The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

Doughnut Hole

Think of the Doughnut hole, the space filled with air going from the top to the bottom of the Doughnut. Now place your finger in the Doughnut and wear it like a ring. Is there any question that the hole is NOT the Doughnut? Yet without the Doughnut, there would be no hole. Placing your finger within the hole doesn’t really place it within the Doughnut, right? Your finger is outside the Doughnut but within the Doughnut hole.

Go ahead if you must. Eat the Doughnut.

Now think of your body. Doesn’t it too have a hole through it? It starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. Food goes in and something that doesn’t look like what you ate comes out the other end. This is true for your horse though many only see money go in and something that doesn’t look like money come out the other end.

We can all agree that there is a tube running through us much like a Doughnut hole (or some people think of it as a road tunnel going under a body of water with cars going through the tunnel). Can we also agree that what we eat is therefore NOT inside us? Like the finger within the Doughnut hole, food is within the tube called the digestive tract and NOT within our body.

The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

I get it – We all have a tube running through us.

The Magic of Digestion

The magic of digestion is the process where the food we eat is broken down into parts so small that there is no machine yet made that can see them. These small parts are called molecules and these are what is absorbed through the skin of the digestive track tube into the body. Just like the coffee that filled the hole gets soaked into the Doughnut.

I did say the “skin” of the digestive track because it is like the skin on the outside of the body, only different. Our skin keeps dirt and germs out unless the skin becomes damaged. If cut, scraped, bruised, burned or otherwise broken then the bacteria that is on our skin and even the cloud of bacteria around us (yes, you CAN smell trouble coming) will enter the body when it is not supposed to. Out bodies respond by fighting the infection using the immune system plus a building and repair system to close the wound. And this all happens without thought.

The skin of the digestive track also defends against invasion with two mechanisms. The first is a one cell layer thick covering with very tight junctions between the cells and the second is a layer of mucus. The tight junctions keep things physically out of the body and the mucus traps foreign and unwanted foods and carries them out without them being absorbed.

If the mucus layer is destroyed then the underlying cell layer becomes exposed to unwanted material. Several things can do this from foods that are not friendly to the horse to antibiotics to medication to prevent ulcers.

If the tight junctions between the layer of cells lining the digestive tract become inflamed because of foreign material then the tube becomes leaky allowing unwanted foreign material to get into the body much like a cut to the skin. It also allows what is inside the body to leak out. Overall, what is supposed to get in to give us energy and nutrition is used immediately to build and repair. Over time this process can eventually scar the digestive tract to a point where in no longer works.

The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

I thought all goats, oops I mean proteins, were good.

Good Protein Versus Bad Protein

Next time you eat food or feed your horse think about the Doughnut hole and the efforts the digestive tract makes to keep bad things out while also allowing good things in. For example, water is always allowed in and passes freely into the body one molecule at a time. Good protein is broken down into the molecule called an amino acid and that is absorbed into the body and then reassembled into the protein you or your horse needs.

Did I say “good protein?” Yes there are bad proteins and plenty of them. The mucus layer traps them and carries them away. But if the layer is compromised and the bad proteins contact the cells, then they actually damage the cells, cause the gut to leak and mount an inflammatory response.

Where can these “bad proteins” be found. They are in all grains, bran and beans. It is why I am shouting from the top of my barn – “Stop feeding grain to horses!” It is why the signs of grain intolerance in horses are eliminated within 1 to 2 weeks of removing all grain from the diet. See previous blogs especially last week’s blog titled “No Sweat” where non-sweating horses start to sweat after removal of grain. It is also why some horses become fat when looking at a bucket of grain while other “poor keepers” can’t gain a pound when fed a bucket of grain twice a day. It explains bad behavior especially a poor work ethic (fusses when groomed, bucking when ridden, unwilling to load into a trailer). And of course colic, skin allergies, Cushing’s disease, metabolic syndrome, dropped pasterns, tying up and assorted other ailments that have exploded in incidence over the past 40 years.

I should know because most of these problems did not exist when I started with horses in 1973 (44 years ago). Some were not even in the veterinary text books not because we didn’t understand them, but because they didn’t exist. There were few grain stores and no fancy four colored bags filled with every king of grain mix and printed with words you couldn’t even pronounce.

Over the rest of this year I will be adding to this discussion so keep connected with me at this blog or become a member of The Horse’s Advocate to learn more. In the meantime, take the 2 week no-grain challenge and think of the Doughnut hole. You will discover a new horse in your barn and you will like what you find.

The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

I want to try the no grain challenge.

