No More Dairy

My doctor told me this week that I should give up dairy products. This was quite a blow, since I love all things dairy. I love toast slathered in butter, cheese sandwiches, desserts in pools of cream.  One of my earliest memories is being caught by my mother with my fingers in the butter. But in order for my nasal medication to have the best chance of working, I have to cut out, or at least radically cut down, on dairy foods.

The whole subject of diet is such a minefield, rife with contradictions. I have always been an advocate of eating anything you fancy, in moderation, including as much variety as possible. Now my doctor says that dairy proteins are quite a foreign to humans, in evolutionary, biological terms. Milk is meant to feed baby cows. When we ingest it, the body isn’t ideally equipped to deal with it, leading to some quite adverse effects. Yet milk is considered healthy for kids because of the calcium (and the protein). I suppose when we reach adulthood we can sometimes develop an intolerance.

I am at the point now where I am almost constantly blocked up, especially at night when I often find I can’t breathe at all.  So I wake up and pace about. This is very disruptive to my sleep and leaves me with a headache all day.  It can’t continue, so I am being sensible and embracing the new regime.

The new regime consists of non-dairy alternatives to what I am used to eating. So at breakfast, instead of cereal with loads of milk, or yoghurt on muesli, I have some cooked plums, apples and raisins in a sort of syrupy compote, on muesli, maybe with a banana.  At lunchtime, instead of the usual cheese salad sandwich (which included butter!), I am having a salad or a wrap of beans and feta cheese, or beans and tuna or smoked mackerel. At dinner time, I am cutting out creamy pasta sauces and cheese sauces.

I have stopped eating bread altogether, because I will only spread loads of butter on it. For snack time, which is the danger zone for me, I have stocked up with plain mixed nuts. As for tea and coffee, I don’t much like coffee anyway and can only take it with lots of milk and sugar.  So I can quite easily give up coffee.  I drink a lot of tea but I only have a drop of milk in it.  So it’s a small step to having black tea. Fortunately I quite like Chinese teas like Pai Mu Tan, so it’s time to get the teapot out again.

I’m feeling very motivated at the moment because I really want to breathe properly and sleep well again. Ultimately if there is no significant improvement they will offer me surgery to widen the nasal passages. In fact they offered me this surgery 3 years ago but I declined because it seemed a bit radical at the time.

Still, I am not going to obsess over this.  If I fancy a bit of cheese on top of my spag bol, I will have some. And the occasional butter shortbread biscuit is not going to guilt-trip me. Who knows, I might even shift a bit of weight.

If anyone has any suggestions of non-dairy snacks or recipes please let me know!

Til next time,

L x

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Raw Feeding my Cats

I started raw feeding my cats in January 2011. There was no dramatic reason for the switch. It was just that the more I learned about raw feeding, the more it made sense.

I first read about raw feeding cats on a forum. Switching to feeding raw had very quickly cured a nasty case of cystitis in a cat, where vet-recommended food and medication had persistently failed. As someone who had never thought to question a vet’s judgement, this was fascinating and I wanted to find out more about it.

At that time I had two young kittens, Larry and Monty, and my elderly cat Barney. The kittens were on top quality kitten kibble (ha! that’s what I genuinely thought at the time).  Old Barney was on ‘senior’ kibble, and had been mostly kibble-fed all of his life. I had always fed my cats dry food, from the ‘better’ brands like James Wellbeloved and Iams. None of the cheap and nasty Go-Cat or supermarket’s own brand stuff. I believed the blurb on the packaging and I believed that was a good diet for them. In 20 years of cat ownership, no-one, including vets, had ever suggested to me that it might not be the best option for my cats’ health. After all, my cats were perfectly healthy. Or were they?

Looking into raw feeding, the same stories came up over and over again. Switching to raw had miraculously cured all manner of niggling health problems which conventional veterinary medicine could not alleviate. A good raw diet had even stabilised the health of cats with more serious conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, bladder infections, allergies, and dental issues. On top of this, it was claimed, fur became softer, silkier, less matted; teeth cleaner; poop did not smell any more and there was less of it; cats had more energy and zest for life.

Well this just sounded amazing. But what really gave me the push to switch, the real eureka moment for me was this. The top two causes of death in the domestic cat are cancer and kidney failure. I knew this. Every cat owner knows that lots of cats die of kidney failure. Very common. And cancer. Look at my own past cats. Kibble-fed. Died relatively young of: cancer, and, uh, kidney failure. Hang on a minute! Had I been responsible for shortening their lives via their dry food diet? It was a devastating thought.

Of course, this was speculation. There is no way I can know for sure if long-term kibble feeding had caused their deaths. I had to conclude though, that it must have played a part. The idea that I might have given them a longer, better quality of life by simply feeding them a better diet was a terrible revelation to me.

So I set about making the transition to a raw diet. I found that there was a lot of useful information out there and friendly raw feeding groups for cats. An invaluable resource was (and still is) the Feline Nutrition and Education Society, founded by Margaret Gates. I wish I had found this site first. It is so comprehensive and well-written, and it answered all of my questions.

Larry’s turkey drumstick

Fortunately, Larry and Monty didn’t need much persuasion to switch to raw. In fact, Monty was wild about it. He thinks he is a wild animal, after all. It was hilarious seeing him with a chicken wing. Lots of melodramatic growling. He never growled over his kibble. As they are young, I didn’t see a dramatic difference in their health or appearance. But their poop was easier to cope with: less of it, dry, and almost odourless. There is very little waste matter with raw.

Monty’s turkey drumstick

Barney, however, was a different story. The change in him was unbelievable. As a kibble junkie with bad teeth, it took much longer to get him fully onto raw. But even before he was fully transitioned, he had more energy, softer, shinier fur, and cleaner teeth. He was up and about and in our faces just like when he was a young cat. He started to jump onto chairs and laps again. He looked and acted like a cat half his age. It was wonderful to see.

Barney

Sadly I discovered that raw feeding carries a lot of controversy and not everyone would accept what I was doing or my reasons for doing it. It is still a hot and sometimes heated topic on many forums. For me it always comes down to this. The domestic cat is a carnivore, 100%. Cats are not able to digest vegetable matter or carbohydrates. They rely on meat, meat, meat (i.e., meat, bone and organs, in the correct ratio) for their nutrition. Just like the big cats. So why is commercial cat food so often more than 50% vegetable matter, and the meat protein of such questionable quality? No wonder feline health problems abound. And typically, this poor quality, species-inappropriate food is promoted by vets who should know better. There are powerful commercial interests at stake here.

Till next time,

L x