New research has revealed a possible two-way connection between maternal dietary microbes and the makeup of the oligosaccharide sugar molecules found in human breast milk.
Until recently, it was thought that oligosaccharides affected the microbial communities within an infant’s gut, acting as prebiotics that then decreased their risk of certain infections, conditions and diseases. Studies showed that a woman’s genetics could determine the presence of between 23 and 130 oligosaccharides in her breast milk, and that the range of sugars was related to her blood type.
However, a new Finish study has shown that the probiotics that enter a woman’s digestive body orally may further affect her breast milk, changing which sugars occur within it. The study analyzed the breast milk 81 pregnant women, some of whom were administered probiotics, and others that were not, and found distinct oligosaccharide compositions in the milk of the two groups.
This study is important on a number of levels. It is the first time that a causal relationship has been discovered between friendly bacteria and human breast milk carbohydrate polymers. This breakthrough could have great consequences for infant as well as general human health.
Breast milk oligosaccharides play a key role in the healthy development of an infant’s immune system and directly affect the child’s ability to fight ill health. For example, some of the sugars in question have been associated many benefits, including a reduced incidence of diarrhea, gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections and other immune-mediated and infectious diseases during the first few years of life, as well as the promotion of immune development and inflammatory response regulation.
The Finnish study has cast light on the potential for future investigation into how food and probiotic use could facilitate disease and allergy prevention and promote overall infant health.
By now you know I have a love/hate relationship with probiotics. On one hand they hold tremendous potential for health benefits as reflected by this study. On the other hand, they hold the same potential for harm.
The key is knowing which probiotic to use for each person. To date, we just don’t have the answer to that question. Each of us has a unique probiotic makeup that is determined by our genetics, geography, and diet.
I have no objection to eating foods that contain probiotics, but I caution against taking a probiotic supplement on a regular basis.
If you have been exposed to antibiotics, chemotherapy or radiation, then short term probiotic therapy is essential. I recommend Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidum as they are the most common forms of probiotic found in the human body. Take it after meals for 2-4 weeks, then stop.
We still have a lot to learn about probiotics. Please be careful when using them. Even dead probiotics (80% of the marketed supplements are not viable probiotics) will create an immune response in the GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue). This can lead to autoimmune disease.
Source:February 7, 2019 Biotics Research