Holistic Approaches for Immune Support
alternatives and homeopathic remedies can be used in place
of standard allopathic treatments for immunologic disorders.
Alternative means of down-regulating the cytokines that
trigger cell-mediated immunity also can be used instead of
the immune-suppressive effects of corticosteroids. Some
clinicians use biologically active glandulars such as
multiple glandular supplements or thymic protein, which
often contains variable amounts of biologically active
thymosins (e.g. thymosin, thymulin, thymopoietin, thymic
humoral factor) that affect cell-mediated immune function.
Thus, while thymic extracts may be most appropriate for
treating immune dysfunction and suppression, they could be
harmful if used in immune-mediated and autoimmune diseases.
treatments that offer immune support include: plant sterols
and sterolins, herbs such as echinacea, and medicinal
mushrooms. Plant sterols and sterolins (phytosterols) are
sterol molecules synthesized by plants and ingested by
humans and animals in the form of fruits and vegetables.
These compounds have been shown in animals to have
antiinflammatory, antineoplastic, antipyretic, and
immunomodulating activity. Phytosterols improve T-lymphocyte
and natural killer cell activities. Overactive antibody
responses are also dampened to help control immune-mediated
and autoimmune disease processes. Echinacea, the purple
coneflower, is probably the most widely used herb today and
has been used for centuries. Common uses include treatment
for the common cold, coughs, bronchitis, upper respiratory
infections, and some inflammatory conditions. The mechanism
of action of echinacea is unknown, although it is presumed
to enhance immune function generically.
medicinal properties are contained within certain mushrooms,
notably Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Reishi (Ganoderma
lucidum), and Shitake (Lentinula edodes). These medicinal
mushrooms exhibit a variety of antitumor, antiviral,
antiinflammatory, and immune enhancing properties.
Bolstering detoxification pathways mediated through the
cytochrome P450 system and via conjugation with protective
amino acids (glutathiones, cysteine, taurine) is important.
Antioxidants including vitamins A, C, D and E, selenium,
bioflavonoids and homeopathics are used as biosupport to
strengthen the patient's metabolism and immune system before
implementing harsh detoxification regimens (once offending
toxicants have been identified by such methods as applied
kinesiology, intero- and electrodiagnostics). This author
supplements all patients on a weight basis with extra
vitamin E (100-400 IU/day), vitamin C in the ester C form
(500-1500mg/day), Echinacea with Golden Seal, and garlic,
although many other herbal and supportive nutrients also can
be used. Animal experiencing adverse vaccine reactions are
given Thuja, Lyssin (rabies vaccine) or sulphur. Specific
Bach flower remedies are also helpful.
Effective nutritional and other supplemental support for
these patients can only be achieved when coupled with the
need to avoid or minimize toxic exposures (e.g. pesticides
on pets or their surroundings, chemical fertilizers,
radiation, high tension powerlines), booster vaccinations,
preventative chemicals for heartworm, fleas and ticks, and
drugs known to exacerbate immunologic disorders (e.g.
potentiated sulfonamides, sex hormones). Alternative
strategies to protect against common infectious diseases
include: annual vaccine titers, homeopathic nosodes, natural
methods of heartworm, flea and tick control.
Dietary Amino Acid
publication assessed the neurologic effects of dietary
deficiencies of phenylalanine and its metabolite tyrosine in
cats. Findings suggested the chronic dietary restriction of
these essential aromatic amino acids in cats may result in a
predominantly sensory neuropathy. Phenylalanine is utilized
in protein synthesis in all millions species including
humans. Its metabolite, tyrosine, is essential in the
formation of thyroid hormones, melanin, and in euro
transmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. In
humans, absolute tyrosine deficiency is postulated to cause
mental retardation in children, although this is not been
proven. In the present study, behavioral abnormalities such
as hyperactivity and vocalization were observed, and may
have been the result of altered neurotransmitter
concentrations in the CNS. In dogs, increased a barking and
growling have been associated with sensory neuropathy. Thus,
current recommendations for dietary phenylalanine and
tyrosine in cats, and possibly other species, appear to be
insufficient to support normal long-term neurologic
Dietary Effects of Soy
study examined the effects of short-term administration of a
soy diet in comparison to a soy-free diet on serum thyroid
hormone concentrations in healthy adult cats. As soybeans
are commonly used as a source of high-quality vegetable
protein in commercial pet foods, the question arises whether
this potential source of dietary goitrogen could offer an
explanation for the ever increasing incidence of feline
hyperthyroidism throughout the world. The mechanism whereby
soy affects thyroid metabolism is poorly understood,
although many theories have been elucidated during the past
70 years. What is known is that soy has inhibitory effects
on thyroid peroxidase. Of 42 commonly fed premium commercial
cat foods examined by the authors, 24 of them contained
substantial amounts of soy isoflavones. These polyphenolic
compounds found in soy have weak estrogenic properties as
well as effects on thyroid metabolism. The effects of soy on
the thyroid gland are modified by dietary iodine. Therefore,
iodine deficiency enhances the goitrogenic effects of soy,
whereas iodine supplementation (e.g. kelp in modest amounts)
is protective. However, the iodine concentration in
commercial pet foods today is about three times the stated
minimum requirement, and so this variable is not a factor.
of the study showed the soy diet to produce a measurable
though modest increase in the amount of total T4 (8%) and
free T4 (14%), whereas T3 concentration was not changed.
