None of these sites mention the use of iodine, but mention the use of vitamin E or evening primrose oil are effective on their own for treating fibrocystic breast disease.
Once upon a time if you presented to your doctor with lumpy, painful breasts, you were likely to be told you had fibrocystic breast disease. This somewhat old fashioned term is less frequently used now. Dr Susan Love author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book refers to Fibrocystic breast disease as being a waste paper basket diagnosis. In other words, it’s the label you’re given to cover uncomfortable or lumpy breasts, whatever the underlying cause of the condition.
Lumpy breasts effect around half of all menstruating women at some time in their life, most commonly between the ages of 30 and 50, although younger women and women using HRT can also suffer from FBD. . These benign lumps usually cause shock and anguish when first discovered. They can range in size from one tiny nodule the size of a pea, through to masses of painful lumps the size of a grape or even a golf ball.
Symptoms usually follow one of two patterns. Lumpiness and breast tenderness may be spread throughout the breasts, and usually worse in the week or so before the onset of your period. After your period you will notice a decrease in pain and lumpiness. Or there may be one or several clearly defined cyst-like lumps (often affecting only one breast), varying in size from a pea to a golf ball. These lumps are also often more painful pre-menstrually.
Breast pain and lumpiness usually has a hormonal basis. Cyclical breast tenderness and lumpiness is a common feature of premenstrual syndrome, and is partly the result of a relative excess of estrogen. Many women with this condition also have elevated levels of the hormone prolactin, the chief function of which is to regulate the development of the breasts and milk secretion during and after pregnancy.
While FBD or cystic mastitis is a benign condition, the presence of fibroadenomas (smooth, firm, benign tumours which feel slippery and move around the breast easily) may increase the risk of breast cancer in women where there is a family history of the disease. Otherwise, there is no clearly proven link between FBD and increased breast cancer risk.
Many women who eliminate caffeine from their diet (coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks) notice a definate improvement in their breast symptoms. A diet high in saturated fats also appears to aggrevate FBD symptoms for many women. Reducing saturates and increasing omega-3 fats and GLA in the form of evening primrose oil quickly improves cyclical breast discomfort and lumpiness.
The first step in treatment is to establish that lumps or cysts are actually benign and not cancerous. A mammogram may be suggested, but in pre-menopausal women especially, results are not always accurate. For this reason, it is advisable to have an ultrasound along with the mammogram.
Sometimes a fine needle biopsy may be performed, in which a needle is inserted into the cyst with