• ORDER LINE - 01749 595173 - CALL US MON-FRI 10AM-3PM
  • FREE UK DELIVERY ON 10KG/£80.00+
  • ORDER LINE - 01749 595173 - CALL US MON-FRI 10AM-3PM
  • FREE UK DELIVERY ON 10KG/£80.00+

Metabolism / The Metabolic Horse

The metabolic horse - and me

20 Oct'18

The Metabolic Horse - and Me

This weekend’s blog is, I think, going to be a Carol-Ramble. I was going to blog about an actual subject as I have a few draft documents up my sleeve, as well as a couple of Herb Nerd’s that I really want to post (I’m a herb nerd after all). Then, as life’s coincidences have it, there’ve been a couple of ‘ooh’ moments over the last few days, finally triggered by a FB post this morning from the very lovely Vikki Fear, she of the Equine Podiatry & Horse Charming FB page, referring to a TheHorse.com post about “It’s All Connected – Bodywide Inflammation in Horses”.

Vikki says in her intro that she bangs on about this to her clients. Ditto. It’s been my relentless mantra for years now. So this was when laptop decided I was going to do a ‘metabolic’ ramble.

As you may have already noticed, I’ve redone the website, which has meant a proof-read and update of all my old scribings. This week, one of those life coincidences happened to be me updating the Metabolic Horse page; a subject, as I say on the page, which is close to my heart as in my herd of four, my three natives have the metabolic label firmly stamped on their forelocks.

As it happens, I’ve also recently gone through a personal metabolic awakening. Which means while I was amending/tweaking/updating the Metabolic Horse page, my self-nudge switch kept suggesting I should throw in a closing para on my own metabolic state and how, while my own metabolism has undergone changes for the better, I’ve been comparing myself to the equine metabolic syndrome, specifically my connie Murphy, and wondering if there are similarities between the two. And ... the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced.

So here’s the Carol ramble. We all know the horse has two stomachs, the foregut and hindgut, each having different digestive responsibilities, as in the foregut digests protein/carbs/fats via hydrochloric acid stimulating specific digestive enzymes, versus the hindgut digesting fibre via microbiota fermentation. Hold that thought.

Now to a quick back-track to my medical herbalism training, and Year 1, Digestive System day in the Anatomy & Physiology module. We’d covered food entering the mouth, down the alimentary canal to the stomach, associated organs, the small intestine, and now we were heading to the lower colon region and fibre fermentation. Bingo, went my brain. Open went my mouth.

“Wow,” I said loudly. “So in essence we’ve got two guts, just like a horse!” (Everyone knew I was there for equine herbalism studying; I had to front up at the time of registration that I wasn’t there to learn how to herbalise humans – thankfully they were happy to take me).

The tutor looked at me wearily, said a flat ‘no’, and turned back to her whiteboard. But-But, I insisted. I don’t know whether she finally gave in out of despair at me or whether the lightbulb went on for her too, but after much persistence from me, she relented and agreed that in practice, yes, anatomically and physiology we have two ‘guts’, an upper gut and a lower gut. Cue “We’re the same as a horse!” smugness on my part.

Now a bit of personal history, hopefully without seeming to labour the pity angle too much, but bear with me as this will all come together. Like many humans out there, my own gut system has always been a bit of a metabolic mess. I was the kid at school who regularly had tummy ache. Late teens and I kept getting colitis where many a disgusting bariam meal was forced down me. Docs verdict – my gut couldn’t digest meat so I was to stop eating red meat, only chicken and fish (if only I knew then what I know now, I might have had some questions to this diagnosis). Anyway, I’ve never been much of a fish fan and after the acute pain of colitis, I was too scared to eat chicken, so aged 19 I became a veggie.

