Smorgasbord Pet Health – Massage for your pet that benefits you too.


I first posted a version of this early last year and as part of an ongoing process of resharing those that might now find a new audience, here it is………

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I first discovered that Sam our rough collie enjoyed a massage when he was still only a few weeks old. I would lie on the floor on my side and he would come and lie down in my arms resting his head on my shoulder while I gently massaged his shoulders, back and down his legs. He would fall asleep and be totally calm and relaxed when he woke up.

Even when he was ten years older and weighed 40 kilos he still loved his daily massage. Whilst out on our daily walks he would run in front of me and almost somersault into a prone position.   A rolling eye was the clear invitation for me to begin a laying on of hands and he would be more than content to lie there for 20 minutes receiving this lavish attention.

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His favourite spot for his spa treatment, was down on the beach front, under the trees in the late afternoon with a lovely sea breeze cooling him down. Now tell me it’s a dog’s life.

In fact his massages benefited me too. Apart from laughing at his antics as he threw himself to the ground in his attempts to get his massage, after only a few minutes of working to relax his muscles a number of physical changes would be occurring in my own body. Heart rate would decrease, as well as blood pressure levels. Muscles would relax and after about 20 minutes I would be as relaxed as Sam was. Apart from the carpal tunnel syndrome that is.

As an added benefit, if you begin this massage routine when your dog or cat is young, you will find that it strengthens the bonds between you as well as offers another way to communicate.  If your pet is not well you will be able to spot this much quicker if you have built up trust in your touch..

As dogs and cats get older they don’t move around as much and a daily massage can be very effective in preventing stiffening joints and muscle strains. You need to be aware of a few social dos and don’ts when massaging a pet, particularly if your dog or cat rules the roost and thinks you are taking liberties. A mother animal uses the skin of the back of the neck, not only to carry her young but also to chastise. Gently massaging this spot releases endorphins in the same way as they would have been released during their very early weeks but they can also see this as an effort to dominate them. If you watch dogs meeting on a walk, one will always try to put his neck over the other animal’s to tell him who is the boss.

Massage techniques are very similar to acupuncture in as much as they stimulate certain energy points and channels in the animal and release pain relieving endorphins into its system. There are some very simple ways to ensure that both you and your pet get the most out of what can be a very relaxing and rewarding experience.

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First choose a place that you are both going to be comfortable. Don’t lie on the floor if getting up is going to cause more damage to you than you need. Perhaps if you normally share some quality time on the sofa in the evening, or perhaps when you are out in the garden or on a walk where you can let you dog off the lead safely away from distractions or traffic.

You can sit down and have them sit between your legs with their back to you. Start gently moving your hands down from their neck along their spine to the tail. Apply gentle pressure and you will soon know if your pet is enjoying the sensation as they will usually push back into your hands.

You know your pet well, some do not like their heads being touched, but most love to have a gentle movement from above the eyes, over the head and down to the neck. The velvet edges just on the inside of the ears are also a favourite spot and will also reflect different areas of the body that are being affected. Also as in humans the area each side of the neck gets tense and a gentle massage either side is bliss for them.

If they are lying on their side you can gently take their leg in one hand and with the other gently run your hand down the front side and backside of their leg. When you are moving your hands across your pet’s body learn to feel areas that are either hotter than anywhere else or produce a reaction in your pet. This could be an indication, particularly around the joint areas that there is some arthritis or inflammation that you need to take care of.

If you pet begins to hiss or snarl then leave your hand gently in place and let them settle. Avoid that particular spot and begin to massage another area that is less sensitive such as the length of the spine. This may be an indication that there is a problem in that area and a visit to the vet might be in order.

Regulate your breathing so that it is deep and slow and make your movements slow and deliberate. You can use your fingers gently to relax any particular knots that you find but do make sure you are very gentle. If you are feeling stressed and irritated do not think about massaging your pet. They pick up on it and will be stressed to. Sam was very partial to music at any time including on long car journeys when he slept soundly all the time it was playing and often waking up and complaining if it stopped! Soothing music and low lights are not only for romantic evenings with your partner they also encourage your other pets to relax too.

