April 2019

What Your Skin Can Tell You About Your Health

looking-great-with-organic-skin-care

You already know that when you eat well, sleep enough and exercise, you glow. As evidence, look no further than the notoriously disciplined power couple Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen. Okay, okay … genes might have something to do with their eternally spotless complexions. But the inverse can certainly be true ... sometimes, the condition of your skin can point to potential health issues. Here are five telltale symptoms that could signal problems that are more than skin deep, and why.

Flakes: Sure, maybe it’s just symptomatic of dry weather. But if you have a lot of flakes, severe itchiness or dry spots that don’t resolve even after using a thicker moisturizer or running a humidifier, you might want to have a dermatologist take a look. Persistently parched, itchy skin without a rash or a lot of dandruff on the scalp could be a sign of thyroid disease.

Butterfly rash: If you notice that your cheeks and the bridge of your nose have a sudden bloom of red, and it's not just a passing flush, you might have an underlying health condition. A butterfly (or malar) rash is red or even deep purple and can be flat or slightly raised. It might even be painful but doesn’t usually include bumps or blisters. While this could result from an ongoing sensitivity to sunlight, this type of rash can also be symptomatic of a skin disorder (such as rosacea), a bacterial infection (like Lyme disease) or even an autoimmune disease (like lupus). Get it checked out so you know how to treat it appropriately.

Never-ending pimple: Yes, we’ve all had at least one zit in our lives that was so substantial, it seemed to take on a life of its own. For many of us, it happened on a school photo day, thus ensuring its memory will last forever. All kidding aside, if you discover a pimple that has been hanging around for weeks without clearing up (or clearing up and coming right back in the exact same spot), get thee to a dermatologist. There’s a chance it might be basal or squamous cell skin cancer, cystic acne (a condition that can cause scarring but often improves with medication or a diet change) or MRSA (a Staph skin infection that calls for antibiotics right away).

Thin skin: Easy bruising, creping of the neck or joints, and skin tears that take forever to heal. All of these are just symptoms of getting older, right? It’s true that some people develop thinner skin as they age, especially since older skin produces less collagen. While this isn't a sign that disease is present, you can pick up infections if you’re constantly nicking yourself or walking around with open wounds. In addition to drinking a lot of water and upping your sunscreen and moisturizers, the British Journal of Nutrition recommends fish oil or flax seed supplements for improving thin skin. At Life’s Abundance, we offer ultra-pure fish oil in both a smooth liquid and in citrus-flavored capsules.

Hives: If you suddenly break out in a rash of large itchy bumps or welts of varying shapes and sizes, you’re most likely having an allergic reaction to a food or medicine. Discontinue what you believe is the source and avoid it in the future. If you find yourself breaking out in hives quite often, you might want to talk to a medical professional. Stress might trigger an outbreak in people who are already susceptible, particularly those who have an autoimmune disease or a history of severe allergies.

No matter the condition of your skin, be sure you are using care products that actually nourish your skin. Our skin care products are made with pure, organic ingredients and are formulated for fabulous results. We want you to look great and feel great, too!

Please remember that the internet is a powerful tool for research, but there is no substitution for a visit to your doctor. If you have a concern, book an appointment today.

References:

https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/other-conditions/thyroid-disease-checklist
https://www.healthline.com/health/thin-skin#aging
https://www.livestrong.com/article/159989-how-to-make-thin-skin-thicker/
https://www.everydayhealth.com/hives/can-stress-cause-hives/

Black Bean & Greens Burger Recipe

Black-Bean-and-Greens-Burger

Looking for a fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Try our signature vegetarian burger! With a lot fewer calories that a regular beef burger, it's actually brimming with the health-promoting power of our special ingredient, Greens Blend

As listed, makes approximately three large or four medium-size burgers. Or, divvy it up into six mini patties and serve as sliders! If you're making it for friends and family, you're going to need to double it, because these burgers are the bomb.

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz. can black beans
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. yellow onion, minced
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 egg
  • ½ scoop Life’s Abundance Greens Blend
  • 1-2 Tbsp. avocado oil

Directions

Drain most of the liquid from the black beans, but do not rinse the beans. Pour beans into a medium-size bowl and roughly mash with a fork. Not every single bean needs to be mashed, just the majority. Add flour, onion, white pepper, salt, chili powder, egg and Greens Blend. Mix well with your hands until all ingredients are fully combined. Form into 3-4 burgers, remembering that black bean burgers do not shrink in size like regular burgers. So the size you start with will be the finished size.

Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high and add 1-2 tablespoons of avocado or coconut oil. Place burgers into the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until slightly browned.

Serve your delicious black bean burgers on a bun (or slider roll if you've made mini burgers). Or, for an even healthier alternative, avoid the bread altogether and wrap your veggie burgers in a crispy butterhead lettuce leaves (either Bibb or Boston).

Homemade-Black-Bean-Burger

All that's left to do is add your favorite burger toppings and tuck in!

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Bows to You?

Dog Playing

Pet parents often ask me, “Why does my dog bow?” The answer is more complicated than you might think, as it often is with our wonderfully complex canine companions. Dog bows serve as building blocks of dog communication and also have a physiological function in the stretching referred to as pandiculation. The reason behind each bow depends on when the dog engages in the behavior. Let’s talk about this unique form of stretching first.

Pandiculation is a brain-reflex-action pattern in which many animals engage. The word originates from the Latin ‘pandere’, which means "to spread out" or "stretch oneself". Next time your dog gets up from rest, watch what he does. Most often, he’ll put his front paws out and lengthen his back as he relaxes his belly. Then he may pandiculate in reverse, by contracting the anterior muscles into a flexed posture. This “wakes up” the muscular system, particularly the rear extensor muscles responsible for running. In a very real sense, this motion activates the connection between the brain and the muscles.

Stretching and yawning upon awakening is one healthy habit that we could relearn from our companion animals. As children, we instinctively do this, but many of us lose the habit.

Remember when you used to stretch? You'd wake up, gently tighten your arms and legs, feel a yawn coming on. Then, you’d reach your arms above your head, then reach down to one leg and then the other. You would first contract your muscles, then lengthen them, followed by complete relaxation. Try it some morning … you might be surprised at how good it’ll make you feel!

Dog bowing is most commonly expressed with what we refer to as the ‘play bow’. This common posture serves as a cornerstone of dog communication. Most often, it functions as an expression of ‘let's play!” Or, it can signal an apologetic tone, such as, "Oops, I didn't mean to bite so hard. I wasn't trying to hurt you. Let's keep playing!”

With a play bow, social hierarchy is not a factor. Dominant dogs can offer play bows to lower-ranked dogs and vice versa. When two dogs meet for the first time, they may initiate interaction with play bows as a way of making friends. Sometimes as part of the mating ritual, canines will initially assume the play-bow position to communicate amorous intent. Even if you don’t know exactly what your dog is attempting to communicate, the context of the behavior can help clue you in.

Want to try something fun? Try doing your own version of the play bow to your dog, and watch your pup go from serious to goofball in a heartbeat. Use a silly voice, plop down and invite your dog to play - you will likely be delighted at your dog’s response!

If dogs are not properly socialized, they may not know how to respond to another dog’s play-bow invitation. Rather than responding in-kind, they may feel threatened and growl fearfully. If you witness any fearful or aggressive reactions, I recommend working with a professional dog trainer.

If your dog invites you to play with a bow, accept the invitation! Chances are that you’ll boost her well-being, as well as yours, by simply engaging in purposeful play for only five minutes. It’s a great way to take a break from the day and begin a game of tug of war, tag or fetch.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks

Why Does My Pet Eat Grass?

Tempted to Graze

It’s a question pet parents routinely ponder. While there are competing theories regarding why dogs and cats consume grass, a conclusive answer has yet to be supported by scientific study. Here’s a brief overview of the current speculation behind your companion animal’s impulse to graze …

1. It’s an ancestral thing. The prey of wild dogs and cats frequently have grasses in their intestinal system, so domesticated dogs and cats still retain a yearning for a spot of grass in their diet.

2. Our companion animals know of some nutritional value in grasses that we have yet to uncover (such as antioxidants).

3. They do it to provoke vomiting if they’ve eaten something that has upset their stomachs.

4. They are augmenting their keen sense of smell with taste to discover more about their environment.

5. They simply like the taste and texture of grass, so it’s just for the sake of satisfaction!

Although we may never know the exact reason why, we do know that this is one of the most commonly asked questions that veterinarians hear from their clients. If you notice excessive grass-eating with either your dog or cat, please consult your vet.

What Should I Feed My Senior Dog?

