If the gut's healthy, the mind's healthy.
Next time you eat too much food or something a little naughty, have a think about how you are feeling afterwards. Bloated, tired, lethargic or cramping may be some of the symptoms you are experiencing. Emotionally how do these symptoms make you feel? Hey, maybe the house can be cleaned later the television is calling. You may not even realise that the food you ate earlier could be causing your reduced mental alertness.
For a long time I have been focusing on increasing the amount of mindfulness in my life. Especially when it comes to food. Food makes up nearly 80% of your healthy lifestyle, so why don't we pay more attention to how food makes us feel. When I finish a meal I always take note on how I am feeling. If I am feeling satisfied without any abnormal gut feelings then I know that the food I have eaten has been accepted by my body. However, if I start to cramp or bloat I have a think of what may have caused this issue. Every person is different. What works for me might not work for you, if you are mindful about how you are feeling then you may be able to pin point what may be causing the problems.
Studies have shown that in our stomachs there are small little bugs called microbiome. These have been known to be directly linked to your mind. The food you eat effects your microbiome and can possibly lead to a bad relationship with food. I am always looking for ways to improve my gut health. I incorporate many things into my diet such as homemade bone broth, fermented vegetables, kombucha and coconut yogurts. Seeing a naturopath has also helped me with my path to good gut health, I highly recommend seeing one! When I am eating all the foods that are good for my stomach, I am feeling my best. Full of energy and happy to take on many of life's challenges.
Do horses need good gut health? Well of course they do!! A horses's digestive system functions completely different to how a humans would, this means they have very different guidelines to remain healthy from the inside out. FIBER is the most important part of a horses diet. Without a sufficient amount of fiber in their diet the acid levels in the stomach increase, the pH of the stomach becomes acidic and corrosion starts affecting the stomach lining. Food horses eat ferment in the stomach, colon and caecum (large intestine). Fiber is the key to keep an optimal pH balance. So what are common feeds full of healthy fiber?
- Grazing materials
A constant supply of these feeds is necessary to make sure your horse is getting enough fiber into it's diet. If fiber is reduced those little microbiome (microbes) can not complete their job of fermenting. Microbes in a horses hind-gut are just as important as the microbes (microbiome) in our stomachs. By giving a horse access to a constant supply of fiber the horse's body can use the microbes to break down all the plant components and ferment the fiber from the plants consumed. If there is too much acid building up from a lack of fiber then many problems can occur, one example being stomach ulcers. These are very common in racehorses because they are in a stable majority of the time without access to grazing or pastures.
Signs your horse may have ulcers:
- Pacing the yard/stable/paddock
- Sore girth area when saddling
- Not eating
- Problems when riding
- Ears pinned back (in a bad mood)
- Dull coat
- Weight loss
If you are worried that your horse may have ulcers you can seek a vets advice. There are many preventative treatments out there that can be given to your horse daily as a preventative technique. Some popular treatments that I have used and seen help horses include:
- Gastrozol (oral paste)
- Gut Nutrition Formula GNF (Feed supplement)
- Ulcerguard (oral paste)
It is important for us as horse owners to look after their horse's diet just as much as we look after our diet. Regular interval feeding is ideal for a horse to be at optimal digestive health. This includes feeding a majority of hays and grasses as well as your concentrates, vitamins and minerals. If the correct balance is achieved your horse will improve in it's behaviour. The overall condition of your horse will also improve because as mentioned earlier the gut is the KEY to HAPPINESS.
It still amazes me that there is such a big connection to your gut and your mind, the correlation to the two is astonishing. A really good book that I recommend reading is 'The Mind-gut Connection', I found it very interesting and took a lot out of it (details below). Looking at your lifestyle holistically allows you to check in with all areas of the body and help it thrive and nourish to obtain optimal happiness and well being. So let's all do the same for our horses. They deserve the chance to have the same happiness as we do!
Emeran Mayer, MD. The Mind-gut Connection, Published, 19th September 2016
Gastrozol, Cited 03/09/17, Website: https://nz.virbac.com/gastro
Gut Nutrition Formula, Cited 03/09/17, Website https://www.amacron.com.au/p-525-gnf-gut-nutrition-formula-10kg.aspx
Ulcerguard, Cited: 03/09/17, Website: http://www.ulcergard.com/treat-with-gastrogard
Nancy. S. Loving, Digestive Health: Food for thought, April 2007, Cited 3/09/17, Website: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/18527/digestive-health-food-for-thought