The natural treatment for mastitis
Mastitis is usually the result of a blocked milk duct that hasn’t fully cleared. The milk behind the duct is forced into the connected breast tissue where it causes inflammation. If not treated straight away, the duct can become infected, painful and at worst, can become a breast abscess, requiring surgical treatment.
Symptoms include – swelling, redness, hot patches in the breast, tenderness and pain. Most women feel a bit ‘flu-like’ – body aches, chills, tiredness.
The treatment options that we recommend are:
- Lifestyle and self care, including immune boosting vitamins such as zinc and vitamin C
- Regular breast milk expressing using a Medela breast pump
- Qiara, a probiotic proven to treat mastitis
- Over the counter analgesics for pain and fever, such as Nurofen and Panadol
- Antibiotics on prescription from your doctor if necessary.
Lifestyle and self-care
Rest – mastitis may be nature’s way of telling you to slow down and look after yourself! You have an infection and it is very important that you rest properly so that your immune system can fight it. Go to bed and stay there for at least 24 hours
Continue to breast feed from both sides – take your baby to bed with you and feed from both breasts as often as possible. Continuing to feed from the affected breast is very important as it encourages the milk to flow and may help to clear the blockage. It may be painful to feed from the affected breast, but you need to maintain the flow of milk, so you may need to pump or hand express every 2–3 hours if it is too sore to feed
Drink plenty of fluids – this will help to maintain the supply of milk through your breast
Have a warm shower and gently massage the area – this may help to increase the flow of milk from the affected breast. It also increases the flow of blood to the area, increasing the number of immune cells in the breast to fight infection
Vary the baby’s position at the breast – this helps the ducts to empty
Boost your immune system with good nutrition – eat a fresh, varied diet with a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Your nutritional need is high when you’re breast-feeding, and even more so when you are fighting an infection. Zinc and Vitamin C have been shown in clinical trials to boost immunity and to shorten the duration of infections.
Take analgesics for fever and pain – paracetemol and/or ibuprofen are OK to take while breastfeeding. Pain decreases your ability to produce milk, as well as suppressing your body’s ability to fight infection
Probiotics – an interesting alternative
Probiotics are good bacteria that are found naturally throughout our bodies, including in the gastrointestinal tract, vagina, skin, and also in the breast milk.
When we are healthy the good bacteria make up about 80% of the bacteria in our bodies. When this level falls and the balance of ‘bad’ bacteria is increased, health issues are more likely to occur.
Probiotics in pregnancy and breast feeding
It was once thought that babies were sterile in the womb and that bacterial colonisation of the babies gut occurred during passage through the vagina during birth. However, research has shown that the baby’s gut microflora is developed during its time in the womb, not actually during birth – babies born via caesarean section had similar gut flora to babies born via vaginal delivery.
We also now know that breast milk is not sterile, but also contains good bacteria. These bacteria are transported into the breast milk through the action of immune cells, which capture the good bacteria from the mother’s gut and carry them to the mammary glands – a process called entero-mammary circulation.
Inadequate supply of healthy bacteria in the gut of the baby during pregnancy and from the breast milk is thought to contribute to post-natal infections, and, low levels of these bacteria in the mother’s breast may be linked to mastitis in the mother.
Qiara is a probioticdeveloped through the isolation of the bacteria from the breast milk of healthy women, and the culture then grown under controlled conditions. The benefits of using these bacteria are they:
- Are known to naturally live in the breast milk
- Can be safely ingested by infants
- Are uniquely adapted to reside in the babies’ digestive tract
- Contribute to good digestion and immune function from the time of birth.
Probiotics for treatment of mastitis
Researchers have shown in a study of 352 women with mastitis that there was an absence of good bacteria in their breast milk. This study showed that the women taking probiotics had better resolution of the pain caused by mastitis and lower levels of recurrence of mastitis when compared to the group taking antibiotics.
Probiotics for prevention of infections in the baby
Another study of the probiotic strain used in Qiara was done in a group of 215 babies. They were given either Qiara or placebo. The probiotic group had almost half the number of gastrointestinal infections in the first year, and a 27% reduction in the number of infections of the upper respiratory tract.
Get in touch with the Natural Chemist to discuss the best options for you and your baby T: 1300 882 303 or at: www.naturalchemist.com.au
Hechtman L, 2014, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Sydney
Jimenez E et al, 2008, Is meconium from healthy newborns actually sterile? Res in Micro, 159: 187-193
Jimenez E et al, 2005, Isolation of commensal bacteria from umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates born by caesarean section, Curr Micro, 51: 270-274
Puremedic, 2013, Research Dossier, Human breast milk probiotics for mastitis and stronger infant immune systems, Puremedic Pty Ltd, VIC
Osiecki H, 2014, The Nutrient Bible. 9th Edn, Bio Concepts Publishing, QLD