Many, many women are concerned about their overall health. A big part of that overall health is gut health — whether it’s related to hormone imbalances, weight issues, infertility, or something else. These are not easy problems to solve…and usually, what’s recommended is a detox.
Yet, most women are told — “You can’t detox while pregnant or breastfeeding!” So, they feel like they have to put their own health on hold for months or even years, until they’re done having and breastfeeding children. Or, they have to wean babies early and put having more on hold (or even not have more when they want to) in order to deal with their own health crises.
Unfortunately, this places many women in a serious bind. Who do they prioritize — themselves, or their future children/current babies? What’s the real answer to this?
But what if you didn’t have to choose?
Can You Detox While Pregnant and Breastfeeding?
Most people say no, and that’s because they’re making the #1 mistake when it comes to detox.
It’s true that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not do any kind of harsh cleanse. This means no juice fasting (or general fasting), no parasite cleanses, no special diets intended to totally kill of yeast. These kinds of harsh approaches really aren’t best for almost anyone, and certainly a pregnant or breastfeeding woman should not do them!
But, when you understand what “detoxing” really is, and get beyond that major mistake…then yes, pregnant and breastfeeding women can detox. In fact, if their health is not great, they should detox!
Why Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Should Detox
If a woman is unhealthy and is pregnant or breastfeeding, she is facing two very specific and unfortunate problems.
First of all, she’s placing her own health at risk. A woman whose body is toxic or even just not functioning optimally is not absorbing nutrients well from her food. She’s likely deficient in key nutrients. She’s more likely to deal with fatigue, hormone imbalances, and pregnancy complications. The longer these issues go on, the worse the ultimate health consequences can be.
Why would a woman place her health at risk — and allow it to get worse — for years, just because she “doesn’t want to detox while pregnant or breastfeeding?”
Second, she’s placing her baby’s health at risk. A mom who is deficient in key nutrients is more at risk for pregnancy complications. She passes her disturbed gut flora onto her babies during birth and while breastfeeding. Her baby can be deficient in key nutrients, too, if she truly is lacking or unable to absorb things. Then, she’s got two peoples’ health issues to address — her own, and her child’s. And if she has multiple children, she’s got a whole family of health issues to address.
It doesn’t seem safer or smarter to just allow this to go on for years…and then have a mess of health problems for the whole family to deal with later! And if that happens, most women will again prioritize their children and set themselves aside…which can lead to even more health issues for themselves down the line. It’s extremely common in “natural minded mamas” groups for women to freely admit that they make sure their kids eat clean food and take supplements, while they still eat processed foods and continue a sugar addiction.
Ultimately, by ignoring issues, women are making things worse for both themselves and their entire families. It is much safer and much smarter to begin to address health issues now…regardless of pregnancy or breastfeeding status!
Safe Detox Ideas for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
As I mentioned above, pregnancy and breastfeeding are not the time for harsh cleanses that restrict calories, cut out multiple food groups, or use powerful herbs to rapidly kill off parasites or fungus. (Then again, I think most people shouldn’t do these things anyway.)
The reason these things are especially dangerous in pregnancy is because they quickly kill off “stuff” which gets dumped into the person’s system. Detox pathways can become overloaded, which means that all that “stuff” ends up circulating in the body, causing more damage, and also getting dumped into the lymphatic system — which goes into breast milk.
Dumping toxins into your baby via the placenta or your milk is not exactly something you want to do!
(Learn more about why this is a bad idea in general HERE.)
Instead, the whole goal of detox — especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding — needs to be two-fold.
#1) Eliminate Sources of Toxic Exposure
Still using toxic makeup or personal care products? Still consuming fast food regularly or have a sugar addiction? It’s time for those habits to go.
There is no benefit to continuing negative habits like these. They are not “protecting” your health or your baby’s health. So, while these changes are not easy — it’s time to make them!
#2) Support Natural Detox Pathways
Help your body to heal itself. Rather than trying to “do” stuff to your body to force healing, just support it through totally natural means, and allow it to do what it wants to do!
Healthy Habits for Detox
Try some or all of these healthy habits to support natural detox! These are safe for all ages, including pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Stay properly hydrated to help things move through! A lot of women get busy and just forget to drink water. Or, they focus on drinking coffee or tea or other things that are diuretics, which make hydration worse in the long run. Keep a water bottle with you, and add mint leaves, lemon slices, or other fruit for a little flavor. Don’t force yourself to drink too much, but drink when you are thirsty. If you don’t have to pee at least 5 – 6 times a day…you may not be drinking enough!
If you are very thirsty despite drinking plenty of water, it may be an electrolyte balance issue. This is especially true if you suspect adrenal fatigue. In that case, try some of this homemade electrolyte drink in place of plain water.
When you get moving, it helps with several things. Muscles squeeze and move lymph fluid through your system, so that it can be eliminated. That’s probably the most important reason. Plus, it gives most people more energy and stretches muscles so they’re less sore. If you notice mild, general soreness around your hips and thighs, it’s a sign you’re probably not getting enough exercise.
