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Condition - Breast pain (mastalgia) and cysts

By Cathy Robinson BSc(Hons) DipNutMed MWNMS

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

Breast cysts are tender or painful sacs filled with fluid that can change or enlarge according to the menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations, namely an increase in oestrogen accompanied by a fall in progesterone, or a relative imbalance between the two hormones, which occur one to two weeks before menstruation, can cause glands present in the breast to fill with fluid and increase in size. Breast cysts can also be associated with poor liver function. The liver is unable to break down excess oestrogen, meaning that levels build up in the body. Fibrocystic breasts have dense fibrous tissue in addition to cysts and, again, tend to become lumpier just prior to a period. The cysts can be felt through the skin and usually move when palpated. They tend to recur each month.

Breast cysts are very common and, although there is only a small correlation between them and the development of breast cancer, it is important to get any lumps checked out by your GP.  

USEFUL SUPPLEMENTS

  • Essential fatty acids of the omega 3 and 6 series may help to manage inflammation. Omega 3 can be found in fish oils, while the active form of omega 6, GLA, is most concentrated in starflower (borage) oil. GLA is particularly useful for breast comfort, premenstrually.
  • Vitamin E has also been widely used for maintaining healthy, comfortable breasts premenstrually.
  • Multivitamin/mineral. Important nutrients for hormonal balance include magnesium, zinc, and the B complex vitamins, especially B6.
  • Kelp, which contains iodine, is needed for production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. An under-active thyroid gland can be related to breast cyst formation.
  • Liver-supporting herbs, such as milk thistle, can aid healthy detoxification and oestrogen clearance from the body.
  • Agnus castus, which may help with hormonal balance, and the herb dong quai, which contains plant oestrogens, are both helpful for balancing oestrogen levels.

DIETARY ADVICE

  • Reduce saturated fats in the diet, including dairy products, red meat and fried foods, and increase essential fats, which are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, and their associated oils.
  • Reduce the amount of refined sugar, as sugar can interfere with the anti-inflammatory mechanisms in the body.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum.  
  • Cut out caffeine, as there is evidence that it is linked to cyclical breast pain.  Coffee, cola and chocolate also contain compounds called methylxanthines, which have been shown in research to be linked to the development of breast cysts.
  • Identify and eliminate food sensitivities. A food intolerance pinprick blood test is available which you can carry out at home.
  • Watch your salt intake, as excess salt in the body can encourage the retention of water.
  • Increase intake of wholegrains, including oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn and barley.
  • Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of filtered or distilled water.

LIFESTYLE ADVICE

  • Try skin brushing, using a natural bristle brush, to improve lymph flow. Use only a very light pressure at first and avoid any sensitive areas. Brush daily, towards the heart, before your bath or shower.
  • Massage and rebounding can also improve circulation and lymph flow, which, in turn, can improve detoxification.
  • Lymphatic drainage massage, which improves lymph flow, may also help.
  • Avoid underwired bras, which can restrict circulation of the lymph. Do not sleep in your bra. 

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