We know breast milk is nutrient-dense and good for babies. But does it have the same effect on adults?
Although research suggests breast milk may play a role in fighting diseases such as cancer, digestive disorders, and immune disorders, this research is preliminary, done on a cellular level in a petri dish, and not on humans.
There are reports of people claiming that breast milk can help build muscle because it is full of nutrients, but the reported health benefits lack scientific evidence.
Breast milk has been used as topical application for burns, eye infections (such as pink eye), diaper rash and wounds. The idea is to reduce infection and enhance the healing process. However, it is better to let your doctor decide whether it is safe or effective to use breast milk to treat certain conditions.
Is drinking breast milk safe for adults?
Since breast milk is not readily available, some people are turning to online sites to purchase bottled breast milk. However, drinking breast milk is safe only if it is from your partner whom you know well. This is because breast milk is a bodily fluid, and you do not want yourself to be at risk of infectious diseases such as cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B and C, human immunodeficiency virus, or syphilis.
Raw human breast milk purchased online or in an unpasteurized state comes with many risks. One of the risks is falling prey to food-borne illnesses that can come with any raw milk.
A study conducted on samples of breast milk bought online reported that 93% of samples contained bacteria, of which 74% contained gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria can cause respiratory problems such as pneumonia and digestive issues such as diarrhea. Bacterial contamination is most likely due to improper sanitization techniques when expressing milk, cleaning equipment, storing milk, and transporting milk.
Human breast milk from a milk bank is relatively safe because it is screened for contamination and pasteurized, so it is typically free from harmful substances.
However, adults do not really need breast milk for health benefits. If you want to try it, make sure to obtain it directly from a trusted source—breasts of a trusted lactating partner or a center that has put the milk through safety testing.
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Witkowska-Zimny M, Kaminska-El-Hassan E, Wróbel E. Milk therapy: Unexpected uses for human breast milk. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):944.
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