Wednesday 23 October 2013

Stem Cell Therapy - Blue's Experience

Our dog, Blue, has severe osteoarthritis in his elbows and his hips. Luckily, at this point, his pain is minimal. This is in no small part due to early surgical intervention during his puppyhood and the skills of his surgeon, Dr. Alan Kuzma. However, now that Blue is an older dog, I truly believe that stem cell therapy has made a significant and positive difference in his quality of life.

Blue is a lab-mastiff cross and unfortunately, he got the worst genetics traits of both breeds. He has elbow dysplasia (ununited anconeal processes) and hip dysplasia. Surgery to try to fix his elbows worked on his right side, but not on his left, and he eventually had to have another surgery to remove the bone fragment. As a consequence, that elbow is very arthritic as can be seen on Xrays. His right elbow is also arthritic but is not nearly as bad as the left. He had triple pelvic osteotomies (TPO) to correct his hip dysplasia and his hips look amazingly good.

Blue was pain free until about 2 years ago when he developed pain in his hind end. It started with yelping and favouring his right hind leg while going up the dog walk during agility, and  progressed rapidly to limping on his right hind after long walks. At the same time, he started limping for the first time on his left elbow, presumably because he was carrying more weight on that side. Blue is a very patient and stoic dog and on examining him, neither I, Dr. Lane, or Dr. Kuzma could find the source of the hind end pain.

We decided to try stem cell therapy because it seemed reasonable to assume the pain might be in his hips. I did a lot of researching about the success of stem cell therapy but at that time there wasn't a lot out there. There were more anecdotal reports that most dogs responded well. Dr. Kuzma warned me that the most severely arthritic joints often don't respond as well, which made sense, but he was hopeful that Blue's other joints would benefit.

Overall, after weighing the pros and cons, including the financial investment, we decided to go ahead with stem cell therapy.

Dr. Kuzma harvested fat from Blue's abdomen and it was sent immediately to Vet-Stem for culturing of the stem cells. Blue was a little sore from the collection as it involves making a small incision in his abdomen to collect the fat. He was back at Canada West 2 days later for injections of stem cells into each elbow, both hips, and one more given intravenously. Rehab at home included cold packing his joints, putting them through an easy range of motion, and resting until his abdominal incision had healed.

Unfortunately, we soon discovered that the pain in his hind end was not originating from his hips. His pain rapidly and significantly worsened and after many tests, including CT scan, myelogram, nerve conduction test and exploratory surgery in his spine, we still didn't have an answer. Thankfully, over time, things got better on their own, but the stress of dealing with his pain and not knowing what was causing it eclipsed any noticing of what was happening in his front end.

It is only in retrospect that I became aware of how stem cell therapy had helped his elbows.

Fast forward to today. Blue started limping a lot more on his left elbow a couple of months ago. It  made me suddenly realize that pain in this joint had not progressed at all in two years. All this time while I had been having tunnel vision about his hind end, his elbow had been quietly stable in its level of discomfort - until now.

So it was pretty easy to decide to do a second round of stem cell injections. From the beginning, Dr. Kuzma had told us that a second treatment a year or so later usually had some small beneficial effect but was usually not as dramatic as the first treatment. On the other hand, this time it would be much easier on Blue as there were extra stem cells stored at Vet-Stem. All we had to do was request they thaw and ship them to us. Dr. Kuzma injected both elbows and gave him another dose intravenously. We decided not to repeat his hips as it would mean Vet Stem would need to culture more cells ($) and also because his hips were seeming so pain-free.

Blue's response this time around is pretty incredible. Without other pain to distract me from noticing his elbow, I can see how much happier he is even just a week later. He is much farther ahead of me on walks, not just at the beginning but the whole time. He is brighter and more playful and asking for more exercise. His degree of limping late in the walk is dramatically reduced. He bounds up the stairs instead of plodding. I had a hard time believing this could be stem cells working so quickly so I asked Dr. Kuzma if it were possible. He said its what owners often tell him. Just amazing.

I think that if Blue hadn't had stem cells, considering the degree and rate of progression of pain in that elbow, at this point we might be considering euthanasia. Instead we are looking forward to another few years of minimal arthritic pain and good quality of life. We hope so; he is such a good dog that he deserves the best from us.

If you have been considering stem cell therapy, I'd encourage you to try it. We are so glad we did.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Paleo Protein Chocolate Bliss Balls

Yeah, yeah, everyone and their dog has their own version of these bits of heaven. I do too.

I tried a few recipes and came up with one that we really like. Mine varies slightly from the standard in that I don't add any coconut oil. I find they stick together just fine with the ingredients I use.

The upsides for cutting the coconut oil are that they are less oily at room temperature and they are lower calorie (very important when you can't resist popping just one more into your mouth). If they are too oily and you dust them with cocoa or cacao powder, the powder quickly soaks up the oil, turns to mush, and pretty much disappears.

The downside is it can take a little more work to make them stick together. Well, suck it up princess, those CrossFit hands should have no problem squeezing them into dense little balls.