Similar findings have been previously shown for miniature
pigs, hamsters, and rats fed soy proteins. Because both T4
and freeT4 were elevated in the present cat study, the
increased total T4 concentrations did not result from an
increase in thyroid hormone- protein binding. The potential
impact of these findings are clear. Long-term feeding of a
soy diet to cats could induce chronic low level
hyperstimulation of the thyroid gland which could lead to
formation of thyroid adenoma and feline hyperthyroidism in
middle-aged aged cats. This hypothesis needs to be tested
with long term feeding (years) of soy diets.
interesting relevant study of commercial dog foods
determined the type and concentration of soy phytoestrogens.
24 common commercial dog foods were examined, 12 were moist
or dry extrusion products that contain soybeans or soybean
fractions, and another 12 had no soybean-related ingredients
listed on the label. The phytoestrogens measured included 4
isoflavones, 1 coumestan, and 2 lignans. None of the diets
stated to be soybean-free contained these phytoestrogens,
whereas 11 of the 12 soy diets had significant levels of
these plant-derived nonsteroidal compounds, and one soy diet
contained only soy fiber. The conclusion of the study was
that soybean fractions are commonly used ingredients in
commercial dog foods, and the phytoestrogen content of these
foods is high enough in amount to have biological effects
when ingested long-term. These effects can be both
beneficial and deleterious. Further investigations are
needed to look at the effects of phytoestrogens on the
immune response of puppies and adult dogs (e.g. thymic and
immune abnormalities); effects on the steroidogenesis,
especially of sex hormones (e.g. delayed puberty and
infertility); and possible undesirable effects on skin and
coat length and quality.
the fed animal is fed a balanced premium commercial pet
food, properly balanced homemade diet, or raw diet, certain
supplements can be beneficial. Some supplements to consider
include unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar; kelp,
deep-ocean harvested, and given twice a week [not more often
or in large amount, as the high iodine content of kelp has
been linked to autoimmune thyroiditis in people]; daily
vitamins C and E, but not in megadoses; pumpkin, sweet
potato or yams as a source of dietary fiber for diarrhea and
IBD; and periodic helpings of unpasteurized yoghurt. Herbs
are also useful remedies for toning the immune system and
behavioural modification. These include nutritional herbs
such as garlic, valerian, kava kava, St. John's wort,
passion flower, burdock and alfalfa; and medicinal herbs
such as the Western and Chinese herbal repertories, and
hawthorne, although there is a huge variety of available
herbal remedies. An comprehensive summary of Chinese food
therapy and suggested oral herb doses can be found in
Appendices B and C of Wynn and Marsden's Manuel of Natural
Veterinary Medicine, Mosby, St. Louis, Missouri, 2003. Other
forms of dietary supplements include the essential oils and
animals with autoimmune disorders and immune dysfunction,
optimum nutrition is essential to provide appropriate, but
not excessive protein intake and calories. Further, the use
of novel protein, hypoallergenic diets, or modified protein
diets is important in managing food hypersensitivity, and to
heal the "leaky gut syndrome" that is often present.
Probiotics may also be helpful as they provide beneficial
bacteria to modulate immune inflammatory responses.
Antioxidants can reduce the inflammation of immune-mediated
disease, whereas diets low in fat or high in fish oils
provide fatty acid supplementation to reduce the severity
and increase survival.
Epileptic animals often benefit from dietary management, and
avoiding "triggering" situations or exposures. Most holistic
practitioners recommend high-quality homemade or even raw
food diets for their epileptic patients. Some of these
animals have grain and/or protein sensitivities, so that
feeding strictly hypoallergenic or modified, hydrolysed
protein diets is beneficial. Feeding smaller meals more
often can be helpful in managing blood sugar levels and
appeasing the increased hunger seen in dogs taking
phenobarbital. Taurine supplementation (e.g. 250 mg /40 lbs
body weight daily) has been advocated for dogs that eat
commercial or grain-based diets. Taurine is also beneficial
because it reduces seizure activity, especially in dogs
having tremors or noise-triggered seizures.
of epileptic dogs also report that certain heartworm
preventatives, vaccine boosters (especially for rabies), and
flea or tick control products can lower the seizure
threshold in susceptible animals. Other potentially toxic
exposures that can trigger seizures include: household
cleaners and insecticides, paints and solvents, lawn and
garden chemicals, and even such assumed innocuous substances
such as air fresheners and aromatic herbs, like sage and
rosemary, that are commonly found in commercial pet foods.
taking phenobarbital, holistic veterinarians typically
recommend herbs that protect the liver from damage such as
milk thistle (silymarin) or dandelion, although dandelion is
also a diuretic which may present an undesirable
side-effect. Denosyl methionine can also be used. Both
Chinese and Western herbs have been used with success in
some epileptics, as have chiropractic, acupuncture and
homeopathic remedies. A basic liver cleansing diet made up
of ingredients such as boiled white potato/sweet potato in a
1:1 mixture fed together with whitefish in a 2/3 potato:1/3
fish ratio can be beneficial. This can be augmented with
boiled carrots, garlic, mixed Italian herbs, and a liquid
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