British scientists have discovered that an ingredient in breast milk acts to protect and heal the intestines of newborn babies.
The research was conducted by a team from Queen Mary, University of London, which used human intestinal cells in the lab and found that when they inflicted damage to them a compound called pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (PSTI) stimulated the cells to move across the damaged area forming a natural protective barrier.
They also believe the presence of PSTI could reduce further damage by as much as 75 per cent.
The researchers furthermore found that the levels of PSTI increase significantly in the milk produced in the first few days after birth. However, it is not found in commercially available infant formulas.
Professor Ray Playford of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry says there are a number of benefits for babies who are breast-fed.
“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,” he adds.
Meanwhile, recent research indicates that women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth may boost their digestive health and control weight by taking probiotics, which are also available in the form of nutritional supplements.