Breastfeeding and Celiac Disease
In my practice I see many children with gluten sensitivities and a growing number of them with celiac disease (CD). Many of us know all the benefits to breastfeeding such as improved immunity, less ear infections, allergies and new evidence suggests a decrease in risk of CD. One study found 52% decreased risk of CD among those infants breastfed at the time gluten was introduced. Just as with any other genetic disease you may carry the gene and it never express itself, for example approximately 30% of the population test positive for genes that lead to developing CD, but only 1% of them do. This means breastfeeding could provide protection delaying the onset or preventing CD from occurring at all.
The study also measured how long the infant was breastfed for and its correlation to decreased risk of CD. Mothers that breastfeed longer than 2 months had a 63% risk reduction as compared to those breastfed for less than two months. I often see mothers that struggle with breastfeeding but its good to know that even if you can breastfeed for the first few months you will be doing such a tremendous service to your child’s future health.
I often get asked, “Should I be gluten free while breastfeeding?” Those women with a confirmed allergy (IgG or IgE) should refrain from gluten, especially when pregnant and nursing. A study found that 54 of 80 healthy mothers on a normal, unrestricted diet had high levels of Gliadin (protein component of gluten) in their milk supply. For those that are not gluten intolerant it is best to watch your baby and look for signs of early sensitivity or intolerance such as vomiting, diarrhea, underweight, irritability, hand fisting, rashes and pulling their knees to their chest (sign of abdominal discomfort).
If you find any of these signs eliminate gluten from the diet for a month and see if you get resolution, if not consult with your doctor for additional help. It’s better to get help then to give up breastfeeding.
You can read the full article from Hayley Segal in GIG magazine.