Beating Candidiasis safely while breastfeeding
Beating candidiasis—or any chronic condition or infection—while breastfeeding presents a dilemma.
On one hand, you want to avoid medications that could introduce toxins into your breast milk; on the other, you don’t want to suffer the symptoms and side effects caused by untreated pathogens, which can exacerbate the fatigue and mental fog that we, as mothers, already tend to experience in full measure.
This post provides practical guidance on this topic, and it’s advisable to consult a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor for personalized care.
What sets this article apart is its focus on supplements with a track record of safe use among breastfeeding mothers.
Bonus: several of these supplements, such as turmeric (in golden milk), acacia fiber, and caprylic acid, also show promise in boosting milk production.
Could it be Candida?
Candida albicans is a common fungus that typically resides in warm, moist areas of the body, such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina. Usually, it’s harmless and part of the body’s natural microbiome. Problems arise when an already weakened immune system allows this fungus to multiply uncontrollably, leading to an overgrowth known as candidiasis. This condition can range from mild, causing barely noticeable symptoms, to severe, manifesting as conditions like thrush in various parts of the body. As well, fungal infections can penetrate into the bloodstream, and surround organs like the kidneys and bladder, complicating our common urinary tract infections.
With treatment, the goal isn’t to eliminate candida entirely; it plays a role in our body’s microbial community. Using treatments like insertable creams can help manage an overgrowth, but the aim is balance, not eradication.
Why is balance so important? Our microbiome—made up of various bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites—has a significant impact on our overall health. Keeping candida in check allows the microbiome to stabilize and gives your immune system a chance to recover. Otherwise, you risk recurrent infections and further complications.
Breastfeeding mothers can experience 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 also value cleanliness, 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.
Candidiasis (and similar fungi) is a major contributing factor in a condition called leaky gut or permeable intestine. Here, the cells of the intestinal lining are not tightly bound together. Spaces open between them, microscopic “holes” through which tiny food molecules and toxins pass through. 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 brain fog, frequently also have a systemic candidiasis infection. (Systemic means that it is found in multiple parts, or systems, of the body.)
Resolving a 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 nipple thrush, first talk with your lactation expert to learn what you can do to resolve the infection. For a long term solution, take the steps listed below in the next sections.
Re-balance the microbiome and strengthen the immune system against candidiasis
A successful, long-term treatment 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 also 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 a consistent healing protocol.
Why Use a Rotation Schedule and Multiple Products?
Fungal infections are pretty resilient. They can learn to resist and evade one anti-fungal product, even if it contains several ingredients. So, to effectively deal with infection and overcome its resistance, it’s best to use a complex, multi-product strategy. This means you’re hitting it from all angles, over and over again.
Take a look at the products we suggest below for this approach. Combine two or three at a time, and alternate and change up your combinations every week.
Avoid Oregano while breastfeeding
It’s important to choose the right antifungal supplements when breastfeeding. Oregano oil is a case in point. Although it is highly potent in combating fungal infections, oregano oil sometimes reduces milk supply. It’s better to wait until you’ve finished breastfeeding before you start using oregano oil. A good brand for later could be the NOW oregano oil capsules, which also includes fennel and ginger oils. These oils contribute to intestinal healing, further boosting your post-breastfeeding health journey.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
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.
Grapefruit Seed Extract is a potent antifungal that many breastfeeding mothers have used effectively. NutriBiotic offers a liquid version of this extract, allowing you to adjust your dosage as needed. You might start with just 1-2 drops in a cup of water, and gradually increase to 5-10 drops, taken 3-5 times a day.
The ability to adjust dosage is empowering. We’re often accustomed to strictly following dosage guidelines, but when dealing with infections and using natural products, it’s beneficial to start with a lower dosage. Pay attention to your body’s response. If you notice increased fatigue or other symptoms of die-off (see below), you can decrease the dosage accordingly. Once the die-off phase has passed, you have the option to increase the dosage again, always being mindful to follow your body’s cues.
Caprylic Acid, the component of coconut oil known for its strong antifungal properties, is often quite potent and frequently triggers a ‘die-off’ reaction. It’s best to introduce this gradually – starting with just one capsule a day. If you don’t experience a ‘die-off’ (see below), you can safely continue to incrementally increase the dosage according to your body’s tolerance.
As an added benefit, the caprylic acid also increases in your breast milk, thereby enhancing some of the immune benefits for your baby.
Consider Acacia Fiber, also known as “gum arabic.” You can take up to one tablespoon daily, adding it to yogurt, juice, water, or blending into juices and smoothies. This fiber offers numerous benefits – it serves as an antimicrobial agent against both bacteria and fungus, it ‘soothes’ and ‘coats’ the bowel contents, aiding in relieving constipation. In a study from 20121, consuming a daily snack of acacia fiber mixed with yogurt and Bifidus lactobacilli showed an improvement in both constipation and diarrhea among individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is a must-have for any home remedy kit. It is available both as a tincture and in capsule form, with Herbpharm being one of my preferred brands and NOW offering a reliable capsule product. While olive leaf hasn’t undergone safety-testing specifically for breastfeeding, it’s commonly used as an herbal antibiotic by nursing mothers. Its potent anti-fungal properties make it a great addition to your anti-fungal regimen. Start with a low dosage, and incorporate it with other anti-fungal products multiple times a day.
Turmeric, the golden color of curry
This versatile spice, turmeric, is key to fully eradicating fungal infections, as it assists in breaking down the biofilms where fungi can hide within the body. Along with its biofilm-busting properties, turmeric has antifungal and antibacterial capabilities. In western countries, it’s celebrated for its anti-inflammatory traits and its ability to mitigate pain and swelling in joints and muscles. Turmeric has also been studied for its protective role against brain damage and memory loss. Incorporating turmeric into your daily routine—whether taken as a straight teaspoon mixed with water or combined with other herbs and warmed in milk—can yield long-term health benefits.
A popular turmeric-infused beverage is ‘Golden milk‘. This drink blends ingredients like dates, cardamom, and ashwagandha with other herbs that not only support immune function but also aid in milk production. Intriguingly, many of these immune-boosting ingredients are also renowned for their use in postpartum diets.
Understanding “Die-Off” or the Healing Crisis
When taking antifungal supplements, or implementing any strong and consistent protocol against a chronic infection, some individuals experience a phase characterized by feelings of fatigue, mental fog, and general malaise. This phenomenon is often attributed to a rapid die-off of the fungi and other pathogens that may also be killed by the protocol.
“Die-Off” refers to a timeframe during which your body must deal with a surge of dead fungal cells entering your bloodstream. As these cells circulate through your body and organs, you might experience intensified fatigue, confusion, rashes, or even arthritic pain. Any chronic symptoms that you’ve had may temporarily become worsened.
This reaction indicates the effectiveness of the supplements. It also suggests that your detoxification organs, particularly the liver, are overwhelmed by the extra detoxification demands. Once the liver manages to neutralize these toxins, the “die-off” symptoms will subside. Depending on the severity of the infection and the efficiency of your liver, these symptoms could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
If you encounter these symptoms, it’s wise to reduce the supplement dosage, hydrate generously, and ensure ample rest. Remember, this is a temporary phase, and you’re likely to feel rejuvenated with more energy soon after.
While the term “die-off” may sound ominous, being informed about its potential occurrence can mentally equip you to endure the temporary hardship. As treatment progresses, these “die-off” episodes should diminish in intensity and frequency.
For those seeking further guidance, holistic healthcare practitioners or MDs specializing in functional medicine can provide invaluable insights. These experts are adept at unraveling the complexities of such health conditions, and managing the behaviors of 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
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