Make 'em! 
What you will need: 

Food processor
Plate to roll the balls in goodies

10 medjool dates, pitted
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pecans
2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
1/4 cup almond butter
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Ingredients to roll balls in; whatever takes your fancy: cocoa or cacoa powder, cacao nibs, shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes. We like white chia seeds for the crunch and the contrast in colour. 

Optional: Soak dates in warm water for about 5 minutes, then drain. I find that the balls are much easier to form if you do this. 

Throw everything (except what you are going to decorate them with) in the food processor. Process until nuts have disappeared and the mixture looks like a fine crumb. It will start to stick together at this point and you will need to scrape down the sides several times as the mixture no longer falls down to the blades.

Place about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of your hand. Squish it together firmly so it holds together then roll into a ball. Place on a plate. Repeat until the mixture is all used up. Once all the mixture is in balls, roll each ball in the coating of your choice. Makes about 25 balls. Store in the fridge and preferably out of sight so they are out of mind. Otherwise - gone.

Brownie points if you use organic and soaked/dried nuts.
Use whatever combination of nuts you like the best.

Nutritional analysis: (because I needed to know how much per ball)
Calories: 100; carbs: 9.5g; protein: 4.2g, fat: 6.2g

What do you think? Got a favourite recipe? Anything you would add to make these even better?

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Easiest Mayonnaise Yet! Stick Blender Paleo Mayo

Those of you who know me know I've still been on  a quest to find an easy, infallible mayonnaise recipe. Well, achievement unlocked.

I've tried the blender method (this is how my Mum taught me to do it as a kid), the beater method (which I outlined here), and the food processor method (FAIL!). All of these are either too time consuming or too likely to refuse to become mayonnaise.

The other issue I've had is in finding the perfect combination of oils so that the mayo is healthy but also tasty. Damn Hellmamn's for their toxic, delicious tasting stuff!

Olive oil, even the light tasting stuff, was still too olive oil-y tasting. Even in smaller amounts. And let's face it, if I'm going to get all "wish-upon-a-star-y" about mayo, I want it to be creamy white coloured, not green. That also lets out avocado oil. *****UPDATE UPDATE - I found some avocado oil that wasn't green (!) so I've updated the recipe to reflect that.*****  Pure coconut oil had a weird texture and was way too solid in the fridge. Pure macadamia nut oil? Sure if you've won the lottery. Butter was just too buttery.

So, as you have probably figured out because I'm posting this, I researched and researched (and researched some more cuz that's what I do) and tinkered around until I perfected the easiest, fastest, most foolproof and most importantly, yummiest mayo recipe yet. Drum roll please...

I present to you, Stick Blender Mayonnaise!

*all ingredients should be at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper
dash white pepper

3/4 cup avodado oil
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil

Weapons of emulsification:
Stick blender
Small jar that is just bigger in diameter than the stick blender head (I use a jar that once held 500 mls/2 cups of almond butter) 

*All ingredients should be at room temperature.
Add first 8 ingredients to jar (everything except the oils).
Pour oils gently on top. Allow previously added ingredients to settle back to the bottom (if disturbed) and the oils to rise to the top.
Gently insert the stick blender into the jar all the way to the bottom. Stick blender is OFF while doing this. 
Allow ingredients to settle once again if they have been stirred up.
Holding blender on the bottom of the jar, turn it on. You should see mayonnaise happening around the blender head almost immediately.
Keeping the blender head at the bottom of the jar, let it rip for about 10 seconds, then slowly pull the blender head up the jar to incorporate the rest of the oils.

That's it!

If it made mayonnaise (of course it did, it's foolproof) I find the mayo at this point is pretty forgiving. If there is any oil on top or spices on the bottom that didn't get incorporated, take a spoon and mix them in. Then take the stick blender to it one more time for a few seconds to get it all nice and blendy.

Throw a date on the jar, put it in the fridge and enjoy! Makes just over 1 cup. (I know the mayo looks yellow in this picture but that's just the lighting. It really does look like the first picture in the blog. I'll get a better picture soon.)

If you don't yet have a stick blender in your culinary arsenal then you should definitely get one. Even if it were only useful for making mayo the minimal investment would be so worth it. But you will find yourself grabbing it for so many things. Check them out on Amazon. Oooh, shiny!

NOTES: Ive made this mayo now maybe about 50 times and it has refused to emulsify on me twice. I rescued one batch easily by just starting over with the egg/lemon juice/water parts and then adding the non-emulsified mayo back in as the oil portion.

The other batch stubbornly refused to become mayo even after 3 yolks. I eventually admitted defeat and bunged it in the fridge overnight. The next day I tried again and this time I won the battle of wills. Mayo was mine! Four egg yolk mayo but oh well, delicious!

More details here on how to rescue broken mayonnaise. Substitute stick blender for beater.

We make this may with double the amount of lemon juice because that's how my family likes it.  If you aren't sure about the level of tang, start with the posted 1 tablespoon instead. You can always add more later on. 

Also, you can make this will 100% avocado oil, still tastes delish!

Got a favourite mayo recipe? First try? Let me know how it goes!