Beating Candidiasis (fungal infection) with Breastfeeding-Friendly Supplements

Beating Candidiasis (fungal infection) with Breastfeeding-Friendly Supplements

Candidia albicans is a common fungus. It can live in parts of the body such as in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina. When it overgrows, however, it can penetrate the intestine, enter the bloodstream and colonize internal organs such as the kidney, heart, or brain. Candidiasis is the clinical name for this overgrowth. 

Many breastfeeding mothers are familiar with the painful fungal infection of the nipple called thrushHowever, when I lived in Switzerland, I learned that nipple thrush is practically unknown in that country. One explanation might be that Swiss doctors do not prescribe antibiotics as frequently as doctors in the US, (antibiotics make the body more vulnerable to fungal infection). The Swiss also typically eat a whole-food diet including condiments that have anti-fungal properties: onions, garlic, ginger. 

Candidiasis plays a part in a condition called leaky gut or permeable intestine. With a leaky gut, the cells of the intestinal lining are not tightly bound together, allowing the tiniest food molecules and toxins to pass through the lining into the bloodstream.

Candidiasis is opportunistic, that is, it overgrows and invades the body if the immune system is unable to fight it off. People with a compromised immune system, such as those with chronic fatigue, chronic inflammatory conditions, or foggy brain, often also have a candidiasis infection. Resolving the fungal infection can be tricky – but it’s absolutely worth the trouble.

The short-term use of a medication called Nystatin is considered safe for a breastfeeding mother, but many fungal infections require a long-term approach to fully eradicate the problem.

A successful, long-term approach has three parts:

1) eliminate mold from the home (plus eliminate other gut-irritating and toxic chemicals);

2) eat a whole-foods diet including gut-healing vegetable and bone broths; remove all foods made with refined sugar (but some fruit and berries is okay);

3) develop a long-term rotation schedule using the anti-fungal supplements below. 

Why a rotation schedule? And why use several products? 

Fungal infections can develop resistance to any one product, even if it consists of several ingredients. To overwhelm the defenses of the fungal infection, hitting it from many sides repeatedly and frequently is needed. 

This approach will reduce candidiasis while allowing your intestine and organs to heal.

Scroll down to the end of this article to read about “Die Off,” and learn about the ups and downs of an intense healing protocol.

 

Not all antifungal supplements are suitable for breastfeeding mothers. Oregano oil is a case in point. Although oregano oil is one of our strongest anti-fungals, oregano oil sometimes reduces milk supply.  Keep oregano oil in mind for later, when you have weaned. I like this particular NOW brand because it also contains oils of fennel and ginger, and both are good for intestinal healing.

 Grapefruit Seed Extract is a strong antifungal that has a long history of use by breastfeeding mothers. With a liquid product such as this one by NutriBiotic, you can modulate your dosage from just 1 – 2 drops in a cup of water to 5 – 10 drops, taken 3 – 5 times a day.

The ability to experiment and find your best dosage gives you control. This may feel new and uncomfortable for many, as we are used to following dosage recommendations. In the case of clearing infection, and using natural products, it is useful to start with. alow dosage and build up, watching your body’s reaction. You can scale back if you notice increased fatigue or any unwellness, and then gradually increase your dosage again at a later time.

If you find the acidity of Grapefruit Seed extract to be a problem, combine the GSE with a half-teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water. This will neutralize the acidity.

Cautions: do not combine grapefruit seed extract with domperidone or fluconazole. 

Caprylic Acid is the part of coconut oil that is most strongly antifungal, and it is experienced as being particularly potent and often causing “die-off.” Start slowly, just one capsule a day. If you do not experience a “die-off” (see below), continue increasing the dosage to tolerance.

 

Acacia Fiber (also called “gum arabic”). Take up to one tablespoon daily in yogurt, juice, or water, or blended into juices and smoothies. Acacia fiber has many benefits. It is antimicrobial both against bacteria and fungus. It “smooths” and “coats” the contents of the bowels, relieving constipation. In a study1 from 2012, a daily snack of acacia fiber in yogurt with Bifidus lactobacilli improved both constipation and diarrhea in persons with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). 

 

Olive leaf extract is a home-remedy must-have, and Herbpharm is one of my favorite brands. Although olive leaf has not been safety-tested for breastfeeding, it is widely used as an herbal antibiotic by breastfeeding mothers. It is also a powerful antifungal. I would use it at a low dosage along with the other antifungal products, several times a day.

 

 

Turmeric: To fully eradicate a fungal infection, we have to dissolve the biofilms where they hide throughout the body. Some enzymes achieve this, and another way is to use turmeric. It is antifungal, antibacterial, a biofilm-buster, plus it supports lactation.

