Allergies: the skin, the gut and the immune system

I was ‘fortunate’ enough to attend a leadership seminar run by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) in my capacity as the current president of the Acupuncture group last week.  Apart from the fact that I feel proud to be part of the volunteering ethos that is part of the Australian culture, (apparently our pro bono work amounts to something like $7 million dollars a year for the AVA!) one topic we discussed was the importance of social media to organizations big and small. Facebook was definitely a non starter for me. Although I have a Facebook page, I am totally incompetent at doing anything to it. Linked falls in the same category. So I guess my only option was to get a blog out more frequently.  Although I have been told that I can talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles, my blogs come out when I am inspired by something meaningful.
A friend of mine recently mentioned her son’s ill health last year. A liver dysfunction had caused his gut to react badly. Not so good for a teenager’s social life. The ‘leaky gut’ story is a popular one at the moment and many problems have been attributed to a dysfunctional gastrointestinal system. Remember the saying ‘you are what you eat?’, one of my lecturers is also adamant that ‘you are what you don’t excrete’.
For the last few months, quite a few dogs have been presented to me with skin allergies. I don’t profess to have the total solution for these dogs but I have been encouraged by the fact that quite a few of these dogs have improved. As with many of my approaches, I have picked up ideas from all aspects of life.
A year ago I organized an IgG food intolerance blood test for my daughter. After many episodes of chronic snotty noses after colds, we discovered that she was mildly intolerant to variety of food. Wheat and dairy were of course the usual culprit but also spelt, sugar and zucchini among others. So we spent a lot of last year trying out lots of unusual recipes: thank goodness for the internet. The results speak for themselves, my daughter drives her special diet because she know what happens when she eats the wrong thing. Christmas was a good example, two spoons of a homemade ice-cream produced a sinus attack that lasted a month.
Interestingly, a few members of the family think that it is such a waste of time because her reaction to certain food is considered normal for them! It isn’t as crazy as it sounds, a friend of mine used to think it was normal to have a gut ache after eating! There must be a genetic component to this, although my reputation as a garbage gut, rules me out of the picture.

Skin issues in dogs come in a various forms, think chewing their feet, itchy, scabby sores, smelly skin and hair loss. Even the veterinary skin specialist have to work hard and for long periods to manage many of these animals. There could be hormonal issues, inhaled irritants, skin contact irritants or food sensitivities. The skin is often still a problem despite the medication, the desensitization injections and the special diets that the dog has been put on.

One of the easy, cheap things to try is local honey. This means that the bees are collecting the nectar in the local area that the dog lives in. It does not mean that the bee keeper lives down the road. Bee keepers travel great distances to place their hives. They also trade honey with other bee keepers. The idea is that if there is a pollen component to the allergy, the local honey will have a small quantity of this pollen to help desensitize the dog. It helps to buy a small jar so that the honey is always the latest batch with the most current pollens. It doesn’t have to be much; just the tip of a teaspoon everyday will be enough. My hay fever has improved by 90% since I started taking local honey six to seven years ago.

Some dogs do not tolerate certain foods in their diet. Beef and wheat can be a problem. Your vet may have advised you to try taking your dog off its normal food and trying one of the special low allergy dog food. The idea is to give your dog something it doesn’t normally eat so that it is less likely to react to the new food. Some useful combinations to try are fish, rabbit, duck, turkey or roo meat with potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and turnip. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, different food have different characteristics and if the skin problem creates a lot of heat, then it would be best to feed cooling food like rabbit and fish rather than roo or lamb. It would be best to avoid grains such as oats (we traditionally eat porridge in winter).

Traditional Chinese Medicine will then look at the pattern of the skin problem. Is it the feet, top of the body or on the belly? Is the dog hyperactive, nervous or sluggish? Is there scurf with it, big greasy flakes or small, dry ones? Once a pattern is identified, the appropriate acupuncture points and herbal formulae can be recommended. Adding some complementary therapies may help in the quest for the itch free dog.

2 thoughts on “Allergies: the skin, the gut and the immune system

  1. Teresa Reply

    Thanks for this. I certainly know that shifting my dog’s diet to primarily fish (we found through trial and error this is the only major protein he tolerates) and banana (tried it because it was meant to be ‘cooling’ and is now his favourite food in the world) has made all the difference in the world. A dog who arrived in our lives covered in scabs, constantly scratching and (understandably) depressed is now a complete buffoon (in the most delightful way possible). He still goes through a nasty phase towards the end of summer (ie now!) where he’s covered in hot spots which we do our best to stop developing into sores from his scratching and chewing, so there’s obviously something environmental going on as well, but I’m completely convinced of the impact of nutrition/diet. Now all I need to do is apply these principles to myself and overcome my own bad habits!

    • geelongcreatures Reply

      Hi Teresa,
      Great tip about the bananas. Just be careful if you are using raw fish as it can deplete the thiamine content in their diet. Cooking overcomes that.

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