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Long Term Breastfeeding May Help Prevent Coeliac

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

While it's long been known that breastfed babies are much less likely to develop allergies than babies who receive formula, a new study released this past week shows that breastfeeding may also help reduce the occurrence of coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a gluten intolerance that is classified as an auto immune disorder.

According to Wikipedia:

It is characterized by damage or flattening to all or part of the villi lining the small intestine, causing scar tissue that cannot absorb nutrients. This damage is caused by exposure to gluten and related proteins found in wheat, rye, malt, barley and oats. Damage to the villi reduces the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients, and it is believed that the resulting nutritional deficiencies likely cause the wide spectrum of symptoms associated with the disorder. Coeliac disease may lead to digestive problems, such as indigestion, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome, unexplained weight loss or other signs of nutritional deficiency due to malabsorption, and a wide range of other problems in different bodily systems, including the nervous system, the heart, and the teeth and bones.

The condition is frequently misdiagnosed or overlooked as it can exhibit multiple symptoms and often the patient or medical staff may not link seemingly unconnected conditions. It is most frequently misdiagnosed when the sufferer complains of diarrhea, persistent indigestion, a rash or irritable bowel syndrome.

The only treatment is a life-long gluten-free diet. No medications are required, and none have proven useful.

The study, which followed 4,000 children also suggests that the longer a baby is breastfed, the less likely they are to develop the illness later in life. That's a compelling reason to make sure your tot can rightly wear a child-led weaning shirt!


  1. Blogger Elaine | 10:32 AM |  

    Hi :) I support breastfeeding, but I'm not so sure about some of the benefits... After my brother and I were both diagnosed as lactose intolerant, my Mum was determined to breastfeed my little sister until she was 12 months. Well, my sister is now 18, and hasn't had any problems with milk. Unfortunately, she's highly allergic to gold, among other things... In other words, breastfeeding isn't the end-all and be-all of allergy prevention techniques ;)

    As for Coeliac, and other intolerances, I'd be more willing to chalk it up to genetics and blood-type.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 6:06 PM |  

    The problem with "chalking it up to genetics" is that these studies take these things into account. That's why they are scientific studies that are controlled.

    The thing about statistics is that they are overall representations of reality. There are always exceptions. I don't think anyone has ever said that breastfeeding will keep you from getting ANY allergies, just that it has been shown to reduce them.

    Either way, welcome to the site! Appreciate you sharing your comments.

  3. Anonymous Mama C-ta | 6:27 PM |  

    Well, I'll save my comment until we get my exclusively BF son's allergies worked out and I can once again eat more than turkey and rice :)

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