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It is widely held that gastrointestinal disorders can initiate laminitis, since about 75 percent of horses with laminitis develop it secondary to conditions such as enteritis, colic and over-consumption of feed.
Laminitis has been induced in ponies by administration of excess carbohydrates and is associated with increased intestinal permeability (leakiness). Passage of gram negative bacteria and endotoxin from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream through this abnormally permeable area is thought to initiate events leading to vascular changes in the foot that result in laminitis.
To explore the role of carbohydrates in increasing intestinal permeability, researchers at the University of Minnesota added corn starch to samples of ingested material from inside the cecum (a part of the large intestine) and incubated the mixture at body temperature for 8 hours. After incubation, the concentration of lactic acid increased and the cecal contents became more acidic. Researchers then bathed isolated pieces of large intestine with the mixture and found that the intestine became more permeable than intestine bathed with cecal contents alone.
The authors suggest that fermentation of excess carbohydrates in the intestinal tract may directly induce increased intestinal permeability in carbohydrate-induced laminitis.
—DJ, Evanson OA, Green BT, Brown DR. In Vitro Evaluation Of Intraluminal Factors That May Alter Intestinal Permeability In Ponies With Carbohydrate-Induced Laminitis. American Journal of Veterinary Research 2000; 61: 858-861.
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