The horse's immune system protects the body from imbalances by identifying and neutralizing foreign agents. When challenges are present, there are measures that every horse owner can take to support their horse's immune system, which can go a long way toward saving the time, worry and cost of compromised health.
Normal immune response can be affected by any environmental change, internal or external, such as stress, changes in weather, intensive training, competition or long travel hours. This can contribute to increased free radical responses throughout the horse's body, resulting in oxidative stress. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron that randomly pull electrons from other molecules. Although the body produces free radicals as part of healthy metabolic activity, excessive levels of free radicals create an adverse cycle of cellular events, which can lead to cell damage or destruction. The signs of these reactions can vary, showing as allergies, muscular or joint discomfort or even lower resistance.
The Role of Antioxidants in Immune Function
Antioxidants can help support the immune system in the form of phytonutrients, a class of natural compounds showing tremendous value in controlling excessive free radical formation because of their ability to quench free radicals. Hundreds of plants naturally produce these compounds, known as flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenolics and anthocyanins, to protect themselves from oxidative damage. These protective substances are antioxidants that give plants and fruits their color. Citrus fruits, grapes, berries, and green, red and yellow vegetables are all examples of antioxidant-rich foods.
Exposure that also can contribute to free radical stress can come from the environment, such as air or water pollution, toxic metals, herbicides and pesticides. Antioxidants that include the vitamins C, E and Beta Carotene are effective free radical scavengers. The minerals Selenium, Copper, Zinc and Manganese also produce antioxidant enzymes in the body. Other potent antioxidants include Grape Seed Extract, Turmeric, Ginger Root, and Gingko Biloba.
Equine diets typically lack these fresh antioxidant compounds. The modern equine diet and lifestyle is far more likely to generate excessive oxidation or free radical formation than in the past if horses are consuming processed feeds, or feeds low in fiber and/or void of natural antioxidant nutrients and Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish and flax seed oils.
Rarely do most horses have an ample supply of fresh green pastures, especially when traveling or in winter months, with most being fed dried hay and grains. In fact, many horse feeds are highly processed and refined, which further reduces the antioxidants they would consume naturally in their native diets. Supplementing feeds with antioxidant-rich phytonutrients can help protect the horse's body from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Immune System Health through Digestive Wellness
Digestive health is another significant factor identified in immune support. All mammals have a complex system of lymphatic ducts that play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system by providing barriers to infection. Because 70% of lymph tissue surrounds the digestive tract, it is a main avenue for exposure to foreign substances that could contribute to diminished immune function. This immune system of the intestinal tract is called GALT - gut associated lymphoid tissue. The horse's highly developed, complicated and sensitive GI tract can result in disruption of digestive function.
Stress can easily upset digestive function. That includes physical, mental, emotional, chemical, toxic, metabolic, medication and/or nutritional stresses. All of these can cause excessive free radical formation that can contribute to immune compromise. Once this process has been initiated, digestive health can deteriorate, nutrient absorption can decrease, and pathogens and toxins can enter the system, increasing the risk of immune disruption or distress.
Normal digestive function can be supported by incorporating high-strength digestive enzymes that can help maintain or restore normal function by improving digestive efficiency, absorption function, and improve the effects of seasonal allergies. In addition, high doses of probiotics can help re-establish beneficial gut bacteria by reducing pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, thus reducing inflammation and aiding digestion.
Effective immune support ingredients include:
* The amino acids Lysine, Glutamine and N-Acetyl Cysteine directly support healthy immune function, as well as contribute to balanced digestive health.
* The plant polysaccharides Arabinogalactan, Mannose, and Fructooligosaccharides have a stabilizing effect on immune function and support gut related immune response.
* The herbs Acai Berry, Green Tea, Grapeseed Extract, Chlorophyll, Resveratrol, Blueberry, Bilberry, Mangosteen, Cherry, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Echinacea, Siberian Ginseng, Garlic, Pau d'arco, Tumeric, Astragalus and Quercetin reduce excessive oxidative stress, which can occur with immune system imbalances.
* Vitamins C, E, Folic Acid and the Bioflavinoids work together to support immune cell activity and support tissue health during immune compromise.
* Probiotics, the beneficial, good bacteria supply healthy micro-flora for optimal digestive health, which is an important component of healthy immune response.
* The digestive enzymes Pancreatin and Bromelain support a healthy digestive tract and reduce oxidative stress associated with hay, feeds, grasses and other environmental agents that can enter the digestive tract.
* The trace mineral Selenium has an important role in immune response and works with Vitamin E to reduce oxidative stress.
* Beta 1, 3 Glucan has specific roles in a balanced immune response.
* Bio-Active Whey has an immune modulating function to support healthy immune function during times of stress.
* Alpha Lipoic Acid and Malic Acid can support the natural detoxification mechanisms that support immune function by reducing toxic barriers to healthy immune response.
Founded in 1962, Uckele Health & Nutrition has been a trusted leader in the formulation, development and manufacture of quality nutritional supplements for fifty years. With leading edge experience in nutritional research and science, the Uckele team manufactures quality formulas from concept to shelf, formulating a vast array of high potency, balanced nutritional supplements to support optimal health and performance at the highest level.