Intestinal inflammation for sows and piglets

Making sure that both energy and nutrients are efficiently absorbed and used by the animal is the main goal of nutritionists, and intestinal inflammation is a direct enemy of this goal. Intestinal inflammation can impair the absorption of nutrients and up to 30% of the energy ingested can be used to manage this process instead of contributing to performance. Plant extracts can help both sows and piglets by modulating the intestinal inflammation brought on by multiple stress factors.

The intestine constitutes the largest interface between the animal and its environment. An intact intestinal barrier is thus essential in maintaining gut health and preventing tissue injury and several diseases. The intestinal barrier is formed by enterocyte membranes, tight junctions, secreted mucus, and immunologic factors. Dysfunction of this barrier can be caused by different types of stress and can lead to increase intestinal permeability.

Weaning is well-known as the critical period for piglets where they are facing multi-factorial stresses and challenges in a short time:

  • Adaptation to the feed intake – The longer the time without eating at weaning, the higher the risk of diarrhoea will be. Effectively, that drop in feed intake is likely to cause difficulties to meet nutritional requirements (for maintenance and growth), due to reduction of the villi height, thus nutrient absorption area;
  • Adaptation to the feed distribution – from milk to a solid feed;
  • Feed composition changes – from milk containing lactose to a pre-starter feed containing mainly or exclusively plant-based raw-materials (with new nutrients as starch for example);
  • Adaptation to a new environment – separation from the sow to litter, from farrowing crate to post-weaning pen, with possible variation of the microbiota present in the environment.

Farrowing and lactation remain two critical periods for sows. During these periods, there is a high risk of inflammatory reaction and oxidative stress.

The most visible impact of the inflammatory process for sows is the milk quantity and quality. Sows with intestinal inflammation and oxidative stress dedicate less energy for milk production, which can impacts piglet growth. Recent research explains up to 30% of the ingested energy is deviated to manage these processes.

Plant extracts in vitro research results

Various solutions are available on the animal nutrition market to contribute to support animals during those stressful periods and reduce the use of antibiotics. Active ingredients from plant extracts seem to offer a solution. A selection of plant extracts combinations, known from centuries in the traditional Asian pharmacopeia for having individual anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic properties have been studied. The combination is made from two plants containing alkaloids for one and neolignans for the second.

Alkaloids represent the largest single class of plant secondary metabolites having a remarkable range of pharmacological activity. They are recognized for various biological effects including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities. Neolignans are also plant secondary metabolites derived from the oxidative coupling of phenylpropanoids. Those phenolic compounds are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

A university trial has been conducted in Beauvais (France) to assess the synergistic impact of the two plant extracts on both intestinal integrity and inflammatory process. Human colon cells have been cultivated and then stimulated with a severe model of inflammation (cytokines cocktail). The plant extracts have been tested alone or in combination to evaluate their impact on Trans-Epithelial Electric Resistance (TEER) and Interleukins 8 secretion (IL-8).

The TEER is an indicator of intestinal integrity. Highest is the TEER, well preserved tight junctions of intestinal cells are and will ensure a good absorption of nutrients. IL-8 are pro-inflammatory markers and their productions are reflecting the level of the inflammation. With the inflammatory challenge, TEER is significantly decreased vs the negative control, meaning that the intestinal integrity is altered (see Table 1).

Table 1: Results of the in vitro research
a, b, c with P < 0.05

With the inflammatory challenge, TEER is significantly decreased vs the negative control, meaning that the intestinal integrity is altered. The addition of the combination of the alkaloids and neolignans plants brings a significant improvement of the intestinal integrity in situations where alkaloids alone or neolignans did not bring any intestinal integrity improvement.

With the inflammatory challenge, basal IL-8 secretion is significantly increased, meaning that the challenge is working. The combination of plant extracts decreased the secretion of basal IL-8, showing its ability to limit the over activation of the immune system after an inflammatory challenge. Alkaloids or neolignans alone were not able to reduce the secretion of basal IL 8.

These results justify the interest of such patented combination and prove its synergistic effect on the preservation of intestinal integrity by avoiding leaky gut syndrome and modulating the immune response to an inflammatory challenge.

In vivo research results with plant extracts

The benefits of combination of plant extracts (alkaloids + neolignans) on animal performances have been demonstrated by several R&D and field trials in swine, broilers, layers and ruminant thanks to better management of the inflammatory response. To illustrate the interest of the combination in dairy cows, a field trial conducted in France is presented below.

The trial’s aim was to evaluate the effect plant extracts supplementation added in sows and piglets diets. The trial compared the performances of four groups of piglets (total of 624) after weaning. It was conducted on three different batches in France.

One group of sows (A) received a standard diet, and the second one (B) received the same standard diet plus the plant extracts combination from 15 days before farrowing and until weaning (total of 36 days). Piglets of both sows groups were divided into two groups also (one with a standard piglet diet (A1, B1) and a second (A2, B2) with the plant extracts combination from 20 to 67 days of age. All the piglets had similar weights at weaning.

The results of piglets’ Average Daily Gain are presented below (Figure 1).

Figure 1: ADG of piglets in post-weaning from sows fed with and without POWERJET®

The best performances were obtained with the group (B2) of piglets fed with the plant extracts combination in post-weaning and originating from sows fed also with it. ADG of this group of piglets was significantly improved by 11.4% (P<0.001) compared to ADG of control group. The two best groups in terms of ADG after weaning are those with the plant extracts combination in lactating diet. This improvement of ADG can be explained by a better feed intake and feed efficiency.

Synergistic effects of plant extracts

Many types of stress can trigger inflammatory, oxidative stress and immune system warning reactions which present major challenges in an animal’s life and result in a lack of performance and profitability. Combining plant extracts with different properties delivers greater benefits from synergies, enabling animals to better face inflammatory and oxidative processes around sensitive and stressful periods.

POWERJET® represents the most powerful combination of these plant extracts, based on work done by Wisium’s R&D department. POWERJET®  is composed of plant extracts, known from centuries in the traditional Asian pharmacopeia for having individual anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic properties. The most powerful combination was thus selected thanks to its synergistic effects to create the patented product POWERJET®  made from two plants containing alkaloids for one and neolignans for the second.

POWERJET® aims to smoothly manage transition periods by maintaining the feed intake and levels of nutrients while allocating the maximum of “efficient energy” to the animal’s production needs by modulating oxidative stress and immune inflammatory response at the intestinal level.

The benefits of a combination of plant extracts has been demonstrated through in vitro research and confirmed by in vivo studies including trials on R&D facilities and in the field.

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