Supplement Series - Curcumin!
There isn't a pet lover on earth that wants their pet to get a chronic illness. Seeing our pets in pain is heart breaking and we should be willing to do anything to try to prevent illnesses. So what if I told you, you could be doing something for your pets that may help with many different ailments, and it's incredibly easy to do!
Does the word "turmeric" sound familiar to you? If you're a fan of curries, a fan of cooking, or a fan of natural healing, then it should! This cousin of ginger is not only beautifully colored, but is comprised of curcuminoids. Curcuminoids are compounds of natural phenols (chemical compound found in plants) that produce deep yellow colors and are prized for their healing properties. The most important of the curcuminoids is called curcumin; this is the "stars and rainbows" magical part of turmeric. Curcumin is a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, free radical fighting goodness. It's been used in India for thousands of years and it's no wonder why.
Let's start with our pet's friend/enemy, Inflammation. Without inflammation, your pet has no good way of fighting off bacteria and other harmful pathogens. Pretty quickly, bad bacteria would take over and kill them. So now you're thinking....inflammation is good? Well, sort of. Some inflammation is absolutely necessary; the issue most modern day pets (and people) face is having excessive inflammation. This is when inflammation mistakenly starts attacking the bodies own tissue instead of something foreign in their body. Chronic inflammation can put your pet at risk for many diseases, even some types of cancer. Within the past several years, more and more evidence is showing that chronic inflammation is much more common than we once believed.
Just a few of the diseases caused by chronic inflammation include:
-Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
You can obviously see how these would be issues we would want to prevent in our pets. Reducing inflammation is one thing that curcumin does best. Without getting "overly nerdy", curcumin fights inflammation at a molecular level (at the source). There is a devilish little molecule called NF-kB and it essentially travels into the nuclei (centers) of your pet's cells and turns on genes that relate to inflammation. NF-kB is now known to play a major role in chronic diseases and curcumin can block it from even getting in!
Not convinced yet? Let's explore the antioxidant and free-radical fighting side of it. Put yourself back in high school chemistry. Normally, bonded atoms don't split in a way that leaves a molecule with an odd, unpaired electron. But when weak bonds split, free radicals are formed. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Usually, free radicals seek out and attack the nearest stable molecule, "stealing" its electron. When the "attacked" molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, finally resulting in the disruption of a living cell.
How do antioxidants help? Normally, your pet's body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable (pets fed mostly a dry food diet, for example), or if the free-radical production becomes overly excessive, damage can occur. It's important to note that free radical damage can accumulate as your pet ages as well.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. Additionally, curcumin boosts the activity of the body's own antioxidant enzymes.
You get this one-two punch affect because it blocks them directly, then stimulates their body's own antioxidant defenses. Magical, right?
Here's the not-so-magical part, curcumin leaves the body really quickly. Especially when it's still trapped in turmeric. Your dog or cat would need to eat pounds of turmeric powder every day to get the benefit of curcumin. For years, many of us curcumin fanatics have been making what's called "Golden Paste". This recipe uses fresh ground black pepper which contains piperine (a carrier for curcumin that helps keep it in the body for longer). The issues with golden paste are that it stains anything it touches, you have to make it often, and it still doesn't stay in the body for as long as we would like it to.
Enter: curcumin extract and curcumin essential oil! The heavens have opened up, angels are singing, and pets are getting some real relief. There are a few really good ones on the market; my favorite one is from a company called Terry Naturally. They make a product specifically for animals in a tiny softgel called 'Curacel'. It's up to 500 times stronger than turmeric and dogs under 75 pounds only need 1 softgel a day! It has been a life saver with a Frenchie and a Great Dane. That would be a lot of golden paste every day that can be replaced with 1 or 2 little gels. For cats, you can pop the softgel open and squirt a little into some wet or raw food. They don't seem to notice it at all which a huge bonus with cats.
In a nutshell, curcumin should be on everyone's must give supplement list for the well being of their pets and the potential to prevent or help treat many different diseases.