With regard to metal toxicity and other ecological contaminations, Researcher Dr. Gregor Reid recently wrote in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology that “the exposure to environmental toxins is a 21st century health problem that is often the result of dietary intake.”
Metals like mercury and arsenic are released from agriculture and mining and thus enter the food chain and water supplies. Originally believed to be a problem of under-developed countries, metal toxicity is now considered a worldwide problem. In May 2014, two racehorses, trained by a Melbourne Cup winning trainer, were disqualified by the Hong Kong Jockey Club for excessive levels of arsenic.
Most Common Sources of Heavy Metal Toxicity in Horses:
The two most common sources of heavy metal toxicity in horses are aluminum and arsenic. Aluminum affects calcium metabolism, and increases inflammatory stress. Arsenic affects the GI tract, immune system and can affect hormonal balance.
Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Acid soils help to increase the soluble form of aluminum thereby affecting plants and water sources. But aluminum is also mined and used in pharmaceuticals, antacids, buffered analgesics, some vaccines, supplements, and skin care products.
A study published in Immunologic Research (April 23, 2013) demonstrated that aluminum “may form complexes with citrate, fluoride, carbohydrates, phosphates and dietary acids (malic, oxialic, tantaric, succinic, aspartic and glutamic), which may increase its gastrointestinal absorption.” Deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc also increase aluminum absorption.
Although arsenic in both its organic and inorganic state is a naturally occurring element, the U.S. is the world’s leading user of arsenic, and since 1910 about 1.6 million tons have been used for agricultural and industrial purposes; half of this tonnage has been used since the 1960’s. The use of lead-arsenate insecticides was banned in the 1980’s, other arsenical ingredients in animal feed and fertilizer are still permitted. High arsenic levels can be found in well water, and farm land.
Other Contributors to Metal Toxicity in Horses:
The contamination of pastures from sewage sludge, aerial dust, lead shot, and lead arsenate pesticides can cause metal toxicity in horses. Lead accumulates in the bones and kidney tissue.
Equine exposure to this mineral can come from the organic fungicides used to treat seed grain or from the inorganic mercury found in blistering agents. Mercury is used as a preservative is some vaccines. Mercury poisoning in horses is rare.
Addressing Metal Toxicity: Diagnosis and Treatment
While hair analysis may be used to identify heavy metal toxicity levels, blood tests are generally more accurate and reflect the present levels of heavy metals in the horse.
Detoxifiers: capable of removing harmful agents from the body.
Silica: studies on humans (Gillette/ Guyonnet 2007) showed that silica in the form of orthosilicic acid decreases aluminum absorption from the digestive tract. Food sources include: horsetail silica, oats, strawberries, mango, and kelp.
Zeolites: this mineral complex is effective at adsorbing mercury, lead, aluminum, and arsenic.
Glycine: this amino acid plays an important role in the body’s synthesis of glutathione, an important detoxifier of heavy metals (Patrick 2002). Food sources include: legumes, pumpkin seeds, kale, cabbage, kiwis and bananas.
Sulfur: can help oxidize mercury, and lead. Food sources include kale, cabbage, garlic, and eggs.
Malic Acid: potent dextoxifier for aluminum. Food sources include apple cider vinegar (raw, with “the mother”), unripe pears, and unripe bananas.
Spirulina and Chlorella: provides chlorophyll, which helps to bind heavy metals.
Astaxanthin: protects cell membranes from free radical damage.
Dandelion or milk thistle: help protect and restore the liver.
Medicinal mushrooms: protect the liver, and support the immune system.
Probiotics: capable of degrading pesticides and sequestering toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Multi minerals: helps to reduce potential deficiencies in key minerals: zinc, selenium, manganese. Lead absorption from the gut is blocked by adequate levels of calcium, iron, and zinc.
Turmeric: helps reduce inflammation and increases bile flow, which enhances the liver’s detoxification abilities.
Flax or Chia seeds: rich in omega 3’s which help reduce inflammation.
Selenium blocks the effect of lead before exposure, and can reduce metal toxicity from mercury as well.
A study funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation (mBio, 2014, issue 5) and conducted at the Lawson Health Research Institute, Ontario, Canada found that probiotic yogurt can reduce the uptake of certain heavy metals like mercury and arsenic, and environmental toxins in humans.
The specific probiotic strain tested was Lactobacilus rhamnosus—one of the very same probiotic strains found in BioStar’s Bio Flora probiotic complex.
Research is demonstrating that the gut microbiota can help to detoxicate (the mechanism of preventing entry of damaging compounds) through specific lactobacilli and other probiotic bacteria that can bind metals before they can reach target sites in the body where metal toxicity and consequent damage ensue.
How BioStar can help:
If your horse has tested high in one or more heavy metals, or you suspect pesticide/herbicide toxicity you can support your horse with a whole food diet, a reduction of the pro inflammatory food ingredients like molasses, and dextrose, and feeds and hay that test high in NSC. It is important to maintain a healthy balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids; many experts now feel that an ideal ratio is 2:1 and as much as 4:1 (Omega 3’s to Omega 6’s).
Supportive supplements include: BioStar’s Bio Flora with L-rhamnosus. BioStar’s True Balance with the liver and immune-supportive medicinal mushrooms including Reishi, Cordycepts, and Shiitake. BioStar’s Optimum with spirulina and all the micro and macro minerals also provides sulfur from cabbage. BioStar’s Locomotion supplies Astaxanthin and kale. BioStar’s Comfort Zone Ultra provides turmeric and boswellia.