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Researchers Investigate Curcumin for Diarrheic HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · July 11, 2017

An alteration in the delicate balance of the equine intestinal microbiome, a condition called dysbiosis, often leads to diarrhea. In turn, diarrhea can cause life-threatening bouts of laminitis. Regardless of the original cause of dysbiosis, be it an alteration in diet, administration of a new drug or supplement, or even infection with pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Clostridium difficile, or Streptococcus bovis/equinus complex (SBEC), the first step is to restore the microbiome…and fast!

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics, and supportive care remain mainstays in managing diarrhea in horses. NSAIDs, however, come with some risk so finding alternate anti-inflammatory agents with fewer side effects would certainly benefit sick horses.

With the ever-increasing use of nutraceuticals in equine medicine, one research team* explored the use of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, for its antimicrobial properties. They wondered if curcumin possesses sufficient antimicrobial properties to “help minimize the proliferation of opportunistic bacteria.” Ultimately, the hope was that using curcumin to prevent dysbiosis would negate the need for NSAIDs.

To test the hypothesis, the research team conducted a series of in vitro (laboratory) and in vivo experiments using four horses. Researchers found that curcumin (at above-recommended doses) actually has “the potential to increase the concentration of opportunistic bacteria, which would contribute to microbial dysbiosis rather than mitigate it.”

The study also reported decreased production of butyrate, an important volatile fatty acid produced through fermentation of fiber in the hindgut that provides energy and helps maintain a healthy lining of the digestive tract.

“One way to prevent dysbiosis is to avoid abrupt diet changes. Any alteration in diet can alter the intestinal microbiome and decrease the pH of the contents of the hindgut, contributing to hindgut acidosis,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

To help prevent drastic changes in pH that lead to hindgut acidosis and ulceration, offer your horse EquiShure, a time-released hindgut buffer.

*Bland, S.D., E.B. Venable, J.L. McPherson, et al. 2017. Effects of liposomal-curcumin on five opportunistic bacterial strains found in the equine hindgut - Preliminary study. Journal of Animal Science and Technology. Jun 12;59:15.