Turmeric relieves muscle aches and joint pain by acting as an anti-inflammatory. It is protective against brain damage and memory loss. Overall, it is worthwhile to learn how to “stomach” a simple dose of turmeric every day, or as needed.

“Golden milk is a popular way to drink turmeric. This product is made with dates, cardamom, ashwaganda, and other herbs that are both immune supportive and lactogenic.

I personally make for myself the simple, fast, and inexpensive version: a half-teaspoon of turmeric powder, stirred into a cup of water and quickly swallowed down. If you don’t mind the taste, a very small shake of black pepper into the turmeric is believed by many to improves its bioavailability, though I find it highly medicinal without the pepper.

 About Fungal “Die-Off”

Some people go through a phase of feeling tired, foggy-brained and toxic when using antifungal supplements. This can be due to a large and sudden die-off of the fungi.

“Die-Off” is a period of time in which your body is dealing with a flood of dead cells from the fungi. They are now in your blood and as they pass through your body and organs, you may notice sudden fatigue, brain-fog, or even a flare-up of a rash or arthritic pain.

This is a sign that the supplements are working, but that your detox organs need time to catch up with the extra detox work. Eventually, your liver will neutralize the toxins. Depending on the degree of the infection, and the pace of your liver, the symptoms of Die-Off might last 1 – 3 hours or 1- 3 days.

If this happens to you, back off the supplements, drink a lot of water, and rest. Trust that you will soon feel better.

While “die-off” sounds like bad news, it is actually very good to know about the possibility and to be mentally prepared for it. As you go forward with the treatment, the periods of Die-Off should become less strong and less frequent.

If you have access to a healthcare practitioner or MD with a foundation in “functional medicine,” they are your best bet for clarity and continuity of treatment. Functional MDs are trained to connect the dots and get a handle on these somewhat mysterious health conditions and opportunistic organisms.

 

  1. Min YW, Park SU, Jang YS, et al. Effect of composite yogurt enriched with acacia fiber and Bifidobacterium lactis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(33):4563-4569. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i33.4563

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown-Inspired Book for Breastfeeding Moms and Families

Lockdown-Inspired Book for Breastfeeding Moms and Families

In times of great uncertainty (as today, with lockdowns continuing to be enforced across the globe), knowing which specific herbs, weeds, flowers, trees, vegetables, and fruit support milk supply can build our confidence in our ability to nurture the next generation.

With this in mind, I wrote the book A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues: a Guide to Growing and Using Milk-Boosting Herbs and Foods from around the world.

Lactation-boosting plants are the “living medicine” of women’s ancient heritage, stretching all the way back to the pre-history of humankind. Many families are starting to garden, indoors and outdoors, in large and small spaces, in containers, and on countertops. This is your opportunity to re-connect with women’s ancient knowledge.

Breastfeeding is natural, but in the West, we have taken the natural out of breastfeeding by asserting that a woman’s body should function like a machine, independent of what we eat, and in spite of thousands of years of lactation-diets used around the world.

Many mothers have experienced that after receiving the guidance of a lactation consultant, a lactogenic diet helps them reach their optimal supply. Many testimonies and stories are found in the reviews for Jacobson’s book Mother Food, on amazon.com

The fact is that women have been using lactogenic food and herbs since time immemorial. Our Paleolithic foremothers discerned which plants most potently supported their milk supply and they relied on this support through times of drought and food scarcity. Breastfeeding–but also the plants that support lactation–ensured the survival of our species.

We in the West once had this knowledge, too. Sadly, it was lost after the fall of Rome in the epoch known as the Dark Ages, when medical and herbal know-how came under the jurisdiction of the Church. Women’s herbs were generally considered to be evil and were associated with witchcraft and magic, including the herbs for lactation. They were made illegal, and an attempt was made to erase them from memory.

Later, as medical schools formed in Europe, the medical profession would be practiced by men who had no first-hand experience with lactation. They were puzzled by breastfeeding difficulties but did not study the use of herbs, which were still associated with witchcraft.

As we entered modern times, medicine remained a man’s profession and the use of lactogenic herbs and foods–though used to promote milk production in dairy cattle–was dismissed as being irrelevant for women.

My recently published book helps us remember what we once knew, for instance, that common weeds such as purslane and dandelions are used to boost milk supply, as are many other plants that grow in our gardens, yards, fields, meadows, and forests.

We learn as well about studies from China, India, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan, that show how these plants actually build the mammary tissue. 

In times of great uncertainty (as today, with lockdowns continuing to be enforced across the globe), knowing which specific herbs, weeds, flowers, trees, vegetables, and fruit support milk supply can build our confidence in our ability to nurture the next generation.

With this hope in mind, I wrote the book A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues: a Guide to Growing and Using Milk-Boosting Herbs and Foods from around the world.

