Does exclusive breast-feeding prevent atopic dermatitis (eczema)?
The researchers in this study looked at >600 exclusively breast-fed 3-month-old infants for atopic dermatitis, screened for common genetic mutations predisposing to allergies, and also performed skin-prick testing for allergy to six foods (cow’s milk, egg, cod fish, wheat, sesame, and peanut).
They found that exclusive breast-feeding did not prevent atopic dermatitis but that food sensitisation may occur through affected skin. Genetic mutations only predispose to food allergies if atopic dermatitis is present.
Thoughts from the ‘experts’:
- Food allergens are proteins that can penetrate the defective skin barrier in atopic dermatitis (what’s weird is that the inflamed skin of exclusively breast-fed babies would come into contact with food – perhaps sensitisation occurs to food allergens in breast milk, or perhaps, via transplacental transport in utero, – and that is the time to find a good eczema cure;
- This may be due to something similar to the ‘hygiene hypothesis (decreased bacterial exposure results in increased predisposition to infection) except in this case lower exposure to food allergens may inadequately stimulate immunoregulatory networks.
Is this a reason not to breast-feed or to introduce foods earlier than the guidelines recommend? No.
It is but one study after all, but makes for interesting reading. If you’re a nerd like me 🙂
Flohr C et al., J Invest Dermatol 2013 Jul 18
World Health Organisation (Breastfeeding & Nutrition Guidelines)