Breastfeeding study links inflammatory bowel diseases to poor milk quality

Milk for mothers with inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease is worrying for their newborns, according to a study from the University of Alberta.

The team of researchers compared the composition of breast milk from 72 women with Crohn’s disease and colitis at three months and six months postpartum with that of twenty healthy mothers.

Crohn’s disease is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal system. The symptoms are abdominal pain and diarrhea. Most cases are diagnosed before the age of 30.

The Study found that women’s milk has high levels of succinic acid, a molecule associated with inflammation and growth of cancer cells, according to Associate Professor of Immunology at the University of Alberta Shokrollah Elahi.

This is my main concern, he says.

The researcher does not know where these molecules come from, whether they are secreted by the mammary glands of the mother or if they are produced by the damaged bacteria of her gut. Further research is required.

Similarly, Shokrollah Elahi does not know how the body of the newborn reacts to the ingestion of this high level of succinic acid. This will be the next step in his search.

Less nutrition

Another disturbing difference observed in breast milk is the presence of markers of inflammation. According to Professor Elahi, the presence in the body of the mother of these markers is not surprising, since the syndromes cause inflammation of the digestive system.

The question, however, is whether transferring them to babies through breast milk can cause inflammation and a higher risk of Crohn’s disease and colitis, or vice versa.

The study also reveals that the breast milk of these women has less nutritional qualities, containing less antibodies and less lactose.

Promote breastfeeding

Despite these findings, Shokrollah Elahi believes it is too early to recommend a suspension of breastfeeding among mothers who suffer from these diseases.

“Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits. We need to measure risks and benefits, which we can not yet do,”says Elahi.

The study was published in the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis .

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