Relief for Ulcer-Prone Horses
BioStar’s Tri-Gard EQ paste and Thera-Gard EQ provide gastric and digestive support for ulcer-prone horses.
BioStar developed Tri-Gard EQ and Thera-Gard EQ because we understand that owners and veterinarians are looking for alternatives in addressing ulcers. Inspired by one jumper rider’s incredible pursuit to help her horse, we are thrilled to be able to offer these formulas for your horse.
The long and winding road
In February of 2019, a well-known jumper rider came to us with a horse whose chronic glandular ulcers would not heal. She had been dealing with chronic, non-healing ulcers for many months, despite trying various combinations of omeprazole with sucralfate, omeprazole with misoprostol, ulcer supplements, and feed changes. Every successive scope of the horse showed grade 4 pyloric ulcers. The rider recently found a supplement in Europe that she felt was helping. The product contained pectin, lecithin and fruit and vegetable pulp.
The first question I asked myself was: why is this helping?
So began my journey, down a rabbit hole of research. I sought out published studies on treating ulcer horses with alternatives to medications, particularly omeprazole.
Working side by side with this rider, we experimented like two mad scientists in a laboratory. She was able to provide feedback quickly because she knew her horse so well, like many owners she could tell how he was feeling by the look in his eye.
The first thing we discovered was the amounts of pectin and lecithin can make a profound difference on the outcome per dose. When we used pharmaceutical-grade pectin at 100 grams per day with at least 7 grams of lecithin, the horse’s scope showed improvement. When we tried different types of pectin, pulp, and lecithin there was no improvement.
What were we missing? A study at Hagyard pointed to the role of mushroom polysaccharides. When we added the medicinal mushrooms, the horse finally scoped clear and has remained ulcer free.
BioStar’s beta testing focused on horses recovering from, or currently diagnosed with active gastric ulcers, particularly glandular ulcers. Our testing group of 30 horses included show hunters, jumpers, and dressage horses.
We tested two formulas: one, Tri-Gard EQ, a paste to be used when showing or trailering, and Thera-Gard EQ, a powder that can be administered daily.
Tri-Gard EQ paste formula
Tri-Gard EQ is a pre-event paste, for use before shipping, during competitions, or throughout other periods of physical stress, to maintain a healthy gastric and digestive system.
Tri-Gard EQ was tested on 20 competition horses, half of whom recently finished a full course of gastric ulcer medication. Two of the 20 horses did not show improvement in attitude or performance on Tri-Gard EQ; however when Optimum GI was added, improvement was noted.
The remaining 18 horses showed improvement in attitude, appetite, and performance as reported by their trainers and owners.
Thera-Gard EQ powder formula
Thera-Gard EQ is a powerful daily supplement that supports a healthy stomach and GI tract for horses prone to ulcer sensitivities.
Thera-Gard EQ was tested on 10 competition horses with recurring ulcers, mostly due to the stress of shipping and showing. All 10 horses were on a full course of gastric ulcer medication, in some cases for many months.
Of the 10 horses, all owners reported that each horse showed improvement in attitude and performance. Three horses were scoped before taking Thera-Gard EQ, and then scoped again thirty days afterwards. One horse with grade 4 glandular ulcers showed no improvement. One horse with grade 4 glandular ulcers was completely healed. The third horse with grade 3 glandular ulcers improved to a grade 1.
All 10 horses had their ulcer points checked before taking Thera-Gard EQ, and at least once or twice during the 30 day Thera-Gard EQ beta-testing. They were checked by a certified practitioner. On Thera-Gard EQ all but one horse was determined not to have active ulcer points after one month on Thera-Gard EQ.
Two horses in our beta test also suffered from Leaky Gut Syndrome. These horses improved dramatically while taking Thera-Gard EQ. We also noticed improvements with horses who had recently recovered from hindgut ulcers.
We did not reinvent the wheel
Supplements with pectin and lecithin are not new. However, as we discovered, dosage plays a huge role, as does the quality of the pectin and lecithin. The addition of the polysaccharides from medicinal mushrooms as highlighted by the Hagyard study showed us that increasing the amount of medicinal mushrooms contributed to the efficacy of the formulas.
What we learned in over a year of beta-testing is how critically important individual ingredient amounts are, particularly when it comes to ulcers.
