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Oleic Acid (Omega 9): Why Is It So Important To Our Birds’ Health?

While Omega 3 gets a lot of attention nowadays, and with good reason Omega 9 isn’t a fatty acid we talk much about, but we should.

Machelle Pacion
Avian Nutrition Specialist

Those of you who follow my blog posts regularly know that I’m all about “gut flora” or otherwise known as microbial digestive health. You know by now that if your bird’s digestive microbes are not healthy, the whole body (holistic health) will be similarly unhealthy, including brain function (emotions and behavior). I’m here today to tell you that Oleic Acid has a heck of a lot to do with that.

Mucosal Lining

Oleic Acid helps build the delicate mucosal lining of the digestive tract. This lining protects the thin digestive walls of that digestive tract keeping them safe from scrapes, tears, rips and from tiny food particles entering the blood stream. However, that’s not all the mucosal lining does; it absorbs nutrients, helps break them down into metabolic liquid and then releases that nutritional liquid back into the digestive walls for total and complete absorption into the blood stream . Without the mucosal lining, our birds simply cannot metabolize nutrients from their food. Also, the mucosal lining helps fight off illness, disease from bacteria, viruses, and fungus. The mucosal lining serves as both a shield and a nutrient delivering agent. When we feed foods that destroy the mucosal lining such as tough cellulose in botanically classified vegetables Nature never intended for parrots the mucosal lining is literally scraped away. We know for scientific fact parrots are not to consume cellulose. We know this by simple observation when we watch our birds casually discard the skins of fruits as they eat. We know this by scientific research performed stating that parrots do not produce the digestive enzyme “cellulase” to break down cellulose. We know this by scientific research performed revealing that parrots do not have an organ that many other birds have known as the “cecum” that breaks down cellulose into metabolic liquid for reabsorption into the blood stream as a liquid carbohydrate. Also, when we feed diets high in starches and high in Omega 6s, we damage our birds’ mucosal linings. Starches are made of hard, waxy molecules that also scrape the mucosal lining. Omega 6s are sticky and when combined with cellulose and starches “gum up” the mucosal lining creating “avian leaky gut syndrome.” All of these food constituents cause the delicate mucosal lining to become damaged, ripped and torn eventually shed away exposing the thin walls of the digestive tract.

If we are feeding a diet as I have mentioned over and over again, in high volume our bird’s mucosal lining cannot regenerate fast enough to replenish the loss. Microscopic food particles enter the blood stream as well as bacteria, viruses, and fungus. Eventually, we end up with a bird who is suffering multiple disorders, illnesses, and diseases, and we cannot pinpoint why or where they are coming from – but be assured they most likely are stemming right from the digestive tract. Many times yeast infections, cardiovascular disease, liver damage, kidney disease, allergies, feather destruction, toe-tapping and wing-flipping, seizures and even prolapse and PDD stem from improper nutrition. All of these illnesses could have possibly been avoided if the digestive tract had been supplied with proper nutrition from the start at hatch all the way through life.

So what does this have to do with Omega 9?

My very long introduction to the importance of Omega 9 goes to prove my point that we cannot simply throw a “diverse variety” of ingredients together and hope for the best outcome in the long term. And while I totally understand we do not know for certain the exact and correct nutritional profile for each and every species of exotic bird, we DO know what “balance” of nutrients are in general for both humans and animals. Science has a great deal of research into what “balance of nutrients” are for all living creatures. We should use that knowledge to the benefit of our beloved feathered companions instead of throwing caution to the wind with our noses up in the air, running off willy-nilly and ignoring that research simply because what we are concocting in our kitchens “feels good and it’s cheap.” My point is this; We MUST pay attention to every nutrient that makes for a THRIVINGfeathered companion and gives it a long life without any major health problems as it ages! It’s not good enough that only young birds are healthy. It’s not good enough that only young birds look pretty. It’s not good enough that our birds only live as long as we do; they MUST live as long as Nature intended these magnificent creatures to live, even if that means we are required to find good, loving homes for them when we die! For these wonderful creatures to live illness- and disease-free we must educate ourselves on how Nature intended them to eat – and that is not dependent on whether they live in the wild or in our homes – but rather their DNA. They require every nutrient Nature created their bodies to function properly delivered by foods that are as close to what they would find in their natural habitats as we can possibly find. While that is almost impossible for most of us, it is our responsibility to try.