 

Vitamin D VIDEOS reporting Research and Practice with Covid-19

Vitamin D VIDEOS reporting Research and Practice with Covid-19

Talk to your doctor, have your vitamin D levels checked, and change your diet and take supplements if needed. See my post here for more information.

In this post, I’ll focus on videos specifically about the use of Vitamin D and Covid-19. I’ll add them on as they come to my attention.

There were many studies and online discussions about the correlation between low vitamin D and Covid-19 severity over the last year; I am starting this collection in April, 2021.

Ireland, vitamin D report – 

Dr. John Cambell April 8, 2021

Vitamin D, Covid, Milk Supply, Immunity

Vitamin D, Covid, Milk Supply, Immunity

I periodically refine and refocus my articles, so check back here for updates or sign up for Hilary’s Newsletter to be notified.

Immune-Boosting Supplements for Covid – and also for Milk Production

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the doctors I follow[i] have recommended four basic supplements to advance the immune system’s first line of defense against Covid-19. These are:

Quercetin, Zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C.

I have been taking them and I hope you have been, too.

I find it interesting that Quercetin, Zinc, and Vitamin D all support pregnancy and good lactation. As a “side-effect,” they boost the immune system specifically against viruses.

(Vitamin C is of course also important and useful, but for mothers with IGT it may best be reduced during early lactation for reasons I explain in Mother Food.)

In this post, we’ll look at vitamin D. I will write about the other supplements in following posts. Sign up to my newsletter to be notified of new articles. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called an “immunomodulator” because it enables the immune system to modulate, that is, to react quickly, flexibly and intelligently against pathogens.

At the beginning of an infection, a quick and adept response gives the immune system an edge over the disease.

People with good levels of vitamin D have fewer and less severe viral and upper respiratory diseases.

People with low blood levels of vitamin D are more prone to viral and respiratory diseases, but also to fatigue, chronic infectious and autoimmune diseases, gum disease, diabetes, brain-fog, depression and other mood disorders. In short, people with low vitamin D are immunocompromised.

Vitamin D is also involved in bone strength and in regulating insulin sensitivity–two important factors for women.

Who is at risk? 

Vitamin D is obtained from skin exposure to the sun and from specific dietary sources.

People who live in the northerly climates with cloudy skies and reduced sun exposure are at risk for low D.

People who live mostly indoors, or who wear sunscreen when in the sun, are at higher risk.

People with melanin-rich skin are at higher risk, as the melanin slows the absorption of sunrays and slows the production of D.

People whose diets exclude animal sources of Vitamin D, especially eggs, animal fat, dairy cream and fatty fish are at risk because these are our food sources of vitamin D.

As well, people with chronic health conditions or who are older can have a harder time absorbing Vitamin D from food, or converting sun exposure into vitamin D.

Supplementing Vitamin D

Even though Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and easily available, some people find it difficult to increase their blood levels of this vitamin. Here’s why:

  1. Overweight and obese persons require more time because vitamin D must first fill up the fat cells before it rises in the blood. It can take weeks, months and sometimes years of consistent supplementation.
  2. Doctors tend to under-dose vitamin D. Consistent high doses may be needed to move the dial and increase the levels.
  3. People respond differently to forms of Vitamin D3 supplementation. Combinations of different brands and types may be needed.
  4. Vitamin D should be taken with magnesium[ii] and vitamin K to prevent the displacement of calcium.

As you can see, recommending that people supplement with high doses of Vitamin D is not that simple, and considering that high dosage, multiple brands and also added magnesium and vitamin K are needed, it is not as easily affordable for low-income families.

The current definitions of levels of vitamin D are:

Deficient: Less than or equal to 10 ng/ml (25 nmol/L)

Insufficient: Between 10 ng/ml and 20 ng/ml (25 to 50 nmol/L)

Sufficient: More than 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/L)

Please consult with your doctor to learn your present level of vitamin D, and get started with your personal program. 

 

Vitamin D Supplementing Tips

In my case, several attempts to increase my vitamin D blood levels failed because the doctor’s recommended dosage was not high enough and I was not told to also supplement with Vitamin K and magnesium.

Through experience and in conversation with other patients, I found that the best way to take vitamin D is to alternate brands and types, and to take it in the morning together with a beverage or meal that includes some fat or cream, to ensure that this fat-soluble vitamin is properly digested.

I aim for about 10,000 iu a day, a dose that is considered safe for most people.[iii]

Over the last year, my vitamin D levels rose from 20 (deficient) to 60 nmol/L (sufficient).

I feel significantly safer now with higher levels of Vitamin D, especially as I also supplement with Vitamin K and magnesium.

While scientists race to produce new vaccines for new variants, we can be actively involved in keeping our immune system the most resilient that it can be.

