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By Jamie Stowell
12th August 2022

hemp, nature's superfood for digestive health

Reviewed by Dr Ailsa Rutherford
Friday 12th August 2022

Digestive health is a significant concern for many pet owners. Dogs especially can pick up bacteria and parasites when outside on their daily walks, which can lead to Inflammation in the gut. If left untreated, gut inflammation can spread to the pancreas and liver, causing damage that could seriously impair the entire immune function.

Your vet may prescribe a blander diet to help address certain digestive issues. Some pet food companies make vet specialist diets for pets with digestive health issues. Some people opt to cook their pet’s food. There is also a big movement towards feeding raw food only. Whatever you decide, home-cooked or raw, please consult your vet on the best way to approach it to ensure optimal nutrition and a well-balanced diet.

Nutritional supplements, including probiotics and hemp seed oil, can be very helpful in supporting and improving digestive health. In this article, we will take a closer look at hemp.

Hemp is a luscious plant, one of the many species of the Cannabis sativa plant family. It is believed to have originated in Central Asia, cultivated for fibre as early as 2800 BCE. There are also records of hemp being used as a botanical extract in the Mediterranean countries in the Middle Ages.

What’s so great about hemp?

Unlike its infamous distant cousin, Marijuana, hemp is not psychoactive, and it is therefore legal and perfectly safe for humans and pets.

The seed of the hemp plant is a natural superfood, widely recognised and praised for its high content of three polyunsaturated fatty acids found in the seeds:

  • Omega-6 – pro-inflammatory linolenic acid (LA) and anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – which regulate your pet’s immune response to viruses, parasites, infections, etc. and
  • Omega 3 -anti-inflammatory alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in hemp seed oil is 3:1, which is considered optimal for healthy body homeostasis. And it’s this ratio that promotes an adequate pro-inflammatory response to acute, short-term inflammation and an anti-inflammatory response to chronic, long-term inflammation.

While the effects of short-term acute inflammation can be easily reversed, long-term or chronic inflammation is highly damaging, and it can lead to serious illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, kidney disease, etc. Chronic gut inflammation will reduce microbiome diversity, damage the gut lining, and reduce your pet’s ability to properly metabolise or absorb the nutrients, leading to dangerous nutrient deficiencies.

Daily dietary supplementation with hemp seed oil can promote the good microbes in the gut flora, improving nutrients’ absorption and digestion. Furthermore, a review of studies suggests that GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) in hemp seed oil is effective in relieving symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Hemp seed is currently one of the few natural food sources of GLA available. For more information about the benefits of the unique and scarcely available gamma-linolenic acid, please read GLA – Hemp’s Secret Weapon.

Other abundantly present nutrients that make hemp seed a superfood for digestive health are amino acids, all essential minerals, high-quality fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and phytosterols.

Amino acids

Hemp seed oil contains all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein), including surprisingly high levels of arginine. Previous studies demonstrated that arginine administration in animals and humans with intestinal diseases could decrease intestinal injury, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and restore mucosal immune homeostasis in the gut[1].

Minerals

Hemp seeds are packed with all essential minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, and zinc.

  • Magnesium promotes bowel movement and helps reduce inflammation in the gut.
  • Selenium protects the lining of the gut and enhances its defence in response to inflammation.
  • Zinc supports the production of digestive enzymes, which are required to absorb and metabolise nutrients.
Vitamins B12 and Vitamin C

Adequate levels of B12 and vitamin C are critical for GI health. They also aid in iron absorption. Your pet’s gut bacteria need iron to function effectively, which is required for your healthy gut bacteria to grow.

Antioxidants

Hemp seed is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight inflammation in the gut. In one animal study, dietary vitamin E supplementation at 50 and 100 mg/kg significantly improved gut performance and intestinal structure, which also increased the activity of several digestive enzymes compared to that in animals without vitamin E supplementation (P<0.05).[2] 

Conclusion: the all-mighty combination of nutrients in hemp seed makes the oil extracted (cold-pressed) from the seed (hemp seed oil) an excellent dietary health supplement to support and improve your pet’s gut health.

At BUDDYPET, we recommend Marley for adult dogs and Milly for seniors.

Marley is 100% raw, cold-pressed hemp seed oil from Tasmania. Milly is a delicious blend of our Tasmanian hemp seed oil and turmeric.

Hemp Seed Protein – A Delicious, Natural Prebiotic for Digestive Health

The gut microbiome is a mini-universe with billions of living organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.), which all perform specific functions in exchange for shelter and nutrients. One of these crucial functions is regulating the immune response to inflammation.

Naturally, any breakdowns in how this complex universe operates will hurt the immune system. Poor diet, antibiotics, toxins, stress, and infections can devastate the gut microbial diversity and balance.

So, one thing we want to do for our beloved friends is to help them build a rich terrain in their gut, where the good bacteria will want to live, populate and flourish. We can’t eliminate the bad ones completely, but we can reduce them to a quiet minority.

The task of microbiome diversity comes into an even bigger focus with ageing pets as the microbial diversity tends to decrease with age, thus weakening your pet’s immune response to fight oxidative stress accumulated over their lifetime and the resulting chronic inflammation.

Thus, we want to promote microbial diversity and reduce inflammation to achieve good gut health.

Microbial diversity can be achieved by feeding your pet a high-quality, nutrient-rich and diverse diet. You can also add probiotic (friendly bacteria) supplements to their food.

It’s best to get probiotics from your vet to ensure the product is from a reputable lab, rigorously tested and correctly stored. Some companies also offer probiotics as part of snacks and treats, but there is always a question of how the heat treatment may have impacted the survival of the bacteria, given its sensitivity to high temperatures.

Another simple way to get more probiotics into your pup’s diet is probiotic-rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut and some cheeses – foods that have gone through the process of fermentation that creates microbial growth.

Why is fibre important for your pet’s gut health?

Fibre, a prebiotic, is the preferred food of the microbes in your pet’s gut. For a healthy gut, not only that you need a large and diverse population of microbes, but also to feed them well to keep them happy so that they live long and prosper and perform all the functions that they are there for.

Fibre-rich foods are usually plants – leafy greens, root vegetables (beets, pumpkin, carrots), beans (chickpea, garbanzo) and seeds (hemp, flax).

BUDDYPET Cooper, a blend of Tasmanian hemp seed protein and chickpea flour, is a wonderful addition to your pet’s diet to support their gut health by feeding and nurturing their precious microbiome.

For more information on digestive health, read Ten Ways to Improve Your Dog’s Health Naturally and Ten Superfoods for Pets.

 

[1]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01716/full#:~:text=L%2Darginine%20has%20presented%20great,by%20coccidia%20in%20broiler%20chickens.

[2] https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/etm.2017.5295#:~:text=Dietary%20vitamin%20E%20supplementation%20at,supplementation%20(P%3C0.05).

 

 

Photo by T.R Photography on Unsplash

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