Botanical vegetables, dried out seed, diets high in cooked legumes, diets high in cooked grains are not natural for exotic birds and feeding these kinds of diets is exactly why we have so many unhealthy birds. In the wild Nature provides an abundance of tropical fruit, living seed, a few living legumes and for some ground foragers some amount of living grains. “Greens” are mostly tender greens high in hemicellulose, not cellulose. Hemicellulose is a soluble fiber while cellulose is insoluble. Fruit is teeming with pectin fiber, another soluble fiber. Any starch birds consume in the wild is “living starch” that contains its own “amylase”, the digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of starch right from the point of ingestion (birds don’t produce amylase in their beaks as we do in our mouths).

I know, I know, I still haven’t gotten to Omega 9.

Sources of Oleic Acid

Why do you think macadamia nuts are so plentiful in the wild? They contain Omega 9. Now, before you go telling me that most birds can’t open the shells of Macadamia nuts, please….the forest always takes care of its own! Other animals and larger parrots open plenty of these nuts, eat part of the nuts and toss them. So many, many parrots have access to the wasted nuts. No, I will not stand for the argument that many parrots don’t have access to Macadamia nuts! Furthermore, “olives!” Olives contain a very high amount of Oleic Acid! Olives of all different varieties are indigenous to some of the regions where parrots come from. Olives are very high in Oleic Acid. So there is another source. High-oleic sunflower oil is another good source of Oleic Acid. And then a source probably most don’t think of – “ghee” which is clarified butter that has all of the milk solids removed. This healthy source of fat has been found to actually reduce cardiovascular disease by lowering the lousy LDL serums.

Functions of Oleic Acid

What does Omega 9 do for the mucosal lining?

Omega 9 in the diet helps produce/build DAO (diamine oxidase) which in turn supports a healthy mucosal lining complete with increasing butyric acid which furthermore increases the amount of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the small stomach (proventriculus). Most companion parrots today lack sufficient amounts of HCL due to the highly processed diets we have been feeding for decades; due to the cooked legumes and grains we have been feeding and due to feeding diets high in vegetable cellulose stripping their digestive tracts of mucosal lining that intrinsically contains HCL.

In the digestive tract Omega 9 ferments once it mixes with other healthy bacteria and causes the mucosal lining to “grow.” You might say that Omega 9 is the “pre-biotic” absolutely necessary for the regeneration of the mucosal lining, without Oleic Acid the mucosal lining absolutely will not be replenished.

Another source of DAO can be supplied through pea sprouts. These sprouts must be grown in the dark to produce diamine oxidase. Please read more about this on my webpage. Once you arrive on my webpage please click on “Individual Sprouting Legumes” on the Menu at the left side of the page.

Let’s Review

What happens if our birds don’t have enough Oleic Acid (Omega 9) in their diet on a regular and consistent basis?

Besides the fact that Omega 9 is responsible for fat oxidation (transfers fat into useable energy), protects cells from free radical damage, and generates brain myelin (the sheath that protects brain nerves), Oleic Acid literally provides the nutrition to regenerate the mucosal lining in our birds’ digestive tracts. Without this fatty acid, our birds’ thin digestive walls are left totally exposed to rip, tear and allow tiny particles of food, bacteria, viruses (ABV and more), and fungus into the blood stream.

Instead of feeding high processed, dried out kibble to our birds, instead of feeding cooked foods that destroy the living nutrients, instead of throwing a bunch of foods together without knowing the balance of nutrients we need to educate ourselves on the nutritional value of each and every food we feed. We need to ensure we include, in balanceall of the nutrients our birds require to thrive from hatch long into their very long lives.


©7.29.16   Machelle Pacion   Passion Tree House LLC   All Rights Reserved

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