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Beer, Alcohol And Breastfeeding

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When my husband was stationed in Germany, I was given a recommendation to drink beer

So i did find a lot more research on  beer and alcohol and milk supply. LOTS of stuff from Mennella who quotes and requotes her research in different publications (it looks like she might have done a half dozen tests and used the results in different ways)... but -- even then -- i couldn't find anything Mennella had ever done on "beer". It's all "alcohol in orange juice" etc.

I found the rat research she mentioned. The rats were given the equivalent of a large amount of alcohol IV and their rats suckled less and grew less slowly than the babies of non-alcoholic mom rats (this experiment was an attempt to duplicate a heavily drinking alcoholic mom).  The result is no surprise -- but it has no bearing on the question "does a BEER increase milk production"? We aren't talking about daily, heavy, alcohol use during lactation, but about an occasional BEER!

Real "beer" (unlike most american beer) is a complex liquid -- a blend of fermented and enzymed grains. it's "live" food containing yeast and end-products. Some archeologists think beer is responsible for the rise of civilisation because it was the first way discovered to preserve grains through the winter, creating a sort of protein-rich and vitamin-filled 'liquid bread" which nourished people through the lean months. A growing theory is that breadmaking was derived from beermaking -- and not the other way around!

I DID find a good bit of research on beer although almost nothing on the affects on milk increase itself. It is established fact that beer increases prolactin levels -- and the experiments i found were attempts to measure this affect, or the level of increase, or to isolate the prolactin-inducing compounds. I'll post them...but it's pretty dry stuff. The prolactin-stimulating effect is strong enough that I found recommendations that women with history of breast cancer might be wise to decrease consumption:  and that beer should be avoided by men with prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.

It has been substantiated that beer increases prolactin levels --- and it's easy to extrapolate from that fact that beer should increase milk supply, although i found no research designed "specifically" to  answer that specific question.

researchers attempting to isolate the prolactin increase found it's not caused by the hops which was a bit of a surprise i guess.

i'll go ahead and post two of these abstracts. The first shows the increase in prolactin levels in female sheep which were injected with various beer extracts. Note that the second one is by Koletzko which Mennella takes out of context (reading that koletzko proves no effect -- when what he/she DOES say is there isn't enough research!).

Koletzko says "There are clear indications that beer can stimulate prolactin secretion which may enhance lactogenesis both in non-lactating humans and in experimental animals" but goes on to suggest drinking non-alcoholic beer because of 'studies showing decrease" -- which i'll bet a couple sawbucks is because of Mennella's experiment!

Research on some subjects gets downright incestuous!

<quote>Ann Biol Clin (Paris). 1988;46(2):129-34.

Identification of the lactogenic compound present in beer.

Sawagado L, Houdebine LM.

Laboratoire de Physiologie de la Lactation, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Jouy-en-Josas.

Lyophylized beer and extracts of plants used to prepare beer have been administered orally to mature virgin rats and intravenously to ewe. After four days of treatment, beta-casein estimated by a radioimmunoassay was present in the mammary glands of the rats to which beer or barley extracts were given. Injections of lyophilised beer, barley or malt extracts triggered the release of prolactin in ewe whereas hop extracts were inactive. The active compound present in beer barley and malt, was insolubilized in 50% ethanol and it is in the aqueous phase in chloroform extraction. The active preparation contained essentially polysaccharides. This suggests that the lactogenic principle belongs to this class of macromolecule.

PMID: 3382062

<quote>Adv Exp Med Biol. 2000;478:23-8. Beer and breastfeeding.

Koletzko B, Lehner F.

Div. Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition, Dr. von Haunersches Kinderspital, University of Munich, Germany.

Traditional wisdom claims that moderate beer consumption may be beneficial for initiation of breastfeeding and enhancement of breastfeeding success. Here we review the question whether or not there is any scientific basis for this popular belief. There are clear indications that beer can stimulate prolactin secretion which may enhance lactogenesis both in non-lactating humans and in experimental animals. The component in beer responsible for the effect on prolactin secretion is not the alcohol content but apparently a polysaccharide from barley, which explains that the effect on prolactin can also be induced by non-alcoholic beer. No systematic studies are available to evaluate the clinical effects of beer on induction of lactogenesis, and short term studies have shown a reduced breast milk intake by infants after moderate alcohol consumption of their mothers. It is conceivable that relaxing effects of both alcohol and components of hop might also have beneficial effects on lactogenesis is some women, but there is no hard evidence for causal effects. It appears prudent not to generally advocate the regular use of alcoholic drinks during lactation but to rather refer mothers to non-alcoholic beer, even though no adverse effects of an occasional alcoholic drink during lactation have been documented.

PMID: 11065057

i also wanted to note that few american beers are actually 'beer" as defined by the European beverage. Many american beers are better described as alcohol enhanced chemically-derived extracts of grains, rather than the natural ferment of european beers. I don't know if they would have the same effect as a REAL beer -- the kind which is almost thick enough to hold its own shape if you dumped it out of a glass! Another note is that many of these 'real beers" -- especially stouts and porters - may have less alcohol than many of the american-style beers.

"beer" may be very different - depending on the brewer and the country. It's a bit like commercial yogurts. Many of them are nothing more than a starch-thickened milk pudding --- while other brands  are a "live food" containing thriving cultures of lactobacilli.

another note --- i found SO MANY sites which just obviously cut-and-paste from each other. I found several breast-feeding advice sites  were replicating the same error. Some of them said that research shows beer "decreases prolactin levels" - when the truth is the opposite - - beer INCREASES prolactin levels!

A lot of error can creep in when folks copy from each other without going to the source material.

written by gail hart

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