The World Health Organization definition of probiotic is a live organism which, when consumed in sufficient amount, confers a health benefit.
The number, complexity and diversity of organisms in the intestinal tract has captured everyone’s imagination. The idea that they may influence health is both exciting and a little frightening. It’s also the most controversial, but everyone can agree the intestinal microbiome is of critical importance to normal function of the digestive tract of the horse.
The upper intestinal tract [stomach and small intestine] is populated primarily by organisms which break down and ferment starch and other simple carbohydrates. This benefits the horse by reducing the amount of glucose that will be absorbed and by helping to protect the large intestine [cecum and colons] from too much simple carbohydrate.
Once the large intestine starts, in the cecum, there is known to be an abrupt change in the number and types of organisms. There are two major phyla (Firmicutes and Bacteroides), but many smaller populations as well. The density and diversity of organisms is much greater and while some generalizations can be made, it’s also true that every horse has a microbiome that is unique to them.
The hind gut population is capable of breaking down sugars, starch, complex plant sugars, fiber and protein. The organisms often work together. For example, some may ferment sugar and starch to lactate, while others use the lactate themselves, thus buffering the intestine.
Probiotics have been appearing in basic feeds and all sorts of supplements for about a quarter of a century now. Supporting normal intestinal function is something everyone can get behind, but how are the organisms chosen? Does it matter?
It certainly does matter. While the safety profile of probiotics is quite good, it has been shown that using the wrong strain can have negative GI effects, especially in the fragile gut environment of foals. For many years the strains used in equine products were largely based on what was beneficial in people and to a lesser extent, in other farm animals. We can now do better.
Recent improvement in genetic techniques has led to a mini explosion of studies on the makeup of the equine intestinal microbiome. We can now at least identify the common equine specific species and focus on supplying a blend of organisms that is more appropriate for the horse.
For example, Lactobacilli are in the larger family Firmicutes. They are found throughout the equine intestinal tract, but different species are present in the stomach and small intestine than in the hind gut. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most well-known probiotic species, but we have found many other strains that are specific to horses such as L. reuteri and L. salivarius for the upper part of the digestive tract, and L. equi, a horse-specific strain in the hind gut.
Other important bacterial strains include Bacilus subitilis, which favors the growth of beneficial bacterial strains and Propionibacterium freudenreichii, which metabolizes lactate and helps control pH. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, perhaps the best researched equine probiotic of all, assists fermentation with any type of diet and should be a prominent ingredient in all equine probiotic products.
Look for these specific organisms and counts in the billions (BCFU = billion colony forming units = billion organisms) to give your horse the most state-of-the art support possible.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers Probiotic formulas that support healthy digestive function.
GUT supports gastric tissue, a healthy GI tract, and healthy digestive and bowel function. Maintains proper gut flora with pre- and probiotic support. Soothes and protects digestive function with Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm Bark, and Aloe Vera Gel Extract.
Very palatable for the most sensitive horse or the pickiest eater. Aluminum free. Available in a palatable pellet, powder and convenient paste.
Absorb-All supports healthy gut and digestive function. Supports the intestinal tract to help maintain healthy gut flora, proper gut pH, and promotes healthy digestion and bowel health. Combines high levels of digestive enzymes, beneficial Probiotics, and microbial fermentation ingredients. Available in a palatable powder or pellet.
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About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. www.ecirhorse.org
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances. www.uckele.com.
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