Natural medicine with fur – why Bello and kitty do us good
Pets and their effect on health
My name is Christian Rüger and I blog here around the topic of health as an alternative practitioner and head of the facility for complementary medicine in Bottrop (short: nabo) with almost 30 years of practice experience and as an animal lover with his own pets. Stress and mental illness are ubiquitous in our society and not only affect the psyche, but can also have a physical impact on People’s health. What important role your pets play in stress management, I explain to you in this blog post!
By the way, with my colleague Farid Zitoun I have already made several exciting vlogs around the topic on our YouTube channel. There you will learn, for example, what the cow cuddling is all about. Take a look!
What is stress and what is it good for?
For our ancestors, stress reactions were essential for survival. This is because stress reactions put the body on heightened alert and prepare it for fight or flight. Consequently, the heartbeat is increased, breathing is accelerated, muscles tense, and pupils dilate. At the same time, non-vital bodily functions are brought down to a minimum. These include the digestive and reproductive organs. The stress response increases our ability to react and we are able to assess situations correctly within a very short time, to adjust our actions accordingly and to make more informed decisions.
Today, reactions to stress are no different from those in evolution. However, these situations are no longer triggered by attacks or hunger, but by other factors. These include increasing sensory overload due to digital progress, increased pressure to perform, as well as conflicts and strokes of fate.
Stress is not fundamentally negative: it helps us to react quickly and appropriately to a difficult situation. Stress only becomes problematic when it becomes a permanent condition. If the body is constantly under stress and there are no longer any recovery phases, body and soul become ill.
What you can do for your well-being
If your mental well-being is affected by external circumstances, physical ailments will not be long in coming. In our naturopathic practice, we work in such cases with relaxation techniques and acupuncture, which have a lasting effect on physical well-being.
As a naturopath, I am convinced that the presence of animals can also positively influence our health. It does not always have to be medication that contributes to an improvement of the general condition. It is much more important to change the external circumstances in such a way that stress reactions cannot arise in the first place. And here pets work true miracles. Their calming effect has even been scientifically proven.
Pets increase physical fitness
Many diseases are due to lack of exercise. Are you aware that Germans are among the nations that move the least worldwide? There are many reasons for this phenomenon. On the one hand, this development is due to societal prosperity, but the changing world of work has also contributed significantly. In earlier times, People primarily pursued an activity in agriculture, which naturally included enough movement. Today, in most cases it is a sedentary activity, which means that movement is much too short. In addition, modern means of transportation have made us comfortable.
However, the lack of movement not only makes us lazy, but is also one of the biggest causes of illness in our society. If, on the other hand, you spend your life with a dog, you automatically ensure sufficient exercise in the fresh air. After all, daily walks are a must for dog owners and promote long-term health.
With daily movement in the fresh air you actively counteract chronic diseases. These can be high blood pressure, diabetes or bronchitis.
Pets promote mental well-being
Stress is not only bad for physical and mental health, it also successfully drives away good moods. A positive mood is essential for you to lead a happy and content life. Not only can you steer your success through your mood in the right direction, but you also support your immune system sustainably. Thus you are optimally armed against diseases.
What better way to create a positive attitude than with animals that regularly make People smile and brighten their mood? Do you know the look of animals that are eagerly waiting for their owners to return? Or can you imagine the feeling when the cat settles down on the owner purring after a stressful day? All these situations activate the reward center in the brain, releasing happiness hormones.
It doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is. Whether you own a dog, spend your life with a cat, or have smaller animals as roommates: All pets ensure that you are allowed to forget your everyday stress for a moment and focus entirely on the present. Basically, this is exactly what also triggers the health-promoting effect when meditating. By being in the presence of animals, you forget negative thoughts and emotions that have taken up a lot of space in your mind during the day. Instead, you live in the present moment and can enjoy the here and now with all your senses. Thus, hectic, stress and imbalance have no place in your life. In the long run, the presence of a pet can even make you more balanced, less stressed and generally lead a healthier and happier life. For these very reasons, pets are often used for therapeutic purposes.
How does having a pet affect stress
From a medical point of view, what happens due to the presence of a pet? If a pet is present, less adrenaline is released by the body. And here the mere presence of the animal is sufficient to achieve this effect. As a result, blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Petting your pet and cuddling with it reduces stress by releasing oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus that causes a feeling of happiness. Oxytocin is the same hormone that triggers feelings of closeness, satisfaction and security in a partnership. For this reason, I believe that a pet makes People happy and positively affects the psyche.
Animals as therapists
I would like to talk about this point in more detail, because it is an important starting point. Animals have meanwhile a firm place in therapies and could be used successfully with mental illnesses.
Animals give dementia patients a better quality of life. But not only that, because animals also have a beneficial effect on relationships. Sometimes an animal can have a better influence on a Person than their own partner.
The presence of a pet also has a lasting effect on children with behavioral problems (autism or ADHD). For example, animals have been able to reduce behavioral problems by increasing confidence. In these cases, pets were able to promote the interaction of the children with the social environment and strengthen social behavior.
Many People had to experience many disappointments in their lives. Emotional injuries on an interPersonal basis have caused them to withdraw further and further from the social world. Through animals, these challenges can be overcome, because animals are not only good listeners, but are unbiased and can not hurt People.
Stress should not be underestimated, because if it mutates into a permanent condition, drastic secondary diseases can result. The burn-out syndrome or serious depression are not uncommon. Especially for depression, animals are very successful for therapeutic purposes. Thus, they not only contribute to a better mood, but also bring more structure to everyday life. How to recognize stressors and maintain a healthy work-life balance, you can learn in our Vlog on YouTube on the topic “Sickness Stressors“!
Pets support the psyche
Pets have very fine antennae and sense it when you are not well. If you have lost your job, your partner has separated from you or you had to accept a serious loss, the sensitive animals feel it immediately. Then it is likely that your cat will join you or lie down next to you in bed. By the presence of your animal fears are solved, and problems can be better managed.
Pets also bring structure and ritual to your everyday life. After all, a pet needs to be lovingly cared for on a regular basis. This structure is essential, especially for your children, but also for older People. It also benefits the bond, which is not only between man and animal, but also on an interPersonal basis.
Dog or rabbit, cat or guinea pig – do you have an animal that stands by you in difficult times? Then write it to us in the comments!
See you soon,
Your Christian Rüger