Human breast milk and the gastrointestinal innate immune system

Clin Perinatol. 2014 Jun;41(2):423-35. doi: 10.1016/j.clp.2014.02.011.


The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a large potential portal for multiple infectious agents to enter the human body. The GI system performs multiple functions as part of the neonate's innate immune system, providing critical defense during a vulnerable period. Multiple mechanisms and actions are enhanced by the presence of human breast milk. Bioactive factors found in human milk work together to create and maintain an optimal and healthy environment, allowing the intestines to deliver ideal nutrition to the host and afford protection by a variety of mechanisms.

Keywords: Antimicrobial peptides; Bioactive factors; Commensal bacteria; Human breast milk; Intestinal microbiome; Lactoferrin; Mucosal innate immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Enteral Nutrition*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk, Human / immunology*