Aging Dog

A lot of folks don’t realize it, but as companion animals grow older, their nutritional needs often change. As their caretakers, we owe it to them to provide the best we can, based on their current nutritional requirements. The truth is, when it comes to senior dogs, appropriate, targeted nourishment can make a real difference in terms of longevity and long-term happiness. More...

How Do I Clean My Dog’s Ears?

Repeated head shaking. Foul-smelling, waxy build-up. Red, painfully inflamed ears. What do all these things have in common? All are symptoms of otitis externa, or what is commonly referred to as ear infections. If you have ever groaned inwardly and felt dismay the moment your dog starts shaking his head or rubbing his ears along the nearest available surface, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, too many pet parents are more than familiar with this recurring medical problem. Often, it is accompanied by an offensive odor and one can only imagine how overwhelming the smell is to the suffering pup!

Canine ear infections result from an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the ear canal, causing redness, irritation and a heavy accumulation of wax. Likely triggers of these maladies are skin reactions to inhaled allergens – like pollen, mold or dust mites – or food allergies and sensitivities. Be aware that both large ears and swimming predispose dogs to ear infections.

Humans tend to develop ear infections as a result of viral infections, typically in infancy or early youth. As youngsters, our Eustachian tubes are very small. Respiratory congestion can lead to blockage of these canals, resulting in otitis media (a middle ear infection). Because the infection is internal, they frequently require oral antibiotics. In contrast, pets usually develop ear infections as adults, and the infection is almost always localized in the external portion of the ear. In most cases, the application of prescription drops or ointments directly into the ear canal usually resolves the illness. If you suspect your companion animal may be suffering from an ear infection, please seek veterinarian assistance for diagnosis and treatment. If necessary, your vet may prescribe a topical medicine and advise routine cleaning.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah reveals the steps to safe and effective ear cleaning to promote overall ear health.

Amazing Study on Fighting Canine Cancer with Mushrooms

longer-life-mushroom-therapy

When I was a kid, I hated mushrooms. HATED them! My mother, determined to get me to partake, would chop them up into bits and mix them in with ground beef stirred into spaghetti sauce. When she went to put the dinner plates away, she’d find a tiny pile of minced up mushrooms on the edge of my plate. Yes, I was stubborn. But Mom had the right idea ... mushrooms are potent little powerhouses of nutrition.

In terms of how humans use mushrooms, they can be broadly divided into three categories: those we eat, those that might kill you, and those with medicinal properties. It's this last category that we're most interested in today. Civilizations going back thousands of years recognized the power of mushrooms in certain disease processes, and veterinarians are also looking for ways these compounds can help our canine companions suffering from cancer. 

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer found almost exclusively in dogs, and one we see far too often in the clinic. One of the most insidious cancers due to its rapid growth, this sarcoma (connective tissue tumors) is found in the lining of blood vessels. While surgery and chemotherapy may delay the spread of the disease, it very rarely cures the cancer. Even with proactive treatment, fewer than 10% of dogs with this cancer are alive one year after the initial diagnosis. These therapies are invasive, expensive, and cause significant discomfort in and of themselves, so many pet parents do not pursue them.

A group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine investigated the effects of Coriolus versicolor, often referred to as turkey tail. It’s a mushroom commonly used in Chinese medicine, where it's regarded to have anti-tumor properties. Rather than using the whole mushroom, they used an extract of the bioactive agent and administered it to dogs with hemangiosarcoma ... and the effects surprised everyone.

In this study, 15 dogs with naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma were given standardized extracts of the turkey tail mushroom rather than the traditional US medical treatment (surgery plus chemotherapy). To the amazement and delight of the researchers, all 15 dogs showed significant improvement: it took longer for the cancer to spread, and overall survival time was increased. Dogs treated with surgery have a median survival of 19-86 days. However, in this study, dogs receiving the highest dose of mushroom extract had a median survival of 199 days! No, it wasn’t a cure, but more than doubling the time you have left without the need for surgery or chemotherapy, that is definitely worth celebrating!

treating-canine-cancer

While researchers have a general idea of how mushroom extracts work, the exact mechanisms have yet to be identified. The active agent in turkey tail, PSP, boosts the body’s own cancer-fighting abilities by improving the function of the immune system. Compare this to a traditional chemotherapy treatment, where a toxic agent kills both cancer cells and normal cells. As you might imagine, treatment with the mushroom extract is much better tolerated in patients than chemotherapy. In fact, in the Pennsylvania study, researchers found no evidence of adverse side effects!

