By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Today, my dear friend and fellow veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve is joining me for Cat Week. Dr. Hofve is semi-retired and hosts a wonderful website that provides a wealth of information for cat parents on feline holistic health, nutrition and behavior. I asked her to introduce herself to those of you who may not be familiar with her.
"I've been a veterinarian for 23 years, which is a little scary!" says Dr. Hofve. "I'm mostly retired from practice, although I keep my hand in it a little bit, because it turns out it's impossible to really retire!
I write and research for fun. I've written two books with my dear friend, Dr. Celeste Yarnall, including 'The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Manual' and 'Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf.'"
I work all the time on my website, Little Big Cat. Jackson Galaxy and I founded that website 15 years ago — that's a scary number also — to talk about feline health, nutrition and behavior. I've also updated it to include a lot of dog info. I live in Denver with my kitty cat, Sundance."
The Extremely Important Bodily Function Many People Know Nothing About
Dr. Hofve is here today to educate all of us on a topic she's become very passionate about — microcirculation.
"Here's how I kind of wound around to that," she explains. "Most experts nowadays would agree that inflammation is at the root of most diseases, but I have discovered, through my research, that there's something even more basic than inflammation, and that is circulation.
Without great circulation, the inflammation is going to give you a lot more problems. It comes down to microcirculation. We know about the heart and how it pumps blood to and through the big arteries and veins of the body. But when it comes to actually getting blood to each cell, that operation is controlled by a completely different system."
This is an extremely important topic, one I don't think we learned much, if anything about in veterinary school.
"Nothing was taught at vet school about this," Dr. Hofve agrees. "You know, we talked about capillaries and we learned the names of major vessels. But the importance of the smallest arteries and veins is really coming to the fore in medicine right now. It's a huge thing.
Where the nutrients, the oxygen exchange, waste products leave the cells, that all happens in the capillaries. Those capillaries are tiny — they're about a fourth to a half the width of a cat hair. There are 7,000 miles of these capillaries in your average adult cat. They are critical. If the blood isn't getting into the capillaries, the cells aren't getting fed. They're not getting taken care of. And then things start to go awry.
Many years ago, I took a class and the instructor talked about the matrix, and said inflammation happens in the matrix. You and I, Karen, we learned in vet school that the matrix is the connective tissue and the kind of gooey, liquid stuff that surrounds every cell. It's the scaffolding upon which the entire body is built. It turns out all the blood vessels, nerves, lymph channels and stuff run through the matrix.
When the instructor said inflammation happens in the matrix, I suddenly had the vision of slides that I'd seen a thousand times, of all the little white blood cells gathered around the little blood vessels. It was like, 'Oh my God. If that's what's happening, then nothing can get from the blood to the cells. You're creating a situation where they're not going to be nourished. Toxins are going to build up. Of course! That makes perfect sense!'
If the body can't break down toxins, it has to store them somewhere. It sticks them in the matrix. Now, the liver has liver cells, but it also is built on the matrix. In order for the cells to get what they need, you've got to have a healthy matrix. That is why microcirculation is so, so important."
Good Microcirculation Is Foundational to Good Health
Interestingly, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Steve Marsden, who's both a human doctor and a veterinarian, and he said the same thing. What he said was, "Isn't it interesting that in Chinese medicine 4,000 years ago, so much was focused around microcirculation, but they didn't use that term?"
Microcirculation is essentially the foundation upon which the entire body functions. It's something that has been virtually ignored in Western medicine until recently.
"We want to reduce inflammation," explains Dr. Hofve. "That starts with a good healthy diet and exercise. I know it can be hard to exercise cats, but you can walk them. You can get them a cat tree. There are things you can do to improve overall circulation.
Up till now there's really been nothing that addresses microcirculation directly. Massage can help. Acupuncture can certainly help. I love Dr. Marsden. He is brilliant. He uses a lot of Chinese herbs. Of course, you can give all the herbs in the world, but if they can't get to the cells because the microcirculation is disrupted, it's a waste.
In order for anything we put into the body to work — nutrition or anything else that relies on the bloodstream — you've got to clean up the microcirculation. If you don't, then cells are going to die. You're going to get degeneration and disease. Until recently, there was no way to directly influence microcirculation, but now there is.
