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Beating Candidiasis (fungal infection) with Breastfeeding-Friendly Supplements

Beating Candidiasis (fungal infection) with Breastfeeding-Friendly Supplements

Beating Candidiasis (fungal infection) with Breastfeeding-Friendly Supplements

Candidia albicans is a common fungus that lives in parts of the body such as in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina. Normally, candida albicans (and similar fungi and bacteria) is not a concern. However, if it becomes dominant, it can enter the bloodstream and colonize internal organs such as the kidney, heart, or brain. Candidiasis is the clinical name for this overgrowth, and we can have a mild case and be unaware of the infection, or it can break out and be symptomatic, for instance as vaginal, nipple, or oral thrush. 

Fungus has an affinity for moist tissue. You might have experienced vaginal thrush and used an insertable cream to beat back the infection. “Beat back” is key. We do not want to completely eradicate the fungus. It is just one member of a community of bacteria that make up the body’s microbiome. The variety and balance of these members-the bacteria, viruses and parasites in this microbiome-has a profound effect on our health. We want to reduce the fungus and then to keep those numbers low over a period of time, so that the microbiome can establish a better balance and the immune system recover. Otherwise, we might have repeat infections.

Nipple Thrush

Many breastfeeding mothers are familiar with a painful fungal infection of the nipple called thrush. Again: it occurs when the microbiome is out of balance, and unable to prevent fungal overgrowth.

When I lived in Switzerland, I learned that nipple thrush is practically unknown in that country. Why? For starters, Swiss doctors do not over-prescribe antibiotics, many of which degrade the microbiome. The Swiss also typically eat a whole-foods diet including fresh fruit and vegetables. The Swiss are also very cleanly, regularly changing sheets, vacuuming and wiping down surfaces, cleaning the fridge, etc. Importantly, the weather in Switzerland is rarely humid, and humidity increases the growth of fungus. Those of us who live in high humid parts of the world need to take extra care to maintain the balance of the microbiome and to keep the home clean.

Leaky Gut 

Candidiasis (and similar fungi) is a major contributing cause to a condition called leaky gut or permeable intestine. Here, the cells of the intestinal lining are not tightly bound together, opening spaces between them or “holes” through which tiny food molecules and toxins can pass through into the bloodstream. See my article on priming the baby during pregnancy for colic and food allergies. 

Candidiasis is opportunistic: 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 constant brain fog,  often also have a systemic candidiasis infection. (Systemic means that it is found in multiple parts, or systems, of the body.) 

Resolving fungal infection can be tricky – but absolutely worth the trouble as it is an essential step toward re-balancing and strengthening the immune system.

The short-term use of an anti-fungal medication called Nystatin is considered generally safe for a breastfeeding mother. If you develop thrush, talk to your lactation expert to learn what you can do to resolve the infection and prevent its return.

Re-balance the microbiome and strengthen the immune system against candidiasis

A successful, long-term approach has three parts:

1) eliminate mold from the home (also eliminate irritating and toxic chemicals);

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

3) rotate herbal supplements that have strong anti-fungal properties. We alternate these supplements to prevent the fungus from developing resistance to any one of them. In order to overwhelm the defenses of the fungal infection, hitting it from many sides repeatedly and frequently with different kinds of  anti-fungal herbal supplements is what works. 

This long-term approach does not quickly eradicate the fungus, but it does slowly reduce the fungus while allowing your immune system to become stronger and more effective against the fungus, 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.

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. See the suggested products, listed below.

Do not use oregano oil 

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 the acidity of Grapefruit Seed extract irritates your digestive system, 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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 what is 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 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 intestines 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 firstborn 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

 

 

 

 

 

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