Say Goodbye to Kibble for Better Health

When I first started practicing, it was pretty obvious that dry kibble was something to be avoided whenever possible. Most were made of low-quality ingredients, contained sugars, preservatives, pesticides and other chemicals. I became amazed to see how much my patients' health could be improved by simply switching them to a fresh food diet.

Nowadays, there's a new breed of dry pet foods that often tout grain-free, organic, no-preservative, and other descriptions that make us believe these foods can be as good as a fresh food diet. While some of these diets are indeed a step up from those of many years ago, there are still some major health consequences for animals eating a dry food diet.

First of all, there is a lack of moisture. Normal diets for dogs and cats are approximately 70-80% water. Kibble diets are approximately 10% water. This is most detrimental to cats as they are less likely to drink enough water to avoid chronic dehydration. You can of course soak the dry food in water to make up for this deficiency. However, there are more issues with kibble than just the lack of proper water content.

The major problem we see with dry foods is that they are highly processed. This is dangerous to the patient in two main ways. First, dry food diets are cooked under extreme heat, causing many of the natural vitamins in the foods to be destroyed. Synthetic vitamins are then added back into the diet at levels to meet what we know to be minimal requirements. We do not know if those synthetic vitamins that are present are all being absorbed by the patient.

Secondly, (and likely equally if not more important) is the fact that kibble diets lead to insulin resistance and increased inflammation within the body. This is due to the fact that the ingredients that make up the diet have been pulverized to very fine particles. As a result, they are digested and absorbed much more quickly than is appropriate for the body. Another way of saying this is that they have a very high glycemic index. Because they are digested so quickly, they cause a spike in the blood sugar.

This energy glut makes it more likely for the patient to gain weight. Insulin is secreted to send the sugar into the cells of the body, BUT the cells are soon already full of sugar. The body then stops responding as well to effect of insulin -- this is called insulin resistance. This condition leads to increased inflammation in the body. If the patient has been overeating calories from these processed diets, things progress even further. As our adorably begging companions become overweight, the increased stores of body fat further increase the level of background inflammation. 

In addition to contributing to obesity, insulin resistance, and secondary inflammation, highly processed diets disturb the delicate balance of bacteria living within the digestive tract known as the "microbiome." The intestinal microbiome of humans, dogs, and cats contain more bacterial organisms than we have cells in our body. These organisms breakdown foods to provide nutrients, fight off disease causing bacteria, and drive immunity (70-80% of our immune function is in our digestive tract). When the microbiome is disturbed, the gut lining becomes more permeable and allows the activation of antibodies toward the contents of the intestines. These antibodies are carried to other parts of the body and create immune reactions. In the skin we see this as itching, eruptions, and staph or fungal infections.

Chronic inflammation also occurs locally within the wall of the overly permeable intestines and we see this as inflammatory bowel disease that can later develop into cancers. This inflammatory state within the body causes stress to the filtering and detoxifying organs of the kidneys, liver, and spleen. 

Although extruded dry kibble foods are the most potent at causing these inflammatory and immune effects, canned foods are only marginally better. They will also create a major obstacle to overall health of the patient. Most canned foods are cooked in the can which can increase the amount of chemicals leaching from the can lining, especially in cans with pop-top lids.

The most reliable ways to reduce chronic inflammation in the body is to feed a fresh food low-glycemic diet that is fully balanced and has adequate fiber. This type of diet is not only anti-inflammatory but also promotes a healthy bacterial flora. Foods that fit this category are home-prepared foods or commercial raw diets. If foods are prepared at home, it is imperative to use a recipe that has been balanced to provide all known nutrients in adequate amounts and to follow the recipe exactly.

In addition to these considerations, Chinese Medicine Food Therapy can be used additionally to support the constitution of the patient -- especially if they have already become sick from an unhealthy diet (or other causes). Fur Mineral and Heavy Metal Analysis (FMHM) can be used to identify any supplements that may need to be given in higher doses to more quickly balance any deficiencies, excesses, or effects of prior insulin resistance.

Call or email us if you would like to schedule an FMHM analysis, nutritional or food therapy consultation for your pet.