Aim for a 10 – 15 minute brisk walk every day. Do more if it feels right to you. “Natural” exercise, like playing sports or just being generally active, will be more effective in the long run than gym routines, because routines tend to exercise the same muscle groups, and you need to get your whole body active.
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are sources of natural vitamins and minerals. They also a source of natural water for hydration. Not to mention fiber, to help things move through more effectively! Increasing consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables is a good idea. Preferably, choose organic or at least versions with low-spray so that you are not consuming more pesticides!
Avoid overly sweet fruits if you are concerned about yeast issues, and don’t do juices (especially sweet juices). Although natural sugar is certainly better than refined sugar, too much can be hard on your body.
Herbs are an excellent source of natural nutrients, in their most absorbable forms. Include herbs like:
- Dandelion leaf
- Nettle leaf
- Raspberry leaf
These are safe for all ages, including pregnancy and nursing. Women may choose to use red clover (which can have some estrogenic effects, so be cautious if you are pregnant or have estrogen dominance).
Steep anywhere from a large tablespoon of herb to a full 1 oz. by weight in a quart of water to create a strong tea or infusion. A true infusion is a full oz. of herb, but many find this too strong for their taste — and you want something you will drink!
Additionally, you can support your liver with herbs like dandelion root and milk thistle, which is important.
Consume Probiotic Foods
One thing basically everyone is lacking in, is probiotics.
Our guts need support from these friendly guys, and yet we rarely get them. Instead, we do things that harm them (consuming pesticide-laden foods, food additives, taking pharmaceutical, drinking chlorinated and fluoridated water, etc.). Adding in fermented foods in incredibly important. (And no, a supplement isn’t good enough.)
Probiotic foods will support your gut, one of your natural detox pathways. If you struggle with constipation, then probiotics, along with magnesium, will help to promote regularity.
There may be particularly foods, drinks, or other things that you are sensitive to — even if they’re not a “typical” thing that people are sensitive to. For example, some can’t handle nuts, or soy, or spirulina. These are foods/supplements that, for some, may be very beneficial, but for others, may be detrimental.
If you can identify which things that are causing issues for *you* (look for sluggishness, bloating, heart burn, nausea, fatigue, etc. after consuming or using) then you should avoid those things at least until your gut is in better shape.
If you can afford to, explore getting regular body work. This includes chiropractic care, massage, craniosacral, acupuncture, reiki, and more. Obviously, you don’t need to do all of these things. And, they won’t all be the best or right answer for everyone. Find out what you most need and what you can afford, and try a few treatments. If you are pregnant, make sure you go to someone who is experienced in working with pregnant women.
With these tips, you can help to gently, naturally start healing your body…without a drastic cleanse, without any kind of expensive and powerful “detox,” without causing harm to your baby.
My Personal Experience
I will keep this brief, here, and expand on it later.
I used these tips throughout my sixth pregnancy because I was tired of being tired, tired of being heavier than I wanted, tired of having morning sickness that I suspected was caused by gut issues and liver congestion (two things that contribute strongly to both morning sickness and general pregnancy symptoms/complications).
So, I started doing these things. My symptoms improved. My energy improved.
In the end, I didn’t really gain any weight while pregnant and dropped to 15 lbs. below pre-pregnancy weight right after birth. I carried my baby longer than any of my other 5 (to 41 weeks). My baby’s birth was fairly quick and easy. I had a big, healthy baby. I am having an easy postpartum recovery.
It’s anecdotal, obviously, but I’ve made changes to my diet and overall health in each pregnancy, and this was the most “successful” as far as having the healthiest outcome for both me and baby. Given how hard I’ve fought for my health over the last 5+ years, I don’t think this was an accident, or “luck.” I think it really works.
This was a great read and super helpful to me! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and personal experience.
This post was a breathe of fresh air. I have 8 children and I have a miraid of food intolerances, the worst being corn. Since baby was born inhave just been feeling rough. In past we have done healing diets and all sorts of stuff so I could tell I needed to do something. This was a great reminder of things I new to do and validating! I find pretty much all of you article to be this, thanks so much
Thank you Kate. This article is helpful and I love your gentle approach. Do you have any tips for successfully ‘quiting’ sugar and coffee?
Great Article. As a breastfeeding mom, I am concerned I may have parasites, because of joint pain since birth I didn’t have with my other kids. Also, plagued by thrush. Tired of reading articles that say I am basically SOL until I stop breast feeding.
Have you done any cleanses while breastfeeding? If so, what were you taking if you don’t mind me asking? Thank you!
Kate shares about detoxing and supporting gut health while nursing in this post: https://modernalternativemama.com/…/how-to-heal-your-gut/
Thank you for this, are you a practitioner and if so, are you taking in clients??
Kate isn’t a practitioner, but she does share some more about her journey to health her gut (gentle detoxing while pregnant and breastfeeding here: https://modernalternativemama.com/2019/03/24/how-to-heal-your-gut/