Diarrhea is a major cause of death in children, worldwide. Recurrent diarrhea causes malnutrition, reduces growth and impairs mental functioning in children. Childhood survival and immunity are improved by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the best therapy for diarrhea in infants and toddlers. Multiple beneficial chemical factors are transmitted to the child through mother’s milk.
Lactoferrin is one of the most abundant proteins in human milk. It is found in tears, saliva, intestinal mucus, genital secretions and neutrophil (white blood cell) granules. Lactoferrin is quite high in human milk (1 mg/mL) and colostrum (5.3 mg/mL) compared to cow’s milk (20-200 microgm/mL.)
Studies show that lactoferrin prevents viral attachment and reproduction in the intestines. Lactoferrin works against the intestinal parasites Giardia and Entamoeba histolytica. Lactoferrin is iron-binding, which works against the diarrhea-causing intestinal bacteria Shigella, Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli.) Human and cow lactoferrins work against intestinal E. coli.
A study was done of Japanese children under 5 years of age who received 100 mg. of cow lactoferrin daily for 3 months. There was no change in the incidence of viral gastroenteritis. But, the children who received lactoferrin had significantly fewer problems with vomiting and diarrhea. Other studies have been done showing that lactoferrin benefits small children.
Previous studies have demonsdtrated the iron-binding ability of lactoferrin. Recent studies show the ability of lactoferrin to interfere with bacterial surface activities. Lactoferrin disrupts surface antigens (proteins) and releases them into the surrounding media, making them inactive. Bacteria have not been able to develop resistance to lactoferrin, perhaps, because the reactions are so complex and multiple bacterial mutations would be required.
CONCLUSION: Lactoferrin may prove to be beneficial in the treatment of infant, childhood and adult diarrhea.
NOTE: Read about the use of probiotics in the treatment of diverticular and enteric disease.
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