Perfect preventation makes perfect practice
Imagine what your home would be like if you didn't clean it for weeks on end - if mine's anything to go by with three dogs, two cats (who bring in allsorts of feathered and furries, oh - and frogs), plus free-range chooks that wander indoors when they feel like it, it doesn't bear thinking about what state it would get to if I didn't get the Dyson out, and even then I find it hard enough to keep on top off.
It's the same for our horses' bodies, and us humans - regular detoxification is the most pivotal part of the process of overcoming chronic disease. Disease and illness simply can't exist inside a clean, nourished, nutrient-rich body, so it makes perfect sense to practice true prevention.
- ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ (Hippocrates) Reduce toxic load via natural, species-appropriate, nutrient-rich food to nourish the body.
- Detox the whole body regularly.
- Balance energy Keep it flowing properly with good rest and sleep - sleep allows cells to repair damage and restore tissue.
- Reduce stressors Make life enjoyable and manage stress better.
- ‘Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.’ (Hippocrates again) Remember previously where I said the immune system ... promotes the immune response which is controlled by the nervous system? Well, the spine protects and surrounds the spinal cord, through which the brain communicates with the body.
The spine is designed to have a very specific structure, and any deviation directly interferes with the nervous system’s ability to adapt to, and respond to, stress. Everything we do impacts the nervous system – the question is, are we doing the things that make it healthier or breaking it down? Nerve impingement creates tension, which creates a Fight/Flight state, and when we wear out the adrenal glands for the energy to fight or fly, we hit exhaustion. Reducing stress as much as possible is imperative.
- Teeth They’re connected to every organ in the body and have a huge impact on health. Numerous locations in the jaw are directly connected to the body’s organs. Each tooth socket has a ligament which holds the tooth in place; following any dental work, if toxins remain in the mouth (which is rarely cleaned properly afterwards), this can lead to infection which affects the tooth socket, the ligament and the jawbone.
Let's look properly at detoxification
Ever been behind a door trying to get out and the exit's blocked?
A perfect analogy for why detoxing is so important; toxins need to get out of the body's exit routes, but if the exits are blocked, they'll stay in the body.
Other than the undesirables that are in feed/forage, there's a ton of other environmental waste products that get into the system whether we like it or not. We have GMO waste, environmental toxins from industry, pesticides, herbicides, and so on. It’s estimated that there are literally hundreds of thousands of chemicals in the environment alone. And not to put too fine a word on it, they build up in the body and can start to cause potentially life-threatening conditions.
We’re bombarded with toxic materials from every front, and once in the body – and be assured they’re going to come in – they're stored in tissues and cells throughout the body and affect every one of the body’s systems, including immune, digestive, nervous and circulatory systems.
Toxins can shut the body down quicker than a quick thing
As toxins start to build up in the body, they begin to tax the immune system. Gut health starts to erode, becoming permeated and allowing the toxins to leak through the gut wall and into the blood stream, causing the immune system to become locked in overdrive trying to get rid of the toxic overload.
The bloodstream is now overburdened with free radicals (toxic mutant cells), the lymphatics - the body's waste drainage system - become blocked and sluggish, the liver and kidneys are working overtime trying to process the sheer volume of toxicity, and the exit routes are all clogged up, forcing much of the toxic load to be reabsorbed all over again, instead of evacuated out and gone forever.
So even if you’re feeding the right feeds, maintaining good movement and managing stressors, toxic sludge in the body will still be doing its best to sabotage your best intentions to keep your horse healthy.
Simply put, the body doesn’t function well when it’s loaded with toxins. Healthy nutrients won’t get to the cells, and the toxins won't get eliminated out of the exit routes. The result? Allergies, itching, lumpy skin, laminitis, puffy-leg oedema, lowered immunity and a compromised metabolism, all leading the way to chronic disease as well as an inflamed leaky gut and ulcers. Enter pain which leads to misery, anxiety, loss of appetite, loss of weight and condition, and eventual meltdown.
Detoxification is the first step to get health back on track and reinstate homeostasis, helping your horse function properly again.
For millions of years, plants have protected themselves against foreign invaders like mould, bugs and harmful microbes with their own built-in defence system of powerful phytochemicals. Being a herbivore, our horses have evolved grazing on grasses and plants, so using those same natural phytochemicals means they can also reap the same benefits for optimal immunity protection.
This is where our C.A.R.E. programme comes in, and specifically our HerbalOptimaCARE detox programme:
- Clean and detox gut irritants and toxins, and the vital organ immune system.
- Activate healthy digestion and the integrity of the intestinal gut lining by repopulating the beneficial gut microbiota.
- Restore health with essential micronutrients into the diet.
- Enhance immunity, energy, strength and vitality.
The four primary exit routes in the body are the bowel region (intestines, cecum, colon, rectum and anus), the urinary tract, the lungs and skin. And a very simple rule applies - if one exit is blocked, the next exit will have to pick up the slack.
