The physiological process the body goes through when you get mastitis is pretty interesting!
Usually, the first time you hear about mastitis, is when you are experiencing it for yourself. It can be a whirlwind time. But what’s really happening when mastitis occurs? Strap yourselves in ladies, we’re about to break down some science here.
First up, it’s good to know that your milk contains heaps of cells, nutrients and markers in it. This includes specific anti-inflammatory and inflammatory markers in it, called cytokines. This is a good thing! For baby and for mum!
BUT, when milk is stagnant in the duct, those anti-inflammatory markers start signalling. Simultaneously, at a teeny tiny cell level, these areas called tight junctions open to allow cells to come into the ducts to respond to the inflammation. Think of it like doors sliding open to allow stuff through. The thing is, that whilst this opens up to let important cells through, it also allows the milk to push back out into the breast tissue!
The body sees this, and responds to those anti-inflammatory markers that are now out in the breast tissue. This process can mimic something called an antigenic action. This is the same response to an infection. This would explain why women with mastitis experience whole body symptoms, like fevers and body aches. Mastitis is NOT IN THE MILK DUCT. It is in the breast tissue.
You might be thinking, blah blah ladies, why does this even matter? Well it matters a lot. Unfortunately, not many health care professionals even understand this process, and that means the way they manage your pain and symptoms may not be exactly the best course of action. The more you understand this, the more confident YOU will feel in making informed decisions about your health, and asking the right questions of your support team. We wish you the best of luck!
Want to know more about how to use this info to help yourself? Check out Boobology, where we have packaged this info up into a neat little online course for you to put into practical use!
Author: Elise Fuller
Osteopath & Your Two Jugs Co-Founder
Elise Fuller & Katie Willy
Osteopaths & Your Two Jugs Co-Founders
Elise & Katie are Melbourne based osteopaths who have been actively treating breastfeeding women in clinic since 2015. During 2020 lockdown they launched their company Your Two Jugs to educate more women about how to treat their own breastfeeding conditions. Their online video based course, Boobology, is available now with heaps of education and hands on techniques to teach women the do’s & don’ts for mastitis, blocked ducts & engorgement. More recently, Your Two Jugs launched a full health care practitioner course, called The Boob Hero, to educate manual therapists on their contribution to supporting breastfeeding women with hands on care. Empowerment all starts with education, and the more support available for women, the better.