It has been well known for more many years that women suffering from autoimmune disease often go into remission during pregnancy and for some months afterwards. The remission is thought to be caused by chemical signals from the babies placental cells which "turn down" its mother's immune system preventing the maternal immune system from attacking the developing fetus.
Intestinal parasites seem to use similar signals as well to turn down theimmune system of their hosts. Parasites that survive have been self selected for the ability to turn down the immune system's attack on the parasites without turning off the host's immune system completely. The parasites that were too successful at turning off the hosts immune system did not survive as the host would die of bacterial or viral infections. for the internal parasite to survive to reproduce lay eggs and pass on its genes for immune suppression the genes must be very selective. Pig whipworms (TSO's) are being considered for autoimmune and asthma and allergy therapies.
The developing fetus to survive must also have the same ability as the internal parasite to turn down the maternal immune system without turning it down "too much".
Now there is evidence that breast feeding for more than 13 months has the effect of reducing the chances of a mother ever developing autoimmune disease. Now what do we do for the men and boys?
See the article below copied from Eurekalert.org:
Women who breastfeed for more ayear halve their risk of rhematoid arthritis
Women who breast feed for longer have a smaller chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis, suggests a study published online ahead of print in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
The study also found that taking oral contraceptives, which are suspected to protect against the disease because they contain hormones that are raised in pregnancy, did not have the same effect. Also, simply having children and not breast feeding also did not seem to be protective.
The researchers compared 136 women with rheumatoid arthritis with 544 women of a similar age without the disease. They found that that those who had breast fed for longer were much less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.
Women who had breastfed for 13 months or more were half as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis as those who had never breast fed. Those who had breast fed for one to 12 months were 25 per cent less likely to get the disease.
The proportion of women breast feeding for more than six months has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The authors concluded that it was difficult to say whether there was a connection between higher rates of breast feeding and a corresponding fall in the number of women affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but that the results of the study provided yet another reason why women should continue breast feeding.