Nutritional supplements administered regularly or during a recovery period can help repair cells and maintain cell integrity.
The study of veterinary nutrition has traditionally focused on the macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) and the determination of the minimum requirements of these individual nutrients to prevent evident diseases.
New areas of study that observed the major effects of food, such as nutrigenomics, metabolomics, nutrigenics, etc. have shown that overall health can be positively influenced by "optimizing nutritional levels in different stages of life, lifestyle and the race of the individual animal. "
In recent years, a wide range of food-based nutritional supplements have appeared in the veterinary market in response to this trend.
Every cell in the body performs one or more functions. Some are hormone-secreting cells, some remove antigens from circulation and others produce enzymes for use in metabolic reactions. These cellular activities are mostly continuous, occur throughout the day, and vary in response to the metabolic needs of the body.
Each cell function involves a series of steps. These may include:
• Taking nutrients through the cell membrane.
• Transporting these nutrients to different locations within the cell.
• Using nutrients to produce a product (hormones, enzymes, proteins, etc.).
• Deliver the products in places inside or outside the cell.
• Participate in inter-and intra-cellular signaling.
• Removing waste from the cell.
All these steps require energy. For a cell to continue this cycle, it must have a constant supply of fuel and other materials necessary to perform their specific functions. In other words, each cell requires a certain quantity and quality of nutrients to carry out its activities optimally. If the flow of nutrients to a cell is limited in any way, some or all of the capabilities of the cell to carry out its functions will be affected. A jeopardized cell:
• Cannot respond to the body's needs.
• Cannot protect itself.
• May adversely affect other cells around them.
• May experience a buildup of waste, heavy metals and toxins.
• May be more at risk from viruses, bacteria and parasites.
When a sufficient amount of cells are compromised, the body develops symptoms such as lethargy, fever, nausea and diarrhea. As physicians, our typical approach is to prescribe an appropriate pharmaceutical treatment. This is an obvious choice, and we must address the clinical symptoms and the patients comfort. But the drugs treat the symptoms, not the cell function. Nutrition provides energy and the building blocks for repair, regeneration, healing and functional recovery.
Without the proper nutritional support, healing slows down or is incomplete. Thus, each case has a nutritional component.
Like a house damaged by a tornado, a damaged cell needs resources to:
• Remove damaged materials.
• Repair structural damage.
• Use as much high quality fuel for both repair and for maintenance.
Physical or chemical stress causes an over-regulation of metabolic pathways necessary for the repair and cleaning, and the under-regulation of less critical metabolic pathways (e.g. cleaning activities). Damaged cells increase metabolic activity to remove debris and rebuild cellular structures. Over-regulation of metabolic pathways leads to a greater absorption of nutrients when the cell is in need of repair.
One way to provide the materials necessary for cell recovery is the use of nutritional supplements. As the name suggests, nutritional supplements are "supplementary" to the diet, i.e. provide necessary nutritional levels for daily maintenance. Nutritional supplements can be used during the recovery period to support reconstruction, and also on a regular basis according to individual needs.
Nutritional supplements may include:
• Functional foods - foods that have been shown to have specific health benefits (e.g. milk thistle as a hepato-protective as it promotes liver cell regeneration).
The veterinary nutraceuticals are "drug-free substances produced in purified form or extracted and administered orally to patients to provide the necessary agents required for normal structure and function of the body. Their administration intends to improve the health and welfare of animals "2.3.
• Synthetic compounds - ascorbic acid, alpha tocopherol, beta carotene.
• Medicinal herbs.
The current trend in nutritional supplements puts greater emphasis on whole food ingredients. Although the detailed discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this article, we would like to address two main points:
• There is a growing emphasis on the fact that food (in its original state as grown in the ground) is much more complex than a simple mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Food ingredients are a group of complex interactive compounds including vitamins, enzymes, hormones, trace elements, coenzymes, sterols, nucleotides, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients unidentified at present. This complex group of nutrients (known as "matrix food") provides a synergistic effect which exceeds that of any individual ingredient.
• Recent clinical trials of dietary supplements, centered in individual macronutrients, haven’t shown a reduced risk of chronic diseases, and in some cases have shown a greater risk.
With this in mind, the supplement content is shifting towards including whole food ingredients, rather than their individual components. Within the scientific community there is now interest in changing the research focus from a single nutrient to whole foods to better understand the relationship between nutrition and health.
* Dr. Cameron is a specialist in holistic and conventional therapies, and has been practicing alternative veterinary medicine for more than 20 years in DeForest, Wisconsin. He also provides veterinarian technical support to Standard Process Inc.
1. Kirk CA, Bartges, JW. Veterinary Clinics of North America 36 (2006), xi-xiii.
2. Boothe DM. 1997. Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine. Part I. Definitions and Regulations. Comp Cont Ed Pract Vet 19:1248-1255.
3. Dzanis DA. Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine. Aus Vet J. 1999, 77 (4) :238-239.