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Nutrition Implications: Fact or Myth

As a veterinarian, I have to confess that after almost 20 years of clinical practice, I failed many of my patients due to lack of knowledge about proper nutrition. Being a student in veterinary school, honestly, there was not much focus on nutrition.  In some courses, there was mention of various nutrients, but not much pressure to use the diet as a tool to aid in disease management and recovery.  The good news is that after all of those years, I did ‘wake up’ and realize the importance and today, my approaches are much different for myself, our pets and those horses that I have contact with on a daily basis.   It wasn’t always this way and I discover more each day, which can be exciting!

The beginnings of Nouvelle Research, Inc. stem from my own personal realization on how my poor dietary habits played into my own health crisis.  In those days of hard practice, I was a junkfood fanatic, relying on fast food often each day to keep me going as a result of my daily schedule.  It was a train wreck just waiting to happen.  I can go on and on about my own health situation, but in reality, most people know the truth and how diet plays into how we feel each day and how our health measures up, but for some reason we either have a hard time implementing it or we are misguided as to what we truly consume.

We can read articles stating that the majority of Americans are not obtaining the RDA levels of various vitamins and minerals on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hit home or we don’t think it applies to us.  We can also read how we are consuming too many of the wrong fats or too many carbs or too little protein, but again, it doesn’t register for some reason.  Many times, we need examples to guide us and demonstrate the impact potential of a correct diet.

One of our prime examples of nutrition are the horses in the rehab program, as they are often true testaments. Sure, many will say that they are just horses and the example does not apply to us, as humans, but in fact it does.  How, you ask?  Allow me to explain.

Horses are unique animals and being domesticated, their lifestyle often becomes reflective of our own as people.  Our stress feeds off onto them.  Our dietary habits and routines transfer, as we often feed them at set times to meet our schedule and convenience, which is not compliant with their physiology.  In the end, their performance is often a reflection of us, as owners, trainers and riders.  The results and outcomes are dependent on how we understand them as animals and our level of knowledge in nutrition.

Seeing as how this is the case, the majority of horses that are presented into our rehabiliation program are injured on one level or another, really not battling anything different than the average human on a daily basis.  Some have joint injuries, tendon injuries, a back that is sore, energy problems or even emotional disturbances.  Nothing the average human doesn’t encounter, just a different species with more weight and longer legs.  Well, there are more differences, but you see the point.  

When these horses are admitted, many of them have been fed various commercial diets that are highly processed.  The hays they are given are often low in nutrional value for various reasons, they are under huge amounts of stress, they are often on synthetic vitamin/mineral supplements and other products to reduce the side effects of stress, including stomach ulcer medications.  The majority have injuries that have been evaluated and managed with medications and injections with no positive change, which has resulted in their retirement from competition.  

When they are settled into our program, we start with a clean slate.  They are fully evaluated with a physical exam, lameness evaluation, bloodwork and other tests.  They are allowed to be a horse and ‘de-stress’, which is a huge factor.  Their shoes are pulled with a barefoot trim applied.  They are taken off of commercial processed feeds and instead placed on whole cereal grains, blended by hand in addition to high quality hay and given access to full pasture. Many are also placed on a whole food supplement, in the form of Spirulina, Alfalfa and Flax to provide vitamins, minerals and macronutrients in their natural forms. Our Cur-OST® formulas are applied on an individual basis, providing whole herbal extracts to manage inflammatory problems that have risen over time. The goal here is not to just address that particular injury, but to feed the body correctly, in the hope that once cellular performance is enhanced, the rest will follow.  

What is the outcome?

In most instances, the horses are positively impacted on many levels within 30 days with reduction in lameness, healing of injuries, improvement in behavioral issues and enhancement in overall energy and stamina.  Most are returned back into riding in less than 60 days and enjoy their work, but there are some that have such severe injuries that riding is not an option unfortunately. Despite this, those horses are very comfortable and ambulate about with a very good quality of life.  Many of these horses have their original injuries resolve in a short period of time and continue forward on a high plane of nutrition along with targeted herbal therapy to manage various cellular pathways specific for that horse.

