Digestive & Gut Health, Farmalogic, Feeding Tips, Horse Health, Nutrition

Prebiotics and Probiotics: an Introduction

Prebiotics are “a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit.” (ISAPP, 2017).

Prebiotics include indigestible sugars and carbohydrates, fermentation products (such as brewers yeast) or indigestible plant fibres and carbohydrates (such as lignin and cellulose) that nourish the existing gut microbial population. When gut microbes ferment prebiotics they produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs) including butyric acid and propionic acid which can be ingested by means of receptors in the intestinal wall and then be absorbed and used by the horse.

Research in poultry may provide some of the details of exactly how prebiotics are beneficial for good health. The fermentation acids produced by beneficial gut microbes have positive effects on the bowel and digestive system of animals. Butyric acid and to a lesser extent propionic acid give positive signals to hormone-producing cells in the intestinal wall to produce natural hormones which are necessary for the maintenance of the intestinal system and for the feeling of being ‘full’ after eating (satiety). As with horses, poultry are known to suffer digestive upset when they consume too much in one feed, or have a diet too high in protein or too low in fibre. The research in poultry shows that these types of poor diets enhance gut populations of harmful bacteria that send signals to the host body causing inflammation in the intestinal wall. This inflammation in the intestine then causes diarrhoea.

Probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” (FAO/WHO 2001).

A well known example of a probiotic in the horse industry is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. When looking for an effective probiotic, ask for a live yeast preparation in heat protected form. Although based on a live preparation of a strain of brewer’s yeast, branded live yeast additives will be manufactured to a quality standard whereas brewers yeast is a by-product which can have significant variations between batches.

Probiotics can have a significant effect on nutrient digestion in horses of all ages. Scientists have consistent evidence that Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a live yeast probiotic can:

  • Improve feed utilization;
  • Stabilize the hindgut reducing the risk of acidosis; and
  • Improve the growth and development of foals.

Use of a probiotic to replenish the gut microbial population is worthwhile but is best supported by adding a quality supplement to provide high levels of a suite of B-group vitamins. Thiamin (also known as Vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2) and other B group vitamins are critical for horses to utilize the energy supplied by the diet. These vitamins are often produced and used by bacteria in the hindgut. Cobalt is often included in horse supplements but interestingly it is the gut microbes that use cobalt, not the horse itself.

We recommend Farmalogic Rejuvenate as a source of multiple forms of heat protected live yeast probiotics and MOS and fibrous prebiotics. Rejuvenate can be fed in conjunction with Equine Vit&Min Premium Blend or Omega-3 PLUS, both rich sources of a heat protected form of the live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the supporting B-group vitamins needed to help your horse recover from stress and regain a healthy appetite. Equine Vit&Min can help your horse get more value out of the feed you provide. It can help you feed more cost-effectively and produce healthier horses. That is why we have included a daily serve of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, 0.9 mg of cobalt and an array of B group vitamins in every 60g scoop of Equine Vit&Min Premium Blend.

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