Recently, I told you about how researchers were excited about the probable benefits of human breast milk for the treatment of many illnesses including cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Breast milk could also be a new and easier source of stem cells. And this was on top of the well known and documented benefits of breast milk as food for babies.
scientists are looking at whether breast milk could help treat chronic diarrhea which kills up to 2.2 million worldwide annually. And most of these cases are children in developing countries. Many indigestible sugars known as oligosaccharides occur only in human milk. It is these sugars that protect a baby from pathogens to which the mother has never been exposed. Perhaps these sugars could help treat those millions of children suffering from chronic diarrhea. Other compounds found in breast milk, called lysozyme and lactoferrin have been tested on children with diarrhea and shown not only to be an effective treatment, but even to offer some sort of protection against future bouts.
The same scientists are investigating whether oligosaccharides could be used to boost elderly people’s weakened natural protection against pathogens. Many elderly people’s immune systems become compromised through age, illness or other factors. This would be given in the form of a supplement.
Another use could be to give to patients after a strong course of antibiotics to help re-colonize the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria.
A still further use would be as a supplement to be added to bottle fed babies’ formula so that they too have the similar advantages as breast fed babies.
The list of possibilities is long
The lactoferrin occurring in human breast milk is being looked at as a potential treatment for auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and septic shock.
Human breast milk has a long history in health care as the ancient Egyptians blended it with honey to make a medicine. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The antibacterial and healing properties of breast milk are often overlooked, even by the nursing mothers themselves. Breast milk, if properly expressed and stored, is a sterile solution and can be used in a variety of ways to promote healing and clean wounds. Breast milk contains strong antibodies and antitoxins that many people believe promote healing and better overall health.
There are still drawbacks
However, breast milk lacks sterile and antiseptic properties if a nursing mother is infected with certain communicable diseases, such as HIV and various bacterial infections like Group B streptococcus, as breast milk can transmit such diseases to infants and other people.
Breast milk has been used as a home remedy for minor ailments such as conjunctivitis, insect bites and stings, contact dermatitis, and infected wounds, burns, and abrasions. Breast milk has also been used alternatively to boost the immune system of ill persons having viral gastroenteritis, influenza, the common cold, pneumonia, and more because of its immunologic properties.
In the 1960s, Albert Sabin found that mice recovered from polio when fed human breast milk
Of course there is only so much breast milk available for use in research, and the future manufacture of various medications, and most of that is used to feed babies! Researchers are therefore working to develop new sources for human breast milk’s health-giving compounds. At the moment, lysozyme and lactoferrin are harvested for research from a specific variety of rice and the milk from genetically engineered goats and cows.
However, the most beneficial compounds occur in human milk