Essential Oils to Improve Gut Health
For those of us who have been on the natural health side of raising livestock for years won't be surprised by this study. Researchers have been focused on a goal to improve gut health in poultry to promote feed efficiency and keep birds healthy at Cargill. They have been researching the use of non-medicated feed additives for several years as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs). If you are a poultry producer. you may not want to run out and buy Cargill's new additive but you could start experimenting on your own. Their findings say essential oils turned out to be a key solution because they impact all four key gut functions.
Gut health is important to all living creatures because the digestive system performs key functions essential to ensuring the best possible health and performance. In their efforts, Cargill is trying to better understand optimal gut function in four key areas:
- Managing microflora for a well-balanced bacterial population
- Controlling immune function and inflammatory response
- Maximizing nutrient digestion and absorption
- Improving the physical barrier against pathogens
All the additives Cargill studied showed some benefit in these areas, researchers found that selected essential oil compounds, particularly those derived from thyme, cinnamon and oregano, had the most comprehensive effect on overall gut health. Benefits included:
- Antimicrobial activity
- Modulation of immune response
- Antioxidant activity
- Improvement of nutrient digestibility
- Stimulation of mucus production
“Only essential oils have both a broad spectrum of activity against pathogens and a direct impact on digestive function,” said Stephanie Ladirat, global technology lead for gut health additives in Cargill’s animal nutrition business.
Essential oils role in antibiotic reduction
Essential oils were also found to be particularly efficient in conditions where intestinal infections existed, such as Salmonellosis and Coccidiosis. More than 85 percent of the results showed only minor differences between the positive control (antibiotics) and essential oils.
The research also showed that essential oils are just one facet of a feeding program to improve gut health and allow for antibiotic reduction. Research findings support combining essential oils with organic acids to get maximum efficacy. What might Cargill be using as an organic acid? Best guess would be what we have been promoting at the Grassfed Network for years, apple cider vinegar which we already know to improve gut health.
As we know, feed efficiency is obviously important because the more efficient your animals are, the more you reduce the need for growing or purchasing feed there by reducing your overall costs. “To improve gut health while reducing AGPs is critical for sustainable animal performance and profitability,” adds Van Gerwe. “Our R&D work in improving poultry gut health is an important part of Cargill’s commitment to nourishing the world’s population.” As individual producers, we understand that the Cargills of the world are in business to make money and make money from us. We can use the research findings to benefit our own operations and in this case, increase gut health. I would tell you that the implications do not just apply to poultry as Cargill has studied, but to all livestock.