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The Importance of Breastfeeding on Infant Gut Development

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The Importance of Breastfeeding on Infant Gut Development

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During the first few weeks of life, an baby’s immune system is almost entirely dependent on the mother’s breast-milk for immune protection from its environment. Breast-feeding during the first weeks and months of life is now recognized as an important strategy to ensure a healthy balance of good bacteria in an infant’s gut.

During the first few weeks of life, an baby’s immune system is almost entirely dependent on the mother’s breast-milk for immune protection from its environment. Breast-feeding during the first weeks and months of life is now recognized as an important strategy to ensure a healthy balance of good bacteria in an infant’s gut.

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The Importance of Breastfeeding on Infant Gut Development

  1. 1. The Importance of Breastfeeding on infant Gut development Dr. Alexander J. Rinehart, DC, MS, CCN, CNS http://www.DrAlexRinehart.com
  2. 2. Immune System and the Gut  60-70% of your immune system cells are located in the gut as part of the Gut- Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT)  Gut is an inner tube that can be thought of as “outside” the body  It serves as a primary defense between the “outside” and “inside world of the body.
  3. 3. Breast-feeding and Gut Health  Gut bacteria and yeast play important digestive and immune roles throughout life.  Breast-feeding during the first few weeks of life is a critical strategy to ensure healthy balance of good bacteria (“probiotics”) in an infant’s gut!
  4. 4. Breastfeeding Guidelines  World Health Organization recommends EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding for at least 6 months for optimal outcomes.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, European Society for Pediatric Allergology and Clinical Immunology, & the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition ALL recommend exclusive breastfeeding for food allergy prevention.
  5. 5. Longterm Breastfeeding  Nutrition Professionals recommend breastfeeding for up to 18-24 months.  Hypoallergenic foods introduced one at a time starting at 6 months  More allergenic foods such as corn, wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, eggs, & shellfish introduced later  Latest research indicates waiting too long to introduce allergenic foods can also be problematic, but that each should still be introduced one at a time.
  6. 6. Breastfeeding and Immunity  Immunity passed from mother through breastmilk  Antibodies  Lauric Acid/Monolaurin  Establish healthy bacteria even after antibiotic usage  A baby’s saliva actually may communicate with the mother and alter the composition of the milk based on the baby’s unique needs!  A lactating mother with an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods may trigger a reaction (ex. Stool composition, rash/atopic dermatitis, vomiting etc) in the baby if she is exposed to the food but the baby is not.
  7. 7. Breastfeeding and Immunity (Cont’d)  Breastfed infants have more acidic and protective gut environment  Favors development of healthy bifidobacteria  Disfavors growth of potentially harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, Bacterioides, Clostridia, and Streptococci  Breastfed infants receive sIgA from their mothers.  sIgA is a passive antibody protection that lines the infant’s gut and protects from foreign antigens.  It is considered a first-line defense so that 2nd and 3rd tier immune defenses do not need to be called upon.
  8. 8. Development of Food Allergies and Sensitivities  Allergenic foods introduced too early can “turn on” allergy-promoting genes that may not be experienced until later in life.  Low-level food reactions can contribute to “leaky gut” – affecting healthy gut flora, nutrient absorption, and vulnerability to immune reactions later in life.
  9. 9. Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding  Within as little as 4 days of life, growth of Bifidobacterium in the guts of breastfed infants can be over 300% higher than in formula-fed infants.  Just one bottle of cow milk formula may sensitize a susceptible infant to milk allergy.  Feeding with infant formula suggested to play critical role in development of Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease of the pancreas.  Many Autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may not show up until someone is 25-35 years of age, but may be related to long-term disruptions in gut integrity and immune balance rooting as far back as infancy!
  10. 10. C-Sections  C-Section delivery can alter the types of bacteria found in the gut.  First inoculation of bacteria occurs when passing through the vaginal tract,  First “seeding” of bacteria that will develop as the infant further interacts with his or her mother’s antibodies, as well its new environment.
  11. 11. Closing Thoughts  Infants born via C-section, or who have been fed formula, or who have been introduced to allergenic foods early, still live very normal and healthy lives  Statistics do not equal individual outcomes  “Next-Best” choices are still the best choices  Not all mothers are capable of breastfeeding, there are biological and social reasons why breastfeeding may not be an option for many mothers.  The best treatment is always prevention  Develop a birth plan, enlist in free classes in your health community  Skip the books and actually learn from other mothers  Guidelines and best practices do not always reflect individual circumstances
  12. 12.  To read a full discussion and to find references: http://dralexrinehart.com/nutrition- benefits/importance-of-breastfeeding- infant-gut-development/

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