First of all, what is “gut flora?”
Intestinal flora, commonly known as “gut flora” makes up the microbiome in any living creature’s digestive track.
Avian Nutrition Specialist
plural noun: intestinal flora
the symbiotic bacteria occurring naturally in the intestine.
As the definition above indicates, gut flora is naturally occurring in the intestines or digestive tract of all healthy creatures.
If a living creature is healthy and consumes healthy foods that replenish the gut flora, technically the creature should be healthy mentally and physically. One of the best ways and the first lines of defense against physiological and psychological ill-health is to maintain healthy gut flora. If gut flora is not healthy, we and our beloved pets will begin to suffer autoimmune disorders as well as experience difficulty thinking correctly and managing mental and emotional health.
Damaged Digestive Tracts & Gut Flora
Unfortunately, many of our birds, like ourselves have been exposed to pollutants in the air they breathe, the water they drink and many foods they eat. This has had a profound negative effect on the overall health of our birds, specifically the creation of gut flora.
Air, water and food toxins don’t create healthy gut flora, in fact, they create unhealthy gut flora.
Any time bodies take in and/or absorb pollutants and toxins, whether through their respiratory system or by ingesting by mouth, a negative impact is experienced by the total body of the living creature; gut flora is not immune to this attack. Pollutants are easily taken in by the very act of breathing air that contains airborne contaminants.
We can help ensure that our birds’ and our digestive tracts are protected by using air filters in our homes. A quality air filter removes large and small particles from the air we and our pets breathe in. Therefore those multitudes of airborne pollutants never make into our respiratory systems then circulating into our blood and finding their way into our digestive tracts.
Municipal drinking water and well water absorb pollutants like chemical fertilizers and other waste products that have been placed in the ground. Also, municipal drinking water is treated with a multitude of chemicals just to make it safe to use. “Making water safe” is not really safe, but it is safer from bacteria, fungus and molds after treatment than before it is treated. Municipal water is extremely high in chemicals due to what is used to kill the bacteria, fungus, and molds. Finally, food is grown in the contaminated ground, food grown with chemical fertilizers, food treated with chemical pesticides, food with added preservatives are all harmful and create unhealthy gut flora.
Also, we can use a reverse osmosis water filter in our homes for the water we drink and cook with. (If we use RO (reverse osmosis) or distilled water as drinking water for our birds it is essential that we add trace minerals back into the water to replace minerals that are removed through RO or distillation.) We can install water filters on our shower heads too. Some people even have a “whole-house” water filtration system that removes harsh chemicals from virtually every water source in their house. These are expensive but well worth the money when we consider all of the pollutants that bombard our systems from the air, water, and food. (Be extra careful yourself drinking and offering "soft water" to your birds; it may contain "Cadmium" a very harmful heavy metal that leaches out of PVC pipes when exposed to the chemical salts used to soften water. -There are filters that naturally soften water, but they are a more expensive manner in which to soften water without using chemical salts.) Anytime we can lower the level of pollutants that blast us and our pets we are on track to healthier, cleaner living and bodily systems.
Finally, the food we eat and feed to our pets is of utmost concern. So much of our food is grown with chemical fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides and contain added artificial flavorings, colorings (dyes) and chemical preservatives. The water used to hydrate plant-based foods is usually low-quality water too. It’s like we are actually eating some kind of chemical laboratory experiment, not real food. Certified organic foods are totally free or lower in chemicals. No, organic food is not more nutritious, let’s just get that out of the way. But organic food is, in my opinion, healthier to consume because it lacks the contaminants I mention above. When chemical additives are added to the food they fight against the very nutrition living creatures are supposed to receive from the very act of eating.
We can help protect, replenish and regenerate healthy gut flora. I personally believe that much of the “leaky gut” syndrome so many of us and our pets experience can be halted by eating healthy, organic foods and taking probiotics.
Probiotics come in various forms.
First of all eating organic foods that naturally promote healthy gut flora can be the first line of defense in the protection of our birds’ gut flora. Foods like raw organic pineapple, papaya, and slightly green banana are considered “pre-biotics.” These foods aid in the production of probiotics when they are consumed.
Secondly, sprinkling probiotics over our birds’ foods will increase healthy gut flora. Soil-based probiotics are one of the best and most reliable forms of natural probiotics. This is the kind of external probiotics birds have access to in the wild. Plant matter falls to the ground and mixes with the soil. Once the plant matter disintegrates, a natural form of probiotic is formed. When birds peck at the ground or eat something on the ground they ingest small amounts of this naturally occurring soil-based probiotic. Soil-based probiotics do not contain any kind of dairy probiotic which is a good thing.
Birds do not consume dairy because their systems lack the ability to produce and use any kind of dairy probiotic or food. I do not suggest or encourage the use of probiotics that contain lactase. Lactase is the digestive enzyme that aids in the breaking down of dairy products; cheese, milk, and butter as well as cottage cheese. Yogurt should not be fed to birds as a probiotic. While plain, unsweetened yogurt contains really great digestive enzymes for humans, it also contains “casein” a type of glue-like dairy protein that is not eliminated through the fermentation process. It is theorized that casein may be as much of a problem in lactose intolerance than lactose itself. The digestive enzymes “lactase” and it's sugary counterpart, lactose is eliminated during fermentation, but casein is not. And like lactase, caseinate is not produced by the digestive tracts of birds to help break down casein. Therefore any food containing casein should not be fed to our beloved birds.
I have scoured different companies for probiotics we can use with our birds, as well as ourselves. Fortunately, I ran across high-quality probiotics. Vitality Science makes "Pet Flora," a soil-based probiotic we use in all of our Origins Wild Diet foods. Arthur Andrew has formulated probiotics specifically designed for certain health issues. All of these are human-grade and can be used by humans and animals. The only Arthur Andrew probiotic that should not be used in birds is Devigest as it contains lactase for the breaking down of dairy.
*We now use Neprinol in our feather destroyer's foods! Neprinol aids in the breakdown and digestion of dietary fats.
An additional manner in which to increase the healthy gut flora in ourselves and our birds is to ferment foods and consume them on a regular basis. If your bird is seriously or chronically ill, you may want to add one of the above probiotics to the diet. But if your bird is in generally good health, fermenting some of the foods you feed is a very fun and healthy way to keep your bird’s gut flora healthy!
The fermentation process creates healthy digestive enzymes in the food fermented. By ingesting these fermented foods, you and your bird(s) gut flora are made to be healthier! I encourage you to join our “Fermenting for Parrots” Facebook group and get some easy fermenting tools to begin fermenting for your bird(s)! Masontops™ makes some super good tools! We love them! And, we have these tools on our website with an introductory price that is very low!
Really not into fermenting? You can also try feeding Digestive Bitters to your flock, and even take them yourself. The brand we sell is all human-grade and made organically with adaptogenic herbs. I use only ONE to TWO drops per GALLON of drinking water for birds. My family uses the dose on the bottle for humans. The Urban Moonshine Cider Vinegar bitters are made without the use of alcohol. As one of our new products, Urban Moonshine™ products are listed with low introductory prices! Hurry!
We have deemed 2018 to be THE year for improving your bird’s digestive health and gut flora! Join in, won’t you?
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