My advice is to start slowly. Each day spend a little longer rubbing and massaging your pet.

Do not massage an animal straight after it has eaten it needs to digest its food and needs a couple of hours of quiet time. Do not massage the back and stomach of a pregnant dog or cat because you might induce premature labour. You might find like mums in labour that they enjoy having their feet rubbed gently.

You may find that you simply have to ask other members of the family to take on the therapy if you are too busy and as you can see they too will have just the right touch.

Hope that you found this useful and thanks for stopping by.

 

Smorgasbord Health – Vitamin of the Week – B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) – Cell health, DNA and Sleep


smorgasbord health

We are now coming to the end of the B vitamins and I hope that you will have found them an interesting group of nutrients that are so essential to our health both physically and mentally. B12 is no exception and certainly for those of us in our 60s it is one of the vitamins we need to make sure we are taking in sufficient amounts in our food. Since B12 is primarily in eggs, dairy products and offal it is restrictive, especially as so many ‘experts’ tell you to stop eating them because of the impact on your cholesterol levels and waistline. I disabused that myth in the series on cholesterol which is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies and necessary for some pretty major operations such as brain function.

This week I am going to be posting the series on stress as I have had a number of questions on the B vitamins role in this response to our lives. That starts tomorrow and through the rest of the week.

 Vitamin B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) is an essential water-soluble vitamin but unlike other water soluble vitamins that are normally excreted in urine very quickly, B12 accumulates and gets stored in the liver (around 80%), kidney and body tissues. B12 is vital for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover as it prevents cell degeneration. It functions as a methyl donor and works with folic acid in the manufacture of DNA and red blood cells and also is necessary to maintain the health of the insulating sheath (myelin sheath) that surrounds all nerve cells. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to new time zones, and also helps us sleep.

The most common disease associated with B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia, which is characterised by large, immature red blood cells. But other diseases and medical conditions associated with a lack of this vitamin are allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, cancer depression, AIDS, low blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus and low sperm counts.

HOW DO WE BECOME DEFICIENT IN B12?

We actually do not need a huge amount of the vitamin per day, around 2 micrograms or 2millionth of a gram. The problem is that it is not particularly well absorbed by the body so larger amounts are needed in the diet to supply the amount we need. Absorption of B12 requires the secretion from the cells lining the stomach of a glycoprotein, known as the intrinsic factor. The B12-intrinsic factor is then absorbed into the ileum (part of the small intestine) with calcium.

One of the issues regarding deficiencies is that many people have turned away from the richest sources of B12 because they believe either that they are harmful, fattening or will raise levels of cholesterol. Liver, kidneys and eggs have not enjoyed wonderful press over the last few years and many people have also reduced the amount of cheese they eat believing that it is fattening.

Plant sources of B12 are virtually non-existent and many long term and dedicated vegetarians have been found to be deficient. Over use of antacids, inflammation of the stomach lining (Helicobacter pylori infection) and pancreatic problems can also lead to deficiency as the secretion of the intrinsic factor is compromised. There is some evidence that women with breast cancer have lower levels of B12 and there are indications that women after menopause with very low levels were more likely to develop the disease. It is not clear if the deficiency is caused by the cancer in the body or the other way around.

Some drugs have inhibited the uptake of B12 such as those prescribed for diabetes and ulcers and there is a great deal of research into these interactions.

As we age our ability to process our foods becomes less effective with enzyme production reduced such as the secretion of the intrinsic factor necessary for B12 absorption. Added to the fact that many elderly people suffer from a lack of appetite and you have a higher risk of malnutrition.

An interesting piece of research proposes that it is possible that Vitamin E may protect the process of absorption of B12 by preventing oxidative damage to cell membranes. If so a deficiency in this vitamin may well affect our B12 levels.

WHAT FOOD SOURCES ARE THERE FOR B12?

 B12 is present in meats apart from offal, eggs and dairy products. It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.   There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

Eating foods containing Vitamin E may help the absorption process and the best sources for this are in nuts such as the walnuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, eggs, spinach, apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, onions and oily fish.

