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Equine Gastrointestinal Series: Leaky Gut

August 31, 2020 2 min read

Equine Gastrointestinal Series: Leaky Gut

Leaky Gut, a frequently seen condition which may cause a myriad of clinical signs such as behavioral changes, reduced work performance, bone and joint issues, and skin allergies is what is referred to as leaky gut syndrome (LGS). This syndrome occurs when the cells that make up the lining of the intestinal tract are themselves damaged, or the tight junctions which join the cells together break down. The lining of the gut normally acts as a barrier which serves to limit what enters the bloodstream to be transported to the internal organs. Damage to this barrier may be caused by a variety of factors, including toxins or stress associated with a change in diet, travel, training, or environmental factors such as excessive heat exposure. As well, infectious pathogens such as Clostridia, Salmonella and Escherichia coli have the ability to release endotoxins which in turn can damage the intestinal lining. Any one or a combination  of multiple stress factors, pathogens and toxins can cause small leaks which, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to larger leaks. These leaks within the intestinal lining allow harmful toxins and pathogens to cross the intestinal barrier and enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to further gastrointestinal disease, systemic inflammation, decreased nutrient absorption, and immune system disruption. 

Proper nutrition, environmental management, and training practices are all key components in the prevention of the development of leaky gut syndrome. The addition of a high quality nutraceutical supplement to the diet can provide a combination of bioactive compounds including medicinal mushrooms (such as Turkey Tail), prebiotics, probiotics, colostrum (gut junctions) and nucleotides which will boost the intestinal tract’s ability to function optimally and maintain a healthy microbial barrier to toxins, pathogens and other stressful factors. 

In summary, there are a number of diseases associated with the intestinal tract in horses. As with the upper digestive tract, many of the abnormal conditions of the lower digestive tract are associated with inappropriate feed management or poor quality diet, poor husbandry, stress from the environment and/or training,  stress from traveling or showing. The more the equine diet mimics the one they naturally evolved to eat, (one free of toxic chemicals and synthesized additives) and the more their environment allows them to move and forage freely, or feed smaller meals more frequently through the day, the less likely they are to suffer from various intestinal ailments



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