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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Sow thistle – a multi-purpose “weed” that is a galactagogue

Sow thistle – a multi-purpose “weed” that is a galactagogue

Would you believe that this ugly weed that overruns gardens and fields is used by nursing mothers to support their milk supply?

Sow Thistle – Super Food for Moms

Recently, while writing on A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues, I learned that the Sow Thistle is highly nutritious and that it has been studied for its medicinal effects, especially for its ability to relieve anxiousness. [i]

Because Sow Thistles can be grown on any type of land, in a residential garden, in containers, or a rooftop garden, the Sow Thistle is viewed as a potential commercial crop. [ii]

The leaves are high in protein and fiber, potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus. They are extremely high in vitamin C. They are a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, so essential to a well-functioning immune system.

Medicinally, sow thistle is liver protective, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. They are thought to help prevent kidney and heart disease.

Main use for milk supply: leaves and stems, prepared as a concentrated broth, or as food.

Harvest: Varieties of sow thistle have differently shaped leaves. They may be soft with rounded edges (see the photos above), or tough and spiky-rimmed. The spiky leaves are tender when the plant is young, as in this photo, but as they age you’ll need to cut away the rim with scissors and soften the leaf with a rolling pin.

Food: Sow thistle leaves are delicious in early spring. They taste like sweet chard. They can be eaten in salad, boiled like spinach or sautéed in olive oil.

The unopened buds are also edible; they taste like hazelnuts.

Forgotten Galactagogue – Simmer that Thistle

Lactogenic diet: The ancient Greek doctor Dioscorides, (2000 years ago), lists sow thistle as a galactagogue.

The British herbalist Nicolas Culpeper described its use in 1653: The decoction of the leaves and stalks causes an abundance of milk in nurses.

Today, the use of sow thistle as a galactagogue is still remembered by the older generation in Italy.[iii]

Recipe: To make a “decoction” (a strong broth), simmer the leaves and stalks in water in a half-covered pot for 20 minutes. Sip a few teaspoons of the bitter liquid. Don’t overdo it.

Repeat the dose some hours later. If you tolerate it well, try repeating the dose every few hours for a few days. If after four days you notice no change, this plant is not going to have the desired effect.

Does this information intrigue you? If yes, you will enjoy my book A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues, available now on amazon. It is full of planting info plus information for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Also – good news – I am working on a book that covers the biggest and most important secrets of using lactogenic herbs and foods effectively, with information seen nowhere else before—using lots of the plants that are listed in my gardening book. 🙂

It’s exciting!

 

 

 

[i] Xiu-Mei Li & Pei-Long Yang (2018) Research progress of Sonchus species, International Journal of Food Properties, 21:1, 147-157, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2017.1415931

[ii] Xiu-Mei Li & Pei-Long Yang (2018) Research progress of Sonchus species, International Journal of Food Properties, 21:1, 147-157, DOI: 10.1080/10942912.2017.1415931

[iii] Geraci, Anna & Polizzano, Vincenza & Schicchi, Rosario. (2018). Ethnobotanical uses of wild taxa as galactagogues in Sicily (Italy). Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae. 87. 10.5586/asbp.3580.

 

 

 

 

Food Molecules pass from Mom to Baby: one cause of Infant Colic and Infant Allergy

Food Molecules pass from Mom to Baby: one cause of Infant Colic and Infant Allergy

.Nursing mothers often ask if the food they eat might be triggering their baby’s fussiness, digestive discomfort, and allergies. The answer is a cautious yesquite possibly.

We know that during pregnancy, large molecules from food can pass from a mother’s intestine into her bloodstream and reach the baby in the womb.

These molecules do not belong in the womb. Naturally, they trigger a defensive immune reaction in the baby, pre-conditioning the baby to launch another immune reaction when they encounter these same food molecules in their mother’s milk.

Leaky Gut and Prenatal Exposure

Please note: whole food molecules are not supposed to be present in the bloodstream or in the womb. They are supposed to be broken into their smallest components while in the intestine – into amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins – before being allowed into the body.

When food molecules leak into the bloodstream, it is a sign that the intestinal lining is damaged, is perforated with tiny holes that allow these larger molecules to pass through.

A permeable intestine also called a “leaky gut,” is sadly not rare. Many of us have a permeable intestine to some extent because of the foods we eat, the medications we take and the toxins we are exposed to. This means that many of our babies are exposed to food molecules while in the womb.

Researchers believe that prenatal exposure to food molecules may be a major cause of infant colic and allergy. They believe that this exposure pre-conditions unborn babies to respond with inflammation when they encounter these same food molecules later on in their mother’s milk. This is particularly the case if there is a history of allergy or autoimmune disease in the family.

A study from 2016 affirms this association. Researchers looked at the amniotic fluid from several mothers mid-pregnancy and were able to identify ten major food allergens in the fluid, including from cow’s milk, fruit, egg, fish, nuts, and wheat.1 This means that these babies were being preconditioned to respond with inflammation to these foods–and indeed, that colicky babies are in a state of mild “systemic inflammation.”7

Inflammation, Flora, Colic

Inflammation can show up in different ways in a baby. It can show up as insomnia, wheezing, rashes, eczema, fussiness, restlessness and unhappiness, and also infant colic: the severe digestive pain that repeats nearly every day in about 20% of babies, starting at 2-3 weeks after childbirth and resolving at between 3-4 months of age.

