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Papaya fish soup has been one of the better known dishes prepared for Chinese mothers during their period of confinement. It is been said to offer a plethora of health benefits, the most well-known of which is to increase breast milk supply.

In this article, we explore whether or not Papaya Fish Soup is indispensable to replenishing breast milk supply in a postpartum mum.

We will do a deep dive into the scientific evidence behind such claims and examine the active ingredients that purport to give this soup its super powers.

Main Ingredients and Nutritional Benefits in Fish Soup Recipe

Papaya Fish Soup is a delightful fusion of succulent fish and ripe papaya, complemented by an assortment of herbs and spices. It is not only a savory treat but also a treasure trove of essential nutrients.

According to recipes articles from different sources, the 3 main ingredients are papaya, fish and herbs. Let’s list out the active ingredients and the benefits they offer:

Papaya: The star ingredient of the soup, papaya, is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as minerals like potassium and magnesium.

Its real magic seems to lie in the presence of proteolytic enzymes, such as papain and chymopapain. These enzymes aid in protein digestion and have been linked to anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effects.

Fish: Fish is an excellent source of high-quality proteins, essential omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), and various vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain development and cardiovascular health. Sometimes, fish stock is also added to the stock pot.

Herbs: The inclusion of herbs and spices is paramount in chinese food recipes. Herbs such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric add depth of flavor and are abundant in health benefits.

Ginger and garlic have shown anti-inflammatory properties, and turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant with potential anti-cancer properties. These are great herbs to add to any food you eat, but are paramount during confinement.

Known Health Benefits of Papaya Fish Soup

  1. Digestive Health: The papain and chymopapain enzymes in papaya fish soup can aid in the digestion of proteins, potentially alleviating gastrointestinal discomfort and improving nutrient absorption.
  2. Immune System Support: The vitamin C and other antioxidants present in papaya and fish play a pivotal role in bolstering the immune system, helping to fend off infections and diseases.
  3. Heart Health: The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing triglyceride levels.
  4. Inflammation Reduction: The combination of papaya, fish, and anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and garlic can help reduce inflammation in the body, potentially benefitting individuals with inflammatory conditions.
  5. Antioxidant Power: The rich antioxidant content in papaya fish soup aids in neutralizing harmful free radicals, protecting cells from oxidative damage.

Papaya for Breast Milk Supply: Myth or Fact?

Papaya is abundant in nutritional goodness that the postpartum mum can benefit from. That said, these benefits do not seem to explain why this fish recipe is going to address your breastfeeding issues.

The benefits of cooked papaya soup, which contains papain and chymopapain, seem to be associated with digestive health and immune system support.

Papain and chymopapain are proteolytic enzymes, which means they break down proteins into smaller peptides and amino acids. In the context of papaya fish soup consumption, these enzymes aid in protein digestion and have been linked to potential anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effects.

We also know that during this time of confinement, we are loading the digestive system up with nutritional goodness, and tonic herbs. While this level of abundance is good, we also require the digestive system to operate optimally for the whole body to recover well and for milk to produce.

Hence,  the conclusion is that papain and chymopapain do not directly enhance breast milk production. What they do is enhance digestive function, which may indirectly lead to better milk supply outcomes.

Papain Reduces Fat Accumulation

Papain is also useful if you want get rid of your fat accumulation and tummy fats.

Papain inhibits adipogenesis and reduces obesity and obesity-induced inflammation via inhibition of adipogenesis factors. How it inhibits  pro-inflammatory cytokines is through activation of the AMPK pathway.

Weight gain and loss depends on multiple factors. While most women tend to put on weight during their pregnancy and after delivery, papain alone is likely not going to help with reducing fat accumulation.

There are many postpartum weight loss methods to consider, including Chi Nei Tsang and Cavitation for Weight Loss.

Papain is a Strong Uterine Contractant

Did you know that papain is a proteinase enzyme that is a strong uterine contractant.

