It’s easy to understand why food matters when you’re contemplating the cause of vomiting, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease or gastrointestinal cancer. But food can often be an important form of medicine for many conditions, and it can help with one of the most common health issues – allergies.
Controlling Your Dog’s Allergies Naturally
The good news is there are some whole foods you can give your dog that will help prevent allergies or, if he does become allergic, minimize or relieve his symptoms.
3 Superfoods For Your Dog’s Allergies
1. Sprouted Seeds
One factor that can allow allergies to develop is leaky gut syndrome.
The intestines play an important role in the body’s immune defense. The gastrointestinal wall contains mucosal barriers that protect against allergens.
If your dog has a history of antibiotic treatment or viral infection, these barriers become more porous, allowing potential allergens to penetrate and enter the bloodstream.
In a normal gut, there’s a balance between good and bad bacteria that helps preserve the integrity of this mucosal barrier. Fortunately, feeding the good bacteria with prebiotics or replenishing them with probiotics can help repair the holes in the gut lining.
This means you can protect your dog against allergies by providing him with a prebiotic/probiotic super food. My favorite of these for a carnivore is sprouted seeds.
Eastern thought metaphorically and beautifully describes a seed and its germination as containing Birth Essence, or Jing, and its sprouting from earth and growing towards the sky as an intrinsically Yang movement. The Yin earth contains seed of Yang.
Sprouted seeds contain highly bio-available vitamins, minerals, enzymes and probiotics that will support a dog’s healthy gut flora. The nutritional value of sprouted seeds is far greater than that of the unsprouted seed and the nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body.
Carnivores forage, and I believe they intuitively know the value in searching for and consuming the amazing nutrition which abounds inside freshly sprouting seeds.
How often do we wonder why dogs eat grass and whether there is a dietary deficiency that eating grass fulfills? As it turns out, the nutrients in sprouted seeds contribute to a protective gut barrier. They are not laboratory derived, but rather come from nature; they’re the very probiotics and prebiotics that a dog would consume in nature to feed his own individual gut bacteria.
An herbalist can procure the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) wearing gloves and long pants and then prepare a safe and useful dried herb or extract which we can use for ourselves or our pets. Cooled nettle leaf tea can be used as a coat or even eye rinse for itchy skin or itchy eyes. Dogs will often eat the fresh, young plants as well.
In Western herbal medicine terms, nettle has alterative and detoxicant (depurative) actions. In the popular text Herbs for Pets, Gregory Tilford and Mary Wulff explain that nettles’ effectiveness against allergies may be due to their histamine content. They suggest that the effect is similar to the “like cures like” concept in homeopathy: the plant stimulates the body to protect itself from an attack of allergens.
Nettle can also be useful in Oriental diagnostic patterns of “wind-damp” invading the skin and causing skin eruptions (eczema). The anti-allergy impact of nettle may be also be due to its Quercetin content. Quercetin is a flavonoid; flavonoids are plant constituents , some of which can inhibit IgE-induced histamine release.
In Eastern herbal formulations licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is a harmonizer. It has been utilized by the Chinese and Ayurvedic formulators for allergy patients for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), licorice tonifies the spleen, benefits the Qi, moistens the lung, stops coughing, clears heat, detoxifies Fire Poison (boils, sore throat) and soothes spasms. A study of one licorice constituent, glycyrrhizic acid, showed that it has an antitussive effect similar to codeine.
In Western herbal medicine it is not only a useful herb, but also makes the entire extract more palatable, especially for dogs. In fact, although it is not candy, licorice herb alone is quite delicious!
Licorice can also relieve inflammation in the upper digestive tract, increase the anti-inflammatory effect of glucocorticoids and helps eliminate mucus from the respiratory tract. Just what the doctor ordered for dog or human allergy sufferers!
BONUS: Nettle/Licorice Double Benefit
A 50:50 blend of nettle and licorice extract has been used with success repeatedly in my practice for allergic dogs. Each extract can be alcohol or glycerin based. If one or both is glycerin, this will increase palatability dramatically. If one is an alcohol extract from a reputable herbal company, this increases the efficacy tremendously. If your herbs don’t work, consider a different manufacturer.
We recommend that you use this herbal blend for five days on and two days off. This not only gives the tummy a break from the herbs, but it allows a pet parent to ascertain efficacy. Does your dog itch and scratch just as much during the days on as he does on the days off?
Brands I’ve used successfully are Standard Process Mediherb, Natural Path and Animal Apawthecary.
For me, the efficacy of allergy management relies on my understanding, belief, intent and good product selection. I’m pleased when East meets West in my mind. This allows me to be a safe and effective holistic practitioner and pet parent!
(Your dog’s allergy symptoms might not be from allergies after all! Visit our other allergy article here.)