Human breast milk is by far the best source of energy and food for infants. Many studies have demonstrated its rich nutritional values and protective properties for infants. Recently, there was a study that demonstrated human breast milk also offer protection against atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema.
How common is eczema:
Eczema is a very common skin condition affecting children. The disease is characterized by recurrent red and itchy rash on the skin. It is estimated that in developed countries like the United States, approximately 15 to 20% of infants are affected by eczema. About 50% of them have eczema in the first year of their lives. Many of these kids suffer from uncontrollable itch, difficulty sleeping, bleeding, and infection.
Common treatments for eczema include moisturizing creams and ointments, in addition to anti-inflammatory medication such as steroids and antibiotic creams. Now there is a new potential treatment that comes in the form of human breastmilk.
A clinical study using breast milk to treat eczema:
The study was conducted by a group of dermatologists in Iran who showed that human breast milk is as effective as 1% hydrocortisone ointment to treat infants with eczema.
A total of 104 infants with a diagnosis of eczema were enrolled in the clinical trial, and the infants were randomly assigned to two groups. Group A with 50 infants received 1% hydrocortisone (weak steroid) ointment, and Group B with 54 infants received human breast milk. Mothers in group B were instructed to rub hindmilk (breast milk at the end of breastfeeding) twice a day on the affected area of their infants with eczema.
All infants were evaluated at day 1, 7, 14 and 21 days of the treatment. Nearly 82% of the infants receiving human breastmilk, and 76% using 1% hydrocortisone reported healing of their eczema conditions. Based on the results, the investigators in the study suggested human breast milk is as good as 1% hydrocortisone ointment in healing eczema in infants.
Why does breast milk treat eczema?
Human breast milk is known to provide nutrition for infants and offer protection against infections. It has significant amounts of complement components that contain natural antimicrobial agents.
Some of these antimicrobial agents in the breast milk include antibodies, lysozymes, polymorphonuclear leukocytes. IgA is an immunoglobulin that particularly protects infants from a variety of skin infections. Lysozymes kill bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae and gram-negative bacteria, while leukocytes have anti-inflammatory effects. Other studies have also shown that human breast milk has wound healing properties.
So after reading this study summary, do you believe breast milk offer any protection against eczema? Please leave us your comments and thoughts.
Kasrae H, Farahani LA, Yousefi P. Efficacy of topical application of human break milk on atopic eczema healing among infants: a randomized clinical trial. International Journal of dermatology. 2015, 54: 966-971.
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