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Is lactose really the baddie when it comes to colic?

Something never quite sits right for me when it comes to blaming lactose (milk sugar) for wind and colic pain. Yes, it does seem that lactase enzyme products like Colief can bring great relief to babies with colic, wind or unknown tummy pains. The lactase enzyme digests the lactose sugar. But here is the what does quite work for me. Breast milk contains lactose and if breast milk is the perfect food babies then why would it have lactose in it?

My thoughts are this. Breast milk also contains enzymes and good bacteria that will help break the lactose down that the breast milk contains, therefore it doesn’t hve any adverse effects. On top of this I found this fascinating research study I have pasted below that found the lactose in human breast milk functioned as an immune factor protecting the newborns gut and regulating the friendly bacteria in the gut too. This is amazing and therefore lactose is incredibly important.

So why the big problem with lactose? I believe the problematic lactose is what a baby gets from cow’s milk in the breast feeding mothers diet or cow’s milk formula. Firstly, the cow’s milk we drink has been homogenised and pasturised, essentially processed. This heat processing which kills the bacteria in the milk, good and bad, also kills the enzymes lactase in the milk that would natural breakdown the lactose in the cow’s milk. Just like I mentioned in human breast milk. So both human milk and cow’s milk when they are natural and raw have the ability to digest themselves. However, the cow’s milk we drink and formula milk we give babies are processed and don’t break themselves down, therefore the baby is overloaded with lactose and not enough lactase enzyme to break it down leading to colic.

So the answers are for the mother to restrict her intake of cows milk while breast feeding or she takes a digestive enzyme to help her break the extra lactose down. If bottle feeding then make up the formula and put a lactase enzyme in it to break the lactose down.

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053876. Epub 2013 Jan 10.
Lactose in human breast milk an inducer of innate immunity with implications for a role in intestinal homeostasis.
Cederlund A, Kai-Larsen Y, Printz G, Yoshio H, Alvelius G, Lagercrantz H, Str├Âmberg R, J├Ârnvall H, Gudmundsson GH, Agerberth B.
Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Postpartum, infants have not yet established a fully functional adaptive immune system and are at risk of acquiring infections. Hence, newborns are dependent on the innate immune system with its antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and proteins expressed at epithelial surfaces. Several factors in breast milk are known to confer immune protection, but which the decisive factors are and through which manner they work is unknown. Here, we isolated an AMP-inducing factor from human milk and identified it by electrospray mass spectrometry and NMR to be lactose. It induces the gene (CAMP) that encodes the only human cathelicidin LL-37 in colonic epithelial cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The induction was suppressed by two different p38 antagonists, indicating an effect via the p38-dependent pathway. Lactose also induced CAMP in the colonic epithelial cell line T84 and in THP-1 monocytes and macrophages. It further exhibited a synergistic effect with butyrate and phenylbutyrate on CAMP induction. Together, these results suggest an additional function of lactose in innate immunity by upregulating gastrointestinal AMPs that may lead to protection of the neonatal gut against pathogens and regulation of the microbiota of the infant.

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