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Breastfeeding Protects Tiny Intestines

July 3, 2009

An ingredient found in breast milk produced in the first few days after birth helps protect tiny intestines and get them ready for a lifetime of eating and drinking.

British researchers discovered the effect of pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor ““ or PSTI ““ by first testing breast milk samples for the ingredient and then assessing its ability to affect intestinal cells in the lab.

While PSTI continued to be found in breast milk throughout breastfeeding, it was seven times more concentrated in the early milk, known as colostrum. When intestinal cells were damaged in the lab, PSTI helped to form a protective layer over the damaged area and, what’s more, prevented further damage from occurring.

PSTI has been known for its role in the pancreas for years, where it helps protect the organ from digestive enzymes.

“This study is important because it shows that a component of breast milk protects and repairs the babies’ delicate intestines in readiness for the onslaught of all the food and drink that are to come,” study author Ray Playford, from the University of London, was quoted as saying. “It reinforces the benefits of breastfeeding, especially in the first few days after birth.”

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