Things are pretty calm around here at Providence Exotic Bird Sanctuary, but that’s really nothing out of the ordinary. Oh yeah, sure every once in a while the noise decibel raises when it’s a full moon, or an emergency vehicle goes rushing by and alerts the entire flock, but for the most part our residents are cool cucumbers! Our permanent residents don’t spend their time screaming, and it’s not because the feather destroyers we take in are on Prozac or Haloperidol. No, we don’t keep our residents on antidepressants or antipsychotic meds; we don’t believe in using pharmaceuticals on exotic parrots unless it’s a life or death situation.
Instead of using pharmaceuticals to alter our birds’ emotions, state of mind or sedate them, we choose to use diet to manage their emotions and behavior much like Nature intended.
Our research has found that by feeding exotic birds foods containing similar naturally occurring constituents they might find in the wild, ingredients that Nature placed in their wild foods our residents remain in tip-top health and keep even temperaments as well.
We’ve learned that feeding foods raising glutamic acid and glutamine levels above what Nature intended makes for uneasy, antsy, aggressive birds. Glutamic acid acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter. While both of these amino acids are necessary in a living creature’s life, too much tilts the scale to unwanted behavior as well as ill health. For example, a living creature with too much glutamic acid and glutamine may eventually suffer leaky gut, autoimmune disorders, improper production of neurotransmitters leading to panic attacks and anxiety as well as aggression and a host of other problems like food sensitivities, allergies, brain fog, dementia, and more. Too much of these amino acids actually raises the ammonia level in the brain so high that the level cannot be detoxed out of the brain fast enough before early brain cell death occurs.
What does one do to prevent extraordinarily high levels of glutamic acid and glutamine? Or rather, balance these amino acids? It is imperative to make sure enough GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is present. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter; it blocks nerve impulses. In other words GABA calms, soothes and relaxes. Instead of triggering the “fight or flight” mechanism in a living creature, GABA tells the brain “Don’t worry, be happy everything is going to be okay.” To increase GABA naturally is not such an easy task. One cannot simply pop a pill for GABA. Any “synthetic” means of increasing GABA does so artificially and eventually backfires resulting in a total depletion of the very GABA one is attempting to replenish and build. If GABA is to be replenished and maintained adequately one must build GABA naturally through means of eating foods that supply the precursors to GABA through natural systemic synthesizing.
Foods containing GABA are meal worms, Krill oil, slightly green banana, sprouted Basmati brown rice (also contains glutamine-rice bran may be the best choice), lemons, limes, sprouted lentils, Chamomile flowers (the highest level of GABA would be in flowers from Croatia), Brewer’s yeast. All of these items are “fairly” safe for birds who engage in feather destruction, but will depend on each, individual bird. Other food items that increase GABA, but I do not recommend for feather destroyers are: tea (be careful with this food; it also blocks iron absorption and depletes Vitamin B12), nuts (contain salicylates and histamines which trigger feather destruction) and whole grains (which also contain glutamic acid and glutamine), molasses (also contains glutamine), prunes, Durian, plantain.
Another theory is to fuel the brain with dietary fat using the ketones dietary fat produces instead of the normal glucose the brain normally runs on produced by the glutamic acid and glutamine-containing foods. Studies have strongly indicated that too much excitatory neurons leads to early brain cell death and this may be what is causing panic disorders, anxiety, seizures, dementia and other negative behaviors. In clinical tests when ketogenic diets were used and ketosis was experienced, it was believed that brains switched over to functioning on ketones, the “waste” product of dietary fat. Ketones actually lowered inflammation in brain cells calming and soothing the nerves in the brain. Dietary fat that may be helpful to feed our birds would be Krill oil, a long-chain Omega 3 that can actually cross the brain blood barrier. Flax seed oil (medium chain fatty acid) alone cannot cross the brain blood barrier; hemp seed oil (medium chain fatty acid) that naturally contains GLA (gamma linolenic acid) must be eaten along with flax seed oil in order for the Omega 3 in flax to cross the brain blood barrier. It is believed that a ratio of at least 2 parts flax seed oil to 1 part hemp seed oil is sufficient to cross the brain blood barrier.
In short, yes there are GABA pills, and there are L-Theanine (the “L” indicates it is synthetic) powders and pills, but again I warn you these are considered a “synthetic” means of raising GABA temporarily. Long-term use of these synthetic means of raising GABA and eventually these methods will turn their back on you causing a complete and total loss of GABA in the system with the end result leaving you right back where you started. The idea is to “trigger” a living system into making GABA on its own. That means a couple of things.
First we have to begin detoxing the digestive tract from grains containing gluten (high glutamic acid and glutamine-containing foods) and other foods containing these constituents such as most legumes, cabbage, yogurt, beets, spinach, spirulina, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli raab, chives, sesame seed, sunflower seed and soy and peanuts. Secondly and ongoing we have to feed foods mentioned above along with tender greens to help support healthy bacterial growth like cilantro and dandelion greens.
All of this is part of the intricacy of “food combining” and learning the proper way to feed our beloved companion exotic birds in a way in which diet contributes to their overall well-being. We don’t want to just haphazardly feed taking macro nutrients into account hoping all will come out “just okay.” No, we want to feed our birds in such a way they thrive for years and years to come, even if it means they live long past our own years hear on this Earth!
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