In the case of pectin and lecithin, horses need at least 100 grams (100,000 milligrams) of pectin, and at least 10 grams (10,000 milligrams) of lecithin daily for active ulcers in horses.
With the medicinal mushrooms, we found that 6 grams (6,000 milligrams) of multiple mushroom extracts provided the necessary beta-glucans and co-factors.
What is pectin?
Pectin is a cell wall polysaccharide found in plants, particularly apples, citrus fruits, pears, apricots, and carrots. Pectin is used as a gelling agent in jellies and to stabilize acidic protein drinks. In medical applications, it is used to treat constipation and diarrhea. It was one of the main ingredients of Kaopectate until 2003, when Kaopectate adopted the same active ingredient, bismuth salicylate, as Pepto-Bismol. Pectin is used in some throat lozenges as a demulcent. It is also used for colon-specific drug delivery in diseases of the colon.
Pectin and wound healing
Pectin is used in biomedical applications for wound treatment. Hydrogels made from pectin and gum arabic enhance cell proliferation, collagen deposition, and wound healing.
According to a study published in 2020, pectin is part of the family of hydrocolloid dressings. Hydrocolloid dressings provide a protective barrier and help to promote wound-healing (Andriotis, Eleftheriadis, Karavasili, Fatouros, 2020).
Fundamentally, gastric ulcers are wounds.
How does pectin help gastric ulcers?
Pectin forms a gel in a low pH environment like the stomach. Pectin binds to acids in the gut, helping to protect the squamous portion of the stomach. Pectin stabilizes the mucous areas of the glandular region.
How does pectin help hind gut ulcers?
Pectin influences microbial metabolism in the hindgut because of its prebiotic qualities. Research has identified that certain beneficial bacterial strains of the Firmicutes species utilize pectin. These strains promote anti-inflammatory effects on host cells (Chung, et al. 2017).
What is lecithin and what does it do?
Lecithin, also known as phosphatidylcholine, is a phospholipid that plays a structural role in cell membranes. Food sources of lecithin include soybeans and sunflower seeds.
When the protective barriers of the GI mucosa are compromised, or there is a decrease in mucosal phospholipid concentration, these factors can contribute to the development of inflammation and ulceration.
Lecithin is a component of GI tract mucus and is responsible for establishing a protective hydrophobic surface, thereby playing a key role in mucosal defense. Lecithin improves the health of mucus in the gut, thereby protecting the gastrointestinal lining.
Studies have shown that lecithin can protect against damaging agents such as NSAIDs and stress (Stremmel, W., Hanemann, A., Ehehalt, R., Karner, M., & Braun, A., 2010).
Research published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences (2013) concluded:
biologically active lipids notably phospholipids and their metabolites are an attractive organic means to enhance the barrier properties of the GI mucosa and to reduce the toxicity of pharmacological (e.g., NSAIDs) and damaging agents which induce tissue injury and disrupt membranes.”
What do lecithin, misoprostol and sucralfate have in common?
All three of these substances support prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances.
In the GI tract, prostaglandins play an important role in the mucosal protection of the GI tract. Specific prostaglandins regulate mucus production, mucosal integrity, and inflammation.
Misoprostol and sucralfate are commonly used to treat glandular and hindgut ulcers.
• Misoprostol is a synthetic prostaglandin.
• Sucralfate increases the production of endogenous (substances that originate within an organism) mucosal prostaglandins.
Lecithin supports the body’s synthesis of endogenous mucosal prostaglandins.
Medicinal mushrooms: the role of beta-glucans
Beta-glucans and alpha-glucans are a diverse group of polysaccharides found in medicinal mushrooms, oats, baker’s yeast, algae, and barley. There are over 30 years of published research on the biological and therapeutic effects of beta-glucans.
Research by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Kentucky, highlighted the ability of the polysaccharides to protect the stomach from gastric ulceration (Slovis, 2017).
Specific medicinal mushrooms provide substantially more beta-glucans than alpha-glucans. Oats and barley, for instance, provide more alpha-glucans than beta-glucans. Alpha-glucans include glycogen and starch.
Beta-glucans initiate biochemical processes in the body that lead to improved regeneration of tissues, healing of wounds, and infection defense. Studies have shown that specific beta-glucans can be effective for a healthy inflammatory response in the gut including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Lion’s Mane mushroom extract for the GI tract
Research highlights that Lion’s Mane extract promotes ulcer protection, in part by preventing the depletion of antioxidant enzymes, including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase. It has centuries of use for peptic and gastric ulcers. Due to the high content of beta-glucans, Lion’s Mane supports a healthy gastric mucus barrier.