I’ve not had colitis since, and by my 30’s I was dipping in and out of eating meat again, not regularly but occasionally, with no adverse effects (funny, that). Obviously more food aware by this age although no actual nutrition knowledge. I’m lucky though - at least I consider myself lucky, in that I’ve always had a relatively healthy outlook, love salads and veggies, and am blessed with a savoury palate with virtually no desire for sugary foods whatsoever. I never eat cakes/chocolate/anything ‘sweet’ – just doesn’t do it for me.

However, despite my healthful regime, whenever I travelled I got Delhi Belly. Egypt, amoebic dystentry. Nepal – giardia. Wherever in the world, something gutty. And believe me, I’m always super careful, cos I know my gut. Over the decades I’ve just accepted that my gut is my ‘thing’ – some people get migraines, I've got a sensitive gut.

Cut to this year. These days, thanks to all the health and nutrition studying I do, I’m much more nutrition-aware, from both a horse and human aspect. It also helps that the acquired husband of 15-yrs is a veggie, so I’ve been a near-veggie pretty much for the last decade-plus.

So, with my healthy, low-sugar, high veggie diet, you’d think I’d have a settled gut – not so. My 50’s were still a continued decade of gut discomfort, big belly bloat that gets bigger during the day, accompanied by a cargo container-full of trapped gas (trying to be polite here) which is no fun.

Then earlier this year I got very involved with a desperate friend who had IBS, which had brought her to the point of deep depression. During my long chats with her I started listening to my own advice, and that maybe I should start listening to myself for me. We were talking the ‘elimination’ word, as in cutting out dairy, cutting out gluten, and so on. She tried it; it worked brilliantly. Cue happier, comfier friend, marraige back on track, kids happier too.

Coincidentally (there they are again), during one of my health-nut study moments, I came across the word Keto. I’d seen it before, scan-read a bit about it, for some reason discarded it. This time, following IBS friend, it caught my interest so I read some more, which led to proper swatting. The more I read, the more I thought blimey, this might work for my gut.

I won’t assume that everyone knows the Keto principals so I’ll quickly summarise. It’s ultimately about aiming to get the body into what’s called ‘ketosis’, which is where the body becomes a fat burner for fuel, via ketones, instead of glucose (I'll nip in quickly here that this wasn't my goal - I was more interested in the alleged metabolic improvements).

The way to ketosis is to implement high fat (good fat, not bad fat!) into the diet, alongside medium protein and very low carbs, as in cutting out bread/pasta/sugary stuff/high fruit intake (because of the natural sugars), that kind of thing. Another great thing about Keto is that you can stuff your face because everything you’re eating is ‘good’ stuff, not junk stuff – Keto isn’t about being on a ‘Diet’ – it’s simply about a different way of eating to achieve a different, allegedly healthier energy fuel source for whole body health (especially brain function but that's another story) and homeostasis. And – everything I read about the metabolic effect (that magic metabolic word again) made sense to me for my gut.

I didn’t think I ate too many carbs anyway; bread for sure, homemade with organic wholemeal flour, by way of toast in the morning and the occasional toasted sandwich; pasta, again organic wholemeal, and rice as in wild organic, never white or brown. And even though I love fruit, I’m lazy with it – if it needs prepping/peeling, I can’t be bothered so I tend not to eat much fruit other than bananas because they're easy. So I reckoned this would be a doddle as Keto said No to all of these, and for the sake of the experiment, I reckoned I could live with this.

With my savoury palate and lack of sugar in my diet, I was pretty sure I wasn’t too much of a glucose burner anyway. What I wanted to do was see if I could meet Keto halfway and become more metabolically ‘flexible’ to see if I could bring a degree of relief to my gut bloat. So, I calculated my Keto fat/protein/carbs macros, and was horrified to see just how many carbs a couple of slices of toast each day, pasta and rice a couple of times/week came out at. Off the scale! My daily carb goal was 30g, yet one banana alone was 23g - one tomato in my lunchtime salad was 6g carbs, and I have around 6! I managed to calculate my daily carbs total down to 44g, and even then this was pushing it. Maybe this was going to be trickier than I thought ...

