For pet owners, there are foods and supplements that humans and animals can share to optimize health and wellness. These foods, or “superfoods,” can be personalized to fit an individual’s needs, thanks in part to the science of nutrigenomics, according to pet healthcare expert Dr. Jean Dodds.
“We need individual diets, not only to prevent disease but to mitigate disease and to cure chronic illness,” said Dodds at the Santa Monica Rotary Club Friday, Jan. 22.
Nutrigenomics, or nutritional genomics, identify the different ways people and animals respond to food based on their genetic make-up, Dodd said.
“Everything I’m going to talk about relates to you, even though I’m a veterinarian,” she added.
An ideal diet for both humans and pets includes foods that reduce the body’s chronic inflammatory properties, Dodds explained.
“Chronic inflammation of your tissues is what leads to infectious diseases, it leads to obesity, and it leads to cancer,” she said.
To combat these hematological problems, Dodds broke down “good” foods into three categories.
“Functional foods are whole foods with a nutrient-rich composition that provide optimal wellbeing,” she said. “Whole foods have variety and density in the food. The food should be whole as much as possible. Superfoods are usually rich in phytochemicals; they are known to have disease-fighting properties.”
In other words, you need plants to balance your diet.
Dodds’ functional superfoods included prebiotics, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oils.
“A prebiotic and a probiotic functions most in tandem,” she said.
Prebiotic supplements like lactulose and spirulina, or whole algae, serve to balance a pet and human’s needs along with meats and other foods, Dodds said.
Foods have medicinal properties, and Dodds identified some of the best additions to a diet.
“Basically all the products from bees – and that’s raw honey, especially Manuka honey from New Zealand; bee pollen; royal jelly; propolis – those all have the same anti-microbial, anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory properties,” she said.
Dodds added that raw honey is best because of its active, unprocessed properties but that infants, puppies, and kittens should not ingest it.
The best honey is the one made in your own community, “because those bees have made honey reacting to all the environmental things that we have in Southern California. So if you want to get the health benefits from raw honey, you should try to get local honey, and you can get that probably at the farmers market,” she said.
Other superfoods include mushrooms, especially the Oriental mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, shiitake, and maitake, which act as potent anti-cancer agents, according to Dodds. “These types of mushrooms are also anti-microbial and anti-diabetic,” she said.
Dodds’s list of superfoods and healthy supplements range from the familiar – ginger, raw apple cider vinegar, avocado, sprouted seeds, licorice, green and black tea – to the exotic – deer or elk velvet, green-lipped mussels, King of Bitters, boswellia, white kidney bean extract. She advised to look for these names in ingredients and supplements to get the most out of them.
Finally, there are foods that recharge and boost brain health and memory; like leafy green vegetables (spinach kale, mustard greens, collard greens); cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, broccoli); beans and legumes (lentils, green beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, peas); whole grains; nuts (macadamia nuts are toxic to pets); seeds (flax and hemp seeds); spices (like the potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial spice, turmeric); and berries and cherries.
“The only berry that pet animals should not eat is strawberry,” Dodds said.
More foods from Dodds to help brain memory and cognition includ eggs, kiwi fruit, quinoa, mercury-free salmon, sweet potatoes, coconut oil.
Dodds received the D.V.M. degree with honors in 1964 from the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Toronto. In 1965, she accepted a position as a Research Scientist with the New York State Health Department, where she began comparative studies of animals with inherited and acquired bleeding diseases. Eventually, her position culminated as chief at Laboratory of Hematology in Wadsworth Center. In 1980, she also became executive director of the New York State Council on Human Blood and Transfusion Services.
In 1986 Dodds moved to Southern California to establish Hemopet, the first nonprofit national blood bank program for animals. She has authored and co-authored two books and secured over a dozen patents related to animal health care and genetics.
In 2011, Dodds released NutriScan, a food sensitivity and intolerance diagnostic test for dogs that tests for twenty of the most commonly ingested foods.
For more information about Dodds and her business visit www.hemopet.org.