Fenugreek has been used for centuries by nursing women to increase their breastmilk supply. Get the facts and guidelines here on the safe use of fenugreek.
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a plant whose seeds (usually either ground or crushed) have many uses. For one, it is commonly used in food like maple syrup, curry, chutneys and spices (curry powder or five-spice). Crushed seeds are also used to make medicine for various ailments.
Aside from giving flavor to food, fenugreek also provides health benefits. It seems to slow sugar absorption in the stomach and stimulate insulin production. It is used for gastric issues, kidney problems, heart ailments as well as erectile dysfunction in men.
Fenugreek also happens to be one of the most common galactagogues (substances that help increase breastmilk supply) in breastfeeding circles. It competes with the locally-produced and more popular malunggay (Moringa) capsules.
How effective is fenugreek in increasing breast milk supply?
It is important to first note that only proper and frequent feeding offers guarantees in boosting and maintaining milk supply. According to MothersCircle, fenugreek’s efficacy as a galactagogue has not been consistently proven despite having been used by mothers for centuries.
After taking fenugreek, some report a clear boost in volume of expressed milk, while some do not. The speed by which an increase in milk supply is noted also varies, from within three days up to two weeks of starting the herb supplement.
How much should one take?
In terms of dosage and safety, a woman may take two to four 580-610 mg capsules three times per day (or seven to fourteen 500 mg capsules per day).
According to KellyMom.com, dosages of less than 3500 mg per day have been reported to produce no effect in many women which could be the reason why some mothers are not registering an increase in their output.
Some may balk at the dosage, fearing overdose and considering the expense (a bottle of 60 caps can cost around P500). But one needs to ingest more for fenugreek to work as a galactagogue.
Are there any side effects?
Regardless of how short or long the herb was taken, most nursing mothers do not notice adverse side effects, apart from their urine or body odor smelling like maple.
One can also stop taking supplements without feeling any withdrawal symptoms. However, according to WebMD.com, extra sensitive people may experience diarrhea, bloating and gas as well as allergic symptoms like nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing and facial swelling.
Is it for everyone?
Pregnant mothers are discouraged from taking fenugreek supplements for two reasons:
- It may lower their blood sugar and put their pregnancy and life at risk; and
- It may result in babies being born with a maple-like smell and lead physicians to misdiagnose them a maple-syrup urine disease (MSUD).
It is also always recommended that nursing mothers consult their doctor first before starting any herbal supplement. A professional advice regarding use and proper dosing is important, as it may vary with age and health history.
Nursing mothers with strong allergic histories, especially those who have not done well with other herbal supplements, may have to think twice about using this particular galactagogue. Diabetic mothers and those who suffered from gestational diabetes may also have to consider something else, since fenugreek might complicate their condition.
Sold in most health and wellness stores, fenugreek supplements do not require a prescription in the Philippines. However, nursing mothers are still advised to proceed with caution and make informed choices according to their health history and preferably with the consent of their doctor or lactation consultant.
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