Digestion and Weight Gain

2014 Year of the Horse
2014 Year of the Horse

I occasionally read through veterinary catalogs for horse supplements.  These animals, worth up to millions of dollars get the best of care and often state of the art medicine before it percolates down to humans. Many herbal and nutritional supplements are described for effectiveness in terms that the FDA would prohibit for people -which tends to prevent good information from getting to us about how to use nutritional supplements.

As I was reading through the catalog it struck me that the weight-gain supplements contain some of the very same ingredients that are touted for weight loss in articles and ads all over the web.  What gives?

For instance, one weight gain supplement says it “is a balanced formula of prebiotics, probiotics, glutamine, vitamins, minerals …that improves feed utilization, enhances health, increases energy, and improves gain. This comprehensive digestive supplement is designed to help increase appetite and maintain overall digestive health. A healthy horse is host to billions of good and bad bacteria of varying types and these bacteria help keep the horse’s gut functioning normally. If these bacteria are unbalanced, the horse may not digest nutrients properly which can result in weight problems.”  It contains dried Aspergillus oryzae fermentation product, L-Glutamine, Mannan Oligosaccharides (MOS), Saccharomyces c boulardii, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which are basically probiotics, the prebiotic food for them, and glutamine.

A livestock weight gain formula by the same manufacturer is made up of flax oil, natural Vitamin E and ascorbyl palmitate which is a C vitamin.  It is used to add essential fatty acids to add “fat calories without increasing grain intake.”

The story with probiotics is that some break food down more and others help push things through faster.  The lactobacillii (which you find in yogurt, kefir, kimchi and fermented vegetables) are firmiciutes which help you digest more of the food you take in.  Thin people tend to have some of these but far more bacteriodetes which will cause diarrhea in excess.  So fat people have more of the probiotics which get more out of food and thin people have more probiotics that will pass through more food undigested and will decrease intestinal transit time.  Benign e-coli bacteriodete supplements are available in Europe but not the US.  The probiotics in the horse feed are like those which increase the digestion of food.  So are the ones you take in through food and supplements in the USA.

I believe we need some probiotics, especially if food comes from supermarkets and is shipped from elsewhere, if antibiotics have been used  and if pharmaceutical use is significant.  But get most of them from fermented food, grow rootcrops in your back yard and eat them straight  from the soil and don’t overdo the lactobacilli.  You will have a better chance of getting a mix of species, even some they won’t sell. And eat prebiotics like alliums (garlic, onion, leeks and shallots) and Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes).

Glutamine spares muscles when you are ill (have cachexia after chemo or HIV) and helps you build muscle if you are in training.  Otherwise it is unlikely to affect your weight.

Fat probably won’t make you fat but flax oil goes rancid fast so grind your seeds immediately before eating.  That said if you live on grains like a horse fat might help you digest them better.

If you want to lose fat for the new year, don’t eat like a horse.  Weight loss depends on the hormonally proper foods: a paleo diet, low in sugar and refined starches especially those from grains will be best for the majority of overweight people, although individuals differ.  Do the basics: get rid of allergens, eat real unrefined food, cook with coconut oil, animal fat or ghee, take in lots of greens including sea vegetables and eat lower-sugar high-flavonoid fruits like berries.

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