Do your “Tatas” need some TLC? About 20 percent of women experience breast tenderness, achiness, and lumps shortly before their period. Some say that pain is so severe that it hurts to wear a bra or engage in normal activities like going to work or school. Even sex can be difficult.
Although premenstrual breast pain is quite common, that doesn’t mean that it can be chalked up to just being a woman. Before we get into the what, why and how. Let’s address the “elephant in the room”. Do breast lumps always mean cancer? The good news is cyclic, generalized breast pain is basically never due to breast cancer. And that’s the type that most of us get. Localized, non-cyclic breast pain is also rarely due to cancer.
However, some breast pain can be due to cancer, although rare. Here’s what to look out for in addition to pain – skin of the breast may feel warm and thick and look similar to an orange peel. Make sure you have a full medical exam by a doctor including thorough inspection of the breast including an ultrasound if there is any localized breast pain. An ultrasound can also tell you if you have a cyst. Women over 35 that have a lump plus pain should have a mammography.
Now let’s talk about some causes of breast pain. The most common type occurs premenstrual and is related to hormonal changes related to the monthly cycle. The same inflammatory chemicals in the body, such as prostaglandins and cytokines that cause menstrual cramps can also cause breast tenderness. In fact, that breast tissue goes through monthly cyclic changes that mirror what is happening in the uterus. Some breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle at all. Some sources believe that it’s related to inflammation in the body due to diet and lifestyle habits. Zenoestrogens or “fake estrogens” from environmental toxins, plastics, BPA, phthalates, parabens and the like, overload the body and disrupt the endocrine system.
Some simple solutions to keep your breasts happy: If your breasts are large, heavy and pendulous, make sure you have a good fitting bra with excellent support. You deserve that. That might sound intuitive, but there are many women walking around in ill-fitting bras. Yes, a good bra can be costly, but so is finding solutions to years of breast, back and neck pain.
If you are a smoker, please stop. Nicotine use is associated with increased breast pain through its effects on a chemical in your body called epinephrine. Besides, cigarette smoking also increases your risk of cervical cancer. Eat organic, especially meat and dairy. Or, you may need to eliminate dairy altogether along with caffeine as these are common culprits to breast pain.
Get plenty of fiber from vegetables, especially the cruciferous family: cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and turnips. Eat less sugar and more high-quality healthy fats. Flax seeds and soy are excellent sources of phytoestrogens and fiber. A 2014 study suggested that whole wheat bread containing 30 grams of flaxseed significantly reduced cyclic breast pain in 181 with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. Additionally, fiber will help keep bowel movements regular. Elimination is the body’s way of eliminating excess estrogen. Women who eliminate daily have much less breast tenderness than those “go” only a few times a week or less.
Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso or a good probiotic to support healthy gut flora. Some doctors treat breast pain with iodine. Iodine promotes healthy metabolism of estrogen, down-regulates estrogen receptors and stabilizes estrogen-sensitive tissue found in the breasts as well as other areas. Iodine-rich foods like seaweed or a multivitamin containing iodine can be helpful.
Lastly, listen to “the girls”. Our bodies have a magnificent way of communicating with us. What are your breasts saying to you? Are you facing challenges at work, in a toxic relationship or neglecting self-care? Take some time to reconnect with your body. See where you can reduce stress and take care of yourself more. Nourish your breasts directly with a massage several times a week in the shower or bath. Your breasts are bathed in lymph. Lymph carries nutrients throughout the body and filters out waste products through the lymph nodes, where they can be detoxified. Massage helps to drain the lymph glands and can reduce pain and engorgement, another way to nurture your body.