Digestive Support – what do all of those ingredients mean??


As with many supplements, it is so hard to compare one to the other based on a difference in amount and list of ingredients.

Supplement A has Ingredients XYZ.  Supplement B has ingredients YXA.  Supplement C has ingredients ZAB

So how do you determine which ingredients are the ones you want, and what levels are worthwhile for inclusion?

Too many times I’ve heard industry reps bragging about their level of ingredient A vs. the competitors level of ingredient A.  Depending on the ingredient, a difference of 100mg isn’t going to make or break one supplement over the other, and doesn’t justify a significant price gap.

So, over the course of the next few blogs, I would like to look at a few important digestive supplement ingredients and how they function in order to determine their value in a supplement.

Lets assume we are looking at a horse that may not have ulcers, but has possibly had them in the past and may be prone to relapse or have sub-clinical incidences.  This is a fairly common scenario.

Beta Glucans         beta

According to Wikipedia: β-glucans are a diverse group of molecules that can vary with respect to molecular mass, solubility, viscosity, and three-dimensional configuration.

Oats are a rich source of the water-soluble fibre (1,3/1,4) β-glucan, and its effects on health have been extensively studied the last 30 years. Glucans can be highly concentrated in different types of oat brans.

The differences between β-glucan linkages and chemical structure are significant in regards to solubility, mode of action, and overall biological activity.  So, not all beta glucans are alike (just to confuse matters more).

In some cases, Beta-1,3-D-glucan is taken and purified from common baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).  However, Frank Jordan, a Beta Glucan Expert states:

In its most effective form, Beta glucan is extracted from the yeast cell wall (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) of Baker’s yeast as Beta 1,3/1,6 glucan, as a purified isolate with harmful yeast proteins removed and a process that prevents reaggregation, or clumping after exposure to water in the digestive sequence.”

This is especially important as I have also heard sales reps imply that their beta glucan components come from the yeast in the supplement. Unless it is extracted, the beta glucan in the yeast component is non admissible.

How do beta glucans work?  James J Gromley of Smooth Run Equine paints an interesting and precise picture on Beta Glucan activity.

“The immune “connection” comes into play when we realize that there is a specific receptor site on a very important immune cell called a macrophage.  When Beta-1, 3-D-glucan attaches to the receptor site on the macrophage this immune cell is then “activated” allowing it to go about its business of attacking and destroying invading organisms.”

 “Macrophages participate in reducing inflammation and in the healing of tissues following injury.  The role of macrophages in inflammation is complex, involving the release of molecules that regulate activity of connective tissue cells.  In addition, macrophages secrete angiogenesis factors, that is, factors that bring on the development and growth of new blood vessels.  The same molecules promote growth of endothelial tissue and smooth muscle tissue.  Reducing the number of macrophages in tissues results in poor wound healing.”

So one can see how this ingredient would be an important inclusion in a digestive support supplement for horses prone to ulcers.  Now, what levels are significant?

Any level over 300mg has been shown to be beneficial in the diet.

Next, we will look at the importance of L-Glutamine, and L-Threonine in digestive support and healing.

For more information or a free consultation or a list of available supplements containing Beta Glucans, contact

The Figure Seven or jen@thefigureseven.ca


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