There are many herbs, plant or bacterial extracts and probiotics that can stimulate the immune system but they won’t help if the horse’s body does not have the basic raw material it needs to respond. That comes from the diet.
Macrophage Engulfing Bacteria (the ovals)
You may not think of them this way, but basic vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in your horse’s immune system.
Magnesium: Magnesium maintains function of T lymphocytes. Magnesium also participates in the regulation of inflammatory cytokines.
Copper: Forms the active center of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase. Copper maintains the structural integrity of skin, mucus membranes and lymph nodes. Required for normal production of the neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
Zinc: Like copper, zinc can form the active center of antioxidant superoxide dismutase. Zinc is important at multiple steps in the production of immune system cells and their function including direct cellular killing of organisms as well as antibody production.
Selenium: A selenium enzyme keeps the antioxidant glutathione functioning. Selenium is involved in antibody production.
Iodine: Iodine forms the core of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones influence T lymphocyte numbers and activity.
B Vitamins: The B vitamins are essential for all rapidly dividing tissues, including white blood cells in the bone marrow and lymph nodes.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A deficiency depresses immune system functions across the board, including antibody production.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has far-reaching effects in the immune system including increasing immunoglobulin (antibody) levels in mare’s colostrum and in their foals.
Vitamin C: When fighting a disease the immune system generates huge amounts of oxygen free radicals. Vitamin C is the antioxidant that protects structures inside the cells from also being damaged and protects the lungs from environmental free radicals.
These are the major players with roles possible for other nutrients as well such as chromium and vitamin D.
There is a place for immune stimulating products but before considering one it’s vital to put the foundation into your horse’s immune system with a good vitamin/mineral supplement. It may be all you need.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD