Breastfeeding Can Prevent Celiac Disease

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

May 18, 2013

Breastfeeding Can Prevent Celiac Disease
One of the most important tasks for any newborn baby is to develop digestive competence, which involves having a harmonious relationship between the trillions of foreign organisms that will inhabit their digestive tract and the cells that form their body. One study proves that breastfeeding is far superior to bottle feeding in facilitating proper bacterial development in the digestive tract. In fact, failure to breastfeed can lead to imbalanced bacterial populations that encourage highly inflammatory digestive problems and consequent development of Celiac disease.

This Spanish study evaluated 75 full-term newborns. It compared breast fed to bottle fed, compared those at genetic risk for celiac to those not at risk, and measured the types of bacteria forming in the newborns’ digestive tracts at various points throughout their infancy. It is clear from the research that those at genetic risk for celiac start developing a very different type of bacterial balance of power. This balance worsens with bottle feeding and improves with breastfeeding.

Celiac is an autoimmune disease of the digestive tract. While it affects slightly less than one percent of Americans, a far higher percentage suffer from Celiac-like digestive problems, which often trigger thyroid autoimmune problems. In other words, while true manifestation of Celiac is certainly a health problem affecting many, gluten intolerance affects far more people, and is common among those with persisting digestive problems and food allergies or sensitivities.

A mother's bacterial balance of power is passed onto her child as a baseline of digestive health. This means that pregnant women should take high-quality acidophilus and/or consume high-quality yogurt during pregnancy. Acidophilus is proven to help women in multiple ways, including passing along on a better bacterial starting point for their children. Furthermore, breastfeeding is essential for healthy development of the digestive tract, reducing the risk for digestive and thyroid autoimmune problems in the future. Science also shows that proper balance of digestive bacteria influences nervous system development in children, promoting increased cognitive ability.

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