The Holistic Support of Oatmeal’s Beta-Glucans
Single-Solution Health Treatments: A Limiting Belief
For decades, our medical system has promoted the idea of ‘one pill for every ill,’ blinding us to the perception of health as a holistic system. Indeed, many people live for decades in the belief that no matter how unhealthily they live, the doctor will be able to fix them with a single pill. This mindset fosters a reactive rather than proactive approach to health; it keeps us stuck in a cycle of symptom management ,rather than of true wellness. It also encourages us to undervalue the simple, accessible, and affordable steps that each of us can take to feel better.
For example, medication might relieve acid reflux symptoms, and that’s important and potentially life saving. But antacids won’t address related factors like diet or stress, and it can lead to serious side effects if taken long term. Yet most people who start with antacids stay on them beyond the safe time limit — because they do not know of any alternatives.
The Complexity of Lactation Issues
Lactation is a clear example where a one-dimensional approach falls short. Difficulties in breastfeeding can arise from various factors, from poor nutrition to systemic inflammation and thyroid imbalances. Certain medications might stimulate milk production, (metformin, thyroid meds) and should be tried under the direction of your doctor. Oftentimes, improving thyroid balance or improving insulin sensitivity is sufficient to bring the milk supply into full swing. But a holistic approach should be taken as well, to address the interrelated systems that support both milk quantity and quality.
Nutrition, Exercise, Hydration, Attitude, and Avoiding Harmful Triggers
A broader approach considers foundational aspects of health: nutrition, exercise, hydration, a positive attitude, and avoiding harmful triggers such as allergens and toxins. These aspects of health are interconnected, functioning synergistically at multiple levels. Exercise, for example, goes beyond calorie-burning: it enhances insulin sensitivity, metabolic flexibility, and mental well-being. Hydration is crucial for cellular function. The full spectrum of nutrition is indispensable to maintain optimal mental and physical well-being.
Oatmeal: a Nutritious Nerve-Tonic
Oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse, especially for lactating mothers. Its wealth of minerals and B vitamins support nerve function, earning it the reputation of a “nerve tonic.” But because oatmeal is also a rich source of a special fiber named “beta-glucans,” its health benefits go beyond what you might expect.
Beta-Glucans: The Underappreciated Part of Oats
Beta-glucans, a simple soluble fiber found in oats, barley and yeast, interact with multiple systems in your body. They modulate the immune system, balance blood sugar, and reduce inflammation. They soothe the intestinal lining and provide energy to the gut tissue. They promote good hydration; act indirectly to improve insulin sensitivity; regulate estrogen levels; and reduce cholesterol. And that’s just the short list. Because beta-glucans hold such promise, they have been studied intensely for two decades. They have shown promise in managing diabetes, in cancer prevention, and in reducing respiratory diseases.
If you have read elsewhere in this blog series about the lactogenic diet and lifestyle, you know that blood-glucose balance, reduced inflammation, good hydration and stress management are the Four Pillars of the Lactogenic Diet. Each of these pillars is supported and promoted by beta-glucans, making them an fascinating case study. By understanding what they are and how they act in the body, we glean clues for understanding the effects of many other lactogenic foods.
To conclude: good health can be regained or maintained only by following basic, accessible steps that are actually just common sense. To provide context, pharmaceutical companies have often exploited the ‘one pill for each ill’ mentality, sometimes even inventing conditions to market their medications. This practice can lead to unnecessary treatments with undisclosed long-term side effects. Patients are often not informed about these risks at the time of prescription. Meanwhile, simple lifestyle modifications and affordable, over-the-counter supplements like vitamin D3 or beta-glucans don’t receive the attention or advocacy they deserve. For a short essay on this subject see this Lancet article: An Ill for Every Pill.
- Learn more about the balance of hormones after childbirth: The Postpartum Dance of Estrogen, Insulin, and Cortisol for Milk Production.
- Learn about how the body can lose its sensitivity to insulin: Insulin Resistance: when the body's energy management falters.
- Learn more about causes of low supply that respond to dietary changes here: Causes of Low Milk Supply that respond to Lactogenic Foods and Herbs
- Learn how insulin builds the mammary gland tissue and supports milk production: Insulin impacts each stage of Milk Production – Implications for Insulin Resistance
Hi! I’m Hilary Jacobson, and I’ve been helping moms tackle milk supply issues for over 30 years. My book, ‘Mother Food,’ was a game-changer when it first came out, and I’m still at it—researching, writing, and teaching to make sure new moms get the support they need. Want to stay in the loop? Sign up to my newsletter for updates.