Some 80 percent of the equine immune system interacts with the intestines because that’s where the action is. The gut lining is only one cell thick, facilitating the absorption of nutrients. However, while the gut is filled with ingested food matter, it is also teeming with microbes that must be kept on the other side of that thin barrier. That’s the job of the immune system.
Intriguingly, the immune system has a powerful ally in this task: the microbes themselves. These beneficial microbes are called commensal (meaning “sharing a table”) and they form a tight-knit community known as the microbiota. It protects the host from pathogens by outcompeting, starving, and chemically killing them.
In this article we look at how the microbes in the gut collaborate with the immune system to enhance nutritive uptake while protecting against infection. The specific topics we’ll explore are as follows:
- How Stress Affects the Immune System
- The Dangers of Chronic Stress
- The Gut-Brain Connection
- The Role of Prebiotics
- The Quandaries of Complexity
- Stereotypies and Microbes
- The Duality of the Immune System
- Milk Provides a Complex Microbial Substrate
- Microbes Can Control Immunity
- More Than Just Microbes
- Staying in Balance
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