I had the chance to speak with Nish all about her recently released research on using supplements to prevent and stop the growth of canine cancer cells. We also talk about her favourite superfoods to give her dogs and much more. Enjoy!
Amanda: I’m joined today by Nish Srivastava. She runs the Instagram account Flik.Dot.Dim. She also runs The Raw Fed Pet blog, and the company, TheRawFedPet Treats. Thanks so much for being on the show today, Nish.
Nish: Thank you for having me. Super excited to be able to talk with you about my study and about what I’m all about, and finally able to do this interview. I’m looking forward to it.
Amanda: Me too. So tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in the industry, for anybody who doesn’t know who you are already?
Nish: Sure. So initially, I started out being very passionate about natural therapies for us humans. My parents have always instilled how important what you put in your body is. They stressed what we eat, the environment, and how we live, our lifestyle has a marked influence on how our body behaves and how our genes function. If we get sick, how that is related to what we eat and what we’re doing in our lives, in regards to the environment.
So basically, I took that passion and moved it toward my pets. So once I got my first dog, I’m like, “Why am I not applying this same mentality to my pets?” So that’s kind of how I got started. You know, the saying, food is medicine, is totally true, and there’s tonnes of scientific research for the past three decades, how the types of food we eat and the amount of calories we take in has largely contributed to a progressive increase in chronic diseases, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancers, all of that, and how having a balanced intake of fresh foods can actually help that and prevent that and improve our quality of life. So that’s kind of how I started, being passionate about our human health, but then I also moved into being passionate about our pets’ health.
Amanda: I think that’s great, and I think it’s nice that you were able to apply things that you grew up learning and apply it to your pets because it really is a commonsense thing. Hopefully, people are getting there that whole fresh food really is best, and it makes sense. It just, it makes sense. It’s good for us, it’s good for them.
Nish: Exactly, and it’s such a … you know, that it took me so long to be able to realize that, but now that I’ve realized that, it’s so simple. What we put in our bodies affects us, what we put in our pets’ bodies affects them. A really easy correlation, but sometimes it can be hard to make that correlation in our minds.
Amanda: Well, totally, because it’s not the industry norm. That’s not what you see commercials for…People are starting to change what they’re talking about, but in the past, I feel like it was just hit home really hard, no, you just feed your dogs out of this bag of food, that gives them everything they could possibly need, and it’s just … If that’s the norm, it takes a little bit for you to … for me, anyway, it took a little bit to be like, “Oh, what? We should do something different.”
Nish: Yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Okay, so let’s talk about, you’ve done some really, really cool things, working in the pet sphere. One of them, one of the biggest things, that I’m pretty jealous of, you’ve been able to hang out with Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib. You went to Brazil and Mexico with them. So tell me a little bit about how that came to be, and then give us a little sneak peek inside of your trips.
Nish: So, basically, I went to Mexico first. My ability to go to Mexico all started basically with Rodney putting up a video on Facebook, that he wanted to take two passionate pet parents to Mexico, and all we had to do was comment on the video and why we wanted to go. I didn’t really think anything of it, and I’ve never commented on any video on Facebook, ever in my life. So I’m just like, “I’ll comment,” and I literally simply said that I was a passionate pet parent and a science nerd. That’s all I said, which probably describes my personality the best, and, you know, he ended up picking me and another wonderful lady named Lindsey, and we’re really great friends now. So, I mean, the rest is history. I ended up connecting pretty well with Dr. Becker and Rodney there, amongst other very talented pet parents and business owners, and they’re such wonderful friends now, they’re like family.
So when I had the chance to actually go to Brazil, I immediately took it because I’m like, “Why not?” In regards to both of the trips, simply putting it, it was like an amazing, unforgettable experience because we were all surrounded by people who have a similar mission with feeding our animals more fresh foods, and those people came from all over the world, you know, Mexico, Brazil. It’s just so nice to see that this message is not just Canada, the United States, or something like that. It’s all over the world, and I didn’t realize how big it was until I went on these trips and had some amazing conversations, and even though we all have the same goal, it was so nice to be surrounded by people who approach fresh feeding from different aspects of the movement. Everyone does it differently, so it was just amazing to be able to talk to them, face to face, in a more personal environment.
I learned something from each trip, and I’ve obviously been exposed to many different studies and doctors, especially from the Brazil trip. There was one day where only scientists and doctors spoke, and it was just amazing, the research that had been done on fresh feeding, and cancer research, canine cancers, and I was just … it was mind-boggling. It was really eye-opening, so yeah, I’m really fortunate to be able to have gone on those trips and learned so much, and really call Rodney and Karen really great friends, because they do treat everyone like family. It was really awesome.
