Gut Health & Benefits
Kate Hore RNutr(Animal). Snr Nutritionist at NAF
We’re approaching winter and with that comes colder, wetter weather, which naturally can result in condition loss. For our good do-ers, winter can help us get on top of those extra pounds. However finer breeds don’t tolerate change as well1, and that can mean careful management to maintain condition, health and vitality when weather is variable, fresh grazing scarce, and we’re relying on preserved forages.
When think of immunity our first thought is often the white blood cells known as leucocytes. However the immune system is large and complex, and certainly not run just by the leucocytes – in fact they’re not even the most important part. The principle organ of immunity in any vertebrate, including horses, is their digestive system. Within the horse’s gut we find the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT), a type of lymphatic tissue that contributes over 70% of the body’s whole immunity2,3. Working alongside the GALT is the microbiome – a vast population of bacteria, yeast, protozoa and funghi, working to optimise digestion which, in turn, provides the energy to work, the building blocks for growth and repair, essential nutrients for every organ in the system, and the fuel to maintain condition4.
In short : Healthy digestive system = Strong immunity = Healthy horse
Once we understand where immunity really sits, then we can understand that by supporting digestive health we not only help our horse’s get the most from their diet, so maintain a healthy condition, but also support their natural defences. By feeding the microbiome of the hind-gut with a live probiotic yeast, we feed an effective digestibility enhancer, so supporting their overall digestive health. The word ‘probiotic’ means ‘for life’ and remembering that is a simple way to remember how important they are to health. To get the best from your probiotic supplement ensure it also includes a prebiotic, such as Fructo-oligosaccharides. The prebiotics are specialised compounds which effectively feed the probiotic, therefore providing a fuel source for that essential digestibility enhancement.
While pre and probiotics are particularly recognised for the stability and health of the microbiota in the hind-gut, higher up the digestive tract, particularly in the stomach, we need a more complex approach. Probiotics are still important, as microbiota also exist in the stomach5, but in that acidic environment we also need to ensure pH is maintained and stomach walls soothed. We know that the modern equine life of stabling, performance work and regular travel can challenge gastric health. Associated acid splash and compromised stomach mucosa health is now widely recognised as commonly occurring in race and performance horses. For these horses we would recommend feeding total digestive tract support, with NAF GastriAid. GastriAid contains herbal support for gut health from psyllium, to condition the stomach and gut lining, together with the soothing antacid properties of sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate, and pre and probiotics for total microbiome health. By supporting the whole digestive tract, GastriAid is the ideal choice to maintain immune function and condition in all horses and ponies, maintaining health and vitality whatever the weather!
Selected References 1.
- Jorgensen GH et al (2016) Preference for shelter and additional heat in horses exposed to Nordic winter conditions. Equine Veterinary Journal. 48(6) p.720-726
- Vighi G et al (2008) Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 153 (Supp1) 3-6
- Moore-Colyer M.J.S: (2019) Gut health and dietary manipulation for performance horses: An overview of new studies regarding digestive aids available for horses. Proceedings of 9th European Equine Health & Nutrition Congress. Utrecht.
- Geor R.J, Harris P.A & Coenen M (2013) Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Pub: Saunders.
- Costa MC et al (2015) Characterization and comparison of the bacterial microbiota in different gastrointestinal tract compartments in horses. Veterinary Journal. 205(1) p.74-80