Nipple thrush can result in some toe-curling and eye-watering breastfeeding sessions.
This is no fun when you’re doing your very best to breastfeed for as long as you can.
Understandably, you’ll probably be wanting to get rid of nipple thrush as quickly as you can.
There are some well-known, over-the-counter and prescribed treatment options available. You may have heard of Diflucan (fluconazole) and Nystatin, for example.
Even if they do work for you, they may not get rid of the underlying problem, and the nipple thrush may return. Some strains of thrush are becoming resistant to Nystatin too.
The great news is natural treatments have been proven to work just as well or even better than prescribed drugs.
How Can You Tell If You Have Thrush On Your Nipples?
Not sure if you have nipple thrush? The following symptoms might be a clue, especially if you have several of them:
- Shiny or flaky skin on the nipple or areola
- Itchy nipples
- Burning pain in the nipples
- Sore breasts (without any sore lumps or tender spots)
- Stabbing pains behind the areola
- Thrush in other areas of the body (e.g. vaginal thrush)
Does Nipple Thrush Affect Baby?
Nipple thrush can be transmitted between mother and baby.
If a mother has nipple thrush, her baby may develop oral thrush, which can make the baby’s mouth sore. As a result, the baby may refuse the breast, be more irritable and even lose weight.
A baby with oral thrush can also pass the infection onto his or her mother.
Therefore it’s important to treat both mother and baby to break the cycle.
How Do I Treat Thrush On My Nipples?
It’s important to understand a key point: thrush medications are merely a bandaid fix.
Making lifestyle and diet changes can help repair the root cause, and may prevent another round of nipple thrush (or other forms of thrush).
You must re-balance the good bacteria in your gut to sort out fungal problems for good. No matter where you get thrush on your body, the problem always begins in the gut.
If you or your baby have been prescribed antibiotics recently, the antibiotics would have wiped out all bacteria, good and bad. Or, if you’ve chosen to go on the pill, this too can increase your risk of thrush.
Synthetic vitamins and stress can also leave you more susceptible to thrush. A good naturopath can recommend a practitioner strength, quality multi-vitamin. Stress can be hard to reduce if you’re a new parent (and now you have nipple thrush!) but brainstorm ways you can reduce your stress. Even if that just means saying ‘no’ more.
No matter what treatment path you decide to take, include making changes to improve your diet, as this is highly likely why you got thrush — or can’t get rid of it. It’s also a powerful weapon against thrush.
What Foods To Eliminate In Order To Beat Nipple Thrush
Here are the main culprits when it comes to any form of thrush:
- Sugar. Thrush loves sugar. You need to eliminate as much as possible. This means no soft drinks, sports drinks, ice-cream, cordials, fruit juices, chocolate, sweets etc. Do not replace sugar with artificial sweeteners – they’re actually worse for you. Taking them may even result in you craving more sugar. Unfortunately, honey is on the no list too.
- Grains. Why? Because grains are essentially sugars and spike blood sugar levels. Avoid grains in all it’s forms, including breads, cake, biscuits, cereals and so on. Instead, opt for things like hearty salads, omelettes, soups and stir-fry meals, full of protein and vegetables. Just hold the bread.
- Processed foods. From processed meats to dairy products (like most sweetened and flavoured yoghurts), it’ll harm much more than help. If you can’t hunt it, pick it or grow it, avoid eating it!
- Caffeine. cut back or eliminate where you can. There are some great herbal teas you can have in exchange – just don’t go completely cold turkey at first or you’ll get nasty caffeine headaches.
- Alcohol. while I am sure you aren’t having any or very little, its not a good idea while you have thrush due to the sugars it contains. Alcohol is also a toxin and it can damage your immune system.
Nipple Thrush Diet Tips
Especially as a breastfeeding mother, it’s important to eat plenty of protein, fresh vegetables, leafy greens and good fats (e.g. found in avocados, fish and eggs).
In a weakened immune system, or if you’re run down, stressed or not eating well, thrush and other diseases start to run rampant.
Just like when you forget to change the water in a fish tank, after a while it starts to get murky and polluted. The fish start to look sluggish, then get sick, and so on. If you change what you’re putting in your body, you’ll feel so much better and be more resistant to health complaints like thrush.
The following foods either have anti-fungal properties or can positively boost your immune system:
- Garlic – fresh or raw is best. When crushed or chopped, you notice the trademark smell associated with garlic. A reaction occurs and this gives the garlic the potent antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. Avoid overcooking garlic, or using it after its been left out too long – this will reduce the benefits. Studies have shown garlic to be just as good and even better than some pharmaceutical medications for infections.
