Intervertebral Disc Disease
The regular readers of DogtorJ.com already have this one figured out, Ill bet. Once the malabsorption syndrome that is taking place in the small intestine is understood, the resulting premature failure of the skeletal system components is pretty much a no-brainer, isn’t it? As the villi of the intestine become covered with the “glue” from the primary food allergens (cow milk, wheat, soy, and corn) and they start to undergo atrophy, the reduced absorption of calcium and vitamin C- the building blocks of collagen- results in poorly formed skeletal structures, including the intervertebral discs of the spine, ligaments of the knee, rotator cuffs of the shoulder, and even the hip sockets. Hip dysplasia anyone?
This concept of poorly absorbed skeletal building blocks explains much that is wrong with the person and their pet. We’re trying to build houses out of faulty bricks, aren’t we? Collagen makes up between 25- 35% of our body’s protein and makes up the matrix of our connective tissues and organs. Vitamin C is the most important substrate when it comes to the formation of collagen. We have been taught for years that the dog and cat make all of the vitamin C they need in their liver. Do they? Just look at the numerous examples of collagen failure- hip dysplasia and other juvenile bone diseases , collapsing trachea syndrome, heart valve abnormalities, polycystic kidneys, and disc problems. (For more on this, please read my paper on Ehlers- Danlos Syndrome.) The fact is that, in the species that can, vitamin C is made in the liver from glucose in a four step, enzyme-driven process. Enzymes require coenzymes, which are usually vitamins or minerals, all of which are absorbed by the small intestine. All roads do lead to Rome, don’t they?
The correlation of collagen failure to other disease conditions only serves to confirm our suspicions that the primary food allergens are behind it all. All the reader has to do is to look at the risk groups, in both pets and people, for intervertebral disc disease (and hip dysplasia) and the truth jumps right off the page.
In pets, the two breeds of dogs that start rupturing discs earlier than any other are the Cocker Spaniel and the Shi Tzu. They hold the record for blowing discs in their neck and back, with this syndrome beginning as early as one year of age in these two breeds. Yes, the male Shi Tzu and female Cocker are on record in our texts as having slipped discs as early as their first birthday. Wow! BUT, they also have another dubious distinction. They are two of the most food allergic dogs on the planet. Hmmm… (My regular readers are going “I knew it, I knew it!” Good for you.)
Yes, the pets with the worst allergies are nearly always the ones with the worst skeletal problems in general, including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OD of the shoulder, ruptured cruciate ligaments in the knee, and more. Celiacs (gluten intolerants) like my brother and I are very commonly afflicted with disc problems at an early age and later develop rotator cuff problems and bad knees. We also are notorious for having serious allergies, including multiple food allergies. The relationship is so easy to understand that anyone can see it…except for the average doctor, including myself for the first twenty years of my career. It is still amazing to me that something this important has taken so long to make its way into mainstream medical thought.
The primary food allergens- wheat, dairy, soy and corn- are the culprits in producing the damage that is taking place in the lining of the small intestine. During this inflammatory process (IBS anyone?), the allergies to those foods are initiated. The “warning antibody” (IgE) is formed and it goes off to the typical places in the body…the nose, ears, respiratory tract, skin, and gastrointestinal tract…to create the usual early warning symptoms of nasal congestion, itching, ear problems, and diarrhea to name a few. But at the same time, the intestinal damage is preventing the proper absorption of calcium, vitamin C, boron, and all of the other nutrients that I keep listing on this site. This leads to poorly formed skeletal structures such as spinal discs and joint-supporting ligaments and then later to one of our next topics, osteoporosis.
The bad news is that the process begins before birth in many cases. I like to remind people that we are born fully formed, just not fully developed. All of the ligaments, tendons, and bones are present at birth. What if the mother of a child (or litter) is food intolerant and having problems absorbing her vital nutrients while gestating her offspring? What if her offspring are also food intolerant (which they have a 40% chance of being in the case of celiac disease) and start malabsorbing their nutrients as soon as they start consuming dairy products (e.g. formulas), wheat, soy (e.g. formulas) and corn? Could these offspring be predisposed to skeletal abnormalities…or worse? Yes!
Now, why do the most food allergic breeds of dogs have the worst joint and back problems???