Supporting Immune Defences
Supporting Immune Defences
The immune system comprises of a complex network of cells, tissues and biological systems that protect the body from infection and disease.
- Support digestive health
The biggest daily challenge to immunity is digestive health, as the lining of the digestive tract repels pathogenic organisms. Creating a healthy digestive environment through the provision of a high fibre, low starch diet can therefore help to protect this important ‘first-line’ of defense.
- Support natural defences
Weanlings fed high fibre and oil rich diets have been shown to have significantly higher plasma concentrations of immunoglobulin’s, otherwise referred to as ‘antibodies’ (Swanson et al, 2003), suggesting diets formulated in this way will help to support immunity.
Antioxidants are molecules which prevent the oxidation of molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction which, through the production of 'free radicals', can lead to cell damage. Examples of dietary antioxidants include vitamin E and selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E plays a major role in protecting cells from oxidative damage and is essential for cell membrane integrity. It is also involved in the transfer of passive immunity from mare to foal. Selenium works closely with vitamin E to help protect cells from free radical damage.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is involved in the innate and adapted immune systems thus playing an important role in the body's defense against infection.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is required for normal growth and development, formation of collagen, cartilage, bones and teeth, and wound healing. It also helps to protect against infection by enabling white blood cells to break down bacteria. Research has also shown that high levels of vitamin C can support lung health.
- Supporting immunity in foals
Foals are inquisitive, discovering their new environment and playing with new individuals they meet, exposing them to potentially harmful germs.
- The immunity gap
Foals are born only with the immune protection from antibodies passed on by their mother via colostrum. Maternal antibodies are effective for up to 4 months and the foal will begin to produce their own at 2-4 weeks of age. However, between the ages of 4 weeks and 4 months, the concentration of antibodies passed on by the mare wanes whilst the foal's own immune response is still underdeveloped. We refer to this as the 'immunity gap'.
- Proven antioxidants
High levels of vitamin E have been shown to significantly increase antibody concentrations in both the mare's colostrum and the serum of their suckling foals (Hoffman et al, 1999).
- Hoffman, R.M., Morgan, K.L., Lynch, M.P., et al., 1999. Dietary vitamin E supplemented in the periparturient period influences immunoglobulins in equine colostrum and passive transfer in foals. Proc. 16th Equine Nutr. Physiol 19, 132.
- Swanson, C.A., R.M Hoffman, D.S kronfeld and P.A. Harris (2003). Effects of diet and probiotic supplementation on stress during weaning in thoroughbred foals. In: Proc 18th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Symposium pp24.