The fatty acids from breast milk are key to healthy baby development. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is well known for promoting a healthy brain, eye, and nervous system for example. But other fatty acids in breast milk may also help protect from allergies.
Could the sharp rise in allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, food allergies and hayfever be explained by a shift in the fatty acid balance in our diets? It’s possible that the widespread use of vegetable oils and the a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (mostly from fish) are contributing to inflammation in the body.
Does breast milk affect eczema?
310 mothers and babies were examined according to their various lifestyles, (particularly noting the eating of organic diets and extended breast feeding) to see how the fatty acid composition of their breast milk compared with mums who ate a more conventional diet.
Mums with an ‘alternative’ lifestyles had somewhat higher concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acids in their breast milk (EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DPA (docosapentaenoic acid), and DHA). They were also higher in ruminant fatty acids (derived primarily from dairy fat), including the all-important immune-enhancing fatty acid, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
By the time they were aged two, 31% of the babies had experienced eczema (almost half of these also had allergies). But (at one year) the risk of eczema and allergies was lowest among babies whose mothers’ milk was highest in omega-3. That risk was also seen to decrease as concentrations of ruminant fatty acids increased (regardless of the effect of the omega-3 fatty acids).
This suggests that ruminant fatty acids from dairy fat and organic dairy and, possibly, unpasteurized milk might have an effect on how much a baby can develop a strong immunity in early life.
How to protect your baby from eczema…
- Breast-feed, if you can. For some women breast-feeding isn’t feasible, but it’s worth it for your baby’s health if you’re able to.
- Eat more fatty fish. This is important during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Avoid high-mercury fish including albacore tuna and king mackerel.
- Make it creamy. The latest study adds to a growing body of evidence of the inflammation-fighting potential of full-fat dairy products.
For children and adults try:
Comvita Medihoney Moisturising Cream,
Natraderm Shower Gel with Shea Butter,
Optima Allergenics Steroid Free Intensive Care Ointment
or HRI Clear Complexion.