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21: Leaky Gut in Horses: The Holistic Approach
Episode 2127th February 2024 • Healing Horses with Elisha • Elisha Edwards
00:00:00 00:28:07

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Today, we are focusing on a condition called leaky gut.

A leaky gut can sometimes be elusive, so owners often fail to recognize it as a digestive problem when looking at their horse’s health profile.

In this episode, I dive into what a leaky gut is, explain how it starts, and discuss how you may be able to identify it. I also clarify why you need to be mindful when trying to detect it and share some health problems that may result from a leaky gut in horses.

The Connection Between Leaky Gut and Other Health Conditions

There is often a link between a leaky gut and various health conditions and symptoms beyond typical digestive issues. While it is not always possible to diagnose a leaky gut directly, the impact is pervasive, affecting the horse’s immune system, skin, muscular-skeletal system, and overall health. Toxicity, which underlies many equine diseases, usually stems from a leaky gut. A leaky gut also contributes to conditions like laminitis, where the toxicity exacerbates inflammation, particularly damaging the specialized laminae tissue in the hooves. Even though a leaky gut can be hard to pin down, the symptoms call for careful attention and management.

Understanding Leaky Gut and its Role in Digestion

A leaky gut primarily affects the hindgut. The hindgut includes the cecum and large intestine, which comprise a significant portion of a horse’s digestive system. Those organs host a vast community of bacteria that ferment carbohydrates, converting them into the vital energy that horses require. However, over-fermentation, often triggered by excessive starches and sugars, can lead to lactic acid production, which lowers pH levels. That acidic environment compromises the integrity of the gut, allowing toxins, bacteria, and undigested proteins to leak into the bloodstream, sparking a cascade of health issues.

Factors Influencing a Leaky Gut  

Many factors may contribute to a leaky gut, including diet (especially high-starch and high-sugar forage), stress, dewormers, medications, and age, all of which disrupt the delicate balance of the gut, raising acidity and harming gut function. 

Symptoms of a Leaky Gut

Horses with a leaky gut could show symptoms like weight loss, irritability, fatigue, colic, bloating, poor appetite, diarrhea, and skin issues. Identifying those symptoms and the potential risk factors will help you detect and address problems early.

Preventing Leaky Gut

Preventing a leaky gut involves meticulous dietary management, stress reduction, and minimizing exposure to toxins. That requires paying close attention to feed ingredients, avoiding stressors, and using medications wisely. 

Managing Leaky Gut

Probiotics and dietary changes can help restore your horse’s gut health and support their liver and kidneys. 

The Benefits of a Holistic Approach

Adopting a holistic approach and considering how different body systems are connected will make it far easier to manage a leaky gut effectively, boosting your horse’s overall health and increasing its resilience to diseases.

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