I bought myself a nutri-bullet thingy and set to. The morning toast switched to a red-berry and nut smoothie, full-fat yoghurt and with 1-tbsp added coconut oil (for the good fat) - astonishingly, no carb value in coconut oil but with a valuable 14g fat. Lunch remained the same with the Big Salad, always smothered in ACV and olive oil (1-tbsp, again no carbs and 14g beneficial fat). The evening meal became the sautéed veggies, pulses (these guys are quite carb-high) and tomato sauce, butter as the cooking fat, and without the pasta or rice.

Main starch carbs were out, but still a degree of natural carbs. Lots of cheese (organic/veggie) for the fat grams and all dairy full fat, which to be honest was pretty much how I was before. Snacks became a chunk of cheese or a handful of nuts, organic of course (I know, I'm getting boring now but you know me).

Pretty quickly, and I mean within days, I noticed general improvements in my overall homeostasis. For starters I stopped having cravings to graze. I’d always been a “if I don’t eat I’ll die” bemoaner, feeling genuine crashing every couple of hours or so, which with hindsight could probably be because previously as I didn’t consume much sugar, either natural or processed (and didn't know to eat good fat grams to convert to ketones), my blood sugar levels must have been permanently on the edge - I used to get many moments where I thought I was going to pass out. Maybe I was now burning ketones as my fuel?

My energy levels also seemed to soar – previously the dog walk had always been a “Must I? Can’t you do it?” to the husband, and mid-afternoon I always felt the need for a power-nap - those crashing blood sugar levels again, maybe. Now I was striding out with the Labrador, to the point where husband has now been relegated to weekends only.

The real magic happened a couple of weeks in, and I didn’t even notice it happening. My belly bloat vanished. Vanished. Van-ished. Gone. Disappeared. To this day hasn’t come back. My jeans were now slipping down over my hips – I could take them off without undoing them. Had to get a belt on them to nip out and get another pair.

Perhaps best of all? The gas. Gone. Seriously, no gas. Proper gone. Which for me is very, very weird. No more lower gut pain, which at times was crippling, as in having to stop in my tracks wherever I was and doubling up. Now, no more tracking the pain like a rock traversing across my intestines until finally it hit my 'lower' gut. Instinct says this is down to the lack of gluten no longer creating a globulous lump of glutinous glue trying to make its way through my intestines. I could be wrong, but I really can't think it's anything else.

Whatever the reasons for it all, these last few months I’ve felt great, and I mean proper healthy and energised. I can only deduce that after all these years, my gut, like my three native metabolics, is carb-intolerant, for me most likely gluten. Meeting Keto halfway has been a real eye-opener, especially at just how much unknown carb grams there are in the most unsuspecting ingredients - if you're interested in doing your own carb calculations, this is the website I used: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calorie-chart-nutrition-facts. It has just about every foodstuff on the planet in its database, so give it a go - I'll put money on it that you'll be amazed (if not just a little bit horrified!)

Overall it's been an incredibly enlightening, and thought-provoking experience, and I'm still on it today, although I now give myself weekends off - husband makes a loaf on Friday night, and we have roast potatoes on Sunday. I also allow myself wine at the weekends (starting Friday night) - well, it is my one weakness, and I can live with the 4.5g carbs/125ml glass, and as for the 101 calories/glass, well, it's the weekend after all.

So here I am today, and as the mind has reflected on the whole exercise, this is where I started putting 2 and 2 together, probably coming up with 5, but if this was my gut issue, could this be Murf's as well?

Him pointing me to his right side hindgut and waiting for me to rub it; his massive bloat and constant voluminous gut rumblings and gas release, god love him. Were our guts the same? I could be way off the mark, but the symptoms are all too similar – a lifetime of stomach cramping, bloating, diarrhoea or colic-y constipation, and enough gas to run a power station, until I got his - and my - gut as balanced as I could.

