Healing Fibrocystic Breasts
Many women experience painful breasts at some point in their lives. Fibrocystic breasts refer to either painful, tender breasts or fibrous lumps which form in the breasts. For many women, pain and swelling in the breasts can be a monthly occurrence during the menstrual cycle, as a common symptom of PMS. Imbalanced hormones, particularly excess estrogen or estrogen dominance can often be the cause of fibrocystic breasts. Fortunately, fibrocystic breasts do not increase your risk for breast cancer. Supporting healthy and balanced hormones, breast massage, herbal remedies and proper fitting bras can all help to reduce and heal fibrocystic breasts.
Fibrocystic breasts can be aggravated by:
Hormone replacement therapy
When to see a doctor
If the lumps in your breasts get bigger, denser or change shape dramatically, it may be worth going for a thermography screening, just to be on the safe side. While fibrocystic breasts do not increase your risks of cancer, changes in the breasts should be monitored. You can also take your healing into your own hands and opt to start with thermography to see if there are deeper concerns to look into. Thermography generally measures changes over a 3-month period of time.
Better bras- The type of bra that you’re wearing may be affecting the health of your breasts. Tight and restrictive bras can affect the blood supply to the breasts and also the ability of the lymphatic system to drain properly in the tissues of the breasts. Avoid bras with metal underwire and always sleep without a bra.
Try: bralettes, bras without underwire (or plastic underwire), or try going au naturel
Support Liver Function – all hormones must pass through the liver to be properly detoxified and eliminated from the body. If the liver is not performing optimally, the body may be storing excess estrogen.
Try: a liver cleanse program using herbs such as milk thistle, burdock, and dandelion root, plus eating an unprocessed diet.
Mammogram Alternatives - Mammograms can be extremely painful for some women, are most accurate in older women, and there is exposure to radiation at high and concentrated levels. As a result, mammogram use/overuse is not recommended - only when it is completely necessary.
Thermography is a newer technique being used to identify breast cancer in women of all ages. This technology measures heat from the body to create imaging which can be used to assess breast changes over time. There is no pain, pressure or radiation in this procedure, causing less stress to the woman and her body. If there are cancerous growths in the body, temperature is higher in that areas, thus showing a tangible change in temperature on the thermographic imagery. *This is a helpful alternative to mammograms.
Breast massage is a powerful tool in healing and reducing symptoms of fibrocystic breasts. By encouraging the movement of lymphatic fluids and gently releasing stagnant tissues.
Try: massaging neck and breasts with an oil a few times per week.
Create a Poultice using fresh chickweed or burdock root, you can create a poultice to place directly on the breasts to reduce tenderness and swelling.
Try: You can use both of these herbs to make herbal infusions and once strained, take the plant material to make a poultice. You can use the herbs directly or mix the herbs into a gentle carrier oil like almond oil or apricot oil and then apply to the breasts and covering with some cloth (or lots of cloth/gauze to protect your clothing/bra). Allow the poultice to stay on the breasts for one hour or more.
A clean diet, low in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar helps to find optimal health, reduces hormone fluctuations, and supports weight management.
Try: plenty of fresh organic vegetables, fruits, lean organic meat, legumes and healthy fats from sources such as avocados, wild caught fish, and flaxseeds.
Fiber is necessary for regular bowel movements. Ideally, you should experience at least one bowel movement each day for proper elimination and detoxification of the body.
Try: fiber-rich foods such as fruits, leafy greens, flaxseed, and nuts.
Phytoestrogens – are plant compounds which mimic the effect of estrogen in the body but to a lesser extent. When estrogen levels are too high, which may be the case in fibrocystic breasts, consuming phytoestrogens can help to normalize and reduce estrogen levels by binding to estrogen receptor sites and reducing the amount of true estrogen that can bind.
Try: organic soy products such as tempeh and miso (which have been fermented and is easier to digest), edamame, flaxseeds, whole grains, nuts, celery, apples, and alfalfa.
Eliminate/Reduce caffeine – caffeine intake has been linked to fibrocystic breasts.
Try: eliminate caffeine from your diet (or at least until the fibroids subside). High levels of caffeine are found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda. If you are craving a replacement for coffee, explore herbal coffee blends which include inulin and dandelion root, like Dandy Blend.
Increase Water Intake – essential for detoxification of the body and optimal health. Aim for at least ½ your body weight in ounces daily.
Sea Vegetables – iodine, found in large amounts in sea vegetables, may help to reduce and improve the condition of fibrocystic breasts. Low levels of iodine are linked to the development of fibrocystic breasts and low thyroid function.
Try: adding dulse, kelp, wakame, and kombu to soups, salads, or simply nibble on some as a snack.
Regular Exercise – Regular exercise is important in overall health and wellbeing of body, mind, and spirit. Regular exercise also helps to reduce stress and lowers risk of disease.
Try: yoga, running, weight training, biking, or qi gong.
Vitamin E – may help to reduce the pain associated with fibrocystic breasts.
Try: supplementing with 400-800 IU daily.
Psyllium Fiber – psyllium fiber provides bulk to stool and encourages elimination of toxins and excess estrogen from the liver and large intestine.
Try: 1 tbsp of psyllium fiber mixed with 8oz of water daily. Ensure you consume plenty of water before and after taking the fiber as it is highly absorbent.
Probiotics - balancing the bacteria in your gut can have a profound effect on overall health. The metabolism and elimination pathways largely depend on the bacteria of the gut.
Try: a high quality daily probiotic supplement & integrate fermented foods.
B Complex – the B vitamins are important in managing stress. B6, in particular, can be helpful in the metabolism of estrogen.
Natural Progesterone Cream – often derived from wild yams which contain a phytoestrogen called diosgenin, natural progesterone cream converts this plant compound into progesterone through chemical processes. Applying this cream may be an effective therapy in balancing hormones to reduce fibrocystic breasts.
Try: a high-quality natural progesterone cream from your local natural health store and follow product indications.
Iodine - iodine concentrates in and is secreted by the mammary glands; in fact, the breasts are one of the body’s main storage and utilization sites for iodine. An adequate iodine level is necessary for the development and maintenance of normal breast architecture.
Try: a high potency iodine/potassium iodide blend such as Lugul’s Iodine or Iodoral (Lugul’s Iodine in tablet form). *best to work closely with a practioner while taking.
Chaste tree (or Vitex) – is an herb that is excellent for many women’s conditions as it is helpful in regulating hormones.
Try: Taking in capsule or tincture form.
Chickweed – is a nutritive herb which can be eaten in its whole form in salads, soups or smoothies or you can drink it as an infusion. It is useful in reducing swelling of the lymph nodes, acts as a blood cleanser and has been shown useful in treating fibrocystic breasts.
Try: eating chickweed directly or drink as a daily infusion.
Red clover- is a nutritive herb that contains phytoestrogens and acts on the female reproductive system. It can be effective in treating and preventing symptoms of fibrocystic breasts and is good for detoxifying the body.
Try: Drinking red clover tea.
Dandelion Root – Excellent herb for liver detoxification, aiding in the removal of excess estrogen from the body as well as built up toxins.
Try: Drinking dandelion root tea daily.
Evening Primrose Oil – may help to reduce pain and swelling in fibrocystic breasts when taken daily for 2-3 months.
Try: 3g of evening primrose oil each night.
Cleaver – another useful herb in reducing the pain and swelling of fibrocystic breasts.
Try: making a cleaver infusion with the stems and leaves of the cleavers.