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.

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.

*

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

 

 

Calcium – its role for lactation

Calcium – its role for lactation

 

 Apricots — one of our strongest lactogenic fruit, and especially rich in calcium.

Calcium and magnesium work together to maintain healthy nerves, strong muscles, and a rhythmic heartbeat. In the brain, they promote neural activity and act as a natural antidepressant. A lack of calcium and magnesium can lead to insomnia, irritability, exhaustion, mental confusion, heart rhythm problems, and depression, among other difficulties, in adults. In children, a lack of these minerals has been implicated in allergic and behavioral disorders.

Calcium and magnesium may also be crucial to maintaining a good supply of milk. It is recommended that we supplement these minerals together, in a ratio of two or three times as much calcium as magnesium, or 2-3:1. Some experts, however, suggest we supplement on a ratio of 1:1, as many people are sorely deficient in magnesium.

 

 

 

 

Black Sesame – rich in calcium, and a strong galactagogue food

1000 mg of calcium is the daily requirement—1200 mg for breastfeeding women—in the US. Many adult women are deficient in calcium in spite of a diet rich in calcium-fortified foods. What is wrong with this picture? Traditional peoples around the world get far less calcium than we do: 400 – 600 mg of calcium per day is the norm. Even so, there are seldom signs of calcium deficiency in cultures that have maintained their whole-foods diet.

Check out Weston A. Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration for photographic documentation of the teeth of indigenous peoples, before and after they began eating a diet of refined foods. In the before pictures, we see wide jaws and beautiful strong teeth, free of cavities. The after pictures feature the narrow jaws and crooked teeth so common to industrialized societies.

The reason Americans lack calcium is not that we eat too little calcium-rich foods, but because our diet causes calcium to be leeched from our bones and teeth. We can make better use of our calcium intake by improving our dietary habits.

 

 

 

Almonds are calcium-rich, and a very lactogenic nut.

Foods that Deplete Calcium:

Fibrous bulk is sometimes taken to reduce appetite and to promote regular bowel movements. Minerals bind to this fiber in the intestine, so that they pass through the intestine rather than into the bloodstream.

Protein. We often eat meals that are too heavy on protein (meat, eggs, milk). Excess protein is acid-forming. In order to protect tissues in the body from acidity, the body uses calcium to neutralize the acid. This is another reason that a high-protein diet can lead to a depletion of calcium.

Diuretics. Foods and medication that stimulate the kidney will cause minerals, including calcium, to be excreted into the urine. Herbal diuretics, such as nettle and dandelion, restore the minerals that they cause to be lost. Excessive protein will also cause the kidneys to go into overdrive and will lead to a loss of calcium.

Caffeine causes calcium to be excreted with urine. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and most carbonated beverages.

Excessive salt also causes calcium to be excreted with urine.

Phosphorus has to be in the right balance for calcium metabolism to work. Too little phosphorus prevents the body from using calcium. Too much and the excess phosphorus binds to calcium, pulling it right out of the bones.

Foods that are high in phosphorus are: dairy, meat, white flour, and carbonated soft drinks. These foods cause calcium to be pulled out of the bones—which is why people who eat meat regularly need to supplement with higher dosages of calcium.

Sugar decreases phosphorus in the blood. After eating sugar, phosphorus is so low that the body is unable to utilize calcium.

Keep Calcium in Your Bones

Reduce caffeine, white sugar, and table salt. Most people overdose on the sugar and salt found in processed foods, snacks, candy, and junk foods. Eat a whole-foods diet, and chose natural sugar sources that are rich in minerals—blackstrap molasses, malt syrup, maple syrup or honey. Use a quality, contaminant-free ancient sea salt, such as the affordable and easily available product RealSalt, derived from the ancient sea beds of Utah.

Limit animal protein—roughly three small to moderate servings a day, balanced with vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruit.

Sunlight. At least twenty minutes of sunlight each and every day on exposed skin, such as bare arms and legs, will provide the vitamin D necessary to utilize calcium, if you are a young, healthy person. (Sun through a window is not adequate.)

For most of us, sufficient daily exposure to sunlight is not possible and it is necessary to supplement with vitamin D.

Building sufficient amounts of vitamin D is essential to having a fully functioning, robust immune system.

 

Your Title Goes Here

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

The History of Beer as a Galactagogue

The History of Beer as a Galactagogue

To my readers – I apologize that I have not found the time to polish this article since updating the website.

