Spring greens (and more) for breast health: kiss lumps, bumps and scares goodbyeMar 07, 2023
There’s not much that’s scarier than feeling a lump in your breast area. Trust me, I know!
Since puberty, I always had lumpy breast tissue. My breasts felt dense and tender. I stayed clear of all contact sports because I worried someone would accidentally hit my boob and the thought alone would make me wince.
My mom told me that she had always had cystic breasts, too, and that’s just how the women in my family were built.
Eventually, I learned what can cause cystic breasts and how I can do my part to minimize the long held belief: “that’s just the way the women in my family area.
In holistic health, nothing is black or white, and there can be many causes of any dis-ease in the body. But below, I flush out two main causes of breast cysts and tenderness and what can be done about it.
And, I’m happy to report, for a while now, I no longer have lumpy, tender breasts-- unless I haven’t been taking good care of myself for a couple of cycles*, and then I can feel the tenderness and dense, cystic breast tissue coming back like an unpleasant, but very helpful reminder to take care of myself. (*I tend to refer to time in terms of my menstrual cycles because they are my keeper of time, and a great way for me to organize my life and health records.)
What can cause tender breasts and / or cystic breast tissue?
One: Stagnation in the body
There are many causes of stagnation. From a western herbal medicine perspective, when we think of stagnation, we’re mostly referring to: a stagnant lymphatic system, compromised detox pathways, and “stuck” emotions in the body.
- Stagnant lymphatic system (the lymph system removes toxins and impurities from body tissues)
- not enough physical movement throughout the day
- sedentary lifestyle / working from a desk all day
- Detox pathways aren’t processing waste efficiently
- signs of this include: cystic breast tissue, PMS / hormonal imbalances, constipation, acne / other skin eruptions, respiratory issues, urinary / kidney issues
- Unprocessed / stuck emotions
- Our emotions need to come out: the good, the bad and the ugly. Crying and getting emotion out is not only ok, it's crucial!!
Addressing and minimizing inflammation can “move the needle” quickly to resolve breast tenderness, pain and cysts.
Read below for tips on how to reduce inflammation.
Moving away from stagnation and inflammation and towards free-flowing, movement
There is no system in the body that moves our lymph for us. We have to help support lymph flow. Here are some ways you can give your lymph some love!
There are specific herbs that support the lymphatic system and reduce stagnation in the body. A few in western herbalism include: cleavers, chickweed, red root, ocotillo, calendula. Cleavers, chickweed and calendula grow abundantly as weeds in the spring and into early summer! If harvesting herbs is not your thing, then you can buy these herbs as tinctures from practicing herbalists (like myself) or from reputable sources like Mountain Rose Herbs. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Movement throughout the day. Aim for a five minute walk break for every hour that you're sitting at your desk. Aim for several longer walks / hikes several times a week if you’re able. Jumping on a mini trampoline (called a rebounder) is also a great way to encourage lymph flow. Dry brushing is another easy-to-do daily activity that feels amazingly rejuvenating! Do this right before a shower to encourage lymph flow.
Are you releasing your emotions? Or do you tend to keep things hidden behind a cool and calm composure? Either way, make sure you find some way to release your emotions. i.e. crying, therapy, movement, art, journaling, cooking
Eat fresh (bitter) greens and a fiber rich diet to support the digestive system. This will ensure daily bowel movements and clearance of excess estrogen in the body. Excess estrogen is associated with breast tenderness and cysts.
Do self-breast massages. This can be done daily to give your breast tissue some TLC. Or, if you’re wanting to establish a monthly self-breast exam, then aim to do it right after your bleeding days, around day 5-7 of your cycle because breast tissue is less dense in this phase of your cycle (preovulatory phase).
I recommend watching an online tutorial to learn how to do a lymph-supportive breast massage. This will help the lymph system remove toxins from breast tissue because the massage motion promotes the transportation of toxins to the lymph nodes for processing and removal.
Avoid refined sugar
Eliminating refined, processed sugar helps to reduce inflammation and excess estrogen in the body, which both contribute to breast tenderness and pain. Too much estrogen in the body stimulates breast tissue, causing cysts in women.
Omega 3 supplementation
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Excellent sources are from cold-water fish (fish oil), or in flax seeds (flax oil). Supplementing with high-quality fish oil for 3 months is a great place to start to reduce breast tenderness and pain, and to alter breast tissue density in a positive direction.
I hope you find this helpful!! Reach out with any questions, or to schedule an herbal consultation. Warmly, Veronica