Intestinal health of pigs and its enhancement have become a priority for the pig sector. It allows to improve productive performance, minimize production costs and achieve high levels of Animal Welfare that are accepted by society.
In recent years, the number of studies and references to what is known as “Intestinal Health” have increased significantly.The definition of Gut Health will depend on who is asked to define it and what circumstance or factors are being refered to: If it is believed that the best intestinal health is found in nature
, in wild animals, this will depend on the moment chosen to make such determination. If veterinarians are asked about the topic, it is most likely that they will refer to “the absence of digestive pathologies
that hinder the development of the animal of interest”. On the other hand, nutritionists will say that intestinal health refers to that state of the animal in which digestive functions develop with complete normality
The gastrointestinal tract contributes to health by ensuring digestion and absorption of nutrients, minerals and fluids thanks to several mechanisms, such as mucosal induction and systemic tolerance, the presence of defense systems against infections and other pathogens, and signaling from the periphery to the brain.
Measuring gut health with in vivo
techniques requires sophisticated methods, special facilities and specialized surgical technicians, making it impractical.The development of biomarkers for gastrointestinal functionality is crucial to advance in the understanding of events affecting the intestinal barrier, its functionality and the ecology of the gastrointestinal microbiota.
As of present, there is a good knowledge of the digestive system and the mechanisms of absorption of the main macro and micronutrients. However, there is still a large gap in research related to biomarkers of gastrointestinal permeability, gastrointestinal barrier function, biomarkers for the intestinal endocrine system, and biomarkers that are indicative of the functional presence of beneficial microbiota or its metabolites.