Home remedies for Breast Tenderness
As sure as the moon has phases, breast discomfort waxes and wanes. Here are
some approaches to ease the unpleasantness hatched by your hormones.
Vitamins, herbs, and oils keep fluid retention in check and coax your hormones
into a breast-friendly balance (more progesterone, less estrogen). And a few
dietary changes will help you get some bothers off your chest.
Just as the uterus cycles through changes each month, so do the breasts.
Shifting levels of hormones—mainly estrogen and progesterone—trigger tissue
growth and fluid retention in the breasts as the milk glands get ready for
potential pregnancy. This can lead to pain and may also cause lumps to form.
Cyclical breast tenderness was once called fibrocystic breast disease, but is now
recognized to be just a side effect of menstruation. Almost half of women under
50 experience it. Breast tenderness tends to be most noticeable just before
menstruation. However, it can also be related to the taking of certain drugs,
such as cimetidine (Tagamet).
When you’re in the shower, soap your breasts and gently massage them
from the center of your chest out to your armpits. This improves blood
circulation and the drainage of lymph, the clear fluid that carries infectionfighting
agents through your body.
Take Cold Comfort
Wrap a towel around a bag of ice cubes or frozen vegetables and apply it to
each breast for about 10 minutes. The cold-pack treatment reduces swelling and
dulls the pain.
Schedule Some Supplements
- Dandelion is a natural diuretic. Take the herb in capsule form, or make a tea
using powdered dandelion root, available at health-food stores or from Web sites
that market dried herbs. Simmer two to three teaspoons of the powder in a cup
of water for 15 minutes. Drink three cups a day.
- Try evening primrose oil, a traditional herbal remedy for premenstrual
symptoms. It contains an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
that may help balance a woman’s hormones and seems to ease cyclical breast
tenderness. Take 1,000 milligrams of the oil in liquid or capsule form three times
a day. Take it with meals to enhance absorption.
- Vitamins E and B6 may also work together to help prevent breast pain. The
effective dose is 800 IU of vitamin E daily, along with 50 milligrams of B6,
though you should discuss supplementation of this level with your doctor. While
you won’t be able to meet these goals with food alone, you can boost the
vitamins in your diet by eating nuts, barley, and wheat germ for more vitamin E,
and avocados, lean meats, and spinach for plenty of B6.
Should I call the doctor?
If you’re taking any prescription medication, tell your doctor about any breast
pain or tenderness, because it could be related to that drug. Other breast
changes should be reported as well, especially any lump in your breast or under
your arm. Soft lumps are usually the result of a buildup of fluid, but if a lump is
more firm and round, your doctor may want to take a biopsy to make sure it is
noncancerous. She or he can help you identify “normal” lumpiness and
distinguish it from lumps that should be tested. Even if you have come to expect
breast pain associated with your period, alert your doctor if the pain becomes
severe or if you notice discharge or blood from the nipple.
Get a New Lift
Consider wearing support bras instead of underwire bras when your breasts
are tender. You may want to wear your bra to bed to reduce nighttime jostling.
When you try on a new bra, make sure it cups your breasts without pinching.
Once you have new, more comfortable bras, throw away the stretched-out old
ones that just don’t provide the right support anymore.
Look to Food Solutions
- Eat more soybeans and other soy foods. Population studies have shown that
in traditional Asian cultures where people consume a lot of soy, women have
fewer estrogen-related problems like breast pain and menopause symptoms. Soy
contains hormonelike compounds called phytoestrogens that can influence
hormonal fluctuations related to menstruation and menopause. Try some soybased
meat substitutes, or add tofu or soy nuts to your meals. Soy milk is another
excellent source; try it in fruit smoothies.
- Consume plenty of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes (like lentils and
black beans), and whole grains. A study at Tufts University School of Medicine
found that women on a higher-fiber diet excreted more estrogen.
- Aim to get less than 30 percent of your calories from fat. Women who live
in cultures where low-fat diets are the norm generally have a lower incidence of
- Cut back your intake of hydrogenated oils, found in margarine, packaged
baked goods, and snack products. When you eat these oils, your body loses some
of its ability to convert the fatty acids in your diet (essential to your health) into
GLA—a necessary link in a chain reaction that prevents breast tissue from
- Reduce your consumption of methylxanthine. Methyl … what? As
unfamiliar as this sounds, it’s a component of many common foods, including
coffee, cola, tea, wine, beer, bananas, chocolate, cheese, peanut butter,
mushrooms, and pickles. Most women who endure painful lumps on a cyclical
basis will improve if they cut way back, or eliminate, foods that are high in this
- Go easy on the salt shaker, and watch your intake of sodium from canned
soups and packaged foods. Sodium increases water retention, which causes your
breasts to swell. Be especially careful to keep a cap on your salt consumption
starting about two weeks before your period.
More Ways to Improve Hormone Harmony
- To help get your hormones into a more breast-friendly balance, try a natural
progesterone cream. One brand is Pro-Gest, made by Emerita. Rub the cream
into your skin every day, following the label directions.
- If you’re on birth-control pills or hormone-replacement therapy, talk to your
doctor about altering your drug regimen. Some relatively minor adjustments in
dosages might help.
- Exercise vigorously 30 minutes at least three times a week, especially during
the week before your period. Exercise decreases the stress hormones in your
body. And that’s significant, because those hormones play a role in causing breast
pain. Exercise also helps reduce fluids in your body while increasing levels of feelgood
chemicals in your brain.
- Regularly engage in meditation, breathing exercises, or other relaxation
techniques that can reduce stress hormones.