Decades ago, infant colic was a medical mystery. Even today, many pediatricians, MDs, and pediatric nurses are not up-to-date on the research and do not know the causes or best treatments for infant colic. Because it is fairly common (20-40% of all babies worldwide) infant colic has been normalized. Instead of receiving useful information, parents are often patted on the back and assured that colic is normal and will pass.

Another area of research has looked into the intestinal flora of colicky and non-colicky infants. It turns out that the intestinal flora of colicky babies is colonized by fewer strains of helpful bacteria and yeasts compared to the flora of non-colicky infants. The “depleted” flora of colicky babies makes their intestine more permeable and more prone to inflammation.

Research shows that the quality of the intestinal flora is better in babies who have been born vaginally and who are breastfed and that these babies have less infant colic. However, not all vaginally born and breastfed babies are free of infant colic–far from it.

In any case, a 2020 study examined the very first stool of meconium after childbirth of babies who went on to develop infant colic and those who did not, and found that the difference already exists at this time.2

Mom’s own Health Impacts her Baby

 

Other research has noted connections between the mother’s diet during pregnancy as well as her long-term health history and her baby’s tendency to develop allergies and develop other health problems.3 4

Researchers are actively looking into ways to improve the mother’s diet and intestinal health, so as to bring improvement to both the mother and her prospective children.5

This is doubly important because research now also documents that infant colic–once considered normal and harmless–is predictive of digestive problems, allergy, and even learning and neurological problems later in life.6

I personally take infant colic very seriously, having gone through it with my first-born and wishing I had known then what I know now. In my book Mother Food I describe many of these entangled factors and suggest ways to unwind them and improve everyone’s health and wellbeing. I believe it is possible to prevent infant colic or to improve the symptoms of infant colic, in almost all cases, and that this should be a top priority for new parents and their healthcare providers.

For more information about treating candidiasis naturally (fungal infection is a common component of a permeable intestine and the proclivity for allergies and autoimmune disease) see the article here.

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This blogpost began by answering the question: does the food that a mother eats somehow get into her milk and trigger her baby’s colic? The short answer is yes. The long answer has to do with the mother’s permeable intestinal lining, with a baby’s depleted flora, and with other factors that influence the baby’s proclivity to develop allergies. Indeed, many areas of research today are describing links between a mother’s health and her baby’s tendencies toward health or disease.

If you find this article interesting and you would like to do more to reduce inflammation and improve your own and your family’s long-term health, consider purchasing my book Mother Food:

 

 The good news is that parents can improve their own and their baby’s intestinal flora and resilience to inflammation and that the long-term benefits for the entire family are significant.

 

  1. Pastor‐Vargas, C, Maroto, AS, Díaz‐Perales, A, Villalba, M, Esteban, V, Ruiz‐Ramos, M, de Alba, MR, Vivanco, F, Cuesta‐Herranz, J. Detection of major food allergens in amniotic fluid: initial allergenic encounter during pregnancy. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2016: 27: 716– 720.
  2. Korpela, K., Renko, M., Paalanne, N. et al. Microbiome of the first stool after birth and infantile colic. Pediatr Res 88, 776–783 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-020-0804-y
  3. Kim et al., Maternal Perinatal Dietary Patterns Affect Food Allergy Development in Susceptible Infants. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice 7:2337-2347.e7 (2019) 10.1016/j.jaip.2019.03.026
  4. Rhoads et al., Infant Colic Represents Gut Inflammation and Dysbiosis, The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018: 203: 55-61.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.07.042.
  5. 1.Hurd L. Optimizing the Microbiome and Immune System With Maternal Diet in Pregnancy and Lactation May Prevent Food Allergies in Infants. ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition. 2015;7(4):212-216. doi:10.1177/1941406415595861
  6. Savino, F., Castagno, E., Bretto, R., Brondello, C., Palumeri, E. and Oggero, R. (2005), A prospective 10‐year study on children who had severe infantile colic. Acta Pædiatrica, 94: 129-132. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2005.tb02169.x
  7. Pärtty, Anna; Kalliomäki, Marko; Salminen, Seppo; Isolauri, Erika Infantile Colic Is Associated With Low-grade Systemic Inflammation, Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: May 2017 – Volume 64 – Issue 5 – p 691-695 doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001340

 

 

A Poem for Gardening Mothers

A Poem for Gardening Mothers

Blue Borage Time

Your furry leaves and blue starflowers

Summon bees at all the hours,

Throughout spring and throughout summer,

Summon all the honey mummers.

 

How their nimble legs alight

Upon your blossoms’ azure shade,

They stop and nip your sticky dew,

Then fly away. 

Those bumbles, yellows, tiny blues,

Drunk – imbibing your sweet nectar –

Take no note of this defector

Spellbound by the view.

 

All I long for, all day long

As here I sit and hear their song,

(the buzz and zip as they dash past,

performing their important task ) 

Is just to sit and sit just here

‘Til your blue starflower light appear.

Sweet borage light—so brief, and clear!

When furry leaves wilt and winter is near,

Restore my will to grow,

Renew my strength to grieve,

For all new life will pass,

All starflowers go to seed.

Hilary Jacobson, 2020