For me, switching to a high fat, low carb eating plan alongside probiotics and nutrient supplementation, has not only eliminated 50+ years of wonky gut syndrome, but I’ve lost unplanned spare inches doing it as well. For Murf, what worked for him was me switching his diet to higher fat (Copra and linseed) and reducing his (grass) carbs, alongside probiotics and nutrient supplementation. If that's not similar, I don't know what is ...

I’ve been really intrigued by this experience and seeing the similarities between mine and Murf’s systemic rebalancing. As I repeatedly say on the website, everything starts with the gut, and we are what we eat. Maybe a higher fat diet – and I mean healthy fat, not processed, high omega-6 inflammatory supermarket oils – for our grass-restricted native horses is the way to go, so they can convert the fat to ketones as fuel instead.

Food for thought, on my part anyway. Thoughts?

The Overweight Horse - leptin resistance could be the clue


This world is a spooky place. Over the last few days I’ve been asked about Folic Acid, Leptins and Vitamin C. Must be something going on in the Parallel Universe because these three subjects then appeared in my groups FB box on my personal page. Too coincidental to ignore! (Who else read The Celestine Prophesy back in the 90's?!)

I’ll post on the other two another time, but the subject of Leptin has really caught my eye this week, specifically related to our Cookie who, no matter how we monitor her diet, has a fairly hefty crest and fat pads likened to the Duchess’s front and the Cook’s behind. And I’m also more than aware that we’re on the cusp of Spring, and with it comes the green stuff, which is when Cookie really balloons. I see Cookie every day so sometimes it's tricky for me to tell, but I can usually judge from Deb, our trimmer, who either reports that Cookie's looking good (!), or like last visit, err, Cookie could do with losing a liiiiiiitle bit of weight, ahem.

I’ve been seeing ‘Leptins’ mentioned often recently on the ECIR Yahoo page, then just yesterday I was asked about Leptins being the cause for an owner who’s struggling with her PPID horse’s weight/diet. So off I went to swat.

Leptin is a friendly master hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety - it tells the brain that we’re full and we can stop eating. It’s secreted from adipose (fat) tissue, and works perfectly well for the normal-weight horse.

So, knowing that it’s the fat cells which produce the Leptin hormone, you’d be forgiven in thinking that more Leptin instruction would be produced by our porkier equines to signal the body to eat less food and normalise weight.

Not necessarily so, unfortunately. Our cresty equines, and especially those labelled Metabolic or with Endocrine issues, don’t always get the Leptin message, which means they may have become leptin resistant.

As with all hormone issues, Leptin resistance is a complex issue with no singular cause, but there are many factors that can negatively impact Leptin levels including (and I quote from esteemed sources) :
• High fructose, simple carbs and grain consumption
(yep, know that)
• High insulin levels (and that too)
• High stress levels (obvious, especially for our PPID-ers)
• Overeating (you don’t say …)

I’ll put my hands in the air now and say that all of us with cresty equids know – and work around – the above pointers already, so I know what you’re going to say – “We all know this stuff!” But despite our best efforts, why does Cookie, and all those other horses whose owners I hear from, hold onto their crests and fat pads?

It’s the devil and the deep blue sea. We’re told our horses are overweight and we need to restrict their feed/calories. But it doesn’t work. As Juliet Getty says, “The reason is simple – dieting restricts calories, which lowers the metabolic rate. Weight loss may occur at first, but the body goes into “survival mode” and starts to hold on to fat and becomes sluggish in burning calories, making it extremely easy to put all the weight back on.”

And let’s not forget that we can’t leave our horses standing for long periods of time without food, unless we want to risk acidity and ulcers. I personally follow the ad-lib theory, where my horses have a constant supply of hay so they don’t stress that there won’t ever be food, thus they self-regulate their intake and don’t overeat. This works for my lot, yet Cookie still balloons.

