The Probiotic "Health Dividend" - Part One
The digestive tract of a racing pigeon, is home to a number of microorganisms, including various types of protozoa, bacteria, and fungi (includes yeast). The normal relationship between these microorganisms and the host (racing pigeon) is symbiotic, meaning "the living together of dissimilar organisms". Symbiotic relationships are classified as either commensal, mutualistic, or parasitic. A symbiotic relationship is commensal when one organism derives food or other benefits from another organism without hurting or helping it. A symbiotic relationship is mutualistic when both organisms derive a fitness benefit. Finally, a symbiotic relationship is parasitic when one member of the association benefits while the other is harmed.
Concerning the symbiotic relationship which exist between our racing pigeons and the protozoa, bacteria, and fungi which reside within the birds, the normal relationship is either commensal or mutualistic, and the normal effect of these microorganisms (protozoa, bacteria, and fungi) on the host (the racing pigeon) is to provide important services which enhance the overall health of the bird's ecology.
When populations of protozoa, bacteria, and fungi are in their proper numbers and relationships, they tend to inhibit and control one another, keeping the mix from becoming lop-sided and "pathological". If one or another of these populations explodes, it may throw off this balance, resulting in one or more diseases for the host.
If we examine the bacterial populations of a healthy racing pigeon's digestive tract, we will find that it contains approximately 80% "Friendly Bacteria" (beneficial strains) and 20% of what we often call "Bad Bacteria". These so called "Bad Bacteria" are not bad when they are controlled, as they contribute in some functional way to the overall health of our birds. Normally, it is only when the populations of good bacteria fall below the 80% level, that the health of our birds begin to suffer from the presence of the so called "Bad Bacteria" strains.
The problem is really more complex than that, if the protections provided to the digestive tract by these colonies of "good bacteria" are diminished, then not only will the so called "Bad Bacteria" strains move to fill this niche, but also yeast, fungi and protozoa (like cocci and canker) will attempt to exploit the reduction of Good Bacteria colonies to further expand their populations, even becoming "pathogenic".
If we were to cut out a section of the intestinal lining from one of our birds and lay it flat under a microscope, we would find that it is not a smooth surface. Rather, the intestinal lining would appear to be covered with mountains and valleys and the whole surface would appear to be heavily forested. The folds (mountains) increase the surface area of the intestinal lining by about 100% and the trees (forest canopy) increase the surface area by 1000% percent. Yes, that is right 1000%.
The trees of the forest, are called "villi" which are long columns of specialized tissues, extending up from the mountains and valleys of the intestinal lining, much like bristles on a hair brush. These specialized tissues serve many functions in the health and well being of our birds including nutrient absorption, pathogen identification and repulsion of pathogenic invasions.
Along the surface of the villi are specialized cell tissue which identify pathogens and send warning signals to the immune system when the presence of pathogenic invaders is detected. Another type of specialized cell tissue called "goblets", elude secretions containing antibodies and immunoglobulins which inhibit pathogens from penetrating the epithelial lining of the digestive tract.
This whole system of epithelial cells, villi, specialized tissues and secretions is called the "mucosal barrier". This barrier is the first line of defense against pathogens, by the intestinal lining. It is above the mucosal barrier that the so called "good" and "bad" bacteria grow and live. When these bacterial populations are in natural balance, they protect the "mucosal barrier" and aid in nutrient breakdown and absorption. These bacteria also produce certain organic acids, hydrogen peroxides, bacteriocins and other by-products that are antagonistic to pathogenic growth. Anything that disturbs the proper balance and distribution of the so called "good" and "bad" bacteria, also disturbs the natural protection that these bacteria provide to the mucosal barrier.
When all defenses are working properly, 98% of all pathogenic invaders are neutralized and flushed out of the digestive tract without having penetrated the intestinal lining. However, when all defenses are not working properly, a pathogenic population may be successful in expanding its presence, displacing the "good bacteria" protective coating, overcome the mucosal barrier defenses and damage the epithelial cells that line the digestive tract . Once firmly established, the pathogenic colony penetrates or erodes the intestinal lining. Even if we are later successful in using medications or antibiotics against the pathogenic colony, the protective barrier defenses have still been breached and a condition called "leaky gut syndrome" now becomes a threat to the health of our birds.
