The Identification and Treatment of Thrush

By Cheryl Taylor, CBE

Thrush is a yeast infection that can present itself in your baby’s mouth or on your nipples. When thrush is in either of these locations, you may also find the yeast deep in the breast tissue, vaginally or on your baby’s diaper area. When the yeast infection presents itself, it may be in all or one of these locations.

Symptoms of thrush may include:

  • Unusually pink or red nipples.
  • Cracked or bleeding nipples
  • Itching or burning nipples
  • A shooting pain deep within the breast
  • Pain that continues throughout a nursing session
  • White patches inside the baby’s mouth. (the inside of his cheeks is a “thrive” zone and an easy to identify location)
  • Yeast infections in other locations (diaper area, vaginal)

If you or your infant contract thrush and present yourself to your Pediatrician, you are likely to be sent home with a prescription for Nystatin. It is the most commonly used medication when dealing with thrush. There is a liquid medication for giving to the baby, and a cream that can be placed on your nipples. Other treatments used are Gentian Violet and Diflucan.

My reservations with beginning with the above medications are that the Nystatin liquid contains sugar to make it palatable enough that baby will swallow it. However, yeast feeds on sugar. This may be the reason why it is often not effective. Gentian Violet is effective, but stains skin purple for several days. I have some lovely photos of my twins with purple faces! Diflucan is very effective, but can cause intestinal distress in mom and/or baby. For these reasons, I prefer to begin with Grapefruit Seed Extract as the first line of defense. I have found that the use of Grapefruit Seed Extract as recommended almost always brings rapid relief and an elimination of the yeast imbalance.

Grapefruit Seed Extract is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound synthesized from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit. It is an extremely potent and effective broad-spectrum bactericide, fungicide, antiviral and antiparasitic compound. Tests have shown that GSE is dramatically more effective than Colloidal Silver, Iodine, Tea Tree Oil and Clorox bleach against five common microorganisms. In studies performed by Dr. John Mainarich of Bio-Research Laboratories in Redmond, WA, samples of each of the common antimicrobials or sanitizing agents were evaluated for effectiveness against Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, Streptococcus faecium and E. coli. The other antimicrobials tested were considerably less effective than the GSE.

GSE is extremely effective in the treatment of thrush. I also find it to be the easiest place to start. If used diligently, it typically will clear up thrush within a couple of days.

Treatment of thrush with GSE

  • Make a mixture of 10 drops of Citricidal Grapefruit Seed Extract to one ounce of water. The use of distilled water to make your solution is very important.  The chemicals placed in your local tap water to kill bacteria can reduce the effectiveness of the active ingredients in GSE.
  • IF thrush is not markedly improved by the second day, increase the mixture to 15, or even 20 drops of GSE per one ounce of distilled water.   If after reaching up to at least 20, and a full day of hourly treatment with it, you see no improvement, I would consider using Diflucan.  If you are prescribed Diflucan, continue to treat topically with GSE during the course of treatment.
  • Use this solution with an absorbent swab on mom’s nipples and baby’s mouth once every hour during all waking hours. Swab baby’s mouth priorto nursing and mom’s nipples after nursing.  Applying it to baby’s mouth prior to nursing will help them to  avoid the possibility of baby associating the bitter taste with nursing.
  • If diaper area is affected, put the same strength solution into a spray bottle or swab as above at every diaper change.
  • If the infection is particularly rampant or you are having difficulty getting rid of it, mom may need to take acidophilus or GSE capsules to get rid of it systemically.
  • GSE solution can also be used in laundry or as a surface cleaner to kill yeast hiding and waiting to multiply again.
  • It may be necessary for Mom to eliminate sugar from her diet until the yeast infection is gone.

If treatment with GSE seems to leave your nipple area dry, I suggest applying a light coating of Vitamin E oil in the following manner: First apply the GSE solution, allow that to dry or use a hairdryer to dry it completely, then apply a light coating of Vitamin E oil.  I would suggest doing this 3 to 4 times a day until the dryness is gone.  It should only take a couple of days to show significant improvement.  The Vitamin E oil should absorb into the skin thoroughly prior to the nursing following the application.  I’m a big fan of Lansinoh, but do not use it when dealing with thrush, because it provides a moisture barrier that is counterproductive to getting rid of thrush.

Since learning of the powerful antimicrobial that Grapefruit Seed Extract is, I have always kept a bottle in my home for many uses.

For more information on GSE:

For prevention of thrush while taking antibiotics:

There are times over the course of nursing when a nursing mother needs to take antibiotics.  While taking antibiotics, good bacteria are destroyed  along with the bad. The absence of the good bacteria, which usually keep yeast in reasonable balance within the body, is what can leave a nursing dyad with thrush.   There are several options that may help to avoid this imbalance:

  • Take acidophilus/bifidus capsules with doses being as far away from the dose of antibiotics as is possible.  There is dairy free acidophilus available for those needing dairy free products.  Check labels for ones requiring refrigeration.
  • Take Florastor, which can be taken with the antibiotic dose.
  • Eat yogurt with active live cultures.  Make sure you get unsweetened yogurt as you don’t want to feed the yeast with sugar.

All of these probiotics help to reintroduce to the gut the good bacteria that will help to regain control of the yeast overgrowth in the system.

