In search for an alternative for nutritional antimicrobials in piglet feeding, the effects of adding whole Cuphea seeds, as a natural source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), with known antimicrobial effects, and an exogenous lipase to a weaner diet were studied. The foregut flora, the gut morphology, some digestive parameters and the zootechnical performance of weaned piglets were investigated. Thirty newly weaned piglets, initial weight 7.0 +/- 0.4 kg, were divided according to litter, sex and weight in two groups (control diet; Cuphea + lipase diet). The Cuphea seeds (lanceolata and ignea) (50 g kg(-1)) were substituted for soybean oil (15 g kg(-1)), Alphacell (25 g kg(-1)) and soy protein isolate (10 g kg(-1)) in the control diet. Also 500 mg kg(-1) microbial lipase was added to the Cuphea diet. The piglets were weighted individually on days 0, 3. 7, 14 and 16. Feed intake was recorded per pen during days 0 to 3, 3 to 7, 7 to 14 and 14 to 16. On day 7 five piglets of each experimental group were euthanized for counting the gastric and small intestinal gut flora and for gut morphology at two sites of the small intestine (proximal, distal). The results indicate a trend towards improved performances parameters by feeding Cuphea + lipase. The enzymic released MCFA (1.7 g kg(-1) fresh gastric contents) tended to decrease the number of Coliforms in the proximal small intestine, but increased the number in the stomach and distal small intestine. With Culphea, the number of Streptococci was significantly lower in small intestine, but not in the stomach, while the number of Lactobacilli was significantly lower in the distal small intestine and tended to be lower in the stomach and proximal small intestine. No differences between the diets were noted for the total anaerobic microbial load in the stomach or in the gut. Feeding Cuphea + lipase resulted in a significantly greater villus height (distal small intestine) and a lesser crypt depth (proximal and distal small intestine) and greater villus/crypt ratio depth (proximal and distal small intestine). The intra-epithelial lymphocyte (IEL) counts per 100 enterocytes were significantly decreased in the proximal small intestine and tended to decrease in the distal small intestine by feeding the Cuphea + lipase diet. Both phenomena are indicative for a more healthy and better functional state of the mucosa. Present results are in line with foregoing research, showing that manipulation of the gut ecosystem by the enzymic in situ released MCFA in the stomach and foregut can result in improved performances of the piglets, which makes the concept a potential alternative for in-feed nutritional antibiotics.