The benefits of breastfeeding are well known but recent research has provided further information on how mother’s milk can promote healthy newborns. This comes in the form of the discovery of an ingredient in breast milk which protects and repairs any damage to the digestive tract of newborns.
This function is very important as a baby’s intestines are extremely delicate. They have not yet been introduced to food and drink; therefore it doesn’t take much to injure them and precautions are paramount.
Substance In Breast Milk Protects Intestines
This special protective ingredient in breast milk is pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor, or PSTI. As the name suggests, it is typically found in the pancreas. The function of the pancreas is to produce powerful enzymes for use in digestion. In the process, the pancreas itself needs protection against these enzymes and this is the function of PSTI. It therefore makes sense that the inhibitor can also be used in the digestive system to prevent unnecessary harm and to keep it healthy.
The research into PSTI and breast milk was led by Professor Ray Playford of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London. The team found that PSTI is present in all breast milk, but that the levels are seven times higher in colostrum – which is the name given to the breast milk that is secreted during the first couple of days after birth. In fact, it has been found that PSTI is actually produced in the breast. What is significant though is that formula milk does not contain this vital ingredient.
During the study the team performed tests with PSTI on human intestinal cells. When they damaged the cells, they found that the PSTI triggered healthy cells to move over the cells that had been harmed, thereby forming a natural protective layer. Furthermore, the study showed that the PSTI prevents intestinal cells from breaking down and has the potential to reduce injury by 75 percent. These results indicate the phenomenal ability of PSTI to prevent any serious intestinal injuries in newborns.
So, this is another way in which breast milk is important for the health of babies. Formula simply cannot meet all of the requirements and babies who are not breast fed will be at a serious disadvantage. There seem to be no doubts of the importance of breast milk, particularly during the first few days after the baby has been born.