Q & A: On a cleanse while breastfeeding?

This week I received an excellent comment:

"On a cleanse diet"? are you still breastfeeding?  do the toxins leach in to breastmilk?  I’m just curious, because I’m interested in doing a cleanse and I’m breastfeeding my baby.  Any info you have regarding that would be great.

Erin’s comment was in response to the fact that I am currently on a Candida cleanse, for yeast and parasites, which I wrote about in this earlier post.

The actual reason that I even sought help at all from my Naturopath while still breastfeeding was actually for the sake of my son, not really for myself. He has had eczema since late November, and I was very concerned about him being sensitive to things that were in my diet.

When I took him in for a food screening, it was also recommended that I have myself screened as well, since he wasn’t really eating solids at the time, but was basically 100% breastfeed. What we discovered was that I was a 9/10 on the Candida scale, and even though he isn’t eating "food" yet, he was already a 3/10 on the scale and showed possible parasites as well.

So, although the purpose of my cleanse is somewhat for me, it is actually mostly for him, as he is receiving much of the unhealthiness in my body right now, through my milk. As well, my Naturopath is a mother of young children herself, and a strong advocate of breastfeeding, and would not have put me on a diet or supplements that she did not believe were safe for my son.

When most people talk about a "cleanse" or a "detox", they are talking about a very extreme diet where they are partially or completely fasting, a mono-diet (where they eat only one type of food, such as rice or apples), a juice fast (where they consume only fresh vegetable and fruit juice), etc. Usually it involves caloric restrictions, and does not contain a full spectrum of nutrients.

The particular diet that I am on, while it may appear extreme to many, is actually much more mild than these types of cleanses. I am allowed to eat as much as I need or want to, and am supposed to continue to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, a few non-allergenic grains, good protein sources, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, etc. Many of my favorite foods (wheat, dairy, eggs, tomatoes, etc.) have been cut out, but my diet is still quite varied and is extremely healthy.

The main point of my diet is to weed out the foods that are currently causing a sensitive reaction in me (and therefore also in my son), as well as to cut out all forms of sugar (except for fruit, since I need the nutrients for nursing), yeast, mold, chemicals, caffeine, and many complex carbohydrates. By doing this, I will be effectively "starving" the yeast into extinction.

To assist my body in doing this, I am on one homeopathic anti-yeast remedy, which was tested to see if I or my son would react to it, as well as pro-biotics (healthy bacteria to help re-establish good intestinal bacteria for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients and a healthier immune system) and lastly l-Glutamine, which is simply an amino acid that helps to heal up a "leaky" gut that develops through Candida and creates many of these food sensitivities.

I think it is important to stress that a breastfeeding mother should never, ever diet or restrict her calories while nursing! Nor should she eliminate complete food groups (all carbs, all protein, etc.), nor should she juice fast or anything of that nature. It is perfectly reasonable to reduce consumption of harmful foods, and this is actually a very healthy lifestyle choice to make permanently! We could all use to cut out our sugar, caffeine, etc.

But please, do not hear me saying that it is safe to fast, or do a heavy detoxification or cleanse while breastfeeding! This will allow toxins being released from your body to enter your breastmilk, and may be harmful to your baby, and will quite likely also affect your milk supply, as well as the nutritional content of your milk. If you desire to do a full cleanse or detox, please wait until you are ready to wean your child and are sure that you are not newly pregnant, and most importantly, do not do it by yourself! Consult a respected Naturopath or nutritionist (or doctor, if you know one who is in tune with alternative medicine) whom you trust, who knows and is fully supportive of the fact that you are breastfeeding, and receive their assistance with whatever you do.

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  1. May I ask about the screening? Do you ask for a Candida screening?

    I’d like to be tested for this too(and also my daughter).

    Is it something the naturopath would do?

