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Pet Grief and Nutrition

Pet Grief and Nutrition

Pet Loss and Eating well

The relationship between pet grief and nutrition is often ignored as we tend to focus on the emotional impact of bereavement. But pet loss can affect our bodies just as much as our hearts. When we are grieving it is often difficult to remember to eat well.

At times of high stress, such as when a pet dies, our stress hormones rise causing an increase in anxiety, fear and panic. I was talking to a lovely lady a couple of weeks ago who had lost her dog in a very traumatic way. She was getting replays of the incident on a loop in her mind that she wasn’t able to stop. Then she had a panic attack whilst out with friends.

The impact of pet grief on our eating

Stress causes our bodies levels of cortisol to rise. This can mean that we lose our appetite so we may skip meals or even whole days. Some people get nausea and cannot face the smell of cooking or different foods.

Grief can be extremely tiring which often has has us reaching for sugary ‘quick-fix’ foods or carbohydrate heavy snacks. We may not sleep well during this time which will also have an effect on our tiredness levels. It can be very hard to motivate yourself to shop and cook healthily.

A Good Start to the Day

I know that I sound like my Dad when I say this but….breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. It does literally mean that you are breaking your ‘fast’ which is vital for your metabolism. Your body will need nutrients in it’s fight to reduce your stress levels. Cortisol tends to ‘sit’ in your body so it’s a really good idea to try and flush it out. If you have a fresh lemon (a few drops from a bottle of lemon juice is fine too) and can pop a slice in a mug with boiling hot water. This will be a super-blast of vitamin C, and a good start to your day. To quote the wonderful webmd:

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the proper functioning of the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.

Preparing your body for the emotional day ahead

If you’ve not had a great night’s sleep and are feeling low and tired a bowl of muesli mixed with yoghurt and fresh fruit will be a great boost. Chuck in a couple of nuts and a dollop of honey it will set you up for the day ahead, whatever it throws at you.

Eggs are simply a powerhouse brekkie. Scrambled, poached, boiled it really doesn’t matter. Eggs will keep you feeling full and they help you to resist snacking on food that is packed with sugar. I know you know this but it’s amazing what you can forget in the midst of grief. Sugar will give you a momentary high, but it will bring you crashing down again. During bereavement your emotions are already giving your body a rollercoaster ride so adding sugar will only make this even more of a white-knuckle ride than it is already.

Lunch like a Prince

Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince….Soup is, for me, the most comforting food on the planet. How else can you get that many vegetables into your system so easily. I love to roast some parsnips in honey and then stick them in the liquidiser with veg stock, cumin, coriander and any other leftover veg. Heated up with a fresh granary roll and a splash of sour cream…delicious! Soups are also really easy to eat which is another huge bonus if you’re feeling down.

You can see my Feel Good Chicken Soup recipe here and the chicken can easily be replaced with a non meat alternative. I always find that Jamie has a great range of tasty soups that are, mostly, easy to make. Delicious is brilliant for tasty soup recipes, here’s a link to their Lentil, tomato and paprika soup with crispy kale.

And Supper like a Pauper

So you’ve managed to eat a decent breakfast, a bowl of soup for your lunch, now if you only manage some cheese and crackers you’ve done well. If you can get a couple of glasses of water and that mug of hot lemon then you’re doing amazingly well.

Nutrition for Pet Loss

I can’t bring them back. But I can give you some simple tips to help you navigate this this stage of the journey. You have my permission to  cry and howl and beat a cushion if you need to. You can cut your social stuff for a while. However trying to eat healthily and getting outside for some fresh air and exercise will lift your mood. You need to try and do everything you can to increase your endorphins.

Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. They are often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster. Medical News Today

Nutrition and Pet grief

Sign up for my 12 Step Pet Bereavement Guide for more simple ways to combat the effects of pet loss. And read my weekly blog for all aspects of pet grief, from questions to ask your vet to creating a Rainbow Bridge Ceremony.

We get it and we’re here to help.


Kaz xx

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