Yerba Mate and the Breast Feeding Mom
I discovered Yerba Mate (Yair-ba Mah-tay), a tea that hails from the rainforest in South America in January. It was love at first sip. Yerba Mate is made from the stems and leaves of the Yerba Mate tree. This beverage provides both energy and nutrition. It also contains caffeine.
And yes, I am a breastfeeding mom! After preliminary research online, I've discovered many sites (mainly medical) that advised against breastfeeding and pregnant moms drinking this tea, as it "affects" the baby.
LiveStrong.com, for example, has excessive warnings against breastfeeding and pregnant moms drinking this beverage:
"When a woman drinks yerba mate during pregnancy, her baby may be negatively affected. Potential risks include birth defects, low birth weight and premature birth. Women who drank yerba mate during pregnancy also have given birth to babies who have showed symptoms of neonatal withdrawal syndrome, including excessive crying, irritability and hypertonia in the limbs. Drinking large amounts of yerba mate over time can also increase the risk for throat, esophageal or mouth cancer, even in individuals who are not pregnant, according to the Cleveland Clinic."
Birth defects? Premature birth? Yikes! Those are pretty darn serious risks from drinking a tea that grows naturally in a Rainforest! LiveStrong also goes on to say this...
"Women should also not drink yerba mate if they are breastfeeding. The yerba mate can pass through breast milk and may negatively affect a nursing baby. You should wait until your baby has completely weaned before resuming drinking yerba mate."
All of LiveStrong's references are based on medical research and "clinical" trials. However, I wasn't too quick to jump on the research bandwagon for several reasons of my own:
- Doctors/Medical researchers are generally not versed in nutrition. Yerba Mate is a (naturally) nutritious drink.
- Yerba Mate is the South American drink. Just about everyone drinks it and a LOT of it. Yerba-Mate.com says they have a 92% household consumption rate!
- Personal testimony from South American moms who drank Yerba Mate while pregnant/breastfeeding with NO ill effects to show for it.
I found this article by NaturalNews.com VERY interesting...
Hmmm...conflicting information indeed.
Yerba Mate is packed with naturally-occurring nutrients and anti-oxidants and there are 196 volatile (or active) chemical compounds found in the Yerba Mate plant. Of those, 144 are also found in green tea. Yerba Mate contains 11 polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals (phyto- meaning plant) are recently-discovered compounds that act as powerful antioxidants and are considered to exhibit anti-cancer effects in mammals by strengthening an organism`s natural defenses and protecting it against cellular destruction (i.e. lycopene in tomatoes, flavonoids in blueberries, and isoflavones in soy)
In 2005, researchers at the University of Illinois studied 25 different types of mate. They found the tea to contain "higher levels of antioxidants than green tea"... and, based on cell studies, "may help prevent oral cancer." Read More
Natural News goes on to share the nutritional content of Yerba Mate...
* Vitamins - A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B ComplexCould this be why many medical sites are so gung-ho against it? Even in the face of real-time, cultural (South America) evidence? Do these medical researchers have connections to pharma companies, who would much rather you buy their drugs than seek health given freely by the earth? Live Strong even advises against consistent consumption of the beverage by individuals who are NOT pregnant or nursing, citing throat and esophageal cancer risk. Hmmm....I wonder about South America's rate of throat cancer...
* Minerals - Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus
* Additional Compounds - Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.
According to Dr. Mowrey, Director of Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences, one group of investigators from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that Yerba Mate contains "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life". They focused especially on Pantothenic Acid, remarking that it is "rare to find a plant with so much of this significant and vital nutrient... It is indeed difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to Mate in nutritional value."
In addition, results from a study done by researchers at the University of Madrid assert a high content of mineral elements, especially K, Mg, and Mn, in Mate. They considered those findings "to be of great relevance" to the nutritional value of Mate infusions.
So the question becomes, how can something contain "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life", yet be so risky as to result in birth defects? It's too contradictory for both "facts" to be true. You know, I would have a lot more respect for medical research if doctors were just as diligent about informing moms about the very real and documented risks that come with birth drugs and labor/pregnancy interventions. In addition to exercising a good amount of ethical behavior when it comes to their relationships with for-profit pharmaceutical companies. Our healthcare system and its practices are questionable at best, and unethical at worst, so you'll forgive me if I second-guess medical research and look for second opinions. You know how the saying goes, knowledge is power. So, I'm powering myself up to a nice cup of Yerba Mate, breastfeeding and all.
UPDATE: Yerba Mate` and the Breast Feeding Mom Update - October 2012
Breastfeeding & Weight Loss: The Missed Connection
The Role of Probiotics in Pregnancy, Childbirth & Breastfeeding
*Disclaimer ~ This post is an opinion piece, and not designed to diagnose, cure or treat in any manner. The reader is advised to follow up any decisions with research.