A uterine contractant is able to  help the enlarged uterus return to its original shape and size — this is acalled  postpartum uterine involution.

From animal studies, we know that crude papaya latex causes concentration-dependent increase in prostaglandin F production. This means that papaya is helping to shrink the uterus back to shape.

We also know that the hormone oxytocin stimulates milk production and also stimulates uterine contractions. But there is no evidence that uterine contractions actually cause an increase in breast milk supply.

Why is Young Papaya better than Ripe Papaya?

Young papaya is unripe and is green in color — it is also called green papaya. When the papaya fruit has ripened, it is usually orange in color.

Below are some reasons why green papaya is preferred in the recipes for Papaya Fish Soup:

  1. More fiber: green papaya contains higher fiber content than one that is ripe.
  2. More papaya latex: there are higher levels of papaya latex in the flesh of the green papaya . Papaya latex contains the carotenoids, papain and chymopapain, which confer the antioxidant and digestive benefits of papaya.

Cooked vs Uncooked Papaya

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We now know that papaya has all these digestive and even uterine contractile effects, mostly due to the papaya latex which contains papain.

We also know that an unripe or young papaya contains more of these beneficial compounds than a ripened papaya.

The interesting thing is that Papain is readily destroyed by heat. This means that if the  young papaya is cooked as a soup, there will not be the purported beneficial effects of papain, whether to contract the uterus or to help in digestion.

Quercetin in Papaya can Increase Breast Size and Milk Supply?

Green papaya fruits contain Quercetin. We know from animal studies that Quercetin is able to promote mammary gland development and lactation yield.

How does that happen?

  1. First, you must get this concept: Prolactin is the hormone that is secreted in your brain to tell the breasts to create more milk.
  2. Next, you must understand that Prolactin exerts its biological effects by binding to this compound called PRLR. Anything which increases PRLR would facilitate mammary development and milk production.
  3. Lastly, you must know that Quercetin activates this compound called AKT, which increases PRLR levels.

In summary: Quercetin kickstarts a virtuous cycle by activating AKT, which stimulates PRLR, which enhances the action of Prolactin to promote lactation.Because the evidence is only found in animal studies, this is the best conjecture as to why Papaya in Fish Soup may help in increasing breast milk production.

How does Quercetin help to improve Breast Milk Quality?

In a situation of hypogalactorrhea (not enough breast milk), we want to increase production of milk supply, but let’s not forget about the quality of milk supply.

According to animal studies, Quercetin does the following:

  1. It increases expression of Capra hircus β-casein (CNS2) gene, which is positively associated with how much protein there is in milk.
  2. It increases FASN and SCD, which are enzymes involved in mammary production of the healthy fat in milk.
  3. It increases α-lactalbumin, also known as LALBA, a mammary epithelial-specific protein which is essential for the production of  milk protein.

All these  results from animal studies suggest that quercetin may also contribute the the quality of milk production during breastfeeding. This is one reason why your baby may benefit from you consuming this dish!


One of the most common claims associated with papaya fish soup is its potential to increase breast milk supply in lactating mothers.

This notion stems from traditional beliefs on like-begets-like (papayas looks like breasts) as well as anecdotal evidence passed down through generations.

However, it is essential to examine this claim from a scientific standpoint. There is no direct scientific evidence to support the claim that the papaya in papaya fish soup  has a significant impact on breast milk supply.

That said, papaya latex contains papain which may facilitate uterine involution as well as enhance nutrition through better digestion. Sadly for the papaya in Papaya Fish Soup, it cannot lay claim to any of papain’s goodness, because papain cannot exert beneficial effect once the Papaya is cooked to mush in the soup!

We then seek some solace in the action of Quercetin in promoting lactation. Evidence in animal studies is promising, although we cannot say for sure that Quercetin in papaya is responsible any increase in breast milk production.

Breast milk production is a complex process regulated by hormones, primarily prolactin and oxytocin, and influenced by various factors, including the mother’s overall health, nutrition, hydration, and frequency of breastfeeding or pumping.

