Leaky Gut Syndrome Part 2

Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter, August 2022, Volume 27, Number 8 Dr. Madalyn Ward – How to have a healthy happy horse

Pathology Associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome

To prevent noxious substances from entering the bloodstream, the healthy gut responds in a complex, highly integrated fashion. Enterocytes, or gut-lining cells, actually bind the noxious substance and release chemicals to destroy it. These cells then secrete substances which draw fluids into the interior of the gut and wash away the offending substance. Damage to the mucous lining and enterocytes often takes the form of weak places in the gut wall, which then allows large protein molecules and other antigens to invade the bloodstream. When these antigens, which may even include poorly digested food particles, pass through the intestinal wall, the immune system reacts by forming antibodies to combat them. This is the foundation for many food allergies and auto-immune conditions. Antigen/antibody complexes can also create allergic reactions such as urticaria (hives), skin eruptions, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (heaves).

Stiffness and joint soreness can also be related to leaky gut syndrome. This results when antigen/antibody complexes are deposited in the tissues. Toxins released into the bloodstream can also cause fever of unknown origin and general fatigue. Other symptoms include memory loss, mood swings, shortness of breath, poor exercise tolerance, or hyperactivity. Intestinal symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or bacterial infections in the bowel.

Most of these conditions manifest in the horse as colic, which is often recurrent and unrelated to management. Chronic weight loss and chronic diarrhea may also result from leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome has a devastating effect on the liver which is called upon to clean all this contaminated blood coming from the intestine. As the liver is stressed symptoms of liver dysfunction begin to appear. These include tight sore muscles, poor quality hooves, weak, easily injured tendons and ligaments, eye disorders and irritability. These symptoms precede any elevation in liver enzymes which would show up on routine blood work. The increased release of toxins into the blood will also deplete the body’s store of phase I and phase II detoxification enzymes leading to an excess of circulating free radicals. These free radicals contribute to chronic disease such as laminitis.


As with ulcers, prevention of leaky gut syndrome should be considered in the way you manage your horse. Keep stress down as much as possible by providing regular exercise and free choice hay. Keep vaccinations, antibiotics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to a minimum. Provide a high quality diet with a whole food source vitamin- mineral supplement such as Blue Green Algae. Nutrition is especially important if your horse is sick or injured. Once you see symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, treatment includes re-establishing healthy gut bacterial, healing and regenerating the mucosal lining, and support for the liver. I use Lean Muscle to heal the gut and re-establish healthy bacteria.

Blue Green Algae has been shown to help with leaky gut syndrome and it works well in combination with aloe vera and slippery elm bark. I have had success with giving therapeutic doses of human grade Acidophilus and Bifidus probiotics. I start with 6 Acidophilus in the AM and 6 Bifidus in the PM. This high dose needs to continue for at least 60 days and then can be lowered.

The Assure Guard Gold products provide prebiotic support. Some horses do better with prebiotics to prepare the gut environment so the good bacteria can maintain their numbers. During the process of rebalancing the gut bacteria it is best to feed a simple, low starch diet. Avoid multiple feeds or supplements that could trigger food sensitivities.

If your horse has chronic diarrhea and frequent abdominal pain, it may indicate more severe damage in the large intestine which prevents the digestion of fiber. In this case I add GI Tract to a protocol with Lean Muscle. These horses need a low fiber, moderate carbohydrate, and high fat diet to recover.

Treatment for leaky gut syndrome may have to continue for months to years until recovery is complete. Acupuncture, chiropractic, or homeopathy may speed the healing process. Many conventional veterinarians do not have much understanding of this condition. If you would like support in healing your horse from leaky gut I do offer homeopathic consultations.

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