of the voices of the humans in the home. We’ve known for years that having antagonism among parents has a profound effect on babies’ emotional development, and now we know that it has effects right down to brain development. According to researchers, “Babies’ brains are highly plastic, allowing them to develop in response to the environments and encounters they experience. But this plasticity comes with a certain degree of vulnerability…babies are not oblivious to their parents’ conflicts, and exposure to these conflicts may influence the way babies’ brains process emotion and stress.”[iv]

            Your dogs are not oblivious either, so please create a harmonious space for the happy healthy future of your whole family!

            If we ignore all we have been taught about evidenced based medicine and the hallowed halls of science today, we can ponder the possiblity of a world where we might never again need a physician or a veterinarian to write a prescription for a drug again. Could the ability to heal ourselves be locked in our DNA, like the lizards that lose their tail and grow a new one? Could this ability be lurking somewhere—maybe even in what scientists today refer to as “junk” DNA? What about a world where we wouldn’t need to go to the local health food store to purchase an herbal preparation or a homeopathic remedy. Let’s envision a world where we wouldn’t have to endure the slings and arrows of all those negative nay-sayer types and cyber bullies who shoot down anything and everything that is deemed unscientific—according to them alone—of therapies currently outside the box, such as pure energy healing.

            It typically takes less than 100 years for today’s state-of-the-art science to become tomorrow’s nonsense? Two hundred years ago, leeches were the state of the art in medical care; then they were disdained and discarded as barbaric; but today doctors are using leeches to help heal conditions for which modern medicine has no answer.

            If we did know how to truly heal ourselves, how many people and animals could be helped from suffering through treatments offered today? Today doctors and hospitals are a leading cause of death! What if all healing could truly be done right inside of our own minds, and even extended to our family and companion animals. Perhaps this ability is there now, but we just don’t have the confidence or the tools to know how to do it, and more importantly, to trust it? Remember, beliefs rule DNA. Is it possible that full healing is there right inside of us, and we just need to find the keys to unlock the know how? What could this kind of magical self healing system open up? What would happen to Big Pharma and our current medical system if it was possible for us to heal ourselves? Would it ever even be allowed to exist, since most likely we would be able to access it for free?

            Natural remedies have been, for the most part, described as having nothing more than a “placebo effect.” This holds true when scientists look at homeopathy and other systems of healing based on energy, such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It never fails that we will quickly hear the term “placebo effect” thrown at us when these modalities are offered. We can just visualize the reaction of the powers that be if we were to suggest that somebody spend millions on a study that could explore our inate ability to heal ourselves. Could that ever happen? In today’s system, the answer is no because there has to be something financiallly beneficial for the corporations who will pay for the study, and the doctors who get lucrative grants to conduct them. If we could heal ourselves, who would make a profit in corporate- controlled America?

            Big Pharma has done an amazing job of keeping the public from knowing just how potent placebos actually are in the world of drug testing. Just bear in mind that the third leading cause of death is from allopathic medicine or “iatrogenic” causes, meaning induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon, or by a medical treatment or diagnostic procedure. Lucien Leape, MD of the Harvard Medical School of Public health has stated brilliantly, “Medicine is a high risk industry, like aviation. But the chance of dying in an aviation accident is one in 2 million, while the risk of dying from a medical accident is one in 200!”[v] To err, of course, is human—nurses and orthopaedic surgeons today write with magic markers right on the surgical site to prevent them from amputatingthe wrong leg, which unfortunately used to be more common.

            Pharmaceutical companies are quite worried about this whole placebo-effect thing; they have been for a long time. The placebo effect is troubling for them because most of the medications they produce are not much more effective than placebos. This is bad news for the millions of dollars they spend on each new prescription drug. Unfortunately, they have been busted many times for their undue influence on the process of scientific publication. Rampant fraud and cherry-picked data have been used to justify FDA approval of many drugs, more than a few of which have had to be pulled from the market when their true effects—we won’t call them side effects because every effect of a drug is just an effect—became known. For example, Premarin, an estrogen drug made from the urine of pregnant horses, was once the top-selling drug in the world—before a study looking at it had to be cut short because too many women taking it were dying from strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, and cancer caused by the drug.

