A few years ago I was working with a client with polycystic ovary syndrome. In the course of giving her medical history, she'd also disclosed that she had hyperprolactinemia, a condition in which milk production and let down occurs, even in men, and even in women who are not nursing, if their blood levels of prolactin are too high. She told me that she continued to produce and release milk for four years after delivering her last child, and not a single physician she'd asked about it here in Arizona or over in California seemed to think it was a situation worthy of medical intervention. So she lived with it, until it eventually went away.
As we progressed through our consultation, I explained to her why omega-3 fatty acids are so important--as they are an integral part of the brain's structure and functioning. I then explained to her that breast milk is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and that babies who are nursed are more likely to get these crucial fatty acids than babies on formula.
I looked up from my notepad to see my client red-faced. If steam could have come out of her ears, it would have.
Thinking I'd said something hurtful or offensive, I asked her if something was wrong.
She looked at me and asked, "So you mean to tell me...for four whole years...my brains were leaking out of my boobs and no one seemed to think that was a problem?"
I was the professional in that situation and so it fell on me to keep a completely straight face and answer a serious "yes, yes that's true."
Hyperprolactinemia really is a condition that needs to be taken seriously. As my client correctly deduced, it can drain the body of some of its most essential compounds, which can promote inflammation and potentially disrupt healthy brain function. Some psychiatric medications can increase the risk of hyperprolactinemia. One that has this reputation is risperidone (Risperdal).
A group of Chinese researchers recently tested an herbal remedy for hyperprolactinemia, peony-glycyrrhiza decoction, against a more traditional treatment, a medication called bromocryptine. Their subjects were women whose hyperprolactinemia was a direct result of risperidone use. For the purposes of this study, the women were also experiencing irregular periods (oligomenorrhea) or absence of periods (amenorrhea). Each group was exposed to both the herbal and the pharmaceutical treatment, with one group starting on herbs and switching to medication. The second group received the treatments in the reverse order. Psychotic symptoms, negative side effects, and levels of the hormones prolactin, estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone were all measured at the beginning and end of the study.
Not only did the herbal preparation produce a decrease in prolactin similar to the medication, other hormones were not affected, and psychosis was not worsened. And, more often in the herbal than the pharmaceutical remedy, there were improvements in negative side effects of hyperprolactinemia.
Whether or not you are on a medication, if you're producing breast milk and you are not nursing a baby, it is a medical problem and it does need to be addressed.
And now that you've read this post, you won't need to wait four years until a nutritionist mentions in passing that you should insist that your problem be taken seriously.
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