Allergy Management through Antioxidants, Digestive Support

Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system when the horse's body reacts to a normally harmless substance in the environment, such as dust, pollen, substances in feed, mold, insect bites, or injections. Almost anything can trigger allergic reactions, which can range from mild and annoying to sudden and life-threatening, if not reversed.

Sensitivity to allergy triggers can contribute to chronic inflammatory responses throughout the body. Clinical signs of allergies vary, but may include:

  • Respiratory problems;
  • Itching or burning skin
  • Teary, itchy, or swollen eyes;
  • Coughing;
  • Digestive issues;
  • Hives;
  • Hair loss; and
  • Itching of the nose or mouth.

Nutritional support in the form of antioxidant and digestive aid can help diminish symptoms and in some cases, strengthen the immune system enough to prevent the allergic response the trigger.

Jack Grogan, dertified nutritionist and chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition, explains that phytonutrients are a relatively new class of natural compounds showing tremendous value in controlling inflammation and its negative effect on equine health: "Hundreds of plants naturally produce these compounds, known as flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenolics and anthocyanins, to protect themselves from oxidative damage. These protective substances are antioxidants that give plants and fruits their color."

Citrus fruits, grapes, berries, and green, red and yellow vegetables are all examples of antioxidant-rich foods.

"As an antioxidant," Grogan continues, "phytonutrients have the ability to quench free radicals, which are molecules with an unpaired electron that randomly pull electrons from other molecules. Although the body produces free radicals as part of normal metabolic activity, excessive levels of free radicals create an adverse cycle of cellular events, which may lead to cell damage (aging & disease) or destruction."

Exposure that can contribute to free radical stress can come from the environment, such as air pollution, toxic metals, herbicides, and pesticides.

"Antioxidants such as the vitamins C, E and beta-carotene are effective free radical scavengers," Grogan points out, "The minerals selenium, copper, zinc and manganese also produce antioxidant enzymes in the body. Other potent antioxidants include grape seed extract, turmeric and ginger root, and gingko biloba."

Grogan explains that antioxidants support the body's immune system, respiratory and cardiovascular health, and may also help horses with seasonal allergies, "Equine diets typically lack these fresh antioxidant compounds. Rarely do most horses have an ample supply of fresh green pastures. Most are fed dried hay and grains. In fact, many horse feeds are highly processed and refined, which further reduces the antioxidants that occur naturally in their native diet. Supplementing feeds with antioxidant-rich phytonutrients can efficiently protect the horse's body from the damaging effects of free radicals and inflammatory chronic health problems."

In addition, the modern equine diet is far more pro-inflammatory than in the past if they are processed feeds, or feeds low in fiber and/or void of natural anti-inflammatory nutrients such as phytonutrients and omega 3 fatty acids such as fish and flax seed oils.

Another significant factor Grogan identifies in allergy control or prevention is digestive health. All mammals have a complex system of lymphatic ducts, which provide barriers to infection and play an important role in immune responses.

"Because 60% of lymph tissue surrounds the digestive tract, it is a main avenue for exposure to foreign substances that could cause illness, so it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system," he explains.

"Horses have a highly developed, complicated and sensitive GI tract and as a result, the digestive function is easily disrupted," he continues, "Stress can easily upset digestive function. That includes physical, mental, emotional, chemical, toxic, metabolic, medication and/or nutritional stresses. All of these can cause inflammation that contributes to immune compromise." Once the inflammation is started, digestion deteriorates, nutrient absorption decreases, and pathogens and toxins can enter the bloodstream, increasing the risk of infection or distress.

Fortunately, Grogan notes that digestive health can be improved, "High-strength digestive enzymes can help maintain or restore normal function by improving digestive efficiency, absorption function, and have an added anti-allergy benefit. In addition, high doses of probiotics help re-establish beneficial gut bacteria by reducing pathogenic bacteria and their toxins, thus reducing inflammation, and aiding digestion."

Effective outcomes can be obtained from noninvasive nutritional intervention for allergic reactions with the supplementation of antioxidants and digestive support. Effective nutritional products Grogan recommends include the following ingredients for immune support:

  • The amino acids lysine, glutamine and N-acetyl cysteine directly support healthy immune function, as well as contribute to balanced digestive health;
  • The plant polysaccharides arabanogalactan, mannose, and fructooligosaccharides have a stabilizing effect on immune function and supports gut related immune response;
  • The herbs acai berry, green tea, grapeseed extract, chlorophyll, resveratrol, blueberry, bilberry, mangosteen, cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, echinacea, siberian ginseng, garlic, pau d'arco, tumeric, astragalus and quercetin reduce excessive oxidative stress, which can occur with immune system imbalances;
  • Vitamin C, E, folic acid and the bioflavinoids work together to support immune cell activity and support tissue health during immune compromise;
  • The beneficial, good bacteria supply healthy microflora for optimal digestive health, which is an important component of a healthy immune response;
  • The digestive enzymes pancreatin and bromelain support a healthy digestive tract and reduce oxidative stress associated with hay, feeds, grasses and other environmental agents that can enter the digestive tract;
  • The trace mineral selenium has an important role in immune response and works with vitamin E to reduce oxidative stress;
  • Beta-glucan has specific roles in a balanced immune response;
  • Bio-active whey has an immune modulating function to support healthy immune function during times of stress;
  • Alpha lipoic acid and malic acid can support the natural detoxification mechanisms that support immune function by reducing toxic barriers to healthy immune responses.

About the Author

Uckele Health and Nutrition

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners