Breastfeeding women are often interested in body cleansing programs, since many fear that unidentified toxins will contaminate breast milk. While it is important for nursing mothers to live a healthy lifestyle, many of the body-cleansing programs sold in health food stores are inappropriate for breastfeeding moms. The harsh laxatives and diuretics in these products can harm the mother and baby by drawing precious water and nutrients out of the body-- and nursing moms need as much nutrition as they can get. Fortunately, there are safe alternatives.
Most body-cleansing programs include "liver detox" formulas, which contain liver-supporting herbs like andrographis and milk thistle. Lactation experts like Dr. Jack Newman note that herbs are very unlikely to have any effect on the baby, since only trace amounts can find their way into breast milk. Still, because these herbs have not been studied for use in breastfeeding mothers, it is wise to avoid them except under special circumstances. Breastfeeding women with diagnosed liver disease may choose to use these compounds under the guidance of a physician, but the potential benefits are not worth the risks for the majority of patients.
A safer liver detox may also be the simplest (and cheapest). Consume a diet containing few foods that tax the liver. Eliminate organ meats and alcohol, which can severely tax the liver, and increase your intake of raw fruits and vegetables. Salads made with dandelion greens-- traditional liver-support herbs-- may also be useful.
Colon cleansing is one of the most popular forms of body-cleansing, and it can also be one of the most dangerous. Most colon-cleanse programs use strong stimulant laxatives like cascara sagrada and senna, which can cause cramping, fluid loss, nutrient loss and diarrhea. The loss of nutrients and fluid can be dangerous for a nursing mother.
While there is little evidence to support the routine use of laxatives for cleansing, there is no doubt that a high-fiber diet can help to detoxify the colon and support general well-being. Nursing moms can use fiber sources, like psyllium supplements and fresh vegetables, to provide cramp-free colon cleansing. Aloe vera, which lubricates bowel movements, can also be useful and is safe for nursing moms.
Body cleansers often utilize strong herbal diuretics to flush fluid from the body. While this can enable temporary weight loss through dehydration, it does little to support the overall health of the kidneys-- and it may actually damage them in the long run. Because breastfeeding women have a high need for fluids, diuretic herbs are especially dangerous.
Cranberries are a lactation-friendly supplement that actually will support the health of the urinary tract. Nursing mothers can safely consume cranberry extract in the form of a capsule or tablet, or they can enjoy a tall glasses of cranberry juice each day. Healthy food choices are the safest, most effective detox program for everyone-- especially nursing mothers.
- Newman, Jack MD. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers- 2000.