Inflammation in Equines: A Natural Approach – The Use of Turmeric for its Bioactive Properties - By Dr Tom Shurlock
Inflammation is an essential and entirely natural process that initiates a cascade of responses. Whenever the body perceives its status has strayed from the norm – and this can be anything from infection to stress, obesity to Cushings – it releases pro-inflammatory markers. These can activate remedial measures, such as the immune response, repair mechanisms or simply protect specific areas from further dysfunction, until natural status has been restored. At that point anti-inflammatory markers, chemically very similar to their counterparts, reduce inflammation, allowing metabolic debris to be flushed away.
However, when there are chronic inflammatory situations, when inflammation is constantly invoked, the cycle of repair becomes disrupted and inflammation can be a continuous problem. The most obvious example of this would be the wear and tear of joints, leading to osteoarthritis, but there are many other examples, such as obesity, IR and even ageing; in fact “inflamm-ageing” is a term being used in the academic press for age related inflammation. Even processes where the inflammation/anti-inflammation cycle is not compromised can benefit from support nutrition, muscle recovery after exercise being a prime example.
For the horse there are two main areas where inflammation may require some nutritional support; metabolic and degradative. Amongst the first category would be ageing, obesity (fat depots actually release pro-inflammatory adipokines), disorders such as IR & Cushings and muscle recovery. Examples of second category would include joint problems and laminitis.
Turmeric has long been associated with gastric health in Asian culture and has been increasingly researched across species for both gastric and systemic support. In terms of turmeric’s reported activities there are two components involved in the natural inflammation cycle; essential oils and curcumin.
The essential oils of turmeric contain a group of bioactive compounds called terpenes that have been shown to influence PGE2, a prostaglandin that ameliorates the inflammatory process. Curcumin, on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant that mops up free radicals (those metabolites that have degradative effects on cell membranes and linings) and also increases glutathione peroxidase and superoxide diasmutase (GTP & SOD) status, maintaining the antioxidative enzymes which helps reduce oxidative stress.
There is also some evidence that turmeric’s other components impact on these processes. There are 235 actives – curcuminoids, sterols, alkaloids, phenolics and other compounds – and the interplay between them is myriad. As such, turmeric has gained the reputation of being a beneficial dietary addition across species and there is increasing research data to support its role in various aspects of equine wellbeing.
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