Let's Talk About EPM
What is EPM?
EPM, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, is a disease caused by the apicomplexan parasite Sarcocystis neurona that affects the central nervous system of horses. It can be a devastating diagnosis for the owner and quite traumatic for the horse.
As we hear of more horses who have fallen prey to this challenging illness, I wanted to address it here to provide some insight as to why only some horses are susceptible to symptoms with exposure, ways to naturally support your horse through recovery, and guidance on how to avoid EPM proactively.
What makes one horse more susceptible than another?
Simply put: a horse is more likely to fall prey to the symptoms of EPM when his gut microbiome is imbalanced and intestinal integrity is compromised. Poor gut health.
An overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and inflammation can lead to breaks in the tight junctions of the GI tract, commonly referred to as leaky gut. Leaky gut allows rogue molecules, bacteria and parasites to pass through into the bloodstream, spread systemically, weaken and penetrate the blood brain barrier and wreak havoc on neurological tissues and the central nervous system. This broken-down digestive process is how the parasite Sarcocystis neurona gains access to a horse's neurological tissues and gives them what we call EPM.
Compromised gut health is also the reason why only one horse in a barn may become sick, while all or many may have had exposure. A horse with a healthy gut and optimal digestion (hint: stomach acid is needed!) is able to pass undesirable bacteria or foreign invaders, such as parasites, safely through his GI tract - without it escaping through tight junctions and therefore being safely and effectively eliminated vs. spreading internally / systemically.
How can we help prevent EPM?
Fostering your horse’s gut microbiome with a carefully crafted diet will result in a stronger immune system, a higher quality life, and will serve as the best defense against EPM.
How can we foster a healthy gut? Limit unnecessary pharmaceuticals and offer an organic, forage-based diet (including whole foods), balanced to meet individual needs. We encourage you to check your feed and supplement ingredient lists to avoid feeding ingredients commonly contaminated with glyphosate (Round Up), GMO’s, byproducts, synthetic isolated nutrients, preservatives and other chemicals. See our in-depth blog post Optimizing My Horse's Diet for more information and specific guidance.
Ideally, a horse’s diet should include 24/7 access to multi-species grass or hay (non-gmo), natural mineral salts (i.e., Redmond’s) and appropriate herbs, oils, superfoods & prebiotics. These pure foods help support a healthy balance of bacteria, healthy intestinal lining and mucosa, and a normal digestive process. They also help to create an uninhabitable environment for parasites to thrive by balancing the internal pH, allowing stomach acid to aid digestion and kill off pathogens, and foster the internal terrain (Terrain Theory).
How can we futher support recovery from EPM?
In addition to correcting and optimizing the diet, we can offer the horse various herbs to support the central nervous system, fight inflammation, fight against parasites and strengthen the overall immune system. Magnesium Glycinate supports nerve cellular communication, muscle and nerve function, neurological health, a calm mind and so much more. Adapt. blend offers adaptogenic and nervine herbs to nourish and balance the central nervous system, helping them keep a calm mind during recovery. Our Elite nuggets help to rebalance the gut microbiome, fight against parasites, fight inflammation, calm and much more. Natural Vitamin E is a great strengthener of the immune system and also helps to fight inflammation.
Please reach out with any questions, we would love to support you as best we can!