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Popular Galactagogues: Critical Considerations Before You Consume



 

Galactagogues are foods or herbal supplements that can help increase milk supply. Evidence is mixed but many breastfeeding women report an increase in supply when galactagogues are used. They are generally easy to consume, often well tolerated, inexpensive and readily available. Galactagogues can be helpful as part of a comprehensive plan for low milk supply management but can have significant health consequences for some individuals. There is not a “one size fits all approach” and galactagogue choice should be guided based on your unique health history and lactation goals.

 

If you are considering a galactagogue, I highly recommend discussing first with your IBCLC or knowledgeable health care Provider. When galactagogues are taken without professional guidance, there is a missed opportunity for safety counseling and you may be unknowingly putting yourself at risk. Two of the most popular galactagogues I encounter in my practice are Fenugreek and Moringa. They work great for many lactating people but both have safety issues that you should aware of if you are considering as part of your plan.

 

Did you know Fenugreek and Moringa can impact your blood sugar?

 

Do not take Fenugreek or Moringa if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

 

Quite often, low milk supply is related to underlying insulin resistance. If you have not had labs drawn as part of your low milk supply investigation, then you likely don’t know your blood glucose and insulin levels. If you have a known history of impaired glucose metabolism like hypoglycemia, diabetes or gestational diabetes, you should not take fenugreek or moringa. Both can decrease blood sugar levels and increase risk of hypoglycemia.  Signs of hypoglycemia include confusion, tremors, nausea, vomiting, sweating, extreme weakness or other signs of hypoglycemia. Contact your provider (or seek emergent care) if you are having any signs of hypoglycemia.

 

Did you know Fenugreek and Moringa can affect thyroid function?

 

Do not take Fenugreek of Moringa if you have a thyroid imbalance or are on thyroid meds.

 

Underlying thyroid imbalance is a common cause of low milk supply. Again, if you have not had a comprehensive lab evaluation that includes thyroid evaluation, then you may not know your current thyroid status. If you know you have a thyroid imbalance like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis or are on thyroid replacement therapy for any reason, you should not take Fenugreek or Moringa.

 

Did you know Fenugreek and Moringa can increase bleeding?

 

Do not take Fenugreek or Moringa if you have a clotting disorder or are on blood thinners

 

Fenugreek and Moringa affect blood clotting by inhibiting clot formation and increases prothrombin time. This can increase your risk of bleeding. If you have any signs of easy bruising or bleeding, do not take.

 

Did you know Fenugreek should not be used if you have asthma?

 

Fenugreek can make asthma symptoms worse or trigger and exacerbation.

 

Did you know Fenugreek has allergy warnings?

 

Do not take fenugreek if you are allergic to chickpeas, peanuts or legumes.

 

In conclusion, safety first! If you are considering herbs for low milk supply, best practice is to seek professional guidance as part of the initial plan. I highly recommend a hands-on (or virtual) lactation consultation to evaluate breastfeeding and/or pumping, assure optimization of practices and identify other factors impacting supply. Remember, support before supplements! For persistent low milk supply, despite lactation optimization, I also recommend lab work to help investigate for underlying medical causes and this should be done BEFORE certain herbs, like fenugreek or moringa, are introduced. This will help direct the treatment and guide the choice for appropriate herbal support within the context of your unique situation and health profile.

 

For more information:


Jennifer Gerard, APRN, FNP, IBCLC


Information presented is educational only and not to be taken as medical advice. If you have specific questions about low milk supply investigation or would like to do labwork, let’s do a video visit and talk about it!



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