Holistic Approach To Gastric Ulcers

Today more and more horses are diagnosed with gastric ulcers. It’s been well-documented that over 90% of racehorses and over 60% of performance horses (hunter/jumpers, dressage, endurance, and western) have ulcers. New research shows that even small changes in the routine of a pleasure horse can cause ulcers in as little as seven days. If your horse is “emotional,” they can start an ulcer just sitting in their stall. Even diet can play a huge roll in developing ulcers. The point here is that it is not just training, traveling or competitions; there could be several factors in developing ulcers.

FIRST – Know the signs of an ulcer. These include poor performance (could be disguised as muscle or back pain), behavioral issues (poor attitude, resistance, girthy), colic, and loss of weight or condition. If your horse is emotional, they could display a specific sweat pattern on the neck and shoulder area.

TREATMENT – The goal is to balance the gut pH. Traditional therapy would be Omeprazole (Gastrogard); This is a gastric acid pump inhibitor that blocks gastric acid secretion in the stomach. Several words of caution here. First, after using these products, there is a condition called Acid Rebound –  a surge in acid production that often happens, causing a significant drop in gastric pH and leaving your horse vulnerable to the formation of new ulcers and digestive discomfort. Second, if used for an extended period, it can inhibit the absorption of key minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Calcium, for example, is dependent on gastric acidity; reduction in acidity may interfere with calcium absorption. Finally, Omeprazole can affect the liver and would be contraindicated for horses suffering from liver issues.

HOLISTIC APPROACH – The goal is the same regarding gut pH. Remember, 65% of your horse’s immune system is in their digestive tract; a poor digestive function can also lead to weakened immunity. Through the holistic approach, we support the entire digestive system. Support is provided through a combination of supplements and diet. Balanced Eco Solution has brought together three supplements that assist in clearing ulcers and support the digestive tract.

Body Balance Wellness Formula – A unique blend of nutraceuticals that provide nutrient fortification to strengthen the hindgut. The primary active ingredients in the Wellness Formula are mannan and glucan sugars. Many pathogenic bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and toxins in the GI tract, and the whole body are attracted to and attach themselves to the mannan sugars. Once attached to the sugars or oligosaccharides, they become inactive, cannot colonize and are rafted out of the body. Also, the Wellness Formula provides a therapeutic dosage of pre and probiotics to add good bacteria back into the gut.

Body Balance Immune Builder – This is a synergistic blend of herbs and honey. It works as an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and supports the kidney and liver. The Immune Builder helps horses suffering from ulcers in two ways. First- the honey helps in healing the stomach wall. Second – Marshmallow Root coats the horse’s stomach lining, helping to cover the ulcer, thus protecting it from the digestive stomach acid and soothing the inflamed area. While at the same time allowing the stomach to function normally, by not interfering with the stomach’s natural acidity level and not harming the beneficial microbes in the horse’s gut.

Flaxseed CM – Helps the ulcer horse in several ways. First is the product is “cold-milled.” Cold milling chops the seed without heating the mill blades, so the essential fatty acids remain intact.  Second – Flaxseed CM is high in fiber (47%) with a large amount of pectin and mucilage.These water-soluble fibers create a soothing gel inside the digestive tract. Flaxseed is low in sugar and starch (2.6%), making it safe for horses with insulin resistance, PPID (Cushing’s), and PSSM.

Diet – Reduce or eliminate grain concentrated feeds as well as vegetable oils, such as soybean and corn oils, they are great sources of fat but promote inflammation due to their high omega 6 content. Look at vegetable sources that are high in omega 3s such as flax (meal or oil) or chia seeds; these reduce the inflammation experienced with ulcers. Replacing grain concentrated feeds with a Teff hay pellet combined with shredded beet pulp and copra meal or Coolstance works well. If you can’t locate Teff grass or pellets, Timothy grass hay can be substituted.

Ulcer Prevention Checklist

  • Feed 30 minutes before exercise. Hay and alfalfa are best as grains pass through the stomach too fast. Forage consumption not only slows the speed of feeding and digesting but also stimulates saliva that acts as a protective buffering agent
  • Provide access to hay throughout the day or multiple small meals.
  • Avoid physical and behavioral stress.
  • Use a natural alternative for long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Phenylbutazone.

RESULTS – Using a pharmaceutical approach, maximum suppression of acid production occurs three to five days after beginning treatment. Using the holistic approach, you can see results in 48 hours or less. Why the faster results using the holistic approach? We are providing the body the nutrition it needs to support the natural healing process instead of a pharmaceutical drug to suppress the symptom.