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Comments 12

    1. Post
  1. I think the idea of no grain has credence. We’re using a local mix called Crypto Aero. I will revisit the ingredients although they eat mostly hay.
    I appreciate the reminder. I’m gluten intolerant and am healing a leaky guy.
    See you or Mellissa in 5 months.
    Love, Callie, Dude and Joanie

    1. Post

      Joan – all grains can cause inflammation in all horses to a degree. Some do better than others. Corn and wheat middlings are the worst offenders but there are many others. The Crypto Aero owner tries to avoid many of these (we know the owner) and she is very proud of her bag too! Here are the ingredients: Whole oats, timothy hay pellets, alfalfa hay pellets, sunflower seeds, green peas, yellow peas, rice bran oil, ground flax, rose hips, green cabbage, papaya, algae, organic yeast, anise, fenugreek.

      My suggestion here is if you have a horse exhibiting any signs of leaky gut / gut inflammation, eliminate everything except grass, hay, raw salt and water for 2 weeks. After the gut has quited (and it will take up to 6 weeks to fully heal), slowly add 1 product at a time and observe for a few weeks. I think Crypto Aero will work with most horses but there will still be a few that some of the ingredients will affect. Each horse will be different and you must write down all observations.

      More information will be coming in the next few weeks about grains, bran, legumes, and oils. I don’t have all the answers and for horses, the data is still slim. All the new info is from human research and that is controversial. But from my standpoint as I go from farm to farm, almost all horses being fed anything but grass and hay show some sign of inflammation and chronic protein loss. Stay tuned.

  2. Well, this is interesting. Keep writing doc. Do you feel this way about forage first grains, such as equine SR. Can they really live on hay alone?

    1. Post

      Hi April – be sure to read all the ingredients. I have seen many hay extenders with inflammatory ingredients such as wheat middlings.

      Forage First uses all hay ingredients in various mixes. They do use fungicides and other means to create a more robust product so these hays are not organic. Purina’s Equine Senior I find interesting in that on their web site, there are no ingredients listed. They say some general items but not specific things. This is suspicious and non-transparent. Go to Crypto Aero’s site for the opposite.

      What I am discovering is that many feeds have ingredients that cause gut inflammation such as grain, bran and oils. Horses have lived for many years without any of these needed. We all admire the “wild” horse with their sleek looks galloping across the plains yet we all struggle with our horses with: poor hair coat, poor hooves, poor top line, lameness, skin disease, organ dysfunction (metabolic syndrome, Cushing’s, insulin resistance), non-sweating, poor work ethic, unhappy and fidgeting for grooming and girthing or trailer loading. All of these seem to be resolving in horses that go grain free eating nothing but grass and hay. There are some exceptions such as horses older than 25. But today I saw a 28 year old I got off of grain and onto protein (whey) a year ago. I literally could not recognize this horse because the “old” look was completely replaced with a glossy coat covering muscles. He had become unrecognizable to me – a completely different horse.

      So YES, they can live on hay (and pasture, raw salt & water) alone. They have for way before humans started to do what they think is best. By the way, how is this working for humans?? Obesity is epidemic as well as heart disease, kidney disease, mental disease. If we can’t fix ourselves with what we are doing, how can we think we know what to do for a horse or any other animal. It’s time to re-think things and that is what I am doing.

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. i started your no grain diet and my horse was so unhappy so i started giving her rice bran and timothy grass pellets is that ok. She is not the best hay eater i do believe she has been a non sweater her wholel life and she is 15 years old. even raced this was.

    1. Post

      Jody – It is hard for many people to be the parent or leader. Often the children or people show their displeasure in the decision the parent or leader makes.Evidence that I am right can be seen from the neighbor’s house with children to the White House.

      Often what is most bad for us gives the loudest objection when removed. This is commonly seen in addicted people when the addictive substance is removed. Look at your horse’s displeasure as a sign that the grain has made the horse feel good, like the 1000 calorie dessert, but know that it really isn’t good causing inflammation, increased weight, non-sweating, and so much more.

      It’s time to lead Jody. It’s only 10 to 14 days. And I promise you that in the future I will try to explain why grain, including all brans, are not helping our friends. Let us all know how you did. With tough love, Doc T

  4. Geez Doc T, rethink what we are doing? What planet did you come from? (LOL) Thanks for the article. Makes sense. So many things we “do” because somewhere someone did, the fad caught on “good” or not….. That’s why I LOVE your visits, Kaye and Molly the 3 legged pony and friends

    1. Post

      Hi Kaye and crew! Allow me to post a plug for you.

      Go to Molly The Pony right now and learn about this remarkable story of how a pony with 3 legs and an artificial limb brings joy and comfort to so many people. Please donate to their foundation.

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  6. Pingback: Decomplexicating Equine Nutrition Part 4 – Gut Inflammation | The Equine Practice, Inc

As of November 2018 I will no longer reply to comments. There is just not enough time in the day! I sincerely appreciate all of your interest and am grateful for the time you take to comment here. Doc T

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