Overall health begins with a well-functioning gut as a basic requirement for nutritional uptake and utilization, and for the maintenance of a stable microbiome. Many patients in veterinary practice suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) distress syndromes that demand our attention
There are many tools in our arsenal of gut repair from which we can learn by studying the burgeoning research. Products that are remarkably useful, in the realm of nutraceuticals, include probiotics, as well as other GI-supportive ingredients. These prescription-free products are an important tool and applicable in clinical settings. This is a successful way to expand current treatment protocols and provide value to the client and patient.
Gut microbes play a key role in overall health
Gut microbes have been in the news lately, as researchers continue to discover the important roles these tiny organisms play in overall health and well-being. New research details the extent of microflora influence, including expression of genes, immune system, weight gain/loss, and the risk of serious health issues.
Modern medicine has typically viewed microbes as noxious or pathological. Many viruses and bacteria can elicit infectious diseases, but most microbes are not pathogens and many are critical for health.
The most common strains of the Lactobacillus species are L. acidophilus, which colonizes the small intestine with branch strains of L. brevis, L. casei, L. crispatus, L. fementum, L. gasseri, and L. rhamnosus. These produce anti-pathogens against microbes, such as staphylococci, and can thrive in the urinary tract and aid in inhibiting growth of pathogens. Lactobacillus species possess key features that make them especially valuable. They produce enzymes to digest and metabolize proteins and carbohydrates, help manufacture vitamin K and B vitamins, break down bile salts, enhance innate and acquired immunity, and inhibit inflammatory mediators.
A mix of strains must be regularly consumed to maintain the normal balance of microorganisms. Bifidobacteria constitute 95 percent of the gut bacterial population in healthy individuals and are responsible for processing fecal matter, protecting against tumors, and producing B vitamins. Bifidobacteria populations tend to decline with age (research is now postulating the decline may contribute to aging). Other benefits of Bifidobacterium include metabolizing lactose, generating lactic acid, fermenting and digestion of carbohydrates, and formation of fatty acids. Some species—B. bidicum, B. breve, and B. lactis—protect against acute diarrhea. B. longum and B. bifidum reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. They also stimulate the immune system, support a healthy gut, alleviate irritable bowel disease, lower serum cholesterol, and reduce intestinal permeability.
Choosing a probiotic supplement
When selecting a probiotic, it’s important to choose a multi-strain product with sufficient colony-forming units (CFUs) to be able to populate the gut. It is also beneficial if they provide soluble fiber support, such as prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which support digestion, regularity, and healthy digestive and immune systems. In a clinical setting, it is practical to choose a prescription-free product that also is hypoallergenic. This can be achieved by selecting an unflavored powder that works on both dogs and cats. Ideally, it contains a variety of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species, along with prebiotic fiber.
Just as our patients need food to thrive, so do the billions of healthful bacteria living in the body. There’s a large and expanding body of scientific evidence that bacteria in the gut play a role in health and disease. Prebiotics are foods containing nutrients that support the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria. Studies have shown prebiotics give a synergistic boost to the beneficial microbial population.1 Prescription-free probiotic formulae can be used as adjunctive care for chronic GI issues or as wellness formula to maintain a healthy microbiome.
Gut health beyond probiotics
In addition to probiotics, prescription-free gastrointestinal supplements are a more recent introduction to the GI health armamentarium. These supplements offer ingredients that help maintain the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract, which, in turn, allows for better absorption of nutrients, less susceptibility to irritation, fewer instances of dehydration, and a smoother process for the body to expel waste.
There are a few critical components that afford this protection, such as Entero-Chronic, a clinically researched blend of four ingredients: α-Glucans, mannan oligosaccharides (MOS), β-Glucans, and mucopolysaccharides.2 Working in a multimodal fashion, these ingredients support a healthy gut. Slippery Elm Bark contains mucilage, a polysaccharide that becomes a gel when mixed with water. It supports normal bowel transit time, growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and may absorb bowel toxins.
Another key ingredient is PepZinGI, a novel patented crystalline chelate compound consisting of L-carnosine (N-β-alanyl-L-histidine) and zinc.3 This special chelated form of the mineral zinc has a unique ability to exert effects directly on the cells of the stomach lining, and, complexed to L-carnosine, creates a slow release, which allows it to maintain its gastric healing effect over a longer period of time.4 Both L-carnosine and zinc act as antioxidants, membrane stabilizers, immunomodulators, and tissue builders, according to animal studies.5,6
L-Arginine and zinc have both been studied as supplements that support thymus regeneration.7 Given that the thymus is the lynchpin of the immune system, it stands to reason these components would be integral to immunological integrity.
Options for treating the gastrointestinal tract have never been greater and our understanding of the complexity of the microbiome is evolving rapidly. Supplements are invaluable in the management of gut health, but have an impact on whole body health as well.
P.J. Broadfoot, DVM, graduated cum laude from Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1981, and started her own practice in Van Buren, Ark., in 1982. Dr. Broadfoot has lectured internationally for VetriScience Laboratories, a recognized authority in the research and product development of high-quality supplements for animals. She is a member of the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) faculty, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Arkansas VMA, and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA).
This Education Center article was underwritten by VetriScience Pro Line, maker of Composure Pro.
- Lembo, Anthony J, et.al. Efficacy of Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation Am J Gastroenterol 2014; 109:1547–1561; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.202; published online 29 July 2014
- Sellés,M. Castillo,V et.al. Efficacy of Entero-chronic in dogs with chronic enteropathies:A prospective observational study Kleintiermedizin 1-201114. Jahrgang 2011 Nr. 1 · Jan/Feb,Seite 43 – 46
- Matsukura, T; Takahashi, T; Nishimura, Y; Ohtani, T; Sawada, M; Shibata, K: Chem. Pharm. Bull. (1990), 38(11), 3140-6.
- Matsukura, T.; Tanaka, H: Biochemistry (Moscow) (2000), 65(7), 817-823
- Yamakawa, A: Showa Igakkai Zasshi. (1975), 35(2), 113-126.
- Cho, CH: Drug Dev. Res. (1989), 17(3), 185-197.
- Mocchegiani E, Santarelli L, et.al. Plasticity of neuroendocrine-thymus interactions during ontogeny and ageing: role of zinc and arginine Aging Res Rev. 2006 Aug;5(3):281-309.
This Education Center article was underwritten by VetriScience Pro Line, a provider of medical insurance for cats and dogs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.