Shiitake and Turkey Tail mushroom extracts
Turkey Tail provides polysaccharide K (PSK) that has been vigorously studied for its immune modulatory actions.
Marine Red Algae
Calcium can help buffer stomach acids. Many veterinarians recommend feeding alfalfa, particularly for its high calcium content.
However, there are horses that have food sensitivities to alfalfa and others that become “hot” on alfalfa hay.
Specific gastric supplements for horses often provide calcium in its inorganic form, calcium carbonate. Other forms include eggshell powder and calcium citrate.
Omeprazole (as in GastroGard and UlcerGard) can affect calcium digestibility. A study published in Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2020, showed that omeprazole reduced calcium digestibility, particularly with calcium carbonate. The study concluded that a marine-sourced red algae calcium had higher digestibility and was less affected by omeprazole (Pagan, J., Petroski-Rose, L., Mann, A., Hauss, A., 2020).
Published studies have confirmed that calcium from algae is a superior bioavailable calcium as compared to calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and eggshell powder. This is important because a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition showed that feeding calcium from algae reduced gastric ulceration in horses (Moir, T., O’Brien, J., Hill, S., & Waldron, L. 2016).
BioStar’s Red Algae is a South American sea algae (Algas calcareas). It is hand-harvested then milled into a powder, organically certified and sustainable. Red algae provides other important minerals including magnesium, copper, phosphorus, silicon, and zinc. Red algae also contains proteins and amino acids that aid in the production of collagen.
Fennel has a long history of use as a digestive aid, and is commonly used for gas and bloating in horses in the UK. Fennel is also known as a powerful antioxidant and includes kaempferol and quercetin. Fennel seeds also contain potassium, vitamin C, manganese, iron, calcium, and folate.
Additional Ingredients in Tri-Gard EQ paste:
Included in Tri-Gard EQ paste, is Sea Buckthorn, used for centuries in China, Tibet and India for wounds and digestive issues. It was fed to horses by the Mongols. Its name Hippophae rhamnoides means “shining horse.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is known to tonify yin and strengthen yang, supports the stomach, and reduces dampness. Its nutritional components include antioxidants, among them SOD, vitamin E, and quercetin.
Also in Tri-Gard EQ paste, is our Sym-Biota proprietary blend of soil-based probiotics, humic and fulvic acids, and chaga mushrooms supports a healthy immune system that is often tasked under stress. Sym-Biota can help support the tight junctions in the gut and a healthy GI tract.
As consumers, it is difficult to assess the quality of ingredients in a supplement by reading the label. BioStar goes to considerable lengths to research ingredients, where they are sourced, how they are grown and harvested, and how they are processed. The quality of raw materials is imperative for the health and wellbeing of horses.
Apple pectin sourcing
Apple pectin comes in various grades of purity and potency. BioStar uses pharmaceutical-grade pectin which by law must be 99% apple pectin; not mixed pectins, food-grade pectin, or apple pectin with vegetable fiber. Of course, pharmaceutical-grade apple pectin is more expensive. However, it is the pharmaceutical-grade that is used for wound applications in hospitals.
BioStar sources its lecithin from non-GMO sunflower seeds. Food sensitivities, genetically modified soybeans, health concerns regarding pesticides used to cultivate soy, and the environmental impact of its production all play a part in why BioStar chooses not to use soy in its products.
Medicinal mushroom sourcing
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mushrooms are grown on wood substrates, such as small logs. Many companies in the US grow medicinal mushrooms on grain substrates such as oats and rice. Growing on non-wood substrates increases the alpha-glucan content (starch) and lowers the important beta-glucan content. BioStar sources our wood-grown medicinal mushrooms from China, because it is a country with 5000 years of experience in collecting, growing, harvesting, and utilizing medicinal mushrooms.
Real, whole food ingredients make an enormous difference in health, performance, and well being. The sources of our raw materials are carefully researched and tested. Each ingredient is chosen for superior quality and sustainable sources, with “farm to table” traceability. We always choose non-GMO and organic ingredients.
Let the science of nature support your horse!
About the Author: With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger Montague knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar US in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to Grand Prix.
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