Sunday, March 24, 2013

Preparedness: Probiotics

This article is about Probiotics for horses but Probiotics are good for people, too, so KEEP READING!

Originally posted on Facebook by Lif Strand on Friday, November 12, 2010 at 1:59pm

Disclaimer: The information provided here on probiotics is not a substitute for veterinary care or your own research.  Keep in mind that some veterinarians may know little about probiotics or support a nutritional approach to health and healing and may not support your use of probiotics.

Probiotics are "good" gut bacteria. They work with enzymes and such to break down food enough to allow nutrients to be absorbed. Probiotics keep intestines clean by feeding on putrefied waste, fungi, harmful bacteria, yeast, poisons and other nasty substances. These bacteria also aid the body in producing essential elements such as hormones, vitamins and proteins needed for proper growth, immune function and healing. Good gut health is key to a healthy immune system.

Unrelieved or sufficiently intense stress, whether from emotional or physiological causes, kills off the good gut bacteria, resulting in a nasty feedback cycle wherein the body becomes more stressed because of inability to metabolize nutrients and the presence of stress hormones, which causes more stress, and so on.

Physical things that may cause stress kill-off of good gut bacteria include but are not limited to: Dehydration, alcohol (can happen with feeds that ferment in the gut), diets high in fat and protein that are not immediately utilized by the horse’s body, large quantities of sugars, the chlorine and fluorine so often found in our drinking water, antibiotics, other drugs, illness, fever, and overheating.

Some studies have been done linking the presence of adequate numbers of probiotics in the gut and mood in humans. "Gut immunity and neuro-immunity are intimately bound, sharing the same receptors and the same signals. Information that initiates in the gut ends up in the brain and vice versa, providing a comprehensive cross talk between the two sets of tissues." There is no reason to assume there would not be the same relationship between gut and emotions in horses as well.

I have myself seen a direct relationship between flooding a horse's gut with probiotics and behavior improvement - particularly with mares!

I don't recommend any particular brand, but I do highly recommend making sure that if you're using a probiotic powder that is supposed to be refrigerated that your source is refrigerating it! Also, a DDS-1 strain of acidophilus is preferred because DDS-1 acidophilus can handle the acid environment of the stomach much better than other strains. You do not need to get anything fancy that's got specialized bacteria, either, and don't bother spending big money on probiotics - anything that costs a lot has got other ingredients in it to pump up the price. The bacteria themselves are inexpensive to produce and therefore should not cost that much.

Probiotics for a horse in need

You can readily get probiotics for horses in two forms: Feed stores sell it in tubes and in bulk as a powder. Buy both forms: Get two tubes and one tub of the powder - it's not expensive at all.

The instructions on tube probiotics generally have you spread out several doses from one tube - but instead, give one tube in the morning, one tube in the evening. The flavor is nice so generally horses aren't resistant to the stuff.

The next day start giving the powdered probiotic in a small amount of low-energy moist feed (e.g. beet pulp mixed with Bermuda blend pellets or grass pellets if you can find them), well soaked. Whatever the probiotics directions are, feed about twice the dose three times a day for a few days, then twice the dose twice a day for a few days, then the regular dose twice a day for a while, maybe forever, depending on how your horse responds.

I buy powdered probiotics for equines at $12 for a half pound container from my feed store (refrigerated). The label says there are 48 servings in the container. My 27 year old mare was on it till the day she died to help keep up her weight and I give some to my stallion to help him keep even, and I take it too. Of course, you can buy acidophilus for humans almost anywhere nowadays, and you may prefer taking capsules rather than dealing with a powder.

The brand I get is Super Pro-Biotic manufactured by Animal Health of Eugene Oregon. It has just 4 kinds of bacteria, including acidophilus DDS-1. Any brand will do as long as it doesn’t contain fillers, the acidophilus is the DDS-1 strain, and you trust that it’s been kept refrigerated.

Probiotics for dogs & cats

While I have seen good results using horse probiotics for dogs, I recommend getting a blend that is made specifically for carnivores, as different bacteria flourish in and support different pH in the gut.  Meat eaters need more bifidus for a more acid environment than herbivores (plant eaters), which benefit more from the alkaline gut that they get from acidophilus.

Probiotics for people

I'm not a doctor, not a nutritionist or a scientist qualified by virtue of a degree or license to give nutritional advice, so I'm not.  Reread the above info about animals.  Use your brain.  If you can't use your brain, in my opinion you for sure need to be taking probiotics.  Seems to me that if probiotics work for horses, then any human who lives a stressful life (which is most everyone nowadays) would benefit from them.  I'd go without almost any nutritional supplement at all (except for L-lysine) before I'd go without probiotics.

More info:
Here's a link to the article on probiotics and their relationship to depression. 
Wikipedia info on probiotics
Harvard Medical School on probiotics
Mayo Clinic on probiotics
WebMD on probiotics

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