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Probiotics in Breast Milk Ease Intestinal Pain


Breast milk is considered to be the perfect source of nutrition for infants because it contains the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, as well as other critical nutrients. Now researchers have found how probiotics in breast milk can reduce or eliminate intestinal pain.

Research into the benefits of probiotics in infants and children has uncovered positive results in several areas, including the use of the beneficial bacteria to improve survival among premature infants, treating diarrhea in young children, and reducing infections. The discovery of how a probiotic present in breast milk can alleviate or eliminate cramping in the gut furthers our appreciation of how these bacteria can benefit human health, and beginning at birth.

In the new study, which was published online in the FASEB Journal, investigators used a mouse model to illustration how Lactobacillus reuteri can reduce the force of muscle contractions in the gut within minutes of introducing the bacteria to the intestinal tract. This bacterium is found in human breast milk as well as in the gut of many mammals.

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Researchers introduced L. reuteri into small intestine samples culled from healthy, untreated mice. Measurements of the pressure caused by natural contractions after the bacterium was added to a salt solution flowing through the intestine revealed that L. reuteri relaxed smooth muscle tissue.

Imbalances of the bacterial flora in the gut have been associated with a wide range of health problems, including inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, skin conditions, and poor absorption of nutrients, among others. Wolfgang Kunze, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the McMaster Brain-Body Institute and Department of Psychiatry at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Ontario, Canada, noted that there have been “scientifically and evidence-based approaches to nutrition to correct potential bacterial imbalance in the intestine and thereby promote better health and possibly restore health in diseases associated with these imbalances.”

Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, noted that while most people do not have access to “breast milk from the tap,” that does not mean people cannot “still benefit from some of the life-supporting substances it carries.” Besides the probiotics present in breast milk, the beneficial bacteria are available in certain foods and in supplements. Weissmann pointed out that “this research shows that the relationship between humans and microbes can be beneficial for both.”

Wang B et al. FASEB Journal 2010 Jun 2