There's a company in Liechtenstein that has brilliant scientists working on a technology that opens up microcirculation. It's made in Switzerland, and it's been around for 20 years, but it is just now becoming more widely known in the U.S. Doctors and hospitals around the world have been using it, but we're a little late to the party."
Dr. Hofve Used the BEMER Signaling Device to Heal From Congestive Heart Failure
I asked Dr. Hofve to talk about how she learned of this exciting technology and how she's using it.
"I learned about it from my writing partner and buddy, Celeste Yarnall," she answered. "For some reason, the universe just drops all these wonderful new cool things right in her lap, and then she tells me about them, and I go research them. Then we put our heads together and say, 'Okay. Yeah. This is a good thing.'
When we were writing 'Paleo Dog,' I went out to her place in Los Angeles the week before the manuscript was due. We worked literally day and night on it. She had this device, and I used it twice a day. Wow. It really made a difference in how I felt.
I returned home and life was moving along fine, but I have a history of heart disease. I was born with a serious heart defect. It sometimes jumps up and bites me in the you-know-where, and about two years ago, I had a severe episode of congestive heart failure. I called Celeste, and she arranged for me to get this device.
The general technology is called PEMF, pulse electromagnetic fields. Now, we know some EMFs are bad, but this is a very specialized device. There are several out there, but the manufacturer of this particular device, BEMER (Bio-Electro-[Magnetic Energy Regulation), uses the signal of the PEMF to transmit its own very unique signal.
This signal is what promotes healing. It actually influences the tiny arteries, veins, arterioles and venules as they're called, to open, close, pulsate and move the blood more efficiently and more effectively all around the body. So I got the device and used it religiously. It brought me out of that episode of congestive heart failure. I don't think it was what the doctors did that helped me recover."
Wow! So Dr. Hofve discovered this technology in a trial by fire kind of way in an effort to deal with her own health issues. I asked her if she's been able to use the technology when she's working with feline patients.
The Signaling Device Gently Encourages Small Arteries and Veins to Open Up and Allow Blood Into the Capillary Fields
"I don't see very many patients anymore since I'm mostly retired," Dr. Hofve explains. "My own 18-year-old cat passed recently, but I believe he got at least an extra year of happy life thanks to this technology. He parked himself on it and stayed on it for the last year of his life. I just turned it on for him. He did really well and had a great appetite right up until the very end. I was so happy about that because his quality of life for that last year was excellent.
When my 16-year-old cat Sundance hears the beep when I turn on the device, he comes running, jumps up on my lap, and settles in for the treatment. It's so easy because it's just eight minutes twice a day. You just sit there and it does its thing. I really, really love it."
The device is passive, so the animal can just rest on it. I asked Dr. Hofve to explain how it works, and the benefits for cats.
"It comes with a mat," she explains, "which is kind of like a thick yoga mat. The mat has coils embedded in it that transmit the signal, which pulses through the body. It works at a very high frequency and very low amplitude. It's completely safe; there are no known adverse effects. I have a titanium hip and a cardiac pacemaker, and I can use it without any problems.
It gently encourages those tiny arteries and veins to open up and allow blood into the capillary fields. It's very gentle. It's very subtle. I've had people say they didn't feel anything. Others say, 'Wow. I feel buzzing.' It's really interesting. Animals seem to respond to it really well. It's very calming. It just makes them feel better. You should see what it does for horses. You can take horses going in seven directions at once, and within a few minutes, they're falling asleep."
I asked Dr. Hofve if there are other veterinarians using the technology.
"Many," she replied. "I have a really good friend, holistic vet Dr. Gerry Buchoff in New Jersey, who takes patients right from the surgery table and puts them on the mat to recover."
I also asked Dr. Hofve if there are any contraindications — situations in which we would not want to enhance microcirculation with this technology.
"Only one, and that's organ transplant," she answered. "For example, my cardiologist says that I will eventually need a heart transplant. I'm thinking, 'Do I want to do that'? If I do, I won't be able to use my BEMER anymore."
NASA Is Incorporating the BEMER Technology Into Astronaut Space Suits
"What really sold me on this technology," Dr. Hofve says, "was the fact that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) went looking for a technology they could weave into space suits to reduce the effects of zero gravity on astronauts.
NASA tested every PEMF device out there, and they chose the one made by BEMER. I thought, 'If it's good enough for NASA, then this is some serious science. There's some seriously good stuff happening here.'"