            While animals have been considered exempt from influence by the placebo effect…well, guess again! A meta-analysis (comparing previously published papers) of three studies on canine epilepsy found a placebo effect in 79% of dogs. This is a remarkable finding! Nearly 80% of dogs had a large decrease in seizure frequency with placebo, and nearly 30% of them responded as well to placebo as to the test medicine. This throws a gigantic wrench into the works of evidence-based medicine.[vi]

            The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial—or RCT—was enshrined as the gold standard of the emerging pharmaceutical industry. Today, to win FDA approval, a new medication must beat placebo in at least two authenticated trials. The question now can be carefully posed…are they worth the paper they are printed on? Why you might ask? Because, even the color of the pills in these studies is at play; yellow is the best for antidepressants as it is like a little dose of sunshine, red pills provide a stimulating effect and give you a kick in the behind, green and perhaps even blue, add a bit of chill to the pill, and white are more soothing to the gut, particularly as an antacid even if they only contain lactose (milk sugar).

            It also seems that more pills are better, so that if you take your placebo several times a day you get better results; and if your pills are embossed with a name brand like Tylenol, the name branding on them seems to make them work better than generic, even if the person offering the tablet to the patient says they are the same!

            Can we begin see the power that we each hold in our own belief systems, and that we must have the power to heal ourselves because all those placebo patiends did just that? Our belief systems can perhaps even extend to our companion animals.

            Now a new term has been coined and that is known as ‘the placebo response,’ instead of ‘placebo effect.’ By definition, inert sugar pills have no effect, but under the right conditions they can act as a catalyst for the body’s “endogenous health care system.”

            The same phenomenon also works in reverse to produce the placebo’s evil twin, the “nocebo.” The nocebo works in the opposite way of placebo: for example, men taking a commonly prescribed prostate drug who were informed that the medication may cause sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to become impotent.

            There’s more to this tale; everything also depends on the messenger! If a particular doctor was optimistic that something would work. it had a better chance of working. No wonder the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” was coined. Could the diagnosis/prognosis actually be the killer instead of the disease as the body processes its own death sentence?

            Western medical doctors and pharmaceutical makers take the approach that the living thing is the victim of its circumstances because it is just a collection of body parts and organ systems which are subject to mechanical breakdowns, like a car, due to circumstances outside the individuals control, maybe with the exception of obesity. Obese patients are always given a load of guilt, even though it was the government that pushed the so-called “pyramid” diet for so many years; and pets were treated to the so-called complete and balanced food in a bag or can diet, with similarly disastrous results. Today, more than half of our dogs are overweight or obese—and suffering the many consequences of this disease. Big Pet Food continues to push cheap grain-based kibble, with little if any quality protein and healthy fat. Remember how to fatten cattle? Just feed them lots of grain. The Paleo Diet is simply an upside-down USDA Food Pyramid, or a rearranged Food Plate (the newest iteration)—it’s aligned with the way Nature works, and science has validated our approach.

            The dog’s future might just include being consciously empowered with the knowledge that if we can get ourselves into a particular state of health, we also have the power to get ourselves out of it. We might very well be able in the foreseeable future to heal ourselves and our Paleo Dogs by simply learning the true power of belief systems, and implementing the brave new Paleo Dog system with love and confidence.

[i] Schloissnig S, Arumugam M, Sunagawa S, et al. Genomic variation landscape of the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2013 Jan 3;493(7430):45-50.

[ii] Gordon-Evans WJ, Griffon DJ, Bubb C, et al. Comparison of lateral fabellar suture and tibial plateau leveling osteotomy techniques for treatment of dogs with cranial cruciate ligament disease. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2013 Sep 1;243(5):675-80.

[iii] R. Lambrot C, Xu, S, Saint-Phar, G, et al.. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3889

[iv] Graham AM, Fisher PA, Pfeifer JH. What sleeping babies hear: a functional MRI study of interparental conflict and infants’ emotion processing. Psychological Science. 2013 May;24(5):782-9.

[v] Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1998 Apr 15;279(15):1200-5.

[vi] McMillan FD. The placebo effect in animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 1999 Oct 1;215(7):992-9.

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