While papaya is a nutritious fruit containing essential vitamins and minerals that can benefit lactating mothers’ overall health, there is no specific scientific evidence linking cooked papaya consumption to a direct increase in breast milk supply.


What are 2 alternative soups that may help increase breast milk supply?

For lactating mothers who want to increase breast milk supply, here are two other soups that may support breast milk supply, two options stand out:

  1. Fenugreek and Vegetable Soup: Fenugreek is an herb known for its potential to stimulate milk production. A soup made with fenugreek seeds or fenugreek leaves along with an assortment of vegetables can be a nourishing addition to a lactating mother’s diet.
  2. Barley and Mushroom Soup: Barley has been traditionally used to support milk production, and its incorporation into a flavorful soup with mushrooms can provide essential nutrients while potentially aiding lactation.

What is Chinese fish soup after surgery?

Although we are discussing the nutritional benefits of cooked papaya for a lactating mum, Chinese fish soup is a common dietary intervention after surgery.

After surgery, the body needs nutritional support to heal the surgical wounds, the reduce inflammation and to provide essential nutrients for tissue repair.

Fish, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is a common choice due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Fish is also a good source of protein necessary for tissue repair.

Note that you can always add nutrient-rich vegetables into the mix. Leafy greens, carrots and mushrooms are common additions.

A key component of Chinese fish soup is the concentrated extract made through simmering the fish and fish bones on a low fire. Calcium, collagen and the goodness in herbs and spices are all extracted into the soup broth.

Chinese fish soup after surgery aims to provide easily digestible, nutrient-dense, and comforting nourishment during postpartum recovery after delivery. It is also a common dish used after surgery.

It takes into account the principles of Chinese medicine, which emphasize balance, warmth, and the use of ingredients with specific therapeutic qualities.

How to eat green papaya for breast milk

Eating green papaya is a traditional practice believed to support breast milk production, particularly in the Chinese tradition surrounding confinement.

Green papaya is believed to potentially influence lactation, and in our article, we have laid out some possible reasons why.

There are a variety of ways to use green papaya for breast milk. One of them is as green papaya fish soup, but we have more possibilities below:

  1. Green Papaya Soup without using fish: Green papaya with chicken, vegetables or just with herbs and spices can make a nourishing and flavorful soup. Remember that papain from the papaya is not longer effective once papaya is cooked in a soup.
  2. Papaya Salad: Green papaya salad is a popular dish in some Asian cuisines. Grated green papaya is often combined with herbs, spices, lime juice, and sometimes shrimp or peanuts to create a refreshing and tangy salad. While not as commonly associated with lactation as cooked dishes, papaya salad can still be a nutritious addition to your diet. It is prudent to refrain from eating this dish until the fourth trimester is over.
  3. Papaya Enzyme Supplements: In some cultures, papaya enzyme supplements are used to aid digestion and support lactation. These supplements are often derived from green papaya and are available in various forms, including capsules and tablets. Even though their efficacy for increasing breast milk supply is not yet well-established, papaya enzymes are definitely helpful for digestion.

Soma Clinic Confinement Soups

At Soma Clinic, we design confinement soups for you. We also brew and pressure-cooked these soups for you.

Soma Clinic focuses on treating postpartum conditions. Because we regularly treat women with postpartum conditions for the last decade, we are familiar with how recovery progresses during confinement.

Soma Clinic Confinement Herbs provide TREMENDOUS value because we create a postpartum confinement soup plan for you which changes as your conditions change.

Your postpartum journey is unique and individual. You may not need the same support as another person undergoing postpartum. In fact, for those who are pregnant for more than once will know that each pregnancy and postpartum experience is different.

You don’t want the first 4 weeks of soups to have different names that cover everything from appetite to breast milk to the Spleen and Kidneys. In reality, you need to repeated use certain soups depending on your body type and what postpartum condition you present with.

Click here to find out more about Soma Clinic Confinement Herbs!

Confinement Herbal Package: Find Out More!

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