There’s also the ‘vicious cycle’ risk. If our horses do lose a bit of weight, the leptin level will drop. And guess what, when leptin levels drop, the leptin hormone signals the horse to eat more, potentially gaining back all of the body fat lost! Restricting forage is also extremely detrimental, especially for our PPID equines, because the stress involved increases cortisol, which then induces elevated insulin, which promotes fat storage, and so we’re back where we started.

It’s well known these days that those fat pads and crests indicate insulin resistance, and that if we don’t take all care possible, the risk of laminitis is very real. In human health, high levels of Leptin (and the accompanying Leptin resistance) is directly tied to insulin levels, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke, as well as blood sugar issues. Sound familiar? They can also decrease fertility, speed up the aging process and contribute to obesity.

I’m not saying that Leptin resistance is definitely the case for Cookie, but it could be that for those of us with horses that just have to look at grass and balloon, it MAY BE because they have Leptin resistance. Dr Kellon says that all IR horses have Leptin resistance. “However, not all Leptin-resistant horses are IR,” says one poster on a forum whose horse is leptin-resistant but not IR. She continues, “It seems from my reading that the two resistances co-occur because insulin increases leptin concentration.”

From what I’m reading, to make lasting health changes, lose weight and keep it off, we have to fix the Leptin levels. However, Leptin resistance and its related problems are a complex issue involving the Endocrine system, and reversing them requires more than simple calorie restriction.

According to an article (human health) in the Huff.Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/long-term-weight-loss---m_b…): “The problem is not in the production of leptin, but rather, studies show that the majority of overweight individuals who are having difficulty losing weight have a leptin resistance, where the leptin is unable to produce its normal effects to stimulate weight loss. This leptin resistance is sensed as starvation, so multiple mechanisms are activated to increase fat stores, rather than burn excess fat stores. Leptin resistance also stimulates the formation of reverse T3, which blocks the effects of thyroid hormone on metabolism.”

In other words, the body thinks it’s starving and keeps telling the body to eat more.

Juliet Getty’s theory is that it’s about inflammation, which if you ask any bio-chemist they’ll no doubt agree. “Body fat produces inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. These substances have two negative impacts: first, cytokines disrupt insulin action, reducing the cells’ insulin sensitivity, making your horse store more body fat. And second, and very important, cytokines impair the neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus, which is the area that normally responds to leptin.”

So is the answer about reducing inflammation?
Getty says that by reducing inflammation, “the brain will more than likely become more responsive to leptin, thus controlling the horse to stop eating when full." She recommends ad-lib forage to eliminate stress (I use double-netted haynets). Movement, as always, is key, and allegedly we'll have “a formula for success.”

Getty's Recommendations:
• Improve protein quality by feeding several sources: mixed grasses, linseed (micronized), copra, hemp seeds, chia seeds – (these latter have positive omega 3 levels as well which are non-inflammatory).
• Avoid simple starches, refined foods, sugars and fructose, any sweetened feeds, cereals, grains, wheat middlings and rice bran.
• Avoid omega 6 oils which are highly inflammatory, i.e. anything labeled ‘vegetable’, soya oil, corn oil, etc, and anything labeled ‘lightly coated in soya oil’ etc.
• Feed a min/vit supplement with high amounts of antioxidants, particularly vitamins E & C.
• Offer anti-inflammatory herbs such as green tea, spirulina, turmeric, boswellia, meadowsweet.

I also found these tips:
• Consuming protein and healthy fats first thing in the morning will help promote satiety and give the body the building blocks to produce hormones.
• Save exercise for later in the day. If there is Leptin resistance this may be an additional stress on the body. Let the body relax first thing, then add in the exercise.
• Remove all toxins! These are a stress on the body – switch off non-organic and processed foods wherever possible!

