Strengthening of digestive functions by physiological stimulation of intestinal cells
The conditions of large-scale farming and the genetic potential of the different breeds of livestock mean that the digestive tract is exposed to very high production pressure...
The conditions of large-scale farming and the genetic potential of the different breeds of livestock mean that the digestive tract is exposed to very high production pressure. These circumstances lead to permanent stress in the intestine, whose functions are challenged without reaching an adequate productive potential. The consequences are, first of all, low utilisation of the diet and, afterwards, the appearance of clinical or subclinical pathologies that lead to elevated mortality or treatment costs.
In the digestive tract, the intestine is the organ most affected by this productive stress, given that it is the centre where crucial digestive processes happen, including the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and is simultaneously exposed to numerous factors capable of altering its integrity and functions, such as micro-organisms, toxins, etc. One of the most abundant and especially relevant cells in the intestine are the enterocytes, and these have nutritional and defence functions which, when optimised, prevent the multiplication of micro-organisms and the passage of different toxins into the organism and guarantee adequate nutrition. On the other hand, there is a significant local immunity at the intestinal level, especially in poultry, which strengthens the defence against various challenges, such as coccidial infestations.
The role of pronutrients in intestinal cell gene expression
There are several strategies to promote an adequate state of the intestinal mucosa. Many of them involve reducing the microbial load and the presence of mycotoxins, facilitating access to properly balanced formulas, including some medications at sub-therapeutic levels for the prevention of pathologies, among others. However, it is essential to exploit the inherent genetic potential of the intestinal cells to enhance the defensive and nutritional functions of this organ. This can be achieved by supplementing different doses of pronutrients in the diet or drinking water. Pronutrients are bioactive molecules of natural origin which can stimulate specific genes in target cells through a metagenetic mechanism of action.
Pronutrients also induce the expression of genes involved in cell-cell adhesion, i.e., genes that enhance cell-cell attachment in the intestinal epithelium through different cell attachment mechanisms, including tight junctions.
The reinforcement of tight junctions is essential to ensure proper passage of nutrients through the paracellular pathway while preventing the passage of molecules such as toxins or other unwanted substances.
They also ensure a reinforced epithelium, facilitating its initial defensive function as a selective barrier. Proliferation genes are related to a higher rate of regeneration of the intestinal epithelium, ensuring a renewed epithelium at shorter intervals. Furthermore, they are also the genes that prevent tumour proliferation at this level.
Intestinal optimising pronutrients target different types of local immune cells in the intestine, such as polymorphonuclear cells (or PMNs), and stimulate the expression of different interleukins, such as IL1, IL12 and IL18, among others.
Interleukins play an essential role in the local immunity of the intestine, as they are involved in the recruitment of defensive cells, increase the duration of the immune response, or activate different immune pathways, such as Th1 (essential in the elimination of intracellular pathogens such as coccidia).
The combination of both types of pronutrients, intestinal conditioners and optimisers, allows, therefore, to improve the defensive and nutritional functions of the intestine and improves the structure of the digestive mucosa, with a higher rate of regeneration of the epithelium. Consequently, it makes it possible to reduce or avoid the use of antibiotics, coccidiostats, and other chemicals used only to try to mitigate the problems that may appear on the farms, but which do not resolve the initial cause, which is an organ that is not optimised due to the under expression of its genetic potential.
Impact of pronutrients on production parameters
The improved absorption of nutrients, such as vitamins, lipids, and amino acids, will be reflected in an improvement of the main production parameters, such as weight and feed conversion ratio, as the intestinal conditioner pronutrients ensure better utilisation of the nutrients in the diet, promoting growth.
These results have been observed in several experimental trials carried out in commercial farms. In a trial that took place in Europe, the following was detected regarding weight: the pronutrient-supplemented flock gained 213 g/bird more than the control flock. In addition, pronutrients significantly improved the feed conversion ratio and mortality compared to the control flock, with 0.81% and 0.23% improvement, respectively, in these parameters.
Intestinal optimiser pronutrients, thanks to the improvement of local digestive immunity, manage to control infections and infestations at the intestinal level, as in the case of coccidiosis. In the prevention of this pathology, pronutrients can be observed to reduce the oocyst count, which demonstrates control of the infestation, as well as a marked reduction in mortality.
The productive pressure to which the digestive tract, especially the intestine, is subjected is due to the conditions of large-scale farming and the genetic characteristics of animal species related to livestock production. For this reason, an optimal physiological state of the different cell types that make up the intestine, especially enterocytes and defence cells, is essential. Therefore, the nutritional and defence processes that take place at the digestive level can be ensured. Pronutrients have proven to be essential tools for promoting the genetic potential of intestinal cells, assuring nutrient absorption, improving tight junctions, increasing the regeneration rate of the intestinal epithelium, and activating immune effectors that can limit infections and infestations such as coccidiosis.
Pronutrients allow the replacement of various chemicals, such as coccidiostats or antibiotic growth promoters, having the advantage of being natural active ingredients that do not generate resistance and do not require a period of suppression.