• Dr. Dawn Harris Sherling

Everything I need to know about gastrointestinal health, I learned from my dog

Updated: May 1



By : Dawn Harris Sherling


Everything I need to know about gastrointestinal health, I learned from my dog. No. That’s not true, but observing our pets can teach us a lot. Surely dogs are different from people. Humans can eat a lot of things that dogs cannot. But I’ve noticed that even within the same breed, dogs will react differently to similar diets. Consider dog #1. We’ll call him Fido. Fido is better than a household vacuum for families with small children. He will happily consume anything and everything that falls to floor. And he is none the worse for it, wagging his tail, eagerly waiting for the next morsel. But not all dogs are as easily omnivorous as Fido. Consider dog #2. We’ll call her Lily. Lily will have diarrhea to almost anything outside of her regular diet. Lily would love to eat like Fido, but Lily’s owners prefer to have a dog who doesn’t have constant gastrointestinal distress.


What gives some dogs a stomach of steel and other dogs a stomach that human sufferers of bowel troubles would easily recognize? Short answer—we don’t know. But the first thing we need to do is recognize that just like dogs, people are different from one another.


A big difference between dogs and people is that people don’t fault dog #2 for her intolerant bowels. But a patient who comes in with bloating and “off” stools? We suggest that they must be doing something wrong. Too much stress? Not enough exercise? Obsessing over the last scientifically questionable article from a health-oriented magazine?


Although the cause of abdominal discomfort for some people may be lactose or gluten intolerances; although the cause of restricting might be psychological for a few; the majority of IBS symptom sufferers are merely reacting to the undigestible additives we’ve adulterated our food with in the last several decades. Instead of blaming people trying to cope with daily bloating, hours on the toilet, and fear of foods, it’s time we examine what it is Americans are putting into our bodies and what other countries aren’t.


Because, like our beloved dog Lily, no one wants to be faulted for their troublesome bowels. They just want to be able to enjoy life.

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