- Natural yoghurt – for its probiotic content. Buy organic if you can, Jalna is a good brand in Australia. However the probiotic content in yoghurt isn’t often high enough, and is not guaranteed with shelf life.
- Cinnamon. This yummy food additive has shown to have anti-fungal properties in some studies. More research is needed but so far it looks promising – and who doesn’t love cinnamon?!
- Veggies and leafy greens are so important for good health. They provide valuable nutrition and help your body to create it’s own probiotics. Be sure to include plenty in your diet, not matter if you have an imbalance or not.
- Water intake. Check your water intake and drink good quality, filtered water, as additives in tap water aren’t probiotic friendly.
- Good old fashioned chicken (cooked on the bone) and vegetable soup is nutritious and healthy. You’ll get the goodness of natural bone broth. Alternately you can look up a bone broth recipe.
Natural Treatments For Nipple Thrush
There are lots of things you can do from home to help treat thrush. Here are some suggestions in no particular order:
Nipple Thrush Treatment #1 – Probiotics
Thrush is like a battle of good soldiers and bad soldiers – so if you have nipple thrush, the bad soldiers are winning. By taking probiotics, you’re giving the good team more soldiers.
Many people are aware of yoghurt containing probiotics, but you can never be sure of the potency, due to shelf life. Often these yoghurts or other foods only contain one strain of probiotics, when there are many strains of probiotics that exist, all with different functions.
Remember, you need to treat both yourself and your baby.
You can purchase probiotics especially designed for breastfeeding mothers.
There are also probiotics available for babies too.
Nipple Thrush Treatment #2 – Coconut Oil
As well as using virgin coconut oil in your foods (or in a capsule form) you can apply it topically for a range of conditions due to its brilliant properties. Coconut oil is brilliant for a range of nipple problems and nipple thrush is no exception. You can make a paste of coconut oil and bicarb soda, even adding some probiotic to the paste.
Nipple Thrush Treatment #3 – Bicarb Soda And Vinegar
Bicarb soda and vinegar are great for so many things, even minor nipple thrush outbreaks.
Place bicarb soda on your nipples, then a bit later, some vinegar. Obviously do this right after a feed, not before!
Nipple Thrush Treatment #4 – Release The Boobies!
Get plenty of air time for your nipples, ideally spending some time in the direct sunlight.
Thrush loves damp, dark places, so making the environment unfavourable can help prevent and heal from thrush.
Nipple Thrush Treatment #5 – Keep Breastfeeding And Check Your Latch
Another big cause of nipple thrush is a bad latch.
Firstly, if you have nipple thrush, you don’t need to stop breastfeeding or start supplement with formula.
Any reduction in feeds will reduce milk supply, since milk production works on a supply meets demand basis.
Your breastmilk also supplies your baby with valuable probiotics (amongst many other important things), and while some formulas do include some probiotics, they are no comparison to live breastmilk.
Many breastfeeding problems can result from an incorrect latch. Therefore, it might be worth checking to ensure your baby is latching correctly at the breast.
Struggling with the pain of breastfeeding and don’t know what to do or if you can keep going? Please seek some help from an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) sooner than later, as these issues can spiral quickly, leaving you feeling anxious and stressed. Alternately, try the Australian Breastfeeding Association who have a helpline. In the USA, La Leche League are your go-to.
Nipple Thrush Treatment #6 – Grapefruit Seed Extract
Jack Newman, MD and IBCLC recommends trying oral grapefruit seed extract (not grape seed extract) for nipple thrush.
“The active ingredient must be “citricidal”. Use tablets or capsules, 250 mg (usually 2 tablets of 125 mg each) three or four times a day orally (taken by the mother). If preferred the liquid extract can be taken orally, 10 drops in water three times per day. Though, this is not as effective, as the pills and the taste is quite bitter. Oral grapefruit seed extract can be used before trying fluconazole, instead of fluconazole, or in addition to fluconazole in resistant cases.”
See more: Citricidal Liquid Extract.
Bonus Suggestion #7 – Get A Decent Water Filtration System
Not specific to nipple thrush (more-so whole body health), but I had to add this one in, because it’s so important.
After air, water is the next thing we’ll die without! Good quality water is essential, yet there is so much crap in our drinking water these days, its pretty much biologically dead – and wont hydrate you and give energy to all of our cells like it should.
Nasty additives in water these days (like chlorine and fluoride) are harmful to good gut bacteria. A filter which removes these from your water will not only help your gut bacteria, but your water will taste better too.
Hopefully this has given you plenty of ideas on how to tackle nipple thrush. If you would like to share any experiences or what worked for you, please leave a comment below!