Supporting Healthy Equine Blood Sugar

Healthy blood sugar is a major factor in equine health. When glucose is not efficiently delivered to or utilized by the target cells, a horse's ability to produce sustained metabolic energy is greatly diminished. This can result in a series of metabolic consequences that increase the stress hormones (i.e., cortisol), insulin, and inflammation; reduce energy; and generate hormonal imbalances. Insulin sensitivity plays a major role in transporting sugar to the cells for energy production and is the first hormone that becomes imbalanced when blood sugar issues occur.

Unfortunately, imbalanced sugar metabolism is becoming more common due to highly processed feeds, incomplete nutrition, and multiple stresses. This can cause body tissues to become more easily stressed, inflamed, and damaged. Jack Grogan, CN, chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has analyzed the metabolic trends and patterns in horses for 20 years and has developed nutritional products with the Uckele team that address imbalances and decrease the display of a very broad spectrum of disorders.

Grogan explains, "The effects of an imbalanced sugar metabolism can show itself in various ways depending on the genetic strengths and weaknesses of the horse or horses involved. It is very common for hoof, joint, and connective tissue issues to occur as a result of imbalanced hormonal changes, especially relative to cortisol and insulin. These same imbalances can also contribute to excessive weight gain, fat patches, decreased energy, skin issues, allergic reactions, or decreases in body weight, especially muscle mass. Your horse may be more easily stressed or spooked, or show unpredictable behaviors and general instability in form and function."

The issues that an imbalanced metabolic function generates occur because the associated hormone imbalances can have very different effects in different horses even though the underlying cause is the same.

To add to the list of behaviors or disorders that can result from sugar imbalance, Grogan says some of the causes that contribute to these imbalances can also be the effect of those imbalances, such as the inability to adjust or compensate for stressful events (internal or external), accumulation of toxicity, excessive inflammation, and over or underproduction of hormones. Other causes of stressed, inefficient metabolisms also include overexercising or other high-intensity training, excessive heat or cold, travel, and socialization issues.

"Bringing a metabolism back into balance will include a number of changes," Grogan says, "First are feed changes that include a low-glycemic feeding program, with optimal amounts of unrefined oil to stabilize blood sugar and the associated hormones."

Grogan also suggests owners pay close attention to the glycemic index (GI), which measures the influences on glucose availability in the bloodstream: "Feeds with high GI contain sugars that break down rapidly during digestion, releasing glucose rapidly into the bloodstream. Feeds with low GI contain carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodsteam."

Grogan emphasizes that at this time of year with new pasture, grasses' sugar content can be high and can also have a high GI: "Imbalanced sugar metabolisms can be exacerbated by a large consumption of these spring grasses after several months during the winter without pasture being available. So, it's important to give optimal nutritional support for the most efficient use of these pasture-based sugars without generating excessive metabolic distress and reactions from an imbalanced sugar metabolism.

"Sweet feed has the highest glycemic effect of all feeds," Grogan continues. "Feeds with a lower GI have more positive health benefits and result in reduced free radical formation, reduced stress, and a more stable, healthy blood sugar level."

In addition, Grogan advises adding unrefined oil or essential fatty acids to the diet, which can slow the glycemic response. He also promotes using non-sugar sweeteners in place of molasses to prevent rapid rises and falls in blood sugar and support healthy glucose metabolism.

Grogan also suggests using nutritional formulas that contain specific ingredients to support healthy blood sugar levels in the body: "These can play a major role in re-establishing a normal healthy balance in hormone and energy production."

Specific key nutrients that can support glandular, muscular, and liver function include:

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid is a potent fat and water soluble antioxidant, which directly supports and maintains glucose levels within the normal range and helps reduce normal oxidative stress;
  • L-Carnitine is an amino acid that supports healthy glucose and fat metabolism;
  • Cinnamon is an aromatic bark that helps support healthy glucose, fat metabolism, and normal blood sugar levels;
  • Niacinamide is a member of the vitamin B-complex family that helps support cells in the pancreas to aid with the transport of glucose;
  • Taurine is an amino acid that helps support sugar metabolism and normal liver function;
  • Tyrosine is an amino acid precursor for the thyroid and adrenal glands that aids normal hormone production by these glands, which can support healthy glucose metabolism;
  • Magnesium is a major mineral that supports cellular energy production, healthy glucose metabolism, and helps reduce the negative effects of stress; and
  • Chromium Yeast is a trace mineral that supports normal, healthy glucose metabolism and helps maintain a balanced blood sugar level.

About the Author

Uckele Health and Nutrition

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