In order to get each exit open, an effective whole-body detox must be done in the correct sequence. Everything starts with the gut, as this is where the majority (up to 80%) of the immune system is created via proper nutrition. so after cleaning up the gut and the main exit route, the next stage is to clean up the liver and kidneys (the two main detox organs) which clears the urinary tract.
Finally, the circulatory systems. The lymphatics drain waste from the skin and lungs, the bloodstream nutrifies the body. The body relies on a healthy, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood supply to get the nutrients from the gut system to where they’re needed.
In essence, to restore health and immunity, we have to work upstream, starting with the gut system and the main exit route, then cleaning up the next organ and exit route, upon which the next one relies on, and so on.
How the body processes work
Step 1 - The Digestive System, the first line of defence
This is the first place to start; it's where the whole process of digestion occurs, where the nutrients are assimilated and absorbed, and where the main waste-disposal chute resides.
The whole bowel region could be thought of as the Long Road Home, with the hindgut (the large intestine incorporating the cecum, large and small colon) considered the Mother of all Organs. However, let's not forget that digestion starts from the minute the horse puts food in its mouth. Chewing releases saliva which mixes with the chewed food and forms a bolus, which travels down the oesophagus and into the stomach (foregut).
It meets the stomach acid and digestive enzymes which trigger the washing-machine cycle; as the stomach wall begins churning, the acid and enzymes start breaking down and liquifying the bolus so it can pass easily into the small intestine.
The small intestine is where true digestion starts to take place - this is where the nutrients are assimilated and absorbed into the bloodstream via the digestive enzymes breaking down the proteins, starches, sugars and fats. Finally, what's left, as in plant fibre, arrives at the large intestine, generally known as the hindgut region, which begins with the cecum and ends with the colon. The hindgut is like a large fermentation vat where billions of bacteria reside to digest the fibre by their own production of enzymes - unlike the foregut system and small intestine, the hindgut system doesn't produce these enzymes; they must be provided in the diet via probiotics.
The final stage is in the small colon, where the remaining waste material is formed into fecal balls, which head off into the rectum for evacuation through the anus. Job done. In the perfect world ...
So, back to those toxins, and if they're not effectively dealt with, they cause gut disruption and kill the intestinal flora and lining, which creates digestive havoc. If the food isn't being processed properly, the result is a mess of undigested, compacted matter being pushed into the intestines.
This compacted waste can take much longer to travel through the intestines - the intestines are designed to ‘absorb’ so the longer waste sits in the intestines, the more it’s going to be reabsorbed and impact upon itself, until eventually the digestive system grinds to a standstill.
A quick heads-up - there are three areas in the large intestine that are ripe for causing obstruction. For the cecum content to pass into the colon, it must travel through the cecocolic orifice which is just 3-4cm wide. Then, as the left ventral colon reaches the pelvic area, it narrows at the pelvic flexure, another common place for blockage to occur. Finally, because of the narrowing of the transverse colon, this is another prime blockage spot. Just a bit scary. (And another scary fact - if we took bowel contents and injected them directly into the bloodstream it would be instantly lethal.)
So there we have it. The root of where health goes bad. Of course, the nutrients in feed play a huge part as well. In theory, a healthy body has a strong immune system and won’t get sick. If the body’s sick, the immune system is sick.
The only permanent way to good health is via the immune system, and nutrition gives the immune system the firepower to keep the body well. However, the nutrition we feed to our horses has to be effectively digested, assimilated, absorbed and shuttled off to where it’s needed, and only a healthy gut system can do this. However, a healthy immunity is dependent on all the major organs working together in sync; they all rely on each other to function like perfectly oiled cogs in a wheel.
Step 2 – Liver, Kidneys & Urinary Tract
Now we get to the two main detoxing and eliminatory organs, the liver and kidneys, responsible for cleaning up the body. They need to work in harmony, each playing their essential part like an instrument in an orchestra. Both have to be firing on all cylinders to sort the bad stuff from the good, before shifting the bad stuff off for elimination. The two circulatory systems, blood and lymphatics, rely entirely on these two organs for their own detoxing.
When there's inflammation and/or toxin build-up in the GI tract, the movement of toxins from the liver and the GI tract ceases, and everything gets shuttled over to the kidneys. Unless that liver/GI path is clear, the kidneys end up being overloaded with toxins. So, once the gut and colon are cleaned up, a liver/kidney cleanse will help restore the natural dominant detox liver/GI pathway, so the pressure is taken off the Kidneys.
- The Liver - the workhorse of digestion and detoxification
While the hindgut is the largest digestive organ in the body, the liver is the largest digestive gland, and it’s the workhorse of the immune system. When the liver is under too much stress it’s unable to process the toxins out of the body, so they keep on moving through the system causing a ton of potential havoc. Liver cleansing alone boosts liver production and efficiency by up to 15% and is one of the most effective ways of boosting the body's own natural detoxing mechanism.