Amanda: That’s awesome. I feel like it would be very nice to get the scope of how big this movement is becoming, and just really refreshing to be in a place where people have the same mindset, but also have a different perspective, like you mentioned. I think that’s really great, and that would be awesome.
I’d really love to talk about your research on quercetin and curcumin that was recently published. So the article is called Curcumin and Quercetin Synergistically Inhibit Cancer Cell Proliferation in Multiple Cancer Cells. First of all, congratulations, because I’m sure that took a lot of time and effort to get it done, but talk to me a little bit about it, explain the basics, maybe, start with layman terms for everybody, tell me what quercetin and curcumin are, and what is cell proliferation?
Nish: Sure. Thank you, first of all. It’s a long time coming that this has finally been published, and I’m super fortunate to be able to publish my own research. So first of all, quercetin, one of the natural components that I used in the study, is actually a dietary micronutrient that is derived from plant foods, foods that account for about 60% of our flavonoid intake, which flavonoids are actually what gives fruits and vegetables their colour. These are commonly found in many vegetables and fruits, such as apples, like the skin of apples, parsley, olive oil, and peas, amongst many other foods.
So quercetin is technically a bioflavonoid, and curcumin, which I’m sure you know, is the main active component in the spice turmeric. Both of these natural components are actually very well known already to be antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous. So that’s a little bit about curcumin and quercetin.
Diving further into their effects, something really interesting, curcumin and quercetin are also known to have an effect on epigenetics, which is something that’s really huge right now. So basically, epigenetics is the gene modification without changing the actual sequence of the genes, if that makes sense. It’s basically how the genes are being expressed. It’s changing how those genes are being expressed. One example, actually based on several studies, is that when there was an increase in a high carbohydrate diet or high glucose diet, it was shown to influence the gene expression by epigenetic modification. Simply putting it, a high carb, high glucose diet was shown to affect the genes in such a way that it led to diabetes progression and other diet-related diseases, such as cancer.
So curcumin and quercetin’s effect on epigenetics help to block these genes from being expressed in that way in multiple studies, which was really interesting. When I was doing this research, obviously I did some background research, so that was really interesting to find out, and cancer cell proliferation is actually just cancer cell growth, how much the cancer grew in what period of time, so cancer cell growth is cancer cell proliferation, simply putting it.
Amanda: Perfect. So, yeah, to summarise, turmeric extract and quercetin, meaning whole fresh foods, kind of like your vegetables and stuff, work together and they help stop and slow cancer cell growth.
Nish: Yeah, and basically, the premise of my study was to figure out the mechanism of how this is happening. So cancer cells, they proliferate through a certain pathway, and the pathway that I used for this study is that I tested the potency of curcumin and quercetin on the cell lines that I used, which was the melanoma cancer cell line, A375, by using an MTT and growth test.
An MTT test is basically … measures cell metabolic activity, based on colour. So there are colour changes in the tubes, based on the cell metabolic activity, and eventually, we focused on the melanoma cancer cell line only, which the natural components curcumin and quercetin had the most potency.
So we actually focused on the apoptotic and Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathways. Putting it simply is the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is actually associated with the growth of many different human cancers, and according to actually many other studies, it is also associated with canine mammary cancers, canine melanomas, and in many cases, canine osteosarcoma, so bone cancer, which is really interesting because then this sort of research that I did can gain inferences into the canine cancer realm because the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is also already found out to be associated with the growth of those canine cancers.
Upon further investigation, as I did this study, it was suggested that the mechanism of action, it was displaying that it inhibited the cancer cell growth, so it prevented cancer cell growth. If you downregulate something, it’s going to block it from happening, so if the upregulation of beta-catenin signaling pathway means the cancer cells or the tumour will grow exponentially. If you downregulate it, there’s a pathway block, right. The combination of curcumin and quercetin displayed this. It also induced apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and it did this by actually downregulating the Bcl-2 gene, and this gene actually blocks the apoptotic death of some cells. So when you downregulate the Bcl-2 gene, it allows apoptosis to occur.
To summarise the end results, it showed that curcumin and quercetin inhibited the cancer cells growth synergistically. So synergistically, meaning that when we combined them, curcumin and quercetin in certain amounts, it had a greater effect on cancer cell growth than each individually. So two plus two equals four would be the normal effect, however, a synergistic effect would be like two plus two equals eight, or two plus two equals 10 or 12.
