3 Essential Tips to Support Breast Health
Because breast tissue is a mix of milk-producing glands, fat, and connective tissue, normal and healthy breasts often have an irregular texture. Healthy breasts may have small lumps that increase and decrease in size — usually following the rhythm of the menstrual cycle.
Fibrocystic lumps in the breast may be a sign of an imbalance in your body. Liver-cleansing herbs found in LivAmend can help to release built-up estrogen that can change the texture of breast tissue.
For many women, the appearance of fibrous breast tissue raises a red flag. Fibrous breast tissue has a cobblestone texture. The lumps:
- Are small, round, and smooth
- Have well-defined edges
- Easily move within breast tissue
- Usually show up near the armpit, in the upper, outer corner of the breast
- Are unilateral, meaning they occur in one breast but not the other
- May be tender or swollen before each period
3 Important Breast Health Tips
Fibrocystic breast disease is a disorder marked by the appearance of fibrous tissue in the breast. While finding a fibrous, cobblestone lump may be alarming, only a small fraction of women with fibrocystic breasts tend to be at risk for breast cancer.
However, developing fibrocystic lumps in breast tissue is a sign of imbalance.
The imbalance may be related to the liver, a deficiency of the trace mineral iodine, or congestion in the lymph fluid under the armpit region.
1. Support Liver Detoxification.
If you notice that your breasts are swollen and painful just before menstruation, this may be a sign that your reproductive hormones are out of balance.
Hormones fall out of balance when there are excess levels of estrogen, not enough progesterone, or sensitivity to estrogen. Don’t forget to factor in xenoestrogens, outside estrogens that act like true estrogens in the body. Xenoestrogens can easily throw hormones out of balance because they are ubiquitous to our environment — from plastics and pesticides to meat and dairy products.
Because the liver is the primary organ responsible for the metabolism and clearance of estrogen, it is essential to support the liver if you have signs of a fibrocystic breast disorder. When the liver is overworked, stagnant, or diseased, estrogens can build up. And excessive amounts of estrogen change the texture and density of breast tissue.
Constipation often goes hand-in-hand with fibrocystic breasts because the liver empties into the colon, or large intestine. In order to fully support the liver, make sure that you are eliminating more than three times a week — and preferably at least once a day.
If either the liver or the colon are not able to perform optimally, estrogens are not detoxified, and they go right back into the bloodstream!
For this reason, we recommend herbs that support both the liver and the colon. Donna designed LivAmend with milk thistle, wasabi, artichoke leaf, and sarsaparilla to support the antioxidant system in the liver and its ability to cleanse.
Artichoke leaf also promotes bile flow. You might recognize bile as the substance that helps the body digest fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Bile plays another role in the body: It stimulates peristalsis—or the wave-like motion of the colon. Bile keeps waste moving through the large intestine, warding off bouts of constipation.
2. Support Iodine Levels, Naturally.
The breasts store and secrete a trace mineral called iodine. In fact, some of the original research on iodine shows that breast milk contains four times the amount of ingested iodine than the amount taken up by the thyroid gland, which uses iodine to make thyroid hormone.1
When there is not enough iodine in the body, the thyroid gland and the breasts compete for what little resources are available. And indeed, sometimes restoring thyroid function can improve fibrocystic breasts.
Research shows us that healthy breasts rely on healthy levels of iodine. For example, when iodine is given to women with fibrocystic breast disease, up to 74 percent of women report an improvement in symptoms.2
According to Dr. David Brownstein, Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine, iodine deficiency causes estrogen production to increase, and it makes breast tissue more sensitive to estrogen. He also explains that, “Estrogen balance is impossible to maintain when there is iodine deficiency present.”3
Seaweed, like kombu or laminaria, is rich in iodine. Iodine not only supports the production of thyroid hormones—which has a relationship to fibrocystic breast disease — but it also regulates the balance of estrogen in the body.
Seaweed, an ocean vegetable, is a non-starchy vegetable and combines well with starchy vegetables, animal protein, or grain-like seeds on The Body Ecology Diet. Try placing a strip of kombu into your stockpot when making soup or sprinkle thin threads of hijiki seaweed into your next batch of homemade cultured vegetables.
Another way to support healthy levels of iodine is through a laminaria supplement like Ocean Plant Extract, which contains a full spectrum of ocean minerals — especially iodine and mineral co-factors like selenium.4
3. Move and Massage.
Is your lymph moving? If you are unsure, Katy Bowman, a bio-mechanist and director of the Restorative Exercise Institute, suggests the “egg-hole” test:
- Stand in front of a mirror that gives you a clear view of your armpit.
- Bring your elbow out to the side and lift it until it is the same height as your shoulder.
- While gently pulling your shoulder blade downward, you should notice a hole about the size and shape of an egg.
If you notice a flat wall or if your armpit bulges, this is a sign of lymph accumulation. Katy explains, “Our lymph system drains the cellular waste products removed from the cells. But …lymph has no big pumping mechanism of its own. Lymph movement depends on regular use of the muscles in the area.”5
While swelling in the armpit and around the bra may look like fatty tissue, Katy says it may often be accumulated waste.
You can encourage lymph flow and cellular health by allowing your body (and your breasts) to move freely.
Katy recommends full weight movement, which includes activities you only did as a child—such as hanging and swinging. Another great way to move the lymph is through massage. Katy also suggests swinging your arms while you walk, normal breathing, sleeping without a bra, and breastfeeding.
Nutritional Genomics Essential Summary:
Cobblestone-like fibrous breast tissue may lead to fibrocystic breast disease. Fortunately, only a small percentage of women with fibrocystic breasts have a risk of breast cancer. Nonetheless, fibrocystic lumps in breast tissue are often the sign of a greater imbalance.
Here are 3 helpful tips to naturally restore breast health:
- Start with liver detoxification. Swollen, painful breasts just before menstruation may indicate that reproductive hormones are out of whack. The liver regulates metabolism and processes estrogen, making it essential to support liver health if you have fibrocystic breast disorder. Use detoxifying herbs in LivAmend to promote bile flow and support the liver and colon.
- Support natural iodine levels. The breasts store and secrete the trace mineral iodine. When iodine levels are low, the breasts and the thyroid gland compete for mineral resources. Research supports healthy iodine levels for healthy breasts—when iodine was given to women with fibrocystic breast disease, 74 percent of women saw an improvement in symptoms. Include seaweed on The Body Ecology Diet; enjoy with animal protein, grain-like seeds, or sprinkled on cultured vegetables. Or, try a laminaria supplement like Ocean Plant Extract instead.
- Ensure lymph movement. The lymph system is designed to drain cellular waste and can often accumulate under the arms. You can encourage lymph flow and breast health with free movement—like swinging, hanging, swinging your arms while you walk, sleeping without a bra, and breastfeeding.
- Bretthauer, E. W., Mullen, A. L., & Moghissi, A. A. (1972). Milk transfer comparisons of different chemical forms of radioiodine. Health physics, 22(3), 257-260.
- Ghent, W. R., Eskin, B. A., Low, D. A., & Hill, L. P. (1993). Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Canadian journal of surgery. Journal canadien de chirurgie, 36(5), 453-460.
- Brownstein, D. (2012). Iodine: Why you need it, why you can’t live without it. OPTIMAL HEALTH, 64-84.
- Cann, S. A., van Netten, J. P., & van Netten, C. (2000). Hypothesis: iodine, selenium and the development of breast cancer. Cancer Causes & Control, 11(2), 121-127.
- Bowman, Katy. Restorative Exercise Institute. Retrieved 01-27-14.