A few weeks ago, I noticed a white coating on our little one’s mouth. I thought it was food (he had been fed some slippery elm which I assumed was still in his mouth). However, when it was still there the next day, I took a closer look.
It was then that I realised that, not only was it on his top gum, but also on his tongue and the insides of his cheeks. I knew instantly what it was—thrush.
It seemed to come out of nowhere—he hadn’t had any antibiotics, his mother had no signs of it, and he has a seemingly strong immune system. None of our other four children had ever had this problem. At 11-months-old, he was well past the newborn baby phase where you could expect that a baby would be more likely to suffer from this problem. Yet, 11-15% of children in their first year of life experience oral thrush[i], so he isn’t alone.
How did he get it then? We still don’t really have a clear answer. None of the risk factors for oral thrush applied to him. The only thing we think may be a possibility is too many foods high in natural sugars which upset his gut balance. After all, thrush is simply an overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans…and candida feeds on sugars. He had been enjoying the mandarins that are currently in season, and had been eating quite a few rice cakes when we needed to keep him occupied for a moment or two!
In the end, though, it didn’t matter how he got it. We needed to work out how to fix the problem! He didn’t seem in the least bothered by it, but obviously we needed to get rid of it, as leaving it unchecked can lead to irritation and a reluctance to eat or drink, as well as just worsening the imbalance of flora.
We could have gone to the doctor or the chemist and bought something to fix the issue, but you know us—we like to get to the root of the problem. Since thrush is a fungus, we had to think about which herbs are the best anti-fungal herbs. In addition, we wanted to improve the little guy’s gut health.
We began by giving him some coconut yoghurt and sauerkraut (blended up so the long, stringy pieces didn’t make him gag!) mixed with garlic.
We have written about garlic before, as it is one of the best herbs around. It has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. We were a bit wary of giving too much garlic and making his little stomach upset, but we monitored him closely, and he seemed to take it well. (He had some pretty potent garlic breath though, let me tell you!)
As well as giving him some garlic with his food, we also remembered that garlic can be absorbed by the body through the feet. We put him in his highchair so he couldn’t reach his feet, and did the following:
- We sprayed his little feet with some olive oil to prevent the garlic from burning the skin.
- We then minced a big clove of garlic, placing half of this on a piece of cling wrap that we had laid on the kitchen bench, and the other half on a second piece of cling wrap.
- We wrapped his feet with these pieces of cling wrap so that the garlic was on the soles of his feet.
- We put socks over the top, to keep him from kicking it off.
- We left this for around fifteen or twenty minutes.
Would you believe it—within a few minutes of doing this, we could smell garlic on his breath?! This just shows that the feet can absorb garlic into the bloodstream. This is a great method of getting garlic into small children who are too young to have garlic orally. Just keep in mind that leaving it on for too long can lead to the garlic burning their sensitive skin.
We cut out all sweet foods, so that in addition to breast milk, he was having only yoghurt, sauerkraut, and some avocado as his food sources. This was so there wasn’t much sugar to feed the candida.
We also began to give him some black walnut tincture after each feed. Black walnut is high in iodine, and is one of the best anti-fungal herbs. However, we only had a little of this tincture left, and it soon ran out. After doing some research, however, (Sandra Ellis’s book, Dr Mom is one of our go-to books for anything child or pregnancy related) I found that bayberry is a great way of treating thrush, both topically and systemically…and bayberry tincture was something we happened to have on-hand. So, after every feed, we would place a few drops of the bayberry tincture in his mouth, where we could see the thrush. He did not like it at all, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.
After just one day of this protocol, the improvement was amazing! Yet, we couldn’t manage to completely rid him of the thrush. Then my wife and the children stayed with family for a few days, and my wife let down her guard. She noticed that his mouth was starting to get whiter again. She knew she had to up the ante.
She grabbed a clove of garlic, sliced off a sliver and put it in his mouth, thinking that leaving it there for just a few minutes to have direct contact with the skin would help. However, when she went to retrieve it, she realised he had swallowed it! It didn’t appear to have burnt his mouth in the least (worrying that this would happen was why we had not yet tried this method.) It seemed to have a speedy effect on the thrush! After three or four days of giving him slices of garlic, usually mixed in with some avocado, the thrush seemed to have completely gone! (It’s lucky we think he’s cute, or that garlic breath would have put an end to any kisses and cuddles!)
All up, it took around a week and a half to totally eliminate our little boy’s case or oral thrush. Yes, we could have done it much faster by getting a topical treatment from the doctor or chemist, but with the route we took, hopefully both his gut health and immune system will be in a much healthier state.
In some cases of thrush, the candida can take up all available space in the intestinal tract, begin to grow appendages, and whip these against the walls of the intestinal tract. This can create thousands of tiny lesions which can cause the candida to enter the bloodstream. This results in systemic candidiasis, which causes a range of symptoms. This perforated bowel is referred to as leaky gut.
We doubt this is the case with our little one, as oral thrush is not necessarily an indication of a candida overgrowth in the gut. Such an overgrowth would take a lot of time and usually be the result of sustained antibiotic use and a bad diet. However, just to be on the safe side, we will continue to give him slippery elm. This herb is incredibly beneficial when it comes to gut health and healing the lining of the gastrointestinal walls.
If we are faced with this problem again, I think we would use the same protocol, but would definitely go harder with the garlic from the start. Depending on the age of the child, this would be either on the soles of the feet or orally.
Following what we did to help our little man would help with any kind of thrush or candida overgrowth in any adult or child.
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