I've never used this technology, but it seems it could potentially be really beneficial for cats, especially aging cats. Kitties often don't want to be touched. They don't want to be handled. It sounds to me like this could be a perfect fit for them and other animals sensitive to handling, because we're not physically doing anything to them.
"Right," agrees Dr. Hofve. "Once they get the point of it, they will go and lay on it on their own. They will seek it out."
Increased Microcirculation Helps Resolve Inflammation; Inflammation Is at the Root of Most Disease
I'm thinking about all the different feline disorders in which an inflammatory process occurs. I asked Dr. Hofve what types of medical conditions she thinks might benefit from this technology.
"We don't really talk about conditions," she explains, "but we know that inflammation is the basis of virtually all disease. It underlies everything. Let me just tell you what happens when you use the BEMER.
The toxins and debris left by inflammation can now be sent into the bloodstream for disposal. Nutrients and oxygen can move into the cells. Waste products can move out of the cells. They have a clear path to get out into the venous system. Fresh oxygenated blood can get into areas where it wasn't able to get in before.
What happens with inflammation is it causes all sorts of debris and junk to build up. Inflammation is a normal process, but when the body can't clean it up, it becomes a big problem. Once microcirculation improves and the cells can get the debris out of the way and everything's flowing nicely, they can resume their normal activities efficiently.
My cat is already plenty smart so he doesn't really need the device for his brain. But it clears up my brain fog. When I'm getting more oxygen to my brain, I feel better."
The BEMER Is Now Being Used by US MDs and Veterinarians
I'm thinking this technology could also be used prophylactically, as well, to maintain the body in excellent physical condition.
"Exactly," agrees Dr. Hofve. "In fact, some Olympic athletes and a couple of Olympic horses have been treated with the device. There was also a study of residents in an old folks' home, and no matter what condition they had, after they received this therapy, two-thirds of them slept better. Half had less pain. Two-thirds experienced an overall better quality of life. So with our older kitties, and younger ones as well, we can alleviate or prevent some of the problems that come with aging.
What the BEMER signal does is increase microvessel motion. We talked about that rhythmic pumping of the arterioles and venules. It increases the rhythmic pumping through the arterioles and venules by almost 30 percent. It also improves oxygen utilization by about 30 percent, provides 30ish percent stronger venous returns, and almost 30 percent more blood in the capillaries. It's a big deal."
There's really no way to simulate the effects of this device for the cats we hold captive in our homes. Indoor kitties aren't as physically active as they should be. Most of them aren't hunting on a regular basis, so they end up leading very sedentary lives.
"The beauty of this is that it increases circulation to all those places that don't move regularly," Dr. Hofve explains. "When your cat is lying down, his blood flow slows down and doesn't move through his body as effectively.
Dr. Buchoff in New Jersey rents the devices out to clients with pets who have certain conditions or injuries, and the pets experience big improvements in their ability to move around and their quality of life." "The device is in use in hospitals and doctors' offices all over Europe," Dr. Hofve adds.
Where to Learn More About Microcirculation and the BEMER Device
I asked Dr. Hofve where people can go to learn more about the BEMER device, how it works, and the benefits it can provide.
"They can go to my website DrJean.BemerGroup.com," she replies. "The set includes the control box, the mat, and attachments. It can also be used with a red light to treat skin conditions. There's also a small applicator you can use for specific areas of the body. For example, when my knee hurts, I apply the applicator directly to my knee. And as I mentioned, my cat just lays on the mat, and he's in pretty good shape for almost 17 years old."
This is also a tool pet parents can use without having to go to the veterinarian. They can purchase the device for home use.
"It's not cheap, of course, but there's financing available," Dr. Hofve says. "I felt so strongly about its benefits that I borrowed money to purchase one for myself, and it's made all the difference in the world for me." I encourage people to learn more about it. There is a way to rent them through our group. Not all distributors allow that, but we have some units to rent."
The BEMER seems like a potentially important tool for people who are interested in a nontoxic therapeutic modality that helps decrease inflammation. "People can email me from the website at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can point them in the right direction," says Dr. Hofve. This has been a very enlightening discussion! I appreciate that Dr. Hofve does so much research on new technology and other therapies that are nontoxic and effective for kitty companions!