Saturday

The "catch-22" of probiotics/prebiotics in breastfed infants


As breastfeeding mothers madly dash for the probiotic drops for their colicky infants, they might want to rethink this supplement, especially if they are trying to exclusively breastfeed. And as lactation consultants and the assortment of health care professionals start making this recommendation, they might want to review some very crucial issues.
A recent study in the 2009 Acta Paediatr (98:321-323) called "Cow's milk allergic children can present sensitization to probiotics," by FM Bruni et al. Colick in some breastfed infants is a result of having a cow's milk allergy (either to cow's milk proteins in mother's milk, or to not being exclusively breastfed). So giving probiotics to an infant already sensitized to cow's milk may create a worse situation.
How is probiotics created? Does the consumer understand where the bacteria comes from that creates the supplements and foods that is suppose to create a healthy gut? Lets take for example BioGaia's liquid drops probiotics. According to advertisements for their drops, L.Reuteri is cultured from human breast milk.
A paper in Applied & Environmental Microbiology confirms that ATCC 5570 L.Reuteri is a strain isolated from human breast milk by the company Biogaia of Sweden. The paper is called "Genomic & Genetic Characterization of the Respnse of Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730" by Kristi Whitehead et al. This study shows the genetic manipulations being done on human milk bacteria. This same bacteria from Biogaia (ATCC 5570 LReuteri) was used for the study on colic and probiotics in Pediatrics and also is a patent (#5837238) see
So we are to believe that it is far better to give a breastfed infant L.Reuteri bacteria made from some other mother. The bacteria is cloned for use in the food and supplement industry. How is this bacteria the same bacteria that a breastfed infant receives naturally from its mother? Can't be even close to the same because it's survival in the petri dish is dependent on various chemicals. And how do we know whether the bacteria is genetically engineered or not, since in the USA no one has to label their genetically engineered products? Is the bacteria stable? The concern in one paper I read was that there are antibiotic resistant genes in LReuteri and they were working on a process to eliminate those genes. Should we say hurray, hurray??
Isn't their a high level of irony in telling a mother to use a product that at one time was another mother's human milk bacteria? We get the breastfeeding mother to buy a product, therefore she contributes to the growth of the economy. But some breastfeeding mothers contributed to the economy by giving their milk to some smart businessman. Who is now selling it back to them? Brilliant capitalistic game. Have to admire the audacity of our current businessmen who rob from Mary and they make her and others like her buy it back from them. All in the name of health and holism? These products are for support of gut health and based on research on human milk. How come we don't believe that a mother's exclusive breastfeeding supports gut health? We, consumers and health professionals, prefer to believe that something made in a laboratory by a corporation will promote gut health. Breastfeeding mothers are the blood, sweat, and tears of the corporation. Who profits when we have lost our faith in one of humanity's greatest natural resource?
Copyright 2009 Valerie W. McClain

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