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 thrush. However, 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.
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.
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.
- 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