If the infant or child is the one taking the antibiotics, they usually fare better at avoiding thrush while taking antibiotics because breastmilk has a bifidus factor.  It promotes the growth of Lactobacillus, a harmless bacterium, within the gut.  Growth of this bacteria helps to eliminate the overgrowth of yeast.  A toddler or child can also take acidophilus.  The powder itself has a pleasant creamy taste and most are happy to lick it off your finger, take it with spoon or you can mix it into a food.

69 thoughts on “The Identification and Treatment of Thrush”

  1. I’m a 28 year old male. I have just been told I have thrush. My throat is so sore and dry. I just bought some GSE. What recommended for adults? As is how many drops? Should I drink it or just garggle? Please help me.

    1. For thrush in an adult’s mouth I would suggest swishing it over the mouth and then swallowing. I would mix 1 oz of distilled water with 10 drops of GSE liquid and see if that is enough to see symptoms improve. You might also want to consider taking GSE capsules at the same time. If you have thrush as a side effect of a medication or treatment you are taking it may not be possible to counteract it in that you would be causing the symptom as fast as you are treating it. It is certainly worth a try. If you find the liquid is too acidic for your stomach to tolerate continue swishing and spit it out.

      If the GSE doesn’t help after a few days of treatment you may need to consider discussing Diflucan with your doctor.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Hello – is it always necessary to treat thrush? My daughter has probably had it since she was 1 week old, and she’s now 14weeks. We tried Nyastin at 10 weeks, but it didn’t seem to do anything but make her cry – she hated the taste and the smell (the smell would wake her up before I did at night). I don’t think I have thrush as I only have pain during let down – not during or after feeding except occasionally. She eats well, no crying or anything, though she sometimes clicks, and is in the 95percentile for weight and height. Will it just go away? Or will it at some point be painful for her?

    In the meantime, I am going to try the acidophiles and do a bit more research about GSE.

    Thank you!

    1. There is some belief that eventually the body will balance out the yeast in the system and regardless of the struggles of thrush in a newborn it rebalances by about 4 months. To a mom that is struggling with thrush and in pain, that is NOT soon enough! If your baby is showing no symptoms beyond clicking and is gaining well and nursing well, I would not be concerned. If it were painful for her she would be letting you know. If your only pain is at letdown and it eases and is completely comfortable for the rest of the feeding, it may be that you're dealing with vasospasm and not with thrush. Thrush for a mom will be seen with evidence of irritation and pain on the nipples, and depending on the severity can be painful back into the breast tissue, be seen with cracking skin, itchiness and burning, etc. It wouldn't hurt for you to be taking a dairy free acidophilus and/or GSE if you have symptoms that confirm for you that you have thrush. It can help your body with the job it's trying to do of rebalancing the yeast in your system.

      Hope that helps.

  3. I am a mother of a 6 1/2 month old baby boy. Ever since he was born, I have had problems nursing. My LC watched me nurse many times and couldn't ever find anything wrong with my latch when he was teeny tiny. I realize now I might had had thrush even then because we were both administered antibiotics for running fever during/after labor. At 6 weeks, I developed mastitis and got on an antibiotic. A few weeks later, I realized I had thrush. My LC called me in 2 weeks of Diflucan. I was pain free for about 3 weeks or so but then the pain came back along with horrible clogged ducts and multiple blebs/milk blisters. For about 3 days, I had to pump and feed him my milk in bottles because it was so painful. I tried gentian violet for 1 week after that with no luck. I dealt with it for a while and then got back on Diflucan for another 2 weeks. I was great for about another month and then it came back. I tried Grapefruit Seed Extract (250 mg 3 times a day and also the liquid form mixed with water directly on my nipples after a feeding). It made my baby have such horrible diarrhea, so after 1 week, I got off of that. Is the diarrhea normal? I have also used nipple ointment (Neosporin ointment, Lotrimin AF, and Cortizone ointment) for a very long time, maybe 2 months? I am now finishing my most recent course of Diflucan. I have been on it for 5 weeks now and am about to get off of it this week. While I am on Diflucan, I have no clogged ducts or blebs but I still have pains, mostly in my left breast. I can contend with the pain, just not the clogged ducts and blebs…I get them so much when I am off of Diflucan. I am so scared to get off the meds but I know I have to…I am home now but I go back to work in August and I know I cannot deal with clogged ducts while working because of the pain. BF is so important to me. I do not want to stop at all but I need advice. I am thinking of changing my diet but I need major guidance there…also, my baby has been treated twice with Nystatin even though he has never once shown any symptoms. Should I try the GSE or gentian violet again? What dose of probiotics should I take if I need it? I just want you to tell me what to do and I will do it! Thank you so much.

    1. When you have persistent systemic yeast overgrowth like you are struggling with you have to change your diet and eliminate all of the things that really feed yeast growth: sugar, white flour, even reduce the quantity of natural sugars in fruit. Take a probiotic like acidophilus. Take them according to the instructions on the bottle. Get it at a good health food store to make sure you have fresh, live culture, acidophilus. It should be in a refrigerated section.

      What dosage of Diflucan have you been given? It’s possible that you were not given a high enough dosage for thrush. http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/20pdf.pdf

  4. One more thing, I do think his mouth shape/tongue/palate may be part of the problem. My nipple on the left side where most of the pain comes from is often pinched when he comes off of it. What to do about this with a 6 mo. old baby??? When I nurse, it looks very correct to me but something is going on, I just don't know what.

  5. The probiotics I have is : Ultimate Flora Adult Formula 15 billion cultured per capsule. The bottle says once a day. Is this what I need to take?

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