Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Feeding for the Comfort Zone
Whether your horse is a high-performance athlete, a younger horse in training, or an older horse that is getting a little creaky, there are times when muscle strain and inflammation flare up and we reach for the anti-inflammatory NSAIDs. Agility dogs, working dogs, dogs that played too hard at the park, senior dogs getting stiffer—all of them may need NSAIDs.
Time was, I just reached for Bute without thinking. If my horse was a little sore, I gave him Bute. Then we learned how Bute affects the GI tract, increasing the potential for gastric ulcers or colitis, along with other potential impacts on the liver and kidneys.
Ancient healing foods:
There are times when medications like Bute and Banamine are a necessity, and thank goodness we have them. Yet, there are often times when we can support our horses and dogs through muscle soreness, foot syndrome, and arthritic discomfort with specific plants: turmeric, boswellia and bromelain.
Boswellia has been used as medicine and incense in religious and cultural ceremonies for thousands of years. It is often referred to as Indian Frankincense. Boswellia is actually a tree that grows in dry mountainous regions of India, Northern Africa and the Middle East. It is the resin from this tree that is used for medicine and aromatherapy.
It has been said that ancient Ayurvedic healers discovered Boswellia and its benefits by watching elephants eat the tree and the resin. Traditional Ayurvedic texts recommend Boswellia for arthritis, diarrhea, ringworm, skin and blood diseases, jaundice and liver support. Modern medicine and pharmacology strongly point to its use as an anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and hepato-protective (liver supportive) resin.
Boswellia works through very different mechanisms than NSAIDs. Most of the drugs to reduce inflammation in dogs and horses function as COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme inhibitors. Boswellia works by inhibiting lipoxgenase (LOX) enzymes, which are powerful contributors to inflammation and pain. By inhibiting LOX enzymes, Boswellia blocks leukotriene synthesis. Leukotrienes play a major role in promoting a range of diseases including joint problems and intestinal disorders.
Boswellia also can inhibit the breakdown of connective tissues by tumor necrosis factor alpha, a potent inflammatory agent in the body.
The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4,000 years to the Ayurvedic culture in India, where it was revered as holy powder. It is also known as Indian saffron. Tumeric is a product of Curcuma longa, a rhizomatous perennial plant that belongs to the ginger family. Turmeric is derived from the rhizome of the plant: the roots.
Traditionally turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen the overall energy of the body, relieve gas, improve digestion, treat sprains and swelling, and relieve arthritis. Some South Asian countries use it as an antiseptic for cuts and burns. In Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent and as a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort.
Modern in vitro studies reveal that turmeric is a potent antioxidant, anti- inflammatory, and antimicrobial. There are nearly 7,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles published that evaluate turmeric’s effectiveness; the feedback from the research community highlights that curcumin may hold some profound healing benefits for the body.
How turmeric works to counteract inflammation
More than 100 components have been identified in turmeric, and chief among them is curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit both the activity and synthesis of COX-2 and 5-LOX (5-Lipooxygenase) as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation. Curcumin can target tumor necrosis factor (TNF), thereby reducing the potential damage to joint cartilage and other tissues.
A study on mice showed that curcumin provided a 50-percent reduction in edema, which was nearly as effective as cortisone and phenylbutazone at similar doses.
Turmeric root powder needs fat for bioavailability. However curcumin extracts from turmeric need black pepper for higher curcumin levels in the body. The challenge with black pepper is that it can be a potent inhibitor of drug medication metabolism.
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme from the stems of pineapples. Indigenous to South America, the pineapple was cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs. Bromelain has been traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agent, and is still used in Europe to reduce post-operative pain and swelling.
The anti-inflammatory effect of bromelain comes from its ability to prevent the formation of kinins, which are potent hormone-like autacoids involved in inflammatory, vascular and pain processes. Bromelain also mediates prostaglandin levels.
A review of clinical trials on bromelain showed the compound to be more effective than the NSAID diclofenac in relieving arthritis and osteoarthritis pain. Bromelain is measured in GDUs (gelatin digesting units). Similar to the CFUs in viable probiotics, GDUs tell us how active or potent the bromelain is. Look for a minimum rating of 2,000 GDUs.
Putting it all together:
If you don’t want to go out and hunt down each individual ingredient, BioStar puts it all together in Comfort Zone Ultra EQ and Comfort Zone Ultra K9. We use coconut oil for the fat needed by turmeric root, plus pumpkin seeds for the magnesium content that helps alleviate sore muscles. The supportive foods in this supplement include papayas, carrots, apples and bananas for their antioxidant support and phytonutrient content.
Comfort Zone Ultra can be given as needed, or on a daily basis. This flexibility allows you to support your horse with the anti-inflammatory properties of Comfort Zone Ultra after a hard training session, a challenging jump school, or a longer than normal trail ride. You can also give this supplement daily, for horses that are creaky or have some arthritic changes in a joint. It is also beneficial for horses with chronic foot discomfort like foot syndrome or navicular disease.