Most cereals and breads today are fortified with B12 as are yeast extracts (marmite) and vegetarian products.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Coming up tomorrow the start of the Stress Series…thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share. Also if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Thanks Sally

 

Change – Part Three – Emotional fluctuations.

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In the last two posts I looked at the physical and mental changes that take place as part of a natural process and with our voluntary contribution. Today I am looking at some of the factors involved in our changing emotional responses through our lifetime that are hardwired and those that change with the influence of time and our experiences.

First a look at a couple of the hard-wired emotional responses that are activated by the chemical and hormonal balances in our brains and other organs.

Oxytocin is a neuromodulator in the brain that is stored in our master controller the Hypothalamus and then released by the posterior pituitary gland. In essence it is one of the most powerful triggers of emotions in humans and a primary trigger for some of our instinctive behaviour.

Whilst we may aim to be doctors, authors, space explorers or musicians, our bodies from before birth are programmed to do two things as well as possible. Survive as long into our possible lifespan as we can and to reproduce.

To this end at various times in our life cycle the brain will either increase or decrease levels of hormones that regulate both the development of certain cells and organs and also our fertility.

Oxytocin plays a large part in this process and in particular at that moment before birth as a baby prepares to enter the harsh environment that is life. The release of Oxytocin makes for a smoother birth for both mother and baby and it also facilitates that magical and so vital first moments of bonding. This includes encouraging milk production and a baby’s ability to suckle aided by the instinctive need by a new-born to obtain essential immune boosting and detoxing elements of his mother’s milk, Colostrum.

A baby’s entire system has to be kick started gently to avoid undue stress and another very important role of colostrum is to cleanse the new-born’s body of any toxic build-up within the first few hours and days. None of this would be possible if the oxytocin had not been released during the last stages of pregnancy, during delivery and bonding.

So that is the first time that our body will regulate our emotions with the release of a chemical enhancer. Oxytocin however has been shown to have an effect on our emotions as we grow and develop as it is at certain times released into the parts of the brain that are responsible for our emotional, reasoning and social behaviour.

There is some research that indicates that in fact the release of oxytocin could also be responsible for anti-social behaviour in the form of instinctive rejection of outsiders and aggressive behaviour. This may however also be linked to a break in the natural chain of events at childbirth where perhaps a baby is removed before it has a chance to bond with its mother and then is brought up without the accepted form of nurturing.

A baby will act on instinctive behaviour that can seem to be a voluntary emotional response but is actually nature’s way of keeping it safe. For example we know how powerful and piercing a baby’s cry can be and in fact it is at a pitch that makes every woman of child bearing years in the immediate vicinity leap into action! There are many parenting advice columns that are happy to tell you to pick up the baby, ignore it, roll over and let your partner deal with, feed or change its nappy. It can be tough for a new parent to understand the variations of yelling and screaming that a new-born baby can utter but each has its own distinct meaning.

The one clear message is that the baby wants your attention and it wants it now….

Before being able to use language a baby will use verbal and non-verbal communication to make its feelings known. The terrible twos are an example where frustration and emotional intensity can become more voluntary as a baby begins to understand the power of manipulation to achieve an end result.. This is also a great time to bring in gentle but also persuasive strategies to encourage a more social element to a young child such as socialising with other children of a similar age where another form of bonding takes place and a better understanding of how to deal with your peers.

Children begin to identify objects with words and slowly language builds. Emotional responses die down accordingly and as a child goes to school, learns more and works within a group and has other adults to emulate more voluntary emotional behaviour develops.

Social etiquette is one thing but for many children this can also be a time when their natural personality can be repressed. Discipline is needed within a social environment so that we can exist side by side peacefully. Thankfully we have moved past the very strict discipline environment of schools 40 to 50 years ago but there are some who feel we have moved too far the other way.

Then we hit the teenage years when the sex hormones such as progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone begin to be released, maturing our reproductive organs and throwing both brain and body out of whack until our early 20s. To parents who have been through this phase with their offspring I probably do not have to say too much more.