So what can I do here for Cookie? Thing is, I already do the ‘bring in during the day, out at night’ regime from spring-autumn, with ad-lib mixed-meadow hay and an overnight muzzle. She already gets Copra and linseed, with a bespoke herbal supplement made up from a mix of our CushSupport and LamiProne organic herbs which includes Meadowsweet, a well-known anti-inflam. She also gets our EquiVitaA-Ultra with the Spirulina. So I'm pretty much there. I could always give her a herbal green-tea in with her Copra soaking which would be no bother.

Here’s an exciting thing though. I read about one other possible supplement on the forum mentioned above, where the poster’s vet recommended supplementing with Alcar/L-carnitine, 1500mg 2 x/week. Alcar is a supplement many of you are starting to talk to me about, specifically in PSSM/EPSM-type scenarios. There have also been some interesting posts on the Phoenix Forum with very positive Alcar stories.

The poster also found “one piece of equine research ... on the specific subject of l-carnitine and leptin (actually just the abstract- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19320933), seems from the abstract to indicate that l-carnitine actually boosts blood concentration of leptin. A 2004 study on swine by Woolworth et. al.- again I can only get at the abstract- had similar results.”

She does go on to say that she’s not sure whether increasing blood leptin levels above an already abnormally high concentration would promote, rather than improve, leptin resistance. But she did say that she saw l-carnitine being touted as a potential ‘weight loss drug’. “The last time I spoke to a physician about this, albeit not an endocrinologist, I was given to understand that that advertisement isn't entirely spurious, so I assume there is something I am missing about how leptin resistance works and/or about how l-carnitine works with leptin.”

The best bit though, is that she’s edited her post 6-months later to say:

“Update post 10: after 6 months of L-carnitine supplementation, leptin blood levels decreased from abnormally high to within normal range, above median. Not a controlled experiment.”

This is good enough for me. I’ve ordered a 500g bag of L-Carnitine and I’m going to start Cookie on it alongside introducing Siberian Ginseng into her daily mix which helps support body systems and cellular function disrupted by stress, with a bit of assistance towards energy levels.

I’ll keep you posted!

The Metabolic Horse


Owners and veterinarians have long recognized a syndrome among horses relating to obesity and chronic laminitis.

Also known as Equine Metabolic Disease/Syndrome (EMS), Pre-Cushing's, or Cushingoid, the insulin resistant horse is intolerant of carbohydrates and certain management regimes, because the body does not respond to insulin, the hormone primarily responsible for transporting glucose into the cells.

Insulin helps cells of the body utilize glucose to the muscles, where it is then converted to energy. When the body cannot utilize the glucose in the bloodstream, the glucose increases, which triggers insulin release at excessive levels leading to elevated levels of insulin (as seen in a blood sample).

Horses affected with IR/EMS have signs similar with Cushing's, such as abnormal deposits of fat, increased insulin levels and prone to laminitis. It’s a vicious cycle – elevated glucose leads to elevated insulin. Elevated insulin leads to excess body fat. Excess body fat leads to too much insulin in the blood (insulin resistance).

IR/EMS is also thought to be associated with obese horses because fat cells can also produce cortisol along with other hormones that cause insulin resistance (although not all obese horses are insulin resistant). Insulin responds to high glucose levels and converts it to fatty deposits. Lipids (fat within the blood stream) are converted to glucose-raising blood-glucose levels, and laminitis becomes a very real risk.

Cause & Prevention
Increased insulin and abnormal glucose metabolism causes changes in the vascular and cellular level of the foot which leads to inflammation of the laminae.

Getting the IR/EMS controlled and treated is essential in order to minimize the associated laminitis risk. Controlling the cortisol levels restores the insulin response in the hooves.

The best prevention for IR/EMS horses is by not allowing our horses to become obese. Monitor weight, focus on a high fibre, low energy, low sugar, low carb, low fat, no grain, forage based (preferably soaked and drained to remove soluble sugars) and mineral-balanced diet, together with restricted access to grass. It is very important NOT TO STARVE the weight off your horse – he absolutely needs a balanced, appropriate diet.

