I recently had a conversation with Dr. Michele Yasson, who is a holistic vet with over 30 years of experience using the herbs found in GastroElm Plus. My goal was to provide accurate information for all our customers, so they feel comfortable using it on a regular basis.
Topic: Slippery Elm
Michael: One of the most common questions I get is whether GastroElm Plus, which is 77% Slippery Elm inner bark powder, will cause conventional medicines to not be absorbed properly?
Dr. Yasson: As a fiber based supplement there is some slowing of absorption, because fiber in general slows absorption in a healthy way. It also may actually cause a slight amount of medicine to adhere to it and be passed beyond where it can be absorbed, but the bottom line is the effect is negligible. I’ve never found in 30+ years of practice that there was any kind of noticeable clinical difference when slippery elm was used with other meds.
The nice thing about Slippery Elm is that since it’s a water soluble fiber other medicines can pass through it. You’re in an aqueous environment in the gut and you have an aqueous barrier which is the coating that is created by Slippery Elm so drugs can dissolve right into that and pass right through it. That’s the beauty of Slippery Elm as opposed to Carafate, sucralfate or even something like Pepto Bismol which create coatings that are not as penetrable. The bottom line is that the difference is negligible.
Michael: Our toy poodle, Angel, who had multiple issues including chronic pancreatitis was a horrible pill taker, so I used to crush up her pills and add them to a batch of GastroElm Plus when I made it for her. It worked great, so that’s why I’ve always thought it wasn’t a big issue.
Dr Yasson: Yes, and in that case instead of using water you can use bone broth or something that has a good flavor to it. For kitties I’m often recommending adding a little tuna juice from a can of tuna which is a real favorite or any kind of canned fish such as salmon. It makes it much easier to get them to take it.
(For horses, many people add Aloe juice, apple juice, molasses, mix it into wet feed or even top dress feed with a tablespoon dry powder.)
Michael: Along the same lines some people claim that using Slippery Elm can cause animals to not properly absorb nutrients from their food or feed. Over the last several years however, we have seen almost all animals trend back to their normal healthy weight while on GastroElm Plus. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Yasson: It very well could be the opposite, because instead of having hypermotility (diarrhea) you normalize motility in the gut and therefore you also normalize absorption. Motility means how fast the food and associated nutrients move through the intestines. It’s like if you have a hose turned on you have water moving through super slow that would be low motility but if it’s rushing through then it’s high motility. Proper digestion and nutrient absorption occurs when you have balance in the intestines and slippery elm helps normalize that balance.
Michael: Is it safe for animals with chronic conditions to take GastroElm Plus on a long term basis? Some people say you shouldn’t take Slippery Elm long term, so people only want to use it when an animal is in distress.
Dr. Yasson: I studied with Dr. Richard Pitcairn and he is an amazing researcher with the advanced degrees and he really never took anything at face value but instead did his own research with Slippery Elm and found it quite safe to use long term. For those who don’t know Richard, he’s pretty much the father of homeopathy in veterinary medicine probably in the world, but certainly in North America. As far as using it long term, it’s very important to use it to the end of symptoms and at least for some period of normalcy beyond symptoms. Beyond that, from my viewpoint, it would be really helpful to try to use something like better diet and or homeopathy to try to correct the source of the problem because if the original problem is chronic it’s always best to try to cure it if that’s possible.
Michael: Angel had been suffering with chronic pancreatitis for about five years at the time I created GastroElm Plus and within three months her pancreatic enzymes and liver enzymes were normal. She was on it for the rest of her life, because as soon as I would take her off GastroElm Plus she would start going backwards.
Dr. Yasson: In cases like that if the animal is on a species appropriate diet that has enough fiber, then there may be a genetic tendency that causes chronic inflammation. I would suggest visiting with a homeopath about getting to the root of the problem, but if you can’t do that using something like GastroElm Plus is the next best thing.
Michael: You definitely helped us out when our dogs had a virus that was causing severe diarrhea by telling us about Arsenicum Album. Is there a homeopathic treatment that is commonly used for pancreatitis or IBD?
Dr. Yasson: There isn’t one remedy that is used specific for pancreatitis or IBD as it’s different for each animal. I will say however, that Arsenicum Album is probably my very favorite homeopathic remedy of the thousands available. It’s my most commonly used remedy because it’s great for vomiting and diarrhea, especially when they are simultaneous and when they occur with restlessness or there are overnight issues. It’s one thing to have the runs during the day, but it’s another thing if it’s keeping you up all night.
There is so much suffering that goes on with our pets that isn’t necessary because of these great supplements like GastroElm and homeopathy. By the way, one great thing about using something like GastroElm is that its palliative. So it’s a great feel good measure to take, but it doesn’t interfere with the body correcting it’s own chemistry to be cured in response to homeopathy. Whereas, if I use conventional drugs in addressing something they tend to block the body’s ability to heal itself.
Michael: I heard someone say that you shouldn’t give Slippery Elm to a dog with liver issues, but we’ve had great results with animals who have high liver enzymes and even animals so sick they are jaundice.
Dr. Yasson: There’s no contraindication for liver issues whatsoever. That’s the nice thing about Slippery Elm, there are no contraindications for any health issues. On rare occasions you might have an individual who can’t handle fiber of any kind but those are very rare. More common is something you said about having diarrhea issues with dogs coming off antibiotics.
