Updated: Sep 15
Liver disease in horses is thought to be most often caused by exposure to toxic plants, toxins in or infection. Horses with liver disease may have low blood protein concentrations, especially albumin.
But could the gut-liver axis be an underlying and neglected primary cause?
An overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria together with a decrease in the good gut bacteria forming the ‘resistome’ increase the opportunities for the bad bacteria or bacteria toxins to translocate from the gut into the liver and on through the lymphatic/portal circulation system. Bacteria with translocating potential tend to live (colonise) within the deep layer of the mucus gel of the crypts. The term bacterial translocation was first used in 1979, describing the passage of viable bacteria from the gut through the epithelial mucosa into the lamina propria and then to the mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) to the liver and other organs, since then knowledge of how pathogenic bacteria impact health through this axis has grown rapidly.
With 16S rRNA real time technology, ‘pools’ of pathogenic translocating bacteria such as bartonella, borrelia and leptospira have been detected in the guts of bats, squirrels, wild mammals and cattle, increasing the opportunity for cross contamination to the equine from ingesting urine/faeces polluted grass/ground.
Clearly it isn’t possible to prevent re-contamination from environment pollution, but it is possible to feed the bacteria that form the ‘resistome, these bacteria (roseburia, eubacteria) are the guards along the gut wall, helping to prevent a potential ‘break out’. Best two herbs to help feed the ‘resistome’ and protect the liver from pathogenic translocation are Wild Peppermint (watermint) and Oregano.
Wild is better than cultivated.
Wild peppermint is a cross between watermint and spearmint, it has longer flower heads, any wild mint will contain the volatile oils/compounds needed to feed the bacteria of the 'resistome'
Peppermint has 0.3–0.4% of volatile oil of which menthol makes up 7–48%, menthone 20–46%, menthyl acetate 3–10%, menthofuran 1–17% and 1,8-cineol 3–6%. Peppermint also contains limonene, pulegone, caryophyllene and pinene.
Best way to feed is to dry it and add 25g daily to the horses daily feed or cut some fresh and include in a selection that you provide to your horse each day. Having a selection of other plants allows him the opportunity to self select.