Vitamin D and Covid

We know that persons with adequate blood levels of vitamin D rarely develop severe covid-19, and that persons with a blood level of above 40 have better outcomes.[iv]

One might ask why no public health measure has been enacted that would roll out high-dose vitamin D supplementation to those who need it most, together with vitamin K and magnesium.

The answer seems to be that our medical system is designed to respond to symptoms, to step in only after a disease is already in progress. It is not designed to be preventative, that is, to reduce susceptibility to disease by building up a person’s resiliency.

Vaccinations are supposed to act preventatively. But in fact, they only target a specific disease and do not increase the overall immune resiliency or health of a population.

Low Milk Supply Mothers

Mothers with true low milk supply are likely to have one or more of the following health issues: we are overweight or obese, have insulin resistance or diabetes, have some degree of PCOS,[v] and may have chronic health conditions.

I recall a mother in our online group MOBI who “tried everything” to build her supply without success, but finally had a significant boost when her doctor gave her a mega-boost of Vitamin D: 40,000 iu, all at once.

Her supply increase might relate to the role of vitamin D in lactation: it surely facilitates the action of calcium, an important mineral for milk production.

While do not have concrete research on the effect of vitamin D supplementation on milk production, many of us here in lactation-world believe the correspondence is significant.

Moreover, because vitamin D supplementation has shown benefit in stopping the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, its use in insulin resistance is indicated.[vi]

Low Milk Supply Mothers and COVID

Clearly, low milk supply is linked to many health conditions that are acknowledged risk factors for Covid, from insulin resistance and prediabetes to obesity, and autoimmune conditions. As these conditions are also linked to low Vitamin D, supplementation of vitamin D3 in combination with magnesium and Vitamin K may be useful in building a mother’s immune resiliency.

Sign up to Hilary’s Newsletter for updates etc.

 

[i] I will not name the doctors here, as professional medical persons may be deplatformed for suggesting that it is possible to increase immunity or build resistance to this disease, in spite of the exhaustive clinical practice showing otherwise.

[ii] Uwitonze, A.M.; Razzaque, M.S. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. J. Am. Osteopath Assoc. 2018, 118, 181–189.

 

[iii] Krul-Poel YHM, Koenders PP, Steegers-Theunissen RP, ten Boekel E, Wee MMt, et al. (2018) Vitamin D and metabolic disturbances in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A cross-sectional study. PLOS ONE 13(12): e0204748. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204748

 

[iv] Bleizgys, A. Vitamin D and COVID‐19: It is time to act. Int J Clin Pract. 2021; 75:e13748. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcp.13748

[v] Krul-Poel YHM, Koenders PP, Steegers-Theunissen RP, ten Boekel E, Wee MMt, et al. (2018) Vitamin D and metabolic disturbances in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A cross-sectional study. PLOS ONE 13(12): e0204748. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204748

 

[vi] Mahtab Niroomand, Akbar Fotouhi, Navid Irannejad, Farhad Hosseinpanah, Does high-dose vitamin D supplementation impact insulin resistance and risk of development of diabetes in patients with pre-diabetes? A double-blind randomized clinical trial, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Volume 148, 2019, Pages 1-9, ISSN 0168-8227, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diabres.2018.12.008.

Starting Sweet Potato Slips

Starting Sweet Potato Slips

In my attic office, next to a south-facing window, I’m setting up sweet potato slips.

Instead of growing them, I could just buy sweet potato slips in the garden center in the second week of May. But because it’s doable and fun, I’m growing them myself.

One method is to fill a plastic container half-way with potting soil or coconut coir or a mixture of both.

Keep the soil moist but not sopping. Keep it in a set-up that holds humidity. Give it sunlight, too, and open the container every day to let out some of the extra moisture to prevent mold. Add water as needed.

In a month or so, several “slips” (leaf shoots ) will be a few inches long. They can then be removed and put in a glass of water, to develop a set of roots.

It is now March 7. In mid-May, the slips will be planted. Beneath the soil, lots of tubers will grow, so in autumn we’ll have a small harvest. At the same time, long vines bearing edible leaves grow in abundance.

Sweet potato leaves are considered an important potential food source, both because they are nutritious and because the sweet potato will grow in near-drought conditions.

 

The leaves have been studied for their medicinal properties. They are rich in antioxidants and are strongly anti-diabetic. As a vegetable, the leaves are eaten raw or cooked like spinach.

Sweet potato leaves are listed as a galactagogue and used to support milk production in parts of Africa and Asia.

For more information, see my book A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues.

I personally experienced that #galactagarden fresh vegetables and herbs were powerful milk-boosters, stronger than herbs in capsules, tinctures, or tea.

I have risk factors for low supply: PCOS and IGT. My exploration of #galactafood led to my book Mother Food.

The fact is that mothers around the world prefer #galactafood – that is, using lactogenic ingredients in their food – instead of concentrated tea or tinctures.