Human Breast Milk for Leaky Gut: How to Strengthen Your Gut Barrier
5 minute read
Breast milk has long been known as the best source of nutrients for babies. Despite the abundance of goodness that can be harnessed from a mother’s breast milk, humans have always looked for alternatives.
Seeking milk from other animals or creating formulas, breast milk has frequently been replaced. In the end, nature wins out though, because now breast milk is being sought after for adult health.
What Is So Special About Breast Milk?
The benefits of breast milk support the growth and development of a baby. Specifically, there are sugars in the milk called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that help support the immune and digestive systems of the infant.
Researchers have found that isolating these sugars can help benefit adult health, specifically gut health. Where we once looked to replace breast milk, we now seek more of it, and for all age groups too.
Human breast milk contains hundreds of these HMOs. As compared to the 50 or so that are found in the milk of other mammals, this is extraordinary. After lactose and fats, these sugars are the third most abundant compound in breast milk, and they work to boost digestion and immunity.
HMOs are able to do this because humans lack the enzymes necessary to break them down. This means they end up in the gut, largely undigested. As the perfect meal for your gut bacterial community, these sugars support healthy bacterial growth and an efficiently running gut
Because the gut is connected directly to the brain (through the gut-brain axis) and to the immune system (by way of the bacteria), gut health impacts overall health in a big way. There are one species of bacteria in particular that has been found to flourish with HMOs.
Bifidobacterium longum infantis (B. infantis) thrives with HMOs and as a result, increases the acidity of the gut environment. This effectively kills pathogens, such as E.coli, and protects from serious food-borne infections.
B. infantis also encourages the body to produce proteins that support the integrity and strength of the intestinal wall. The proteins close the gap between gut cells, which keeps pathogens out of the bloodstream and inflammatory chemicals from triggering the immune system.
Both of these actions protect against autoimmune responses and conditions like leaky gut. With leaky gut having no true cause, promoting gut health is one of the best ways to prevent it in the first place.
Breast Milk and Your Gut
Because breast milk is not something we are likely to ever see served at restaurants or sold in stores, research is looking for ways to isolate the key compounds for supplemental use.
It is widely known that probiotics (the bacteria in your gut) thrive when fed prebiotic fibers. The best prebiotics are found in nature, and human breast milk is another perfect example.
When leaky gut syndrome occurs, the tight junctions in your intestinal wall responsible for allowing nutrients to pass through to the blood are unable to filter out harmful particles from entering the bloodstream. Inflammation is a major factor in leaky gut development.
As these unwanted particles travel throughout the body via the blood, your immune system identifies these as foreign and targets them for an attack. Sadly, if they are in the vicinity of a healthy organ or tissues, they come under attack too.
Leaky gut has been implicated in many autoimmune conditions. One of the most effective ways to combat leaky gut is by promoting and encouraging healthy bacterial growth in your gut.
A diet free from inflammatory foods, like processed and high-fat items, along with eating more fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support this community. The addition of HMOs and other prebiotics further boosts the community and protects against inflammation and leaky gut.
What the Future Holds
Isolating the HMOs in breast milk to create supplements is the next step in creating the best prebiotics for your gut bacteria. The same benefits that infants get from their mother’s milk can be passed along to adults of any age.
With gut health impacting so many other areas of our well-being, it is at the forefront for new research and breast milk seems to be a great solution. In fact, some new supplements do contain HMOs and are designed to help protect and fortify the gut barrier.
These new digestive health supplements offer the first real benefits from HMOs in supplement form. They are truly on the cutting edge of nutritional health.
The Bottom Line
It may seem crazy at first that human breast milk can help heal your gut. The HMOs in breast milk has been proven to boost and support healthy bacterial growth in infants so the idea of helping the adult gut is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
If science can find a way to isolate this beneficial prebiotics, adults may end up with a beneficial and powerful ally for boosting gut health and preventing leaky gut.