The significance of it having a synergistic effect is that we can use less of each natural component and decrease any possible side effects if needed to be fed at higher doses, and like I said, knowing the mechanism of how this happening is really actually important because that’s how cancer cells are growing. It’s growing through a certain pathway, so if we can block this pathway, you’re killing cancer, basically, just simply putting it, through those partially killing or inhibiting the growth, or preventing it from growing through those pathways, which is very interesting. And this is already known, but it’s not known in this combination study, using these signaling and apoptotic pathways in one study.
Amanda: Perfect. Okay. So you do think, moving forward then, this is a good basis for looking at curcumin and quercetin, using those together and then maybe in combination with alternative therapies, or conventional therapies, to really, if you had a pet with advanced stage cancer, do you think that’s where these are studies are going, in terms of, how do we combine Eastern medicine and Western medicine, or whole food medicine with traditional Western medicine? Do you think those two things have a good place together? Just curious, your thoughts on this, because I know there’s a lot of debate in the world of, like, “No, no. We’ll do just alternatives,” or, “No, we’ll do just Western,” or like, are we looking at combining them in the future?
Nish: Actually, I think of the mindset of having, “I’m just going to do a natural therapy,” or, “I’m just going to do a more Western, chemical … like, chemotherapy,” is not such a great mindset to be in. I think, definitely, the next step is like Keto Pet is doing. They do chemo, but then they also do mostly diet related and oxygen therapy, and the combination of these, as Keto Pet has obviously determined, it has a synergistic effect. It has a greater effect together than using each treatment alone, and if we can cut down on how much chemo or how much chemical treatments that we are doing on our pets in regards to cancer or other diseases, and just adding a natural therapy in with that, that doesn’t have any side effects at high doses, would be an amazing next step. So, yeah, in my opinion, I think that’s where it’s definitely going.
Amanda: Yeah, I think that’s an awesome point to bring up too, If you’re doing some sort of Western treatment, you can reduce the amount, potentially, if you’re combining it with a more alternative or natural therapy, so I think that’s great.
For the average pet parent who is wanting to get some quercetin and curcumin into our pets’ diet because we know, obviously, they’re awesome, they’re really beneficial, what are some good sources? Walk me through that.
Nish: Okay, so curcumin actually naturally has a low bioavailability in the body, so this means that it is not absorbed and metabolized to its fullest extent. So to combat this, it is best that when you give curcumin, or the whole form which would turmeric, to give it in the freshest form and give it in small amounts every day, versus larger amounts every so often, if you do need to use it. But even though it does not get absorbed and metabolized to its fullest extent, it still has a very, very high beneficial quality in the gut in regards to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous effects, and we all know the gut, the microbiome, is a huge part of our immune system, a huge part of our health. So even though it’s not fully metabolized or absorbed, it still has huge benefits in regards to our gut health, and anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects in our gut.
Quercetin, on the other hand, has a good bioavailability in the body, so quercetin can be given as an extract or a powdered form, just like curcumin, but it is also best to include fresh food sources of quercetin, because quercetin is a flavonoid, and that’s what gives fresh food its colour. It’s best when it’s fresh. Parsley, that’s one source that I know of and that I add to my dogs’ little veggie cube. I’ll put parsley, kale, and things like that.
But there has to be a combination study done, in regards to curcumin and quercetin, for people who want to feed it, just to validate these inferences, because we just don’t know. But adding these things to your dog’s diet in combination, it’s not going to hurt them. But like I said, every dog’s metabolism is different, so it’s hard to say how much should be given, especially if the research on canines is not fully completed. The sources are there, the sources are available, and they’re relatively safe. If you want to feed parsley and turmeric, you could definitely do that. It’s pretty safe.
So those some sources that I actually use for my dogs. There are obviously so many other sources out there. Parsley is a good one, and then obviously using fresh whole turmeric, ground, is really good. You have to be careful with turmeric powders because sometimes it could be sitting on the shelf for a long time. This is the whole turmeric powder, not curcumin extracted powder, so with turmeric powder, sometimes it’s really processed, or it can be sitting on the shelf for a long time, and it might not have the most potent effect, for example, a curcumin powder or extract or a whole fresh turmeric would have. So that’s my advice to pet parents who want to include those things in their animal’s diet.
Amanda: My favourite part of looking at alternative and natural medicines, and all these other things, is that all of these foods have multiple benefits. Like for quercetin, I was familiar with it for allergies, but not for cancer properties, so I’ve always been recommending quercetin if your dog has allergies. We call it nature’s Benadryl, so I knew it like that, and then to hear that it works with curcumin to inhibit cancer growth is just really cool. But the more I learn about whole fresh foods and all these things, they all have multiple benefits, so it’s really nice to know, if you’re feeding whole fresh food, even if you’re feeding a kibble-based diet for whatever reason, adding whole fresh food is so important because it’s going to have so many different benefits that I think we probably don’t even know the half of yet.