 

Starting in Sumer

 

The beer used by breastfeeding mothers historically to increase milk supply is different from the beer we drink today, though some modern beers are similar.

 

The ancient civilizations of Sumer and Egypt discovered the secrets of malting and brewing over three thousand years ago, using the barley grain. Barley is thought to be the first grain ever cultivated by humans, about 10,000 BCE. It contains a certain polysaccharide that increases the milk-production hormone prolactin, and barley is used around the world in many different forms as a milk-supply boosting galactagogue.

 

According to pictorial hieroglyphs, women and slaves were involved in the labor of large scale beer production in Egypt. Later, in Greek and Roman times, barley was just one of many ingredients that might be freely combined in a variety of alcoholic recipes. When these ingredients included lactogenic herbs and fruit, the effect was doubtless noticed by breastfeeding women. The Greek doctor Dioscorides (1st century C.E.) gives us an alcoholic beverage to increase milk supply. It was made using dried black figs, freshly pressed grapes, fennel and thyme–all of which are known lactogenic ingredients. The Greek surgeon Antyllus (2nd century CE), mentions a fermented grain beverage that was combined with the crushed unripe seeds of the sesame plant and crushed palm dates–another potential galactagogue. In all likelihood, these were just two of many beverages that were enjoyed by breastfeeding women across the ancient world.

 

Moving on to Europe

 

During the Dark Ages, when the skills and knowledge of the ancient world were largely forgotten (suppressed), the art of brewing was kept alive in monasteries across Europe. Eventually, however, with the growth of farmsteads, brewing techniques again passed into the hands of women as domestic work. Each thriving family farm brewed its own beer, and the term “Brewster”  referred to a woman who brews in her home.

 

Brewsters used barley and other grains with a range of herbs added in for their taste and medicinal properties. The preferred herbs had a bitter taste to balance the sweetness of the grain, were antiseptic to keep the drink free of pathogens, and were anti-parasitic (for instance, they killed intestinal worms). Lactogenic herbs such as pepper, cinnamon, coriander, caraway and anise were also used in brewing. They might have been added in when the Brewster was breastfeeding. Mind-altering, narcotic and sexualizing herbs might also be used in brewing. Such drinks were later ascribed to the practice of witchcraft and were forbidden.

 

Hops flowers, a bitter, relaxing and slightly narcotic herb, and an herb which reduces sexual drive and potency, eventually became standard for brewing. Hops is an estrogenic galactagogue with a strong reputation for the milk-ejection reflex. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), an influential nun, author, herbalist, songwriter and philosopher of her day, is said to have strongly advocated for hops as the standard herb used in beer. My guess is that Hildegard knew what she was doing for mothers. Thank you, Hilde!

 

For several centuries, brewing remained domestic work. It eventually became a source of family income, with beer sold through local pubs or directly from the farm. As economies began to evolve, however, the upper classes passed laws that successfully suppressed these small family businesses. Brewing recipes were strictly regulated, and fees and fines imposed. Brewing became impractical for small domestic breweries and pub houses, so the way was free for large industrial breweries that have prospered to the present day.

 

The predatory nature of industry, and the collusion of industry with the wealthy class and government is illustrated in this example with beer. Small breweries today are attempting to break free from the stranglehold of big industry. If you enjoy beer, I urge you to support them!

 

Guinness, one of the big breweries, specializes in stout that is made with barley malt and barley grain. The added grain makes the stout “silkier” and “thicker” due to  beta-glucan, the polysaccharide (long-chained sugar molecule) in barley that increases prolactin. It makes  sense that Guinness would be the commercial beer most frequently recommended today by breastfeeding mothers, as it is one of the very few to still contain beta-glucan. (See my article Malt as a Galactagogue for more information on beta-glucan in brewing.)

 

Beginning in the early 1500s, German law limited the ingredients to be used in beer to barley, hops, yeast, and water. Reasons for this  went beyond taste preferences. By prohibiting the use of wheat, more wheat was available to bake bread. But limiting the ingredients also forced various other types of beer into obscurity. It effectively got rid of competition as the law formed a protective barrier to the importation of foreign beer. These restrictions would come to influence the international production of beer, as brewers in neighboring countries conformed to the restrictions of the large German market so that they could compete there.

