Leaky What? Is your horse’s gut making him sick?

November 17, 2011

Leaky What?  Leaky Gut sounds messy!  

The lining of our digestive tract is probably the most important protection that we have from disease and parasites. Leaky Gut Syndrome is caused by tiny tears, or holes, in the intestinal wall. This “leakyness” allows undigested food particles, parasites, fungi and bacteria to “leak” into the bloodstream. 

When this happens, the blood becomes contaminated.  Leaky Gut Syndrome can affect all species who are subjected to today’s processed and preserved diets:  humans, horses, dogs, cats – your whole family.

If you or your animals have unresolved health problems, this syndrome could be one of the missing pieces of the puzzle.  Some doctors and veterinarians now view Leaky Gut Syndrome as one of the leading causes of health problems — from parasites to auto-immune diseases.

Auto-immune diseases are conditions where the immune system makes antibodies against the body’s own tissue. Diseases in this category include Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, and even Hives.

What Causes a “Leaky Gut”?

A healthy digestive tract has has a protective mucous layer barrier in addition to a thriving community of beneficial gut flora. This protection prevents toxins and parasites from having direct contact with the “skin” or epithelial surface. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Bute, Aleve, Tylenol) interfere with secretion of mucous, and antibiotics decrease healthy gut flora (bacteria), thereby reducing this protection.

Leaky gut diagram

Many doctors and vets now routinely prescribe antacids and acid-blocking drugs to treat ulcers, these upset the acid/alkaline balance in the intestinal tract, creating a hostile environment for healthy digestive flora and an attractive environment for pathogenic bacteria. This improper pH creates a very unhealthy gastrointestinal system that then impairs proper digestion and absorption of nutrients and irritates the intestinal lining.

Other causes of leaky gut syndrome include: chronic intestinal infections, drugs such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, malnutrition, and vaccinations.  Another leading cause is a diet high in refined carbohydrates.  These readily available sugars feed and support unhealthy pathogenic flora. The increased acid levels from a diet high in refined carbohydrates also harm the mucosal layer that is supposed to protect the gut.

In my opinion, the leading factors of leaky gut are:

  • Indigestible fats — such as processed oils (corn, soybean) and trans-fats
  • Residues from highly processed foods like sweet feeds
  • Preservatives such as ethoxyquin, used to extend the shelf life of most commercial animal foods
  • Antibiotics
  • Diets devoid of fresh enzymes

How does Leaky Gut Syndrome progress?

The lining of the digestive tract responds to toxins by binding them and releasing chemicals from the liver to destroy them.  These bound up toxins are then washed out in the feces.  If the lining of the gut is damaged, small tears appear in weakened areas, which allow large molecules to pass directly into the bloodstream.   These large molecules may be parasites, toxins or, often, undigested food particles.

When these particles pass through the intestinal wall, the immune system reacts by forming antibodies to combat them. This is the foundation for many food allergies and auto-immune conditions.   Much of what we think of as “allergies” is actually the outward symptoms of these antigen/antibody complexes and may display as hives, skin eruptions, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (heaves). 

Many people and animals with leaky gut syndrome display chronic diarrhea, lose weight and display substantial body stiffness and soreness.   Leaky gut syndrome has a devastating effect on the liver when it is called upon to clean all this contaminated blood coming from the intestine.

Horse with leaky gut

When the liver is overwhelmed all of it’s important functions (such as Digestion, energy production, detoxification, cell repair,  immune T-cell production) are negatively affected.  Some of the symptoms resulting from this overload of the liver include muscles soreness, poor quality hooves, weak, easily injured tendons and ligaments, eye disorders and irritability.

These symptoms precede any elevation in liver enzymes which would show up on routine bloodwork.  As the liver continues to fail the body becomes more toxic.  As these toxins reach the blood more free radicals build up which contribute to more chronic diseases.


In order to reverse Leaky Gut Syndrome the body needs the opportunity to heal and repair.  Our first priority is to support the organs of elimination; the liver and kidneys.  If these are clogged and overwhelmed, toxins continue to back up into the body. Feeding a biologically appropriate diet, free of processed grains and sugars, along with a detoxification program is key.  It is equally important to restore the healthy gut flora so we add Dyna-Pro probiotic to each meal.

For detoxification I prefer the gentle and effective approach of zeolites, herbs and probiotics along with substantial amounts of chlorophyll.  No matter what the species – from horse to human – we begin with Amazon Herbs Treasure Tea and raw apple cider vinegar to flush the kidneys and begin to alkalize the body.  I use the VivoZeoCompleteEq to support and cleanse the instestines and liver.  And, most importantly, we give substantial amounts of Sangre de Drago.  This herb not only provides large amounts of bioflavonoid antioxidants, it helps seal and repair the tears in the intestinal tract.

To ensure that we are feeding a complete diet we add in E3 AFA™FOR HORSES (a super food of blue green algae).  These provides a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals and amino acids along with a high level of essential fatty acids.  Blue green algae is extremely high in chlorophyll which supports blood oxygen levels.  Most pathenogens can not tolerate a high blood oxygen level.  Blue green algae also provides a high level of B vitamins which are a primary food for the health gut flora necessary for digestive health.  Blue green algae has also been shown to bind up aflatoxins and remove them from the liver.

If the horse (or person) is also affected by high levels of pain and inflammation, we also add Amazon Herbs’ Recovazon to the diet.  Recovazon assists the body to lower inflammation and supports cellular repair.

Supportive Modalities

In addition to diet and detoxification processes, alternative modalities can speed the bodies’ recovery.  We use Photopuncture light therapy, or acupuncture, to balance the energetic meridians and stimulate detoxification.  Light therapy, acupressure, massage and Reiki all help lower pain levels and support the immune system.

As pain levels subside, it is important to add slowly increasing levels of exercise.  This helps the body to rebuild muscle and stimulate circulation.  Exercise also improves the mental and emotional balance.


The best prevention against Leaky Gut, autoimmune diseases, allergies and many metabolic failures is proper diet and regular detoxification.  By implementing healthy biologically appropriate diets and regular cleansing protocols, you and your animals can avoid many health challenges.  By the time Leaky Gut has been diagnosed, the body may be severely compromised.  If you find you or your animals in this situation make changes immediately and you CAN turn these problems around!

For more articles and information on holistic approaches for caring for horses and animals visit:

Grand Adventures Ranch


Our first Intentional Horse webinar was a success – for the few people who made it on.  Due to our messing up the invitations and then technical difficulites with the webinar software too many people missed it! 

So we are offering it again!

Horses CAN recover from life threatening wounds!
Helping Horses Recover from Severe Wounds
Join us for a Webinar on Tuesday, November 22
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Detailed program covering immediate emergency responses and long term therapeutic approaches for handling critical wounds in horses.

Don’t miss this program if you have horses – the life you save may be your horses!  (And the bank account you save may be yours!)

Title: Helping Horses Recover from Severe Wounds
Date: Monday, November 22, 2011
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

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