Maternal microbial health and breastfeeding

BreastfeedingTaking a proactive approach to microbial colonization is a critical consideration when approaching pregnancy, fetal and infant gut health. The state of the mother’s microbiome has importance far beyond that of her personal health, potentially affecting the immune status and overall health of future generations!

A new theory that is being explored within the scientific community suggests that breast milk contains not only immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozymes and bifidogenic factors and but that it also includes bacteria of similar profile to that of the mothers enteric flora. (1) (2)  These bacteria, found in the milk compartment of the breast tissue, serve to inoculate the infant and educate the immune system. Indeed, the suggestion has been made that the combination of the maternal immune factors, soluble pattern recognition receptors and other bacterial components from the mother will mediate a tolerogenic response in the infant analogous to self-recognition(2).

As one could imagine this could provide great evolutionary benefit, allowing for the mother to ‘protect’ her infant for all of the foreign pathogenic bacteria in the environment, mounting an immune response to only these invaders. On the other hand, in our society of dysbiosis, decreased exposure and microbiota based disease could we be providing our infants with a ‘disease set point’? This is yet to be established in the literature but if it is true that we are defining our ‘normal microbiota’ or ‘self microbiota’ set point by the state of our mothers would it not make sense to supplement with healthy bacteria in the prenatal and lactation period? Many physicians believe so, as discussed here.

Key considerations in proactive microbial health

–          Eliminate dysbiosis in pregnancy to optimize the environment for an infant’s gut colonization and immune system training
–          Without primary succession a degraded stable state can persist
–          Establishing a healthy microbial ‘baseline’ in infants has been reported to be important for lifelong immune and metabolic health. This article offers an expansion on this topic.

A great example of the impacts of maternal and infant supplementation can also be found in the supplementation of BioGaia during pregnancy
-          Probiotics, when supplemented from the 36th week of gestation to 6months after infant delivery, have been associated with decreased allergic sensitization and decreased atopic dermatitis

Stay tuned for information about the power of prophylactic treatment of infants as well!

 A prophylactic approach using L reuteri (BioGaia) can save money for both family and society and provide a helpful psychologic effect on the parents.