Clues In Breastmilk…
If there was one thing science knew, it was that breastmilk provided an infant with natural immune system boosters. Breastmilk was man’s first food – and yet my son with autism could not digest casein – a protein found in breastmilk! An enzyme not working… an enzyme not working… an enzyme not working!
Mercury… attracted to enzymes and proteins… autism… an enzyme not working… Alzheimer’s… an enzyme not working in the breakdown of beta amyloid … milk… enzymes… the pancreas… beta cells… blood… alpha-gamma to alpha-beta… the liver…
Milk - the liver. What was the connection? How did all these pieces fit together?
The liver produced enzymes. The liver produced bile. Excess bile was stored in the gallbladder. Excess bilirubin resulted in gallstones. Bile had lactoferrin in it. Lactoferrin had antibacterial and antiviral immune system functions and was found in breastmilk. Lactoferrin also appeared to possibly inhibit potential risks from “free iron” according to a Kirkman Labs publication entitled: Guide To Intestinal Health In Autism Spectrum Disorder authored by Kirkman Labs’ technical staff including: Mark Brudnak, Ilene Buchholz, Stephanie Hoener, Larry Newman and Jon Pangborn. Note again that Kirkman Labs was a company specializing solely in the formulation of supplements for those with autism and as such, Kirkman Labs was considered among the very best in matters relating to autism research. This publication appeared to have been an “internal document” produced by Kirkman Labs. Kirkman Labs had made this document available for downloading to parents of children with autism, but had since removed this publication from its website.
From other research I had done, I knew that breastmilk contained lactoferrin…
I had always found it difficult to believe that breastmilk could ever be “bad” for an infant and had always had a hard time with the condition known as “breastmilk jaundice”. Breastmilk jaundice was a jaundice that resulted in some infants when they began to drink breastmilk. The medical community had always viewed jaundice as “a problem”. There were several kinds of “jaundice”.
Jaundice was found in some newborns. Infants were born with an extra store of red blood cells. Jaundice resulted from the excessive breakdown of hemoglobin – the oxygen carrying part of red blood cells. Heme in hemoglobin was made of iron and unconjugated bilirubin – now known to be the most powerful antioxidant known to man.
Jaundice was, supposedly, also associated with breastfeeding. Jaundice associated with breastfeeding usually occurred between the second and fourth day of life, before the mother’s milk supply began to flow. This particular type of jaundice was not considered serious as long as the mother’s milk came in and the child received enough fluids. “Breastmilk jaundice” was believed to happen because a natural chemical in the mother’s milk kept the baby from breaking down bilirubin. Breastmilk jaundice usually occurred between the fourth and seventh day after birth. Breastmilk jaundice could last for several months. This one – “breastmilk jaundice” was the one that troubled me most. It simply did not make any sense to me. Newborn jaundice, in my opinion, was clearly a sign of something already wrong in the infant – even before birth, as certainly could be the case with iron overload.
Everything I knew about the human body indicated it had been created with absolutely amazing ingenuity – and yet, here we had science telling us that “breastmilk jaundice” was a “problem” that could last for months because the mother’s breastmilk kept the baby from breaking down bilirubin. Think about that for a minute!
If that was truly the case, why was it that all breastfed infants did not develop breastmilk jaundice? And if jaundice was treated by phototherapy or “light therapy” and simple exposure to light was enough to help clear the jaundice, did it not appear that, perhaps, naturally, jaundice should disappear from simple exposure to indirect sunlight? It almost seemed as though that was how things were “supposed” to work – that nature had provided the perfect solution to jaundice – indirect sunlight. Light treatment altered the bilirubin molecule and turned excess bilirubin into a water-soluble form that could then be excreted in bile and urine. Yet, this type of jaundice – “breastmilk jaundice” could last for months. This made absolutely no sense to me.
I knew bilirubin was a yellowish substance that resulted from the breakdown of red blood cells – the oxygen carrying cells of the blood. Bilirubin was a by-product that resulted from the breakdown of hemoglobin – specifically – what was known as the “heme” part of the hemoglobin. Hemoglobin was the oxygen carrying protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin appeared to be made of two proteins – the heme and the globin. Heme was made of iron plus unconjugated bilirubin (lipid/fat soluble). Globin was a protein that surrounded the heme and hence the combined name – hemoglobin. And then, there was that whole issue with the alpha, beta and gamma part to fetal blood.
Bilirubin… iron… beta…extra red blood cells at birth… the “switch” to “alpha-beta blood”… delayed in gestational diabetes… heme deficiency…
Normal red blood cells had a life of about one hundred and twenty days. The extra red blood cells in newborns were broken down to release iron and bilirubin. This was a normal process, yet, in some children, there appeared to be “too much” bilirubin and that led to the yellow coloring of the skin –jaundice. The normal breakdown of red blood cells at birth – the release of iron and bilirubin…bilirubin – the substance now believed to be the most powerful antioxidant known to man… Hum…
Iron was needed for growth spurts, but, in excessive amounts, iron could be toxic. The release of both iron and bilirubin at birth, in a normal infant, made so much sense. The infant, via this breakdown of excess red blood cells was provided with iron to grow and bilirubin – an antioxidant – to fight infection.