To be honest, sometimes I am stunned at how well these horses are doing given their situation or injury.  It is truly amazing even in my own eyes, but it is a work in progress with each one.

The point here is that recovery is possible and quality of life can be improved.  It is not just supplementation, but the use of various foods and herbs to supply nutrition, which helps the body to heal and become restored.  There are no medications used in these patients.  They are just given what they need to heal and mend, whether if that is through diet or environmental changes.

Nutrition is the key and I can say this after many years of research and clinical experience.  It is not about ‘curing’ a specific disease, but more so about realizing what caused or contributed to the development of that condition.  We are essentially a machine and we require various nutrients for optimal performance.  Seeing this, we also need to understand that various factors quickly deplete our body of those nutrients, which include mental and physical stress.  Being essentially a machine, the body needs to be fed properly in order to maintain cellular health. If this is not accomplished adequately, especially taking into consideration added stressors on the body, problems will develop.  Guaranteed.  It doesn’t matter if we are referring to a horse, a pet or YOU.

People hear the word “nutrition’ and just think of vitamins, minerals and other macronutrients, but it is bigger than this.  The nutrient value is very important, but there are other benefits such as the ability of certain foods and herbs to impact negative cellular pathways that contribute to health problems. This becomes even more imporant as we realize these negative pathways are further activated as a result of daily stress, overweight body condition and influences of a poor diet. We can get even deeper into the topic when discussing whole food nutrition versus synthetic vitamin/mineral supplements.

If we get back to our rehab horses and see the positive changes produced through nutrition and targeted herbal therapy, it becomes apparent that many of these conditions could have been potentially avoided if this approach was used preventatively.  

So, why don’t we do this?  Why don’t we put more emphasis on nutrition for ourselves, our pets and our horses?  There are many reasons and first comes lack of understanding.  We don’t fully understand what we are eating and what we are feeding to our pets and horses.  We think we are doing well, based on what others are doing or recommendations, but in reality, maybe we aren’t. The second reason is that most view nutrition as being expensive.  We all have budgets and often sacrifices are made in the diet to help shave costs. If we do this, however, we must accept the potential consequences. The third reason, and possibly the most important, is that we may actually be misled by those we look to for information, which is a result of ignorance.  I don’t use this term as a matter of offense, but more so as a reflection of a lack of understanding.  So many seem to put more importance on the need for pharmaceuticals than the need for nutrition. Almost as if there is a perceived deficiency of pharmaceuticals more so than micro and macronutrients.

A high plane of nutrition is not cheap, but one has to look at the benefits and potential savings in the long term.  What if you would stay healthier and required fewer medications or vists to the doctor each year.  What if through a high plane of nutrition your horse competed better and remained healthier and sounder without need for costly veterinary visits and ‘tune ups’? How much could you potentially save?

Most people view this approach as expensive often because they are applying other techniques that are costing them money monthly, but not producing good results.  Maybe you are already taking or using other supplements, but can’t appreciate benefits.  If this is the case, which often it is, I tell people they need to start with a clean slate.  The reason being that if someone is still seeking a solution to a health challenge after taking mounds of supplements each month, then they need to realize that those particular supplements may not be the answer and there may be a simpler approach.

There is much talk about Non-GMO and use of Organics, which is commendable, but sometimes we need to be even more simple and just apply nutrition.  It is to me, like telling a person that needs to exercise to go run the Boston Marathon, when really they just need to start with walking a few blocks each day.  Many times, we just need to improve the diet and it takes baby steps, not huge leaps.

The health and even soundness changes that proper nutrition can bring are incredible, but it can require huge changes and effort in the beginning.  At Nouvelle Research, Inc., we are here to help and it is through education that the journey gets started.


All my best,

Tom Schell, D.V.M.

Nouvelle Research, Inc.

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