Super Food Galactagogues – Foods That Increase Breast Milk
A galactagogues is a substance that is known to promote lactation in humans and other animals. It can be either synthetic, plant-derived, or endogenous (naturally produced by the body). Galactagogues are often used to help new mothers increase their milk supply or to induce lactation in situations where milk production is insufficient.
In various cultures, including in India, the use of galactagogues has been a traditional practice to support lactating mothers. These substances are believed to enhance milk production and aid in breastfeeding.
Below is a comprehensive overview of pharmaceutical, herbal, and food galactagogues that are commonly used to help increase milk production in lactating mothers.
These substances can offer different benefits and are often chosen based on individual preferences and needs. Here’s a summary of each category:
1. Pharmaceutical Galactagogues: Pharmaceutical galactagogues are medications that are designed to increase prolactin secretion and promote lactation. They are typically used when non-pharmacologic interventions are insufficient. Some commonly used pharmaceutical galactagogues include:
- Domperidone: This medication increases prolactin secretion by blocking the D-2 receptor and is often considered for mothers who have difficulty expressing sufficient breast milk. It’s relatively well-tolerated and doesn’t typically cross the blood-brain barrier, reducing the risk of certain side effects.
- Metoclopramide: Another medication that can increase prolactin levels, metoclopramide works by blocking the D-2 receptor. However, it’s worth noting that it might have some side effects like drowsiness and depression.
- Antipsychotics and Hormones: Certain antipsychotic medications and hormones like oxytocin, growth hormone, and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) can also have galactogenic effects.
- Progestogens: Progestogens like progesterone, medroxyprogesterone acetate, and cyproterone acetate can promote the development of the mammary lobules, which is important for lactation.
2. Herbal Galactagogues: Herbal galactagogues are plant-derived substances that have been traditionally used to increase milk supply. Some commonly cited herbs include:
- Torbangun (Coleus amboinicus): Used by the Batak people of Indonesia, this herb has been used as a galactagogue for centuries.
- Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum): While traditionally used, scientific evidence for its effectiveness is limited.
- Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) and Goat’s Rue (Galega officinalis): These herbs are also cited as potential galactagogues.
- Blessed Thistle, Alfalfa, Anise, Nettle, Vervain, Red Raspberry Leaf, Marshmallow Root: These are other herbs that have been claimed to have galactogenic properties, though scientific evidence may be lacking.
3. Food Galactagogues: Certain foods are believed to help increase milk production due to their nutrient content and hormonal effects. Some examples include:
- Oats & Barley: These contain compounds that can increase prolactin levels and provide balanced nutrition.
- Fennel: Both the plant and its seeds are thought to support lactation and can be included in various dishes.
- Moringa Leaf: Moringa is rich in nutrients and is considered a potent galactagogue when consumed as a powder, tea, or in smoothies.
- Nuts, especially Almonds: Almonds provide various nutrients and can help maintain milk supply during menstruation.
- Fenugreek Seeds: Fenugreek is a well-known galactagogue, but its use should be approached with caution due to potential side effects.
- Sesame and Flaxseed: These seeds contain phytoestrogens and other nutrients that promote lactation.
- Dates, Ginger, Turmeric, Shatavari Root: These foods and spices have traditional uses for supporting lactation and postpartum health.
It’s important to note that individual responses to galactagogues can vary. Consulting a healthcare professional before using any galactagogue, especially pharmaceutical ones, is essential to ensure safety and appropriate usage. For herbal and food galactagogues, being mindful of potential allergies or interactions is also recommended. Additionally, a well-balanced diet, proper hydration, and frequent breastfeeding or pumping sessions are key components in maintaining a healthy milk supply.
It’s important to note that while some women may experience positive effects from galactagogues, not all individuals will respond to these substances in the same way. Lactation and milk supply can be influenced by a variety of factors including hormonal balance, breastfeeding frequency, and overall health.
Before using any galactagogue, it’s recommended for individuals to consult with a healthcare provider, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions or taking other medications, to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these substances.