 

Today, almost all major brewers incorporate “extra” ingredients such as corn, rice, wheat or oats into their brews. Luckily for breastfeeding mothers, the “pure” ingredients defined by German-type beer, barley, malt, hops and yeast, are intensely lactogenic. This is why classical European beer is recognized by breastfeeding mothers as the best beer-type galactagogue.

 

Once upon a Beer

 

Alcohol is anti-galactagogue. Studies on animals and humans show that alcohol impairs the milk ejection reflex, slows the flow of milk, and leads to a reduced intake of milk by the baby during approximately four hours after drinking. Because of the back-up of milk, the breast feels fuller. Because the flow of the milk is slower, it requires more time for a baby to remove milk from the breast. Because the breast feels fuller and the baby drinks longer, researchers say the mother believes that her baby is drinking more milk.

 

However, in traditional beer, particularly the “small beer” and “second brew” (see next section), lower levels of alcohol are present in the beer. In this case, the lactogenic ingredients used in brewing may prevail over the effect of the alcohol. Other factors that can override the anti-galactagogue effect would be whether the mother drinks the beer on an empty stomach, and how soon after drinking she breastfeeds again. It is likely that if several hours pass between drinking and nursing, the effects of the alcohol will have worn off, and the effects of the lactogenic ingredients will still be potent.

 

This seems to be the case, according to reports by exclusively pumping mothers. Pumping mothers will not be fooled by how their breasts feel or how long their baby drinks. They report that by drinking one glass of beer in the evening (beer rich in barley or hops, such as Guinness Dark Stout or non-alcoholic, malty St. Pauli Girl), they pump measurably  more milk the next day. Some also say that they have more and stronger let-downs at the pump that same evening.

 

Small Beer – Big Effect

 

Historically, the beer used by mothers to increase their supply was nutritionally rich and low in alcohol. In home brewing, the so-called “mashing” (or boiling of malt, grains and herbs) was performed twice with the same grains and herbs. Whereas the first mashing returns a strong alcoholic beer, the second mashing returns a low-alcoholic beverage called “small beer” that was loosely filtered—a thin, porridge-like fluid that could practically be eaten!

french poster beer breastfeeding

She who buys her beer at the store is happier and healthier than the mom who makes beer herself at home. Thus do industries undermine women’s competence and self-confidence.

Up until 150 years ago, “small beer” was viewed as a healthy, nutritious beverage that could be given to children, servants, to men performing hard labor, and to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. In Germany, the second mash was called “Nährbier,” meaning, literally, “nutritional beer.” Into the mid-20th century, Nährbier was produced in Germany commercially and  recommended to breastfeeding mothers as nutrition and to enhance their milk production.
This then is the typical historic beer used by breastfeeding mothers: stronger in nutrition, weaker in alcohol. It is quite a different brew from any commercial beer today.

 

It is important to keep this in mind. Our typical, light-colored alcoholic beers do not contain enough lactogenic ingredients to counteract the anti-galactagogue effects of alcohol. These beers can lead to a decrease in supply! Non-alcoholic beer, however, especially if rich in barley or hops, can be a good galactagogue.

 

Our Grandmothers were Right!

 

Clearly, our foremothers knew what was happening in their bodies. They would use either a classic stout-type beer, rich in beta-glucan, to support their milk supply, or they would drink “small beer.”

 

The British OBGYN, Charles Routh, writes about beer in his book Infant Feeding and Its Influence on Life (1869). He writes that too much beer and not enough food will reduce supply and risk alcoholism. For these mothers, he suggests one oz of beer taken together with one oz cream (delicious!) every few hours–I believe he was weaning these mothers off of their beer habit. He also recommends certain stouts/ales used by successful wet-nurses.

 

Malt Beer

Malt and Hops – the ingredients of beer – long understood to be a support for mothers after birth.[/caption]

During the 19th century, “temperance movements” formed in many countries around the world to discourage the use of alcohol. In response, beer industries produced  non-alcoholic beer-like beverages using hops, yeast and malt. In the US, malt beer was called Near-Beer; in Germany, Malz-Bier, and in France, bière de nourrice, or “wet-nurse beer.” All were recommended as nourishing beverages for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and were reported to support milk supply.

 

Malt is derived from barley grain, and both as gooey malt syrup and as a powder is a widely used historic galactagogue.

 

Today, many new brands of malt-beer are available commercially. The best known is Guinness Malta. Malt beers are very popular in South America, Africa and Israel. Many mothers swear that Malta helps support their supply.