In Japan, turkey tail has been used extensively as a treatment for many types of cancers, including gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. And it’s not just this mushroom! Over 100 species of mushroom are used as adjunct cancer treatments in Japan and China.

There’s a reason you haven’t heard of it as much in the States. Here, mushroom extracts are classified as a supplement and not a drug, thus they are not regulated or approved by the FDA. It is, however, still available and the research is popping up all over the place. It’s on the radar of established treatment institutes such as Memorial Sloan Kettering. Keep in mind that all of this is a brand new avenue of research with much left to learn about why mushrooms might have a positive effect. Bottom line, don't rush out to buy something you don't understand, but rather have a conversation with your doctor before trying anything new.

While the veterinary studies are few and far between, mushroom extracts are promising enough that many veterinary oncologists are already starting to incorporate them into their treatment regimens. Although they are considered fairly safe, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement. In addition to making sure it won’t interact with other treatments your dog is receiving, your veterinarian will be able to recommend a brand she trusts to provide a reliable, active dose of the extract. Not all supplements are produced with the same quality control standards.

The bottom line is that this is definitely an avenue that warrants further investigation. In fact, the study was so successful, the manufacturer of the PSP supplement plans to study its effects on human cancers, too! 

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Sources

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mushrooms-pdq

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/384301/

https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/compound-derived-mushroom-lengthens-survival-time-dogs-cancer-penn-vet-study-finds

Fun Ways to Exercise with Your Pet

fun-exercise-with-pets

Spring has a way of breathing energy back into your life. So why not take some of that kinetic potential and pour it into a fun activity? Perhaps even something you can do with your companion animal that could actually improve your health? 

Sure, you could go to the park and play fetch. Or play Frisbee. But if you're looking for something different but still a healthy activity, check out our fun ways to exercise with your pet below!

Pup Pilates

In the last 20 years, millions of Americans have tried pilates, the art of controlled movements. As an exercise regimen, pilates can help improve balance, tone muscles and bring practitioners a sense of peace. For a new twist, try doing exercises while holding your pets! While cradling your puppy or small dog (sorry Newfoundland moms and dads) while doing squats, lunges, lunges with side to side twists and bridge pulses with your little buddy on your belly. Of course, this is only something you should do if your dog (or cat) is calm enough. A wriggly pupper might throw off your sense of balance, so exercise some caution.

Agility Training

The great thing about agility training is that it not only provides exercise for both you and your dog, it can forge a closer connection between you, too! And it doesn't have to take place in a pre-approved or professional facility. As long as there's plenty of room to move around, you can set up your own little endurance challenges. If you have a small dog, a long hallway can afford sufficient space to set up an obstacle course (think plastic cups rather than pylons and wooden dowels on stacks of books as hurdles). The only limits are your imagination!

yoga-with-your-cat

Yoga with Your Cat

We know what you're going to say after reading this headline ... "yoga to be kitten me!" But, no, we're completely serious. Just like with Pup Pilates, only docile cats should join you for resistance training. After the customary warm-up, some compatible moves you can do with your cat are the prayer position, the Lion King pose (remember when Simba was held aloft for the admiration of the Animal Kingdom? it's based on that), the Crescent Warrior (or in this case, Purrier) and Vinyasa to downward dog (yes, we do admit the irony of doing that pose with your cat). Even if you don't hold your cat, their close proximity can add both peaceful and playful moments to your practice. Some people just enjoy the happy purring of their kitties while working through their yoga routine. Who knows, that constant sound might even help you reach a higher state of peace!

Low-Resistance Strength Training

If you're more old school and would prefer to rekindle a weight-training routine, but you can't lift the same amounts you used to, strength training with your pets is an option! Before you laugh, just recall that it did wonders for Milo of Croton, a 6th Century Greek wrestler who lifted a calf every day until it was a fully grown bull (or so they say). But we're not shooting for anything remotely that superhuman. Try push ups with your cat on your back, the kitty press, puppy squats, lateral raises (again, think Lion King) and cat curls. And, of course, in between reps, be sure to take time for scritches, boops and copious pets.

So Many More Options ...

If none of these sound appealing because you're looking for something a little more strenuous or you just want to get away from your house, check out our video tutorials on all sorts of outdoorsy activities and exercising you can do with your dog, including jogging, biking, swimming, hiking and camping.

Do you have a special activity you like to do with your companion animals? Share your exercise tips in the comments section below!