Most North Americans take at least one nutritional supplement daily. Whether that be vitamin D, a fish oil, or some form of herbal support. Health practitioners are finding more and more that a healthy diet alone isn’t providing us with enough nutrients. Many of us have made the connection that these added vitamins and minerals may also benefit our companion animals. When I first noticed that my Pyrenees cross was showing signs of arthritis and hip dysplasia I started to think about what dietary supplements I could give her to slow the progression of the disease. I found lots of supplements could be given to dogs, but some had to be in the right form, otherwise these nutrients could have a negative impact.
Most people don’t realize that vitamins and mineral supplements can be found in different forms. Our foods provide us with the natural forms of vitamins and minerals that the body will recognize and absorb easily. Synthetic vitamins are chemicals produced to mimic the way natural vitamins behave in the body. Does this difference matter? You may have heard of the term “bioavailable”. This is a fancy term used in pharmacology that refers to the rate at which a substance is absorbed by the body’s circulatory and delivered to tissue. Plants absorb minerals from the soil and convert them into a form that is more bioavailable. Natural vitamins and minerals from plants and animals are more bioavailable, or they absorb and are used much easier by the body. As many synthetic supplements are made from cheap ingredients like petroleum, limestone, processed corn, oyster shells and more the body uses more nutrients and energy to access the nutrients from these supplements. This can lead to an imbalance of nutrients which can have many devastating effects on the body. Another issue with synthetic vitamins is that the body recognizes these as a chemical. There is an upper limit that the body can handle. This is why vitamins and minerals have an RDA or recommended daily allowance. Over-supplementing with some vitamins can even lead to vitamin toxicity because they build up in the body. While it is virtually impossible for a food or plant to cause vitamin toxicity.
If our bodies evolved to digest vitamins and minerals from plants in our diet why do we even need to supplement with vitamins and minerals? The soil that is meant to nourish our plant-foods is depleted of the nutrients that our bodies need. This is due to many factors ranging from fertilizers containing few minerals, factory farming and a lack of crop-rotation causing soil depletion, and chemical herbicides and pesticides. Because plants aren’t getting the same vitamins and minerals from the soil, our food is depleted as well. Studies done by the University of Texas Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry show the steady decline in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, B2, and vitamin C in 43 different fruits and veggies over a 50-year period. Many studies have been done since with similar findings. This means that even if humans and animals eat healthy we are not getting the same amount of nutrients we would have 50 years ago.
Whether you feed your pets a natural raw diet or a high-quality kibble they will still be facing a nutrient deficit as they age. The best and easiest way to increase vitamin and mineral content in your pet’s diet is to add more plants: herbs! Herbs are concentrated in vitamins and minerals and contain many other beneficial substances like antioxidants and bioflavonoids. Their nutrients are easily digested and absorbed because they are in the natural and complete form. Teas use hot water to extract these natural vitamins and minerals, while tinctures and extracts use alcohols. Our NaturPet Multi Minerals is an extract of herbs known for their high vitamin and mineral content, also called nutritive herbs. Tinctures or extracts are easy to administer, you just add drops of the liquid onto your pet’s food. Make sure that your pet’s meal includes a fat, because fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K) are only absorbed if taken with fat. I like to add a source of omega-3 fatty acids to my dogs’ food, from fish oil or algae, to lower inflammation and moisturize the skin and coat. I use Dr Maggie Skin & Coat for a balance of omega fatty acids.