Nish: Yes, exactly, and that’s the best thing about using a whole fresh food versus an extract, in my opinion. There are other chemicals and properties in that whole fresh turmeric root that might not be in the extract, that might be working together to make it the most potent that it can be. So that’s why I always stress, use the most whole foods that you can get for those things, for those benefits.
Amanda: Yeah, I completely agree. So talking about supplement things we can add to our pets’ food, tell me some of your favourite foods to add to your pets’ bowls.
Nish: I actually love adding green leafy veggies. I blend it into a little cube or whatever and I freeze them. One of my favourite ones is dandelion greens and cilantro. I really love that. I also love using spirulina and kelp, as well. It definitely fills some gaps in a homemade diet that could be there, such as manganese, magnesium, zinc, and I love using mussels.
Mussels are probably my number one to add to my dogs’ diet, whether that be mussel powder, which is obviously less ideal, versus dehydrated whole mussel, or a fresh or frozen mussel. That could be green-lipped mussel or just the normal mussels. I think that’s one thing that is just amazing to add into a kibble diet or a fresh food diet. It contains so many vitamins and minerals and omega-3s, so you’re kind of getting a really, really strong punch of nutrients when you’re using mussels. It’s my favourite thing to add to their diets.
Amanda: Yeah, I love mussels for their nutritional benefits. I hate the smell of them. That’s so strong. So it is a very strong punch of nutrients and a strong punch of smell. It’s great, I still give them to my dogs, but I do it … like, open all the windows and … Yuck.
Do you find, do you do a canned mussel, or do you do fresh and steamed? What do you prefer?
Nish: It comes frozen, and then I thaw it, and then I just add it raw, like fresh, in there, or I sometimes do it steamed. Yeah, like the black ones, I’ll let them open, and I’ll just add it to their diet. I also have a recipe, I add … what is it called? I use dandelion greens and green-lipped mussel and ginger, and I blend that together, and that’s kind of like a little punch of nutrients and anti-inflammatory, good for the gut, a little cube that I do, and I put that every couple of days in their diet. Kind of get everything in there for them.
Amanda: I’d like to wrap up with asking you the question that I ask everybody that comes on the show. It’s a two-part question, the first part being if you could give pet parents around the world just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Nish: I would say to keep researching and educating yourself so you can effectively do the best you can for your pet. You’re constantly learning, you’re constantly educating yourself. No one knows everything. So my important thing is, do your own research and educate yourself constantly because things are changing every single day, so educating yourself properly can help you do the best you can for your pet.
Amanda: That’s a great, just succinct, answer. I always say the more you learn, the more you learn you don’t know.
Nish: Yes, exactly.
Amanda: And then the second part of the question is essentially the same, except if you could give one piece of advice to pet business owners, what would that be?
Nish: To pet business owners, I would say keep learning from your mistakes, because mistakes are going to happen, but sometimes those large mistakes, or those mistakes that happen to your business, turn into wonderful experiences, and lots of success stories come out of that, and then those success stories can inspire other people to be more motivated and overcome their mistakes. So don’t be afraid of your mistakes, learn from them, essentially, which is a huge thing, I think, in owning your own business. Mistakes are going to happen, and you need to learn from them and inspire other people on how you overcame that and how you’re successful now.
Amanda: 100%, I agree. I can tell you, first hand, lots of mistakes happen. But I think as long as you accept them, and look at them in the most positive light that you can, and learn from them, and also don’t be afraid to admit to your mistakes, I think that’s kind of key. For me, anyways.
Nish: Yes. Yes, exactly. I completely agree. I think a lot of people are afraid of making mistakes, and if no one made any mistakes, you wouldn’t know what success is, right. So if no one made mistakes, there would be no success, so that’s just kind of my little spurt on success and mistakes, you have to accept it. Like you said, it’s part of the process.
Amanda: That’s a great perspective. So where is the best place for listeners to get in touch with you or to follow you?
Nish: The best would actually be Facebook, so therawfedpet.us is our Facebook page, and then Instagram, obviously, would be flik.dot.dim, and then I also have my blog, that if you send us questions or whatever, there’s a little page you can submit questions to. therawfedpet.com
Amanda: Well, thank you so much for being with me today. I had a really great time. I definitely learned something. I hope everybody listening, as well, did, and yeah, we’ll have to do it again, sometime soon.
Nish: Yes, of course. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. It was great speaking with you, and I learned something from you, as well. It was great to be able to connect and have a conversation, and hopefully, everyone listening learned something. So thank you for having me.
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