Bilirubin – a powerful antioxidant – an antioxidant - that was a “good thing” – not a “bad thing”. Yet, some infants had “too much” of it. That, to me, was indicative of a “stronger” immune system response than should be normally happening in newborns. Bilirubin seemed to be naturally released to protect the child and boost his immune system at birth, but with jaundice, obviously too much bilirubin was being produced – and that – had to be a sign of a “bigger problem” somewhere!
Bilirubin… jaundice… a liver disorder!
Jaundice could be caused by blood group incompatibility between mother and child or an immature liver - something known as physiologic jaundice. So, there were all these different “types” of jaundice – but really – what was “jaundice”? I had always found that when man could not explain something, he had a tendency to come up with “new classifications” – new labels for what appeared to be simply shades of the same thing. We now had so many “atypical” disorders. But “jaundice was jaundice” – so why the differences in what we saw in newborn infants – why the many “types” of jaundice? That just did not make sense to me!
What were the “common threads” in the many “types” of jaundice? Well, first and foremost, jaundice was an immune system response.
Breastmilk had over two hundred components and man could not even come close to replicating it in baby formulas. Breastmilk provided the necessary nutrients for all infants. Breastmilk was truly amazing. Its composition actually changed during a single feeding – with more, critical fat being provided near the end of the feeding – much like a “dessert” for the infant. In addition, breastmilk provided immune system benefits and variations in nutrient availability and absorption rates that simply could not be replicated by man made products.
Also important was the fact that breastmilk was very low in iron with only one half to one mg/l. Although present in very small amounts, iron in breastmilk was very well absorbed by infants. That, to me, indicated that infants did not need a lot of iron in terms of supplementation. Given bacterial thrived on iron, that would make perfect sense. The fact that iron was believed to inhibit lactoferrin would also be in line with this. Since lactoferrin was a powerful antibacterial and antiviral, you certainly would not want anything inhibiting it – especially not while the infant was quite young and the liver was not yet fully functioning. Other than breastmilk, the child’s only real source of lactoferrin appeared to be bile – something the liver did not produce until at least six months of age! Also very interesting was the fact that now, research was showing that breastmilk helped prevent diabetes later in life! Lactoferrin was also known to bind to dna!
Lactoferrin… iron… breastmilk… diabetes…
So, what was it about breastmilk jaundice that made it “different” from the shorter duration jaundices? How was it that breastmilk – the infant’s perfect food – was triggering an immune system response in some infants – for months? Again – this simply made no sense to me and I now very much suspected that this was but another “blame it on the mother” label.
As I looked at the comparison I had made between autism, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia – the one very obvious thing stood out – lactoferrin levels! Lactoferrin levels were low in children with autism and yet, they were high in persons with Alzheimer’s. Surely, there had to be clues within that!
Breastmilk contained lactoferrin – that powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent known to prevent viruses from replicating. Lactoferrin - an antibacterial and antiviral agent. If there was one thing I had learned very painfully, it was that children with autism suffered from yeast overgrowth in the intestinal track. “Good” or “healthy bacteria” levels in children with autism were seriously depressed, whereas the “bad bacteria” levels were known to be elevated. So, low lactoferrin in children with autism certainly could contribute to excess bacteria in the intestinal track.
Lactoferrin stimulated the immune system and helped regulate iron levels in the body as well. Iron – bacteria and viruses thrived on iron.
Lactoferrin was in high concentrations in collostrum – the precursor to breastmilk. Lactoferrin appeared to have a dual role in the regulation of iron. Lactoferrin was known to “bind” to iron and as such, lactoferrin was an “iron carrier” that facilitated the transport of iron throughout the body. But, lactoferrin could also enhance the absorption of iron. Lactoferrin… iron…heme (iron plus unconjugated bilirubin)… low lactoferrin and iron overload in children with autism… high lactoferrin in spinal fluid and iron overload in persons with Alzheimer’s.
Low lactoferrin in one… high lactoferrin in the other – why?
Although lactoferrin was present in breastmilk, clearly, not all children were breastfed. Sources of lactoferrin included breastmilk, tears, and bile – from the liver. Bile, however, was not produced until at least six months of age! Bile… bilirubin! Bilirubin was produced in the liver – the major detoxifying organ of the body. It was bilirubin that gave bile its yellow color. Infants who were not breastfed, or were only breastfed for a limited amount of time, it appeared to me, could certainly be deficient in lactoferrin since bile was not produced until six months of age. Lactoferrin obviously played a major role in the control of iron in infants. In children who were not breastfed, yet were fed with iron fortified baby formulas and iron fortified baby foods, would iron levels become toxic if lactoferrin was not available to the child for the proper regulation of iron? Would that not lead to “iron overload”? Would all of this not contribute to low lactoferrin levels and iron overload in children with autism, yet high lactoferrin levels (an immune system response) in spinal fluid and iron overload in persons with Alzheimer’s? Was high lactoferrin in the spinal fluid of persons with Alzheimer’s an immune system response that was the body’s way of attempting to rid itself of excess iron? In my opinion, it certainly would all make sense!
Truly, breastmilk was an infant’s perfect food. I had only been able to breastfeed Zachary for three weeks! He wanted to eat constantly – almost every twenty minutes – due to the natural opiate/drug effect of casein in children with autism.
Iron was processed by the liver and recycled to bone marrow. Iron was a critical component in red blood cells. But what about “iron overload” - what happened if the body had too much iron?