When a horse frequently accumulates glycogen in their muscle fibers, it’s possible the horse is experiencing a condition commonly referred to as either Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM) or (PSSM).
Signs or symptoms of EPSM in horses can include muscle stiffness, muscle cramping, resistance to moving, or inability to move, tying up, and abnormal sweating. Horses in light, medium, or athletic levels of exercise can experience this concern.
There are two different types of PSSM in horses. PSSM1 can be identified by a gene mutation in the GYS1 gene. Although both PSSM1 and PSSM2 will reveal abnormal glycogen staining when muscle biopsies are performed, the PSSM2 fails to reveal an identifying mutation. Therefore there is no link to heredity in PSSM2, unlike that of PSSM1.
History and studies have shown that certain breeds such as Warmbloods, Quarter Horses, Paint Horses, Appaloosas, and some Draft horses are more prone to experience PSSM symptoms.
Diet is the Main Focus of Equine PSSM
Feeding a horse as they are designed to be fed is the best practice for horses of all stages of health… Today’s popular trends of highly processed feeds and cereal grains are NOT going to support any horse to health. Therefore a horse with a condition such as PSSM symptoms or an official diagnosis, a more natural forage-based diet is best.
Much of the forage that we feed our horses these days is not as the horse was designed to eat, therefore a horse that is unable to balance and properly utilize glucose needs unique modifications to their diet.
Testing and analyzing the non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in feeds for PSSM horses is recommended. Forage and selecting supplemental feeds with low NSC concentration serves to empower you as the horse owner to reduce the PSSM symptoms that can debilitate your horse and render them reluctant or unable to move.
Adding fat intake for horses with PSSM can provide them the energy they need to activate their muscles. Although vegetable-based fats are common, alternative options such as chia seed or stabilized rice bran are preferred by many holistic approach professionals.
What’s important to note and can be under-addressed with this additional fat intake for equine PSSM, is the increased oxidative stress that the horse’s body will experience.
Oxidative Stress on Both Sides of the Equation of Equine PSSM
“Whenever fat is added to an equine ration, Vitamin E should also be used to protect against the oxidative damage that could occur when the fat is metabolized.” ~ Meri Stratton Phelps, DVM, MPVM, DACVIM, DACVN
Increased oxidative stress is already a known concern with PSSM in horses, combine that understanding with the risk of further accumulation due to the raised fat intake… Additionally, if your horse is an athlete or you’re exercising them to maintain overall health, oxidative stress is naturally elevated.
Traditional antioxidants have proven over time to simply not be enough, even for a horse without the additional amplifiers of oxidative stress that horses with PSSM face. The time has come to utilize new, effective, and natural options to reduce oxidative stress.
Stepping into what is commonly referred to as biohacking and the use of nutrigenomics – the study of food and it’s effects on gene expression. Breakthrough discoveries such as activating the Nrf2 pathway can yield results far more effective at reducing oxidative stress. Improvements as drastic as neutralizing free radicals on a 1:1 ratio with antioxidants vs a 1:1,000,000 ratio with Nrf2 activation.
Just as antioxidants don’t serve to prevent, treat, or mitigate the symptoms of PSSM or any other disease or concern, neither does utilizing NRF2 activation. The goal is to optimize health. Support the body by fostering healthy cell function. A crucial perspective to wellness that has long been ignored with the rising number of diseases to reflect it.
As you seek to learn more about equine PSSM and what you can do to support your horse’s health, ask questions, explore new options, and be open to possibilities. We want to help make the accumulating oxidative stress of equine PSSM a thing of the past… If you have any further questions about how to activate your horse’s Nfr2 pathway, join our private Facebook group where you can post questions and connect with other like-minded horse owners on the journey to improving the quality of their horse’s life.