(Blissfield, MI) During show season, concern mounts over transmittable diseases with the increased risk of exposure due to conditions that include boarding and competing with unfamiliar animals that have traveled from other regions and from event to event, as well as increased stress on the horse due to more intense training and travel. Unfortunately, the effects of heat, travel and showing can take a toll on the horse's immune system and increase susceptibility to environmental stresses, and the body's natural immune defenses can become compromised.
The horse's immune system protects the body from imbalances by identifying and neutralizing foreign agents. When challenges are present during show season, there are nutritional strategies that every horse owner can take to support their horse's immune system and help reduce the risks associated with travel and showing.
Reactions to new environments can contribute to increased free radical responses throughout the body. Immune responses can be altered as a result of the increased oxidative stress. The signs of these reactions can vary and the normal immune response can be altered. Nutritional support in the form of antioxidant and digestive aid can help support the immune system.
Jack Grogan, Certified Nutritionist and Chief Science Officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, identifies these natural solutions and how they work.
Grogan explains that phytonutrients are a relatively new class of natural compounds showing tremendous value in controlling excessive free radical formation and its negative effect on equine health, "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.
"As an antioxidant," Grogan continues, "phytonutrients have the ability to quench free radicals, which are molecules with an unpaired electron that randomly pull electrons from other molecules. Although the body produces free radicals as part of normal metabolic activity, excessive levels of free radicals create an adverse cycle of cellular events, which may lead to cell damage (aging & disease) or destruction."
Exposure that also can contribute to free radical stress can come from the environment, such as air pollution, toxic metals, herbicides and pesticides. Grogan points out that antioxidants such as 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 and Ginger Root, and Gingko Biloba."
Grogan explains that antioxidants support the body's immune system, respiratory and cardiovascular health, "Equine diets typically lack these fresh antioxidant compounds. Rarely do most horses have an ample supply of fresh green pastures, especially when traveling. Most are fed dried hay and grains. In fact, many horse feeds are highly processed and refined, which further reduces the antioxidants that occur naturally in their native diet. Supplementing feeds with antioxidant-rich phytonutrients can efficiently protect the horse's body from the damaging effects of free radicals.
In addition, 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.
Another significant factor Grogan identifies in immune support is digestive health. All mammals have a complex system of lymphatic ducts, which provide barriers to infection and play an important role in immune responses, "Because 60% of lymph tissue surrounds the digestive tract, it is a main avenue for exposure to foreign substances that could contribute to diminished immune function, so it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system."
"Horses have a highly developed, complicated and sensitive GI tract and as a result, the digestive function is easily disrupted," he continues, "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.
"Fortunately," Grogan notes, "Digestive health can be improved. High-strength digestive enzymes can help maintain or restore normal function by improving digestive efficiency, absorption function, and have an added anti-allergy benefit. In addition, high doses of probiotics help re-establish beneficial gut bacteria by reducing pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, thus reducing inflammation, and aiding digestion."
Effective immune support can be obtained from non-invasive, nutritional ingredients and the supplementation of antioxidants with digestive support. Effective nutritional substances that Grogan recommends for immune support include the following:
- 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.
- 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.
Jack Grogan, Chief Science Officer and Certified Nutritionist, has worked extensively in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, is an expert in tissue mineral balancing, and has experienced notable success in balancing mineral chemistry to strengthen the basic metabolism and improve efficiency in horses.
Uckele Health & Nutrition has built a reputation over 50 years creating a broad spectrum of nutritional supplements from concept to shelf, also providing private labeling and custom manufacturing for reputable companies and organizations worldwide. With decades of nutritional knowledge and experience, Uckele's team of experts develop, formulate and manufacture a vast array of high potency, balanced nutritional supplements to support optimal health and performance at the highest level.