Why Wheat Free, Gluten Free Diet?

Does your dog suffer from allergies, joint pain, epilepsy, recurrent ear infections or other chronic health problems? Have you tried lots of treatments and spent a fortune but just can’t seem to help at all?

A veterinarian with celiac disease tries his gluten-free diet on dogs with certain health problems, with amazing results. Dr. John Symes, who calls himself “Dogtor J,” is from Beltline Animal Hospital .

Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a condition in which glutens (proteins found in some cereal grains) cause damages in the small intestine, resulting in the inability to function properly and poor absorption of nutrients.

According to Dr. Symes, eliminating the offending foods will usually bring about a reduction or even elimination of symptoms, sometimes in just a matter of days. Most commercial dog foods are loaded with gluten-containing grains, causing the problems.

The science behind this problem

The duodenum, a ‘J-shaped’ stretch of intestine, is key to digestion in both dogs and people. A variety of digestive enzymes, such as protease and amylase are secreted there, as are hormones, bile acids, and other substances needed for efficient digestion. The duodenum is lined with the tiny, finger-like villi in the small intestine. As the enzymes and acids break up the food molecules into even smaller parts, such as amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, these nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream by the capillaries within the villi.

With celiac disease, the body reacts to gluten by producing IgE antibodies. This onslaught of antibodies damages the villi, sometimes irreversibly. This may cause the appearance of allergy symptoms, such as itchiness and diarrhea. The internal damage, however, is even more insidious. Without adequately functioning villi, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are not properly assimilated, creating a kind of subclinical malnutrition. This process is sometimes referred to as malabsorption or “leaky gut syndrome.”

Gluten can act like glue in the intestine, clogging the villi. This in turn can result in villous atrophy in those who are susceptible. The foods that are the ‘stickiest’ are the ones that cause the most problems. Wheat and soy are the worst, while oats and rice seem to be the best – the least sticky. Corn is in the middle.

Dr. Symes can see why lamb and rice foods have become so popular. “Rice is the least of the adhesives and thereby the least potentially allergenic,” according to Dr. Symes.

Treating disease with diet

Dr. Symes recommends a gluten-free diet for all of his canine patients who suffer from apparent allergy symptoms or poor digestion but he also recommends a gluten-free diet for all dogs. Not all his clients are willing to switch foods, or see any need for a change in their dogs’ diet. However, the ones that do are often pleasantly surprised and wouldn’t change the food back.

The most dramatic turnarounds Dr. Symes has seen in his patients have been with dogs suffering from allergies or idiopathic epilepsy. He had dogs who were scratching themselves raw but stop scratching just days after changing their diet to a gluten-free one. He’s also had canine epilepsy patients who stopped having seizures once their diets were switched.

“After switching their diets to a gluten-free diet, they stopped all seizures within days, now are off all medications and seizure-free,” says Dr. Symes.

Every dog may not have the same dramatic results as some of Dr. Symes’ patients. But a change in diet may be a great place to start if you’ve hit dead-ends with other treatment options. As Dr. Symes says, “If dogs can be cured of epilepsy almost overnight with a change in diet, what else can a change in diet do?”

Article has been extracted and adapted from:

Shannon Wilkinson, Gluten-Free Canine Diets, http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/8_3/features/15700-1.html, retrived 2/21/2013

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