In my ever ongoing search for ways to keep my dogs happy, healthy, and with me for as long as possible, I naturally turn to supplements. Barring my finding a sugar daddy who can single-handedly fund research into making my dogs bionic and therefore live as long as I do, I have to work with what I've got. ;) I've written a few posts previously about the supplements that I was already giving my dogs, but there's one that I've added more recently that I have absolutely fallen in love with! So much so that I'm actually taking it myself. This wonderful supplement is milk thistle.
Milk thistle is a hepatoprotective supplement. Meaning, it helps protect your liver. You cannot survive without your liver. And if your liver is damaged or failing, it creates a plethora of health issues that may not immediately seem like they are directly related. While the liver has MANY functions, one of the more important ones is that it works to detoxify the body. Without a fully functioning liver, toxins build up in the blood stream and damage the body as a whole. If you'd like to read more about the function of the liver I recommend going here.
Use of milk thistle has been shown to protect the liver against damage caused by free radicals as well as increasing protein synthesis in these same cells. A protected liver, and better yet, one that can regenerate it's cells more effectively, leads to better overall health for the body. Basically, a happy liver, is a healthier, longer lasting body. Additional studies have shown that milk thistle appears to have some tumor growth inhibiting properties as well. The sky almost seems to be the limit with the benefits of this supplement. Not sure you buy into what I'm saying? Don't trust me, trust some of these peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject!
Silibinin Inhibits Tumor Promotional Triggers and Tumorigensis Against Chemically Induced Two-Stage Skin Carcinogensis in Swiss Albino Mice: Possible Role of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Milk Thistle: A Future Potential Anti-Osteoporotic and Fracture Healing Agent
Milk Thistle: Early Seeds of Potential
Silibinin inhibits accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and tumor growth of murine breast cancer
Hepatoprotective Effect of Silymarin
You may need to look around on the pages of some of these papers to find the link to the full text version, but they should all be accessible to anyone, I believe. These are just a smattering of papers that I found on the subject that I thought were helpful. I'm a fan of science and I'm a fan of work that has been peer reviewed and deemed accurate enough to be published and stand up to public scrutiny. It's the basis of what I do for a living and I believe whole-heartedly in it.
Now that we've gotten the technical stuff out of the way, lets get down to the anecdotal, which ultimately is what people want to hear about. There are very few things that I expect to give to my dogs and see a rapid benefit from. I, personally, am well aware that things like physical activity and staying in shape are something that you build on. You don't just work out once and expect to wake up the next morning with a body builders physique! However, I will admit that I noticed some positive changes in Heffner within just a few days of starting him on milk thistle. I was not expecting that at all. The most obvious change that I noticed with him was in his ears and his eyes. I went to clean his ears about two days after starting him on the milk thistle and his ears were clean. There wasn't really anything for me take care of. Bess always had nice clean ears. For the longest time Heffner had one ear that was always clean and one ear that always had a darkish, waxy build up. Even with weekly ear cleaning, by the time ear cleaning day came around, there was always something to clean. I never thought too much of it until he actually got an ear infection last year. The first time that he'd ever had one and it was in the ear that always had the waxy buildup. After medicating and cleaning the ear, it cleared up. But I was now afraid that if I wasn't diligent enough with his ear cleaning that he would get an infection again. While his ears clearing up wasn't a result that I expected, it makes sense thinking about it now. His liver is in better shape and better able to clear the toxins from his body in a healthy way, so these toxins don't have a chance to build up and cause him issues elsewhere.
In addition to his ears clearing up (and they've continued to stay cleared up!), he doesn't have much in the way of eye discharge any more. The discharge was never anything overly concerning. It was clear and not unhealthy looking, but it was just always there. Particularly in the morning when he'd wake up after a full night of sleep. He'd shake his head and it would get flung on the walls, or land on the floors, or he'd do his favorite thing and stick his head between my legs and rub his eye boogers off on my pants. While he doesn't have overly loose eyes, his eyes were not quite as tight as Bess' and I just assumed that because of this there were goobers that would build up. Those goobers have almost completely gone away. He may occasionally still get a little schmutz in one of his eyes here and there, but it's definitely not the regular occurrence that it was.
As for the benefits that are going on within his body, that I can't tell you for sure without taking actual biopsies of his organs and running a bunch of blood tests to get all the parameters. What I do know, is that my dog seems overall healthier and that's the most important part for me.
To all you skin and fur mothers out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!