Mother’s milk gives babies antibodies along with microbes to support the infant’s gut immune responses, new research says.
Immune antibodies from mother’s breast milk interact with the immune system of the newborn to help shape lifelong immune responses for establishing boundaries and balance between gut microbes and the mammalian host.
If this balance fails to establish or later falters, this may result chronic inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease – Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Specific antibodies present in breast milk promote peace between the immune system and common gut-dwelling bacteria by putting the damper on inflammatory responses.
“This study provides real evidence that breast milk is important for a newborn’s health,” said lead study author Meghan Koch from the University of California-Berkeley.
“Breastfeeding helps to instruct the newborn’s immune system on how to appropriately respond to non-pathogenic bacteria, many of which may reside in the gut for a lifetime,” Koch added in a paper published in the journal Cell.
When the child is born, suddenly the infant is exposed to bacteria from the wider world. The body learns to tolerate many bacterial species and the relationship is regarded as mutually beneficial as gut bacteria aid digestion help prevent infection and enhance immune function.
The team conducted a study on mice and found that three specific types of antibodies, Immunoglobulin A (IgA), Immunoglobulin G2b (IgG2b), and immunoglobulin G3 (IgG3), are present in breast milk and promote peace between the immune system and common gut-dwelling bacteria by putting the damper on inflammatory responses.