Michael: Yes, we often see that dogs who have been on Tylan, Metronidazole or other antibiotics will have diarrhea, mucous in their stools or issues like that when starting GastroElm Plus. I often tell people to use a small dose of Pepto Bismol the first night to help balance the gut, then do half Pepto Bismol and half GastroElm Plus the next day and that seems to make the transition easier. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Yasson: I like your idea of giving them a dose or two of Pepto Bismol. I had never thought about that, but it really makes sense to me because pepto is bismuth subsalicylate. It’s funny that conventional medicine will really tear into natural therapies and supplements and so forth for being unfounded but there are so many conventional drugs that we don’t know the exact mechanism of action and Pepto Bismol is one of them. It’s one of those old tried and true pharmacy meds but bismuth has actually been shown to be bacteriocidal, in other words fatal for pathologic bacteria. So once you’re done with antibiotics you’ve disturbed the whole flora balance in the gut and the opportunistic bacteria that can recolonize the fastest tend to do so, whether they are the healthiest bacteria for your gut or not. They may not even be particularly known for being a pathologic but the fact that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong numbers can be a great problem. So using Pepto as a single dose or for one or two days while moving onto slippery Elm might be just the ticket. I’m eager to try that now with some of my cases.
Topic: Milk Thistle, Marshmallow Root & Dandelion Root
Michael: Next I would like to talk about milk thistle because it’s one of my favorite things. Some people say you can’t take milk thistle on a daily basis, but I’ve seen studies where it’s safe to take for up to 41 months. Is it the silymarin extracts that are taken in relatively high doses that are unsafe for long term use? We use modest amounts of the whole herb in GastroElm Plus. In nature, plants tend to have balancing compounds so I always feel you are losing something when you extract just one component in an effort to concentrate the effect.
Dr. Yasson: With everything it always depends on dosage. We have a saying in medicine that many times the only difference between a drug and a poison is the dosage. So when you use it in a reasonable dosage and especially when you are using the whole seed it’s very safe to use and it can be very helpful for liver. If the dose is too high then usually what you would get is GI issues like nausea, bloating, upset stomach or diarrhea. Since GastroElm Plus does an excellent job of relieving GI symptoms that in itself means that you have a balanced formula because the proof is in the results. You would really have to concentrate it very strongly for milk thistle seed to be problematic.
Michael: We do occasionally have a dog that can’t take GastroElm Plus as you and I have talked about before. I’ve assumed that it might be a milk thistle allergy.
Dr. Yasson: Well, like I said some dogs can handle any fiber, there are some that might be sensitive to milk thistle or one of the other ingredients. Some people are allergic to strawberries, but that doesn’t make them a bad thing.
Me: What are your thoughts regarding Marshmallow Root as a replacement for Slippery Elm? Some people choose to give their dog straight marshmallow root, but I’m not sure how they get past the taste. It’s easily the most pungent ingredient in GastroElm Plus.
Dr. Yasson: That’s what’s really nice about slippery Elm. It’s so bland that you can enhance the flavor with whatever your animal likes. Marshmallow has some nice similar effects of being a protector and a demulcent like slippery Elm but you know nothing works as well as slippery Elm. It’s a nice complementary herb to round out the formula. Marshmallow root also has some benefits for a dry mouth. It stimulates salivary secretions which can be extremely helpful for tartar.
Michael: The last ingredient I included in GastroElm Plus is dandelion root. I’ve had many people ask me why I chose to include it. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Yasson: I love dandelion root I recommend it a lot and um depending on what kind of case I have because it’s a great way to aid in digestion and stimulate appetite when it’s necessary. It’s also helpful in heart issues because it’s a natural, mild diuretic. And the beauty of it is that it doesn’t rob the body of potassium that way that furosemide (Lasix) does. That drug works by pulling potassium out through the kidneys and the potassium pulls water with it so that you wind up with excessive urination. Dandelion root works in a completely different way and it’s actually very rich in potassium so I often try to get patients to switch over from furosemide to dandelion and if they do that they will have much better results. If they are too afraid to stop their conventional meds, then I have them add it and just reduce the amount of Lasix they are taking. This is important because potassium is one of the main electrolytes needed for muscle and heart function. These animals often have a heart that that can’t pump that well and now you are starving it of potassium and that’s just crazy.
I didn’t fully realize until about five years ago how curable heart disease is and then i had one case where it happened it was a cat with a huge heart. We had X Rays to show this guy had such dilatation in his heart and once we got his supplements squared away and treated him homeopathically his heart came back to normal shape with perfect function and this was in part because of dandelion root.
So yes, I’m a big fan of dandelion root.
Dr. Yasson is available for phone and Skype consultations nationwide and internationally, as well as office visits at several host practices.. You can reach her by visiting her website at HolVet.net or by calling (845)338-3300.
Established in 1987, HolVet is one of the oldest holistic veterinary practices in the U.S. Dr Yasson is an elder and a pioneer in the field of alternative, natural, holistic medicine. Dr. Michele Yasson specializes in veterinary homeopathy, natural/species appropriate and individually customized diet, acupuncture, herbal therapy, and holistic, alternative, natural supplements.
Her practice emphasis is on severe and chronic disease, especially cancer, with treatment supported by the latest herbal chemotherapy agent, Neoplasene, as well as great, healthy starts for puppies and kittens! Ninety-five percent of her work has been accomplished over the years very successfully by phone consultation. Dr. Yasson will provide holistic, alternative, natural veterinary care that treats your beloved pet as a cherished family member, evaluating his or her case with an eye on curing your pet, not just alleviating symptoms.