Friday, October 25, 2013

The Breastfeeding Effect

The Conference may be over, but I am going to keep the information coming!  I am trying to overcome the feeling that I need to sit down and write this huge novel for a proper blog this entry will focus on information from a single discussion I watched at the NACFC entitled: The Developing Gut and Respiratory Tract Microbiome in Infants with CF.  

The term "microbiome" refers to the community of microorganisms that live in our guts and lungs. Healthy biomes are generally non-pathogenic (not disease causing)--they exist in harmony with our bodies.  Problems begin to occur in both the gut and lung when certain organisms grow out of control and upset the delicate balance.  The biggest variation in the human microbiome occurs during the first 3 years of life.  

Researchers wanted to know:
1) Do exposure and interventions play a role in the developing microbiome in CF?
2) Are there patterns within the developing microbiome that predict clinical disease?  Do the gut and respiratory microbiomes interact?
3) Are there targets for a healthier pattern that could help PREVENT early disease?

The study utilized a relatively small group of patients, and relied on stool and respiratory samples to provide insight into the developing microbiome.  An overgrowth of pathogenic organisms in the microbiome is indicative of a CF "exacerbation."  

Researchers found that both the digestive and respiratory microbiome increase in diversity over time. There seems to be a relationship between the organisms in the gut and lungs.  As researchers began tracking their observations on these infants, they found one factor that seemed to have a strong effect on the stability of the microbiome in both the gut and the lungs--exposure to breast milk.  Infants given breast milk had more stable microbiomes. 

In addition, babies exposed to breast milk were able to delay the onset of their first CF exacerbation.

The breast feeding effect turned out to be so STRONG, that researchers had to statistically correct for breast fed infants, to gain any meaningful data from this study.  The presenter called breast milk the "gold standard probiotic," and explained that gut colonization patterns are predictors of lung colonization patterns.  The stabilizing effects of breast milk on the gut microbiome seems to spill over to lung microbiome as well.   Antibiotic use, on the other hand, did NOT have a significant effect on the microbiome in the gut.  

I felt strongly about sharing this information, because it represents an opportunity for an all-natural "intervention" for infants with CF.  I understand that the decision to breast feed, or not, is an extremely personal one...and this entry is not intended to pass judgement.  I simply want to share that for the youngest CFers, there is evidence that a dose of nature's gold standard probiotic has been shown to produce meaningful delays to onset of the first respiratory exacerbation.