The liver is responsible for performing a number of essential detoxifying functions, including purifying the blood - the condition of the blood throughout the whole body is mostly reliant on the health of the liver. The liver needs to actively clean the blood each and every day in order to support nearly every system within the body.
The liver helps remove harmful substances from the blood, aids in hormone production, detoxifies the body, releases glucose into the bloodstream in order to give the body steady energy, and releases bile into the small intestine so fat can be absorbed from foods. You can see why poor liver function can create so many problems.
- The Kidneys & Lymphatics - the body’s environmentally friendly recycling system
The kidneys take the waste from the lymphatic system. The lymphatics drain congestion from the skin and lungs, passing anything left over from lymph node filtering into the bloodstream which takes what's left onwards to the kidneys. The kidneys filter out the non-recyclable waste and toxins and support regular blood pressure. They then draw water from the body to add to the waste to make urine (why it’s so important to keep hydration levels up) and send it off to the bladder for elimination. They also manage production of Vit. D which is essential for bone and muscle health.
Step 3 – The Circulatory Systems: Blood & Lymphatics
There are two types of circulation in the body; blood, and its less-known cousin, the lymphatics, the main difference being that while being part of the circulatory system, the lymphatics lack a pump (like the heart) to push the lymphatic fluid through; this requires the activation of the entire skeletal musculature via exercise.
- Blood - the life force of the body
Blood has to maintain a healthy flow round the body, to feed nutrients where needed on the outbound journey and pick up lymphatic waste on the inbound, before heading back to the liver for another clean up and starting its journey round the body all over again.
It supplies essential substances and nutrients, such as glucose, oxygen and hormones, to the body's cells, while also removing the body’s own cells that are dying off all the time. If the blood cells aren't cleaned up and overburdened with junk, the white army cells (lymphocytes, the infection-busters) are depleted, which risks the body becoming susceptible to toxic influx and hence disease and illness.
- The Lymphatics - the body's critical drainage-canal system
The skin and lungs rely on the lymphatic system to clean them, like a clean-up crew to remove the waste product, including infection, via the lymph nodes and the fluid itself, the lymph. The lymph then drains into the bloodstream which heads off to the kidneys first to dump the waste.
Lymph is like butter; the warmer it gets, the softer and more fluid it gets. The colder it gets, the harder it gets. Move, get a bit warm and it’ll keep moving and clean faster and more efficiently. When the lymph nodes get swollen and hard, they’re doing their job - when we get the beginnings of a cold, we can feel our glands swollen in our neck. This is how it should be - they’re filtering the waste and holding onto it, ready to eliminate.
Detoxing must be thought of as a marathon, not a sprint. Detoxing the system in sequence, from the inside out, helps reboot the immune system to balance the body and digestive system. More energy, more stamina, better digestion, better balance.
In the perfect world, detoxing works best when it’s done as a regular, gentle, daily detox. Typically, and depending on the overload, detoxing can take anywhere from 1 to 12 months; sometimes longer, which is why once the system is cleaned up, daily detoxing will continue to support the whole body on an ongoing basis.
For gentle daily detoxing, look no further than our DailyDetoxTonic and for our senior horses, see our SeniorTonic. The daily detox process also needs to have natural breaks otherwise it will lose its effectiveness – my method of choice is 1 day per week (Sunday, so I can have a bit of a lie-in).
Alternatively, if your horse's system is heavily overburdened and needs a deeper whole-system clean, our OptimaCARE is an organic, 3-part, full-body cleanse working in sequence from the gut upwards, fed over 30 days to support the equine body from toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic moulds etc.
Specifically designed to give our horses an overall cleanse experience, Stage 1 starts by cleaning the gut and boosting microbiome levels to process the essential nutrients efficiently. Fed over 10-days, this is then followed with Stage 2 for the next 10-days, which detoxes and reinvigorates the liver and kidneys. Stage 3 completes the process with a 10-day detox of the lymphatic system. Each stage is wrapped separately for ease of use.
The synergistic combination of each stage of our OptimaCARE formula can help bring a healthy balance back into the entire equine digestive, detoxing and eliminatory systems. Once the course is finished, allow a week off so the system can realign, strengthen and function by itself; this will also gives you the chance to assess how your horse is.
You should now have a restored blank canvas to work with, so any presenting issues can be dealt with effectively, without having to struggle through an overburdened exhausted system.
That's it - we're pretty much done.
See our Online Shop for our full range in the organic herbal C.A.R.E. Programme. Alternatively, if you think your horse is otherwise fine, and you're happy with your feed regime (see our Feeding Our Horses chapter), very often many of the well recognised issues, i.e. skin or respiratory, can be supported by giving your horse a targeted cleanup by way of an appropriate 4-week tonic. You'll find these in our specific Herbal Therapies chapters in our Online Shop.
Wishing your horse the very best of health :o)