After about 24 years old things settle down again except for women who have babies and are affected by the oxytocin during and after pregnancy. There might also be postpartum depression caused by the reduction in oestrogen and progesterone, physical and emotional changes following the birth and in some cases the stresses resulting from being a parent of a new baby. Women until their 50s are also subject to monthly hormonal changes that can have a very powerful effect on emotions at certain times of the month.

Then comes a gap until we hit our mid-40s when there is again a change in our hormonal make up. Changes begin to take place in our bodies and it can lead to a period of time when emotions fluctuate. The good news is that after about 55 for both men and women the instinctive drive to reproduce subsides as the hormonal balance reaches its new level which will last the rest of our lives.

This is not to say that you cannot fall in love, enjoy a physical relationship or feel all the normal range of emotions. It does mean that there is room for more voluntary participation in the process.

Although our hormone levels decrease in middle age they are still produced in other tissues of the body such as the adrenal glands. This means that new lovers will still be affected by oxytocin and in fact it is still as important in bonding between two adults as it is between a mother and child.

FEAR

Fear is an instinctive emotion that then triggers the body to produce a chemical response. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland as a response to the recognition by your mind or your body that something is dangerous, stressful or exciting. It is the body’s natural way of giving you the strength to deal with an extraordinary event. Honed over many thousands of years it is usually referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’

Adrenaline acts fast, it dilates our airways and blood vessels to make sure that oxygen is available to either face the danger head on or run like hell.. In the early stages of our evolution this reaction was probably activated regularly as we tried to survive a hostile environment. However, our modern lifestyle may not have rampaging herds of mammoths or cave lions but we do have the equivalents. I cover this in more detail in a series of blogs on stress.

Stress is not always bad as it makes life interesting but it becomes dangerous when it is so frequent your adrenal glands are pumping out adrenaline constantly. This leads to serious health and mental issues.

This requires the intervention of voluntary emotional responses that calm the body’s instinctive reactions. It might involve taking more exercise, changing diet, lifestyle choices and sometimes jobs and relationships. This takes us onto our voluntary emotional responses.

Voluntary Emotions.

As I mentioned earlier it is clear that we all learn from experience with regard to both the emotion that we offer others and also what we will accept.

We build walls, boundaries, create rules, push away, avoid and develop other strategies that we feel will protect us from past events and hurt. We learn behaviours that we reinforce time after time verbally. For example: ‘Nobody would find me attractive anyway’- ‘I am happy as I am alone’ – ‘I prefer to keep myself to myself’ Etc. I have also seen physical barriers created to prevent emotional involvement. Obesity can be a great way to distance yourself from relationships as can wearing drab clothes and a plain appearance.

It is a complicated business and I have experienced this type of emotional behaviour myself. The one thing that has become clearer as I have got older is that no one person reacts the same way to events or trauma and that at best you can only generalise. Pain in the form of loss of some kind is very hard to overcome and many times we feel that we cannot open ourselves up to that again.

Instinctively we want to belong to a family or group and that is hardwired. It is therefore our own voluntary actions which prevent that from happening.

If you find yourself saying that you are lonely, nobody calls you, you find it hard to make new friends, you are bored, then perhaps it is time to think about how you might be putting up barriers to prevent interactions with others. And even though online relationships may lack that face to face element, they are no less valid and certainly I have known people who have gone on to meet people they have met online and to enjoy great relationships both platonic and romantic. If necessary do find someone qualified to talk to as it may be that discussing with those close to you is uncomfortable and may raise even more issues. Try to find someone who is recommended or referred by your doctor.  Not all counsellors are created equal!

Listening to our instinctive intuition and taking into account common sense regarding our own safety means that we can change our voluntary emotional responses and perhaps get a great deal more out of life.  It is an old adage, but life is really far too short to spend hidden from all that it has to offer.

©SallyGeorginaCronin2014

Photos abclawcentres.com, victorygardeninginitiative.org. and growingbolder.com

Links to the two previous posts on change and the directory for stress.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/change-3-part-series/
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/stress/