Exercise is really important, not just to rid the body of fat cells, but exercise is also proven to increase dopamine levels. Regular exercise helps to burn the extra blood sugar made available through elevated cortisol levels. In addition to the countless physical benefits, exercise can have psychological benefits. Studies show that exercise can increase the amounts of both dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as helping your horse feel more energised overall.

In a May 2007 article in the ‘Journal of Neuroscience’, it was noted that exercise causes the brain cells that use dopamine to work more efficiently. The study showed that the dopamine-releasing neurons of rats who ran on a treadmill released more dopamine than rats who did not exercise, with the dopamine remaining active for longer in the treadmill rats.

It was also noted that continuous exercise also reduced damage to brain cells that release dopamine. In an August 2007 article in the journal ‘Neuroscience Letters’, it was reported that the treadmill rats that exercised for 30 minutes a day for two continuous weeks, lost less dopamine-releasing cells than non-exercising rats.

Quality Rest Time
Equally, sufficient amounts of proper rest helps lower cortisol levels because otherwise the body’s nervous system stays in a state of alertness that requires cortisol. Getting proper rest also increases serotonin and dopamine, which help control feed cravings.

Lower Cortisol & Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally
Stress and certain heath conditions can raise cortisol and dopamine levels and cause weight gain. Keep levels down by exercising, allowing rest, maintaining a happy equilibrium, feeding a natural, appropriate diet and adding a vitamin/mineral supplement that support healthy cortisol and dopamine levels.

Brewers Yeast & Linseed (Omega-3 Fats)
Adding Brewers Yeast & Linseed to the diet are extremely beneficial to feed. Linseed is packed full of the omega-3 fatty acids which help trigger the production of serotonin, as well as a good food source of the trace mineral selenium. A low intake of this mineral has been linked with depression.

Brewers Yeast provides (nearly) the full compliment of the B-vitamins (exc. B12) which are immensely valuable to the metabolic horse, and is very useful to feed to lower cortisol levels.

Thiamine – Thiamine (Vitamin B1), is responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of neurotransmitter production in the brain, particularly serotonin and dopamine.

Niacin – Niacin (Vitamin B3), plays an important role in the synthesis of amino acids in the brain, such as tryptophan. Tryptophan is metabolized in your brain into a compound called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, which stimulates the production of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Low levels of tryptophan are commonly associated with a niacin deficiency and may lead to disturbances in the balance of brain neurotransmitters.

Pantothenic Acid - Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), is often called the anti-stress vitamin, as it supports the proper function of the adrenal glands and is responsible for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline. Deficiencies in B5 are linked to a suppression of noradrenaline function, with low levels of noradrenaline associated with a decrease in alertness, poor memory and depression. B5 helps the body repair from adrenal fatigue.

Pyridoxine – Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), is an essential vitamin that helps maintain a healthy nervous and immune system. It is needed for the synthesis and regulation of dopamine in the brain, and may reduce the severity of a wide variety of neurological conditions associated with a neurotransmitter imbalance.

Biotin - Biotin (Vitamin B7), is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids. Biotin not only assists in various metabolic reactions, but is also considered helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Biotin is often recommended as a dietary supplement for strengthening hair and nails, and is well recognised as being a useful supplement for hoof health.

Steps you can take to lower cortisol and stimulate dopamine levels naturally

  1. Follow a daily regime of 20 to 30 minutes exercise, even if it’s just a brisk walk. The body's reaction to exercise creates brain activity that regulates hormone and brain chemicals.
  2. Add a vitamin/mineral supplement that supports good overall health and balances your forage/grazing. Avoid sugar, grains, fat and processed feeds which can cause dopamine levels to drop.
  3. In addition to supporting overall health, vitamin C is helpful in stimulating dopamine which helps to control your brain's ability to control movement. Rosehips are packed full of Vitamin C.
  4. Ensure your horse has equine company. A calm, happy horse creates positive brain activity increasing the amount of feel-good substances such as dopamine and seratonin.