Gastrointestinal health and microbial balance has been connected with a host of clinical health problems in both humans and animals, including the horse.  The normal gastrointestinal flora is involved in stimulation of the immune system, synthesis of vitamins (B and K), enhancement of GI motility and function, digestion and nutrient absorption, inhibition of pathogens, metabolism of plant and drug compounds and synthesis of short chain fatty acids.1,9,11  

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Introduction

Intestinal bacterial overgrowth has been a recognized condition in humans, often correlated with systemic health conditions ranging from allergies to cancer, and is a common connection with obesity. Intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut syndrome, is a primary problem that has been also related to various health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, multi-organ failure, kidney disease, liver ailments and a common consequence to radiation or chemotherapy.  The connection between the two is that through the process of increased permeability, bacteria may gain access to the systemic circulation, contributing to organ infection and immune dysfunction. (1,5,6,14)

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If you own a horse, especially one that is competing, I don’t have to tell you that there are ‘gut’ problems in the industry.  It seems as if almost every horse is on an ulcer medication in some shape or form.  Gastrogard® and Ulcergard® tubes seem to be almost a staple in every tack box.  We have a problem, but are we addressing it correctly?  What are the causes of the GI distress and is there something more we can do to assist our equine companions to adjust?  Or are we destined to just continue the expensive dance of anti-ulcer medications? Let’s take a different look at the problem and see if we can produce some answers.

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