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Breast tenderness - what is it and how can I reduce it?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Do you ever feel that you can't run, roll over in bed or even hug your children or partner without getting sore and painful breasts?

Does this occur at certain times of the month not the whole time?

This condition is called mastalgia and symptoms can include breast tenderness, a feeling of tightness, burning, aching and heaviness in the breast area. Some women also experience sore nipples. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain which prevents the ease of normal activity. It can be in a specific area of one breast or a general pain in both breasts.

Up to 70% of women experience mastalgia at some stage of their life. This symptom is usually indicative of a benign cause, however, I do recommend getting it checked out by your GP or at a breast clinic if it is ongoing, radiating up into the armpits or there is significant swelling in the area.

Two types of breast pain

  1. Cyclical - related to the menstrual cycle, usually in both breasts. Is more common in menstruating women, breasts feel sore tender, dull and achey. Is usually connected to hormone changes with PMS

  2. Non-cyclical - not related to the menstrual cycle, can occur in 1 or both breasts, is common in women aged 30-50, breast pain feels sharp, tight and burning. Is commonly caused by cysts, fibroadenoma, menopause.

What can I do to reduce my breast pain?

1. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins that can mimic oestrogens

Our world is so bombarded with chemicals that mimic oestrogens, so much so, that entire populations of male fish have become female just from pharmaceutical run-off into major water systems.Here are simple things you can do to reduce your environmental oestrogen exposure: 

a. Change all cleaning, personal care and make-up products to natural alternatives.

b. Store and heat all food in glass or stainless steel containers.

c. Install a water filter at your tap or buy a filtering jug.

d. Choose organic and free range meat, produce and free range eggs

See my article 'Five ways to reduce the impact of environmental toxins on your hormonal health here.

2. Reduce stress

Our stress levels are so high nowadays! Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol. When our body produces high levels of cortisol it causes a decrease in the production of the hormone progesterone, which your body needs in order to have a regular menstrual cycle. Low progesterone can cause sore breasts and other painful PMS symptoms.

3. Regular exercise

Exercising regularly is an effective way to support a healthy levels of oestrogen. Adipocytes (fat cells) produce oestrogen, and oestrogen stimulates fat cells to grow. This is why exercise is crucial to maintaining your hormones and reducing the feeling of sore breasts. Reducing oestrogen levels also help to regulate imbalanced hormones which can cause PMS symptoms.

4. Wear a comfortable well fitted bra! Underwired and ill fitting bras can cause restricted lymphatic flow around the breast area, as well as contributing to discomfort.

5. Make some specific dietary changes - this is very important

Move to an anti-inflammatory style diet.

Cut down or eliminate dairy for 3 months and see if this helps. If it does, keep it pretty much out of your diet.

Eat less animal protein – Vegetarian sources of protein are less pro-inflammatory than most meat. Fish is also low inflammatory – just make sure to eat varieties that are low in mercury.

Increase the good quality fats. Reduce omega 6 oils like sunflower soy and rice bran, cheap oils, and oils that are rancid, they all increase inflammation. Use olive oil, walnut oil, and coconut oil for cooking, and flaxseed oil raw for dressing salads, grains, and vegetables.

Eat less sugar: Sugar creates inflammation in our body. So that means reduce cakes, biscuits, lollies, fizzy drinks and desserts.

Increase your intake of plant (phyto-) oestrogens: These include fermented soy foods as well as flaxseeds (see my article about seed cycling, including a recipe here)

 Increase dietary iodine: Iodine deficiency is common, and may contribute to fibrocystic breasts as it down regulates oestrogen receptors. Breast tissue has a high number of oestrogen receptors, so breasts need a lot of iodine. If your breasts are generally lumpy and tender, make sure to include seaweeds in your diet. I do not recommend self prescribing the supplement as it too much iodine can be harmful. (Best to book in for a consultation and iodine testing if you feel you need to take iodine)

Drink at least 2 litres of water daily. This, along with having adequate fibre (from lots of veggies) will help eliminate recycling hormones out of your body. Daily bowel motions are very important.

Keep caffeine to a minimum. Methylxanthines contained in coffee, tea, cola and chocolate may contribute to breast pain.

6. Supplementation:

* Evening primrose oil: many women seem to get good results with EPO. Personally, I like to get to the underlying cause of the symptoms, however, while working on the hormones and detoxification taking EPO is worthwhile.

* Iodine: see italicized comment in the section above

* Vitex: several studies have shown that this herb, also called Chaste berry, can help with regulating your cycle, thus reducing breast tenderness and PMS.

* Magnesium bisgycinate: magnesium helps to detoxify oestrogen through the bowel and liver.

This seems like a lot to implement at once! My suggestion is to start by keeping a diary of when and where you feel the breast pain, as well as your other symptoms, this will show you if your symptoms are improving as you make changes to your diet and lifestyle. For more specific recommendations, testing, and targetted supplements make a booking here

Disclaimer: Please get breast lumps checked out by a medical professional.

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