There's been a lot of talk on health programmes about the human gut 'microbiome' and how an imbalance can adversely affect the immune system, sleep, anxiety, and weight, . In fact some claim that it's an even bigger influence on our health than our genes. For a long time many 'alternative' practitioners have been telling us that the basis of all health begins in the gut but now, at last, the health industry at large is putting a lot of research into this area and discovering connections to different ailments all the time. For instance, last year scientists made a link between gut health and brain health. So, why shouldn't it be exactly the same for our equine friends?
Fortunately, many vets and owners are more aware of ulcers and how easily, through stress or diet, horses are prone to getting them. This has been a really positive move forward for horse welfare, but now it's time for the gastrointestinal microbiome to become the hot topic in equine health.
Forward thinking vets and scientists are claiming that research into the gastrointestinal microbiome could be a real game-changer. An imbalance in horses has been linked to colic, laminitis, obesity, metabolic problems, Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) and behavioural problems but scientists think that there is still more to be discovered.
To prevent and treat disease and improve mental and physical wellbeing for both horses and humans means a two-pronged approach. Firstly, research is being done on manipulating pre and probiotics to improve the gut microbiome. Secondly, they are looking at what causes an imbalance in the first place. For horses, this means looking into horse management, such as feeding, grazing and particularly stress, which is known to upset the balance of the microbiome. Also, research has been carried out into the affect of intense exercise on the equine intestinal microbiome.