(This is an article published in Animal Wellness magazine, April/May 2011 issue)
Your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Research on cancer and nutrition in people has shown that eating fruits and vegetables--especially "superfoods" containing phytochemicals--significantly decreases the risk of cancer. Since phytochemicals work at a cellular level, and canine cells function exactly the same way as human cells, these foods can also help prevent cancer in your dog.
What phytochemicals do
Phytochemicals are organic compounds found in plants. They both prevent and fight disease and have been used as medicines for millennia. When Hippocrates said "Let food be thy medicine", he probably never imagined his words would be proven in scientific laboratories 2,000 years later!
The potential for cancer begins when carcinogens damage and alter the DNA in cells. This modification remains latent until conditions promote the creation of a cancerr cell. The tumor-suppressor gene p53 then plays a vital role in the body's struggle to stave off cancer. This gene monitors the biochemical signals in cells that instruct the cell to either halt the growth cycle or self-destruct. If this fails, the immune system has an opportunity to eliminate cancer growth. Research has proven that proper nutritional support with phytochemicals helps prevent a cell from developing into a malignant cancerous growth.
How does eating superfoods with phytochemicals change the course of this dreaded disease? Certain phytochemicals help cells dump carcinogens and toxins much more quickly, thus decreasing the potential for permanent DNA damage. Other phytochemicals support more general cell functions while some give the immune system a super boost.
FOUR FOR YOUR FRIDGE
1. Kale. The dark vibrant greens in kale leaves are rich in cartenoids, which travel throughout your dog's body (and yours) to scavenge free radicals and clean up "after the party". Kale is also rich in elements that reduce the risk of cancer. Scientists have found that certain specific compounds found in kale - glucosinolates, cysteine sulfoxides and sulforaphane - clear carcinogenic substances more quickly. One study found that hen dogs with cancerous tumors were fed kale, their tumors were smalller and grew more slowly than those in dogs not fed kale.
2. Broccoli. Compounds found in broccoli act as modulators to the immune response system with antiviral, antibacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli has a sizable quantity of sulforaphane that boosts your dog's protective cellular enzymes and flushes out the toxins that cause cancer. A recent study at the University of Michigan found that sulforaphane targets specific cancer cells that aid in tumor growth.
3. Berries. All berries are packed with phytochemicals that work to prevent cancer. Red raspberries, blueberries and strawberries contain ellagic acid, found to slow and sometimes stop tumor growth. Black raspberries contain very high concentrations of phytochemicals called anthocyanins; these slow malignant cell growth and curtail the blood supply to cancerous tumors.
4. Garlic. A host of studies provides evidence that compounds in garlic work to effectively inhibit the cancer process. These studies reveal that the benefits of garlic are not limited to a specific carcinogen, tissue or species. Peeling and dicing garlic releases an enzyme called allinase and starts a chemical reaction that creates a cancer-fighting compound called diallyl disulfide. It takes about 15 minutes for this reaction to occur.
We're told that people can decrease their cancer risk by 30% if they eat several serving of brightly colored fruits and vegetables a day. It's no different for our dogs.
This article seemed pertinent to me because all of my dogs have had their annual vet visit and heartworm check. I purchased Heartgaard for two of my dogs but withheld giving it to them because I know it's a chemical compound that supposedly kills mosquitoes and parasites. If it can do that to mosquitoes and parasites, what is it doing to the insides of my dogs? I took a Canine Nutrition class in April given by Dr. Jessica Levy and Katie K-9. Dr. Levy strongly suggested giving dogs garlic tablets in lieu of Heartgaard and Frontline products. The thinking behind this is that the garlic odor is excreted through the dogs pores and that smell makes it unpalatable for mosquitoes, ticks, etc to want to get a meal off the dog. They recommended a product called "Bug Off Garlic" chewables for dogs made by Springtime. I give each dog two tablets twice a day with their meals. They love them and scarf them up. I also plan to have them heartworm tested twice a year to verify that no critters have "gotten through".
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