& Healing Arts™, PLLC
Chinese Veterinary Food Therapy is one of the five branches of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). Chinese Food Therapy can be used as a primary or adjunct therapy to treat disorders as well as be used as a preventative treatment. It is always best to manipulate the diet first rather than add herbs or medicine, whenever possible. Because many patients often have multiple health issues and chronic diseases, however, other therapies are usually needed concurrently, besides the changes in the diet, to make them healthier and feel better. Food can be thought of as a primary medicine and balancing Yin and Yang (the two forces of nature) is usually optimal.
Therefore, recommended foods will be based on the patient’s constitution (personality traits, behaviors and physical type) as well as the physical examination findings including the tongue and pulse observations. The geographic location and season of the year are also important factors to consider in Chinese Food Therapy. Thus being able to eat certain foods all year round is not necessarily natural and beneficial.
Different foods will have different energetic properties that will direct how the food affects the body’s digestion and metabolism. One property of food is its thermal nature. For example, seaweed is energetically cold while lamb is energetically hot. This is not the same as the physical temperature of the food. So a piece of lamb taken from the refrigerator may be cold to the touch but it is energetically hot. Hence a dog with too much internal heat (just like a woman in menopause) may not do well with more heat added to their system in the form of a piece of lamb!
Another property of food is its flavor. For instance, foods that are sweet (naturally sweet) usually are tonics. This does not include refined sugars and processed foods. Too much sweet food in the diet can lead to excess internal Dampness in the system and later tumor formation, so balance is key to good health. In addition, some foods will affect certain organ systems such as apricots will affect the Lung channel. Different foods also have different actions based on modern research and observations by the ancient Chinese doctors. For example, mushrooms are useful to drain Dampness in the body.
How foods are processed and prepared are also important factors in determining how the food will be utilized by the body. Highly processed foods release more heat and energy thereby creating more internal heat. Eating highly processed foods (whether by a dog, cat or person) all the time will lead to chronic illnesses such as hormonal and autoimmune diseases, as well as cancer. Foods will also have different properties (besides the taste) depending on the way they are cooked (steamed, boiled, etc). Uncooked and raw foods are usually cold in nature and need more energy to burn and digest. Since most senior dogs and cats have weaker digestion due to weaker Stomach Qi (i.e. less fuel in their stomach’s “cooking pot”), feeding them raw food may not be in their best interest. Additionally, never use a microwave oven to cook or heat up food since this is an unnatural process and will change how the body reacts to the food.
Dr. Donato will make recommendations for commercial diets as well as the addition of fresh whole foods to the diet for your dog or cat based on Chinese Food Therapy principles and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.