Environmental contaminants can make your equine partner sick. If you detox your horse his body can heal itself. —By Erin Zamzow, DVM
As I sit down to write this article, I am swirled in the lovely aroma of horse. I’m fresh in from free longeing my little Morgan mare in the pasture. She is being rehabilitated from neglect and a long-undiagnosed EPM infection, so she needs to be exercised, stretched, and according to her, groomed and scratched extensively!
When I first met Daphne about a year ago she was thin, could barely walk, had a dull look in her beautiful eyes, and seemed to hurt all over. I had to do something to help so she became my rescue/rehab project. What lessons she has taught me!
The Decline of the Immune System
Since my graduation from veterinary school in 1990, I have seen an increase in many disease conditions in horses, including infections such as EPM (Equine Protozoal Myelitis). Cancer, insulin resistance, equine Cushing’s, allergies, laminitis and arthritis are, in my experience, showing up in younger horses with increasing frequency. Conditions I used to be able to address with proper shoeing, a good liver cleanse and some nutritional changes are not responding the way they did a decade ago. I am also witnessing bone recession and periodontal disease more frequently and in younger horses. In one barn, 50% of the horses I work on have some degree of periodontal inflammation, even those as young as eight years old.
In 2004, I started doing some volunteer work with the Washington Toxics Coalition, a grassroots non-profit organization devoted to the investigation of toxins in the environment and our bodies. As a mother, I was very concerned about the increase in environmental toxins showing up in the bodies of humans. Our domestic animals are exposed to many of the same heavy metals, industrial chemicals and other pollutants. As I looked at disease trends in people that were directly linked or related to toxic “body burdens”, it became very apparent that the problems I was seeing in horses could also be related to a buildup of toxins in their bodies.
Normally, the body is well equipped to handle exposure to a certain level of toxins. The liver, kidneys, lymph, blood, skin and respiratory system all act to process and eliminate foreign and potentially damaging substances from the body. But when these processes are overwhelmed, dangerous substances build up and challenge the cells’ ability to function optimally. Much of this damage is done by unstable molecules known as free radicals.
When the body breaks down environmental toxins, the process requires oxygen and a step during which oxygen is unstable. If the detoxification process is not completed, free radicals are formed. Free radicals are molecules with a missing electron in their outer orbit. Molecules “want” to be stable so an unstable one will steal an electron from a neighboring molecule. This causes oxidative damage to the molecule that was stolen from and the tissue it is a part of.
Free radicals are normally “quenched” or eliminated by antioxidants supplied in the diet and created by the body. When there are more free radicals created than can be stabilized, they build up and a cascade of electron-stealing molecules is generated. This chaotic domino type reaction results in oxidative stress that destroys tissues and contributes to inflammation. Due to the overwhelming level of environmental toxicity we are experiencing, the degree of free radical formation and oxidative stress to our tissues, DNA and proteins can easily overwhelm the antioxidants ingested in the diet or produced by the body.
Signs of Toxin Damage
- If a substance damages DNA sequences, genetic mutations can occur and protein transcription can be disrupted.
- If receptor sites on important molecules that create energy are blocked, energy production and thus athletic performance will drop.
- If immune function is damaged, a horse might be less able to fight off infection and more prone to cancer.
- An over-reactive immune system may manifest as allergies or autoimmune diseases.
- If the nervous system is compromised, you may see anxiety, nervousness, reactive behavior and abnormal locomotion.
- Destruction of endocrine tissue will result in hormonal and metabolic dysfunction such as painful/crampy heat cycles, difficulty breeding or keeping in foal, insulin resistance and equine metabolic syndrome.
Detox is Crucial
My point is not to create a feeling of hopelessness or paranoia, but to get the message across loud and clear that our horses’ bodies get overwhelmed quickly and easily by the burden of toxins they are carrying around. They need serious help getting rid of these substances and replacing the antioxidants that allow the body to function optimally.
“Based on my clinical experience, I believe toxic chemicals are a root cause of many, if not most, health problems,” says veterinarian Dr. Lynn Peck of Gainesville, Florida. “Probably 80% of my practice is detoxing animals safely and slowly. I have seen amazing turnarounds in very sick patients by just getting the chemicals out.”
Dr. Don Hemerson is a veterinarian from Greeley, Colorado. He works with a system called Bicom which can help analyze toxins in the body and find out what is effective at removing them. “True healing at the cellular level can’t take place until the heavy metals and chemicals are cleared from the body,” he says. “When those toxins are removed, the cells start to communicate in a highly efficient manner and chronic disease patterns rapidly start to disappear, whether it is allergies, digestive disorders, or inflammatory arthritis. True healing can’t occur until the patient is free of the environmental toxins.”
What You Can Do
There are many ways to include detoxification in your horse’s care. The important thing is that you do it, and in a way most beneficial and gentle to your horse. Homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, Bicom analysis, bodywork such as Bowen/touch balancing and massage are all great ways to help your horse keep up with his detox needs.
One simple and effective way is to include zeolites in your horse’s diet. Zeolites are a natural mineral found the world over. They are formed when volcanic ash hits sea water and forms a matrix or network of tiny open spaces. Zeolites have an overall negative charge. Since heavy metals and many toxins have a strong positive charge, they are attracted to the open spaces in the zeolite, trapped by the strong bond, and passively carried out of the body. This helps reduce the load on the kidneys and liver and may boost other overwhelmed detoxification channels in the body. As a side benefit, bone density can be improved by enhanced mineral absorption and the silica that certain types of zeolite provide. There are several kinds of zeolite offering varying effectiveness depending on their source, purity and size.
I take a break and head out to see Daphne. She trots up to me, tossing her mane in a playful manner. I don’t know if I’d believe the story of her transformation had I not seen it with my own eyes. She has never been on an antibiotic or an anti-inflammatory drug. She was my experiment in seeing just how much the body can heal when you get the toxins out and add what it needs to repair itself. She is a wonderful teacher, and I thank her for taking this leap of faith into healing with me!
Browse VivoZeolite Products formulated by Erin Zimzow, DVM
at Just Equus.
You may be asking, what are DVM Erin Zimzow’s credentials? See below an excerpt from an interview article :
What are your credentials and why did you decide to create a formulation?
“I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 18 years. I have always been aware of the threat of environmental toxicity on health, but in the last several years, the number of toxics in the environment and in human and animal bodies has increased dramatically (see ewg.org for the Environmental Working Group’s recent findings on toxins in pets). I was already implementing heavy metal detoxification in my own family and saw a great need to address this concern in my veterinary practice.”