Importance of Gut Health
A healthy gut is essential for proper nutrient absorption, and it’s critical to the immune system. Properly developed digestive tracts are home to gut flora, communities of microbial life. These microorganisms assist the digestive tract by breaking down complex nutrients into more digestible parts, allowing the host to get the most from its meal. Gut health is also a major factor impacting the immune system. Livestock demonstrating signs of a healthy gut have an easier time attaining a target weight, exhibit improved feed conversion rates, and generally exhibit good health.
Role of Gut Flora
Research has found that the gut flora has several mechanisms by which it impacts gastrointestinal development, maintenance, nutrient absorption, and immune response in chickens (Carrasco et al 2019, Pan et al 2013). When a chick is introduced to the world, and a new food source, the gut flora starts to colonize and begins aiding the gastrointestinal tract with digestion. Throughout the growth of the bird, the gut flora continues to adapt and evolve. A healthy gut flora protects gastrointestinal health by acting as a control measure against pathogens and aiding physiological efforts to maintain homeostasis within the digestive system (Carrasco et al 2019). When the gut flora flourishes, nutrient absorption is optimized, the immune system is prepped, and hosts are better prepared to handle life challenges.
Impact of a Healthy Diet on Gut Health
A recent study determined that the profile of the gut flora in commercial birds reflected the microbial profile of the feed they ingested (Haberecht et al 2020). This study illustrates the adage: “You are what you eat.” As a fomite, feed can negatively impact the gut development of commercial birds by introducing pathogenic bacteria capable of colonizing the digestive tract. If this were to happen during a susceptible stage, such as immediately after hatching, the bird would likely never develop a healthy gut flora. Poultry are sensitive to external stressors which can have a direct negative effect on healthy gut flora, creating opportunities for the bird to become easily colonized by pathogenic bacteria. The introduction of a pathogen to a vulnerable digestive system negatively impacts feed conversion and overall bird health (Pan et al 2013). Using a feed sanitizer reduces pathogens in feed thereby improving feed quality, protecting the digestive system, and supporting efficient feed conversion.
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