It takes time for the intestinal lining to heal itself from a breach, and to re-establish its barrier defenses. In the mean time, other pathogens may exploit this weakness to pass through the breach before it can be fully repaired, spreading their toxins throughout the body. One unfortunate side effect of using certain medications and antibiotics, is that a percentage of the mucosal secretions (rich with its antibodies and immunoglobulins) may be stripped away by the chemicals, further weakening the intestinal lining's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, many fanciers depend to heavily on cyclical use of medications and antibiotics to preemptively control populations of protozoa, bacteria, and fungi, while ignoring the consequences of their actions on the 80% populations of "Good Bacteria" and the natural barrier defenses of the intestinal lining. Remember, my earlier statement; "When these populations of protozoa, bacteria, and fungi are in their proper numbers and relationships, they tend to inhibit and control one another, keeping the mix from becoming lop-sided and pathological".
Because most medications and antibiotics are targeted towards a specific pathogen or group of pathogens, we rarely kill off more than 1/3rd of the good bacteria populations during any one course of treatment. None the less, any time we treat the birds with medications or antibiotics we disturb the proper balance and distribution of the so called "good" and "bad" bacteria, and by extension disrupt the natural protective mechanisms that these bacteria provide to the mucosal barrier.
When we disrupt the bacterial balance we also disrupt the balance of yeast, fungi and protozoa in the bird's body. This is because established "good bacterial colonies" naturally produce certain organic acids, hydrogen peroxides, bacteriocins and other by-products that are antagonistic to pathogenic growth. Conversely, when we maintain the proper bacterial balance, we reap a "health dividend", because this natural balance within the bird "controls" the populations of bacteria, yeast, fungi and protozoa before they become "pathogenic", and this frees up the resources of the natural immune response to deal with other pathogenic infections as needed.
Those of you who are regular users of medications and antibiotics, think on this: because you use these treatments, you are diminishing the populations of good bacteria. One consequence of this is that the remaining populations of good bacteria are producing less organic acids, hydrogen peroxides, bacteriocins and other by-products which are antagonistic to pathogenic growth, this then produces an environment more conducive to the growth of pathogenic populations which may then lead to the need for more medications and antibiotics.
I am not saying that you should totally abandon the use of medications and antibiotics, only that you should investigate the "all natural" alternatives being used by many in the sport today. If there are natural products that inhibit the growth of pathogen populations and do not adversely affect the populations of good bacteria, then using these products have several distinct advantages.
In 2005, I developed a probiotic product called "Bio-Fresh". This product was the end result of studying, all the research papers I could find, on which friendly bacterial strains best protect our birds from the pathogens they encounter throughout their lives. I also learned of the different prebiotics available and how certain prebiotics work best with particular friendly bacteria strains but had little effect on other strains of friendly bacteria. I used this information to blend a uniquely effective probiotic & prebiotic product which is now known as "Bio-Fresh".
My "All Natural" health products, Max Immune Plus and Show Stopper, each contain (as part of their health effect) some of my Bio-Fresh Probiotic & Prebiotic product. Because Max Immune Plus and Show Stopper contain Bio-Fresh in them, many of my customers do not feel the need to also use a stand alone probiotic product. I do sell Bio-Fresh as a stand alone product, but have never (in the past) recommended it to those of my customers that were using Max Immune Plus and Show Stopper on a regular basis. Usually, I would sell Bio-Fresh to those fanciers that did not want to use "all natural" health products but did want to use the best probiotic available after they had treated their birds with medications or antibiotics.
Since having begun my research on this series of articles on Probiotics and Prebiotics, I have come to believe that my regular customers would do well to also use my stand alone Bio-Fresh product along with Max Immune Plus and Show Stopper for superior natural health in their birds.
There is no better probiotic product on the market today than Bio-Fresh. The particular bacterial strains that I use, the prebiotics that I have selected (to support the growth and health of the probiotic strains), the cell wall conditioners, immune modulators, and the addition of naturally derived antibodies and immunoglobulins, makes Bio-Fresh, the preferred probiotic product on the market today.
Please feel free to visit our products area for our "Bio-Fresh" Probiotic and other "All Natural" Immunity Building Products that support the natural learning process of the Immune System at: http://www.racingpigeonmall.com/loft/products/index.html
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