    I hope you are able to find the foods that are causing a sensitive reaction so you and your son feel better soon 🙂

  2. You have mentioned your son’s eczema before I wondered if you have ever used Avodaco oil to soothe it. My daughter had baby eczema (that she seems to have grown out of now) and it was one of the things that really made a difference. Because it is rich in vitamin E it is very healing. I get mine in the oil section of the supermarket (this is in the uk). It is a bit expensive, but you only need tiny amount.
    One word of advice… make sure you really rub it in or you can look a bit green!

  3. I keep searching for help in this area- could you recommend any websites or books that you found most helpful?

  4. Hi there,
    If anyone could help answer some questions I would really appreciate the help. I know my body is in need of a major makeover. Strange things have happened with my metabolism since my first child. I have only continued to gain weight even with breastfeeding. I’ve had traditional doctors tell me to put down the fork as if I’ve been hogging out. I have truly not changed any eating habbits but the gaining weight is still apparent. I have now had baby number two and the same pattern is happening. I weigh more now than during either pregnancy and I am breastfeeding again. I have been told that breastfeeding is supposed to help shed the pounds. I breastfed my first for just over a year and actually ended up weighing more at the end of the year than I did 9 months pregnant. I have not added food calories into my diet (in fact I sometimes feel I eat less) but I still seem to gain. I have put on a total of 60 pounds since my first child that has not shead at all. I feel really overweight.

    After my first daughter I went to a natrualpath doctor as I thought maybe he would have a good nutritional suggestion as the regular doctors just kept making me feel like a pig. He told me I had a bad case of Candida and that I had a torn gut that there was evidence of food in my blood. He also said that the amount of fat in my blood was causing the blood to clump together. He said it was a sign of very high cholesterol. I actually watched this on his screen. It was sort of scary but I didn’t like the suggestions of colonics and a very restrictive diet (especially as I like meat). So I have never gone back. Do I really have to do the colonics too? (yuck) I am thinking of maybe going back – I think I need to do something but I don’t know what is safe while breastfeeding.

    I have never gone on a cleansing diet before. I thought I should perhaps try this cleansing out but I am still breastfeeding my 3 month old baby. It’s getting a little depressing watching the scale continually going up. I’d like to perhaps have more children but do not know how safe it is for me at this rate. After reading the comments about Candida I am wondering if my baby or other daughter have it too or are at risk. Maybe even my husband? How could I put a child on a restrictive diet plan like this and make sure she still gets her protein and calcium etc required to grow her bones and muscles properly? Please advise me and explain where I can find this diet plan. Is it safe for me or do I have to wait until baby number two is no longer breastfeeding? Is it safe for my baby? I don’t want to make her sick. What about the rest of the family? Can a three year old go on a diet program like this and how? Please help anyone…

    1. @Cheryl,
      Hello Cheryl- So sorry to hear about your experience. I am now realizing how long ago you posted this, so hopefully this may still be of help. I just read an AMAZING book on exactly what you are talking about and it has helped me tremendously, I got it at Whole Foods, but you might be able to order it online, it’s called ‘Food Combining and Digestion’ by Steve Meyerowitz. Anyways, let me know if you found answers already!

    2. Cheryl – have you had your thyroid checked? I had very similar symptoms (weight gain, eczema, high cholesterol…) it turned out that I developed Hashimotos, an autoimmune disease that basically attacks and shuts down your thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. It also affected my milk production and possibly contributed to my son’s own eczema issues… It looks like your post was a while back so I hope that you have figured out what is going on – but for anyone else with a similar experience please have your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and Free T-4 levels checked through blood work with your doctor/fnp/nat.

  5. My child has baby eczema and I breast feed as well and I still find it amazing how the slightest change in my diet affects her skin condition. It always about finding that right diet combination. Thank for your interesting story.

  6. Hi,
    I too, am dealing with a 4 month old, who has severe excezma. I had terrible excezma in my twenties and went on a very similar food elimination diet. I was thinking I should do the same thing as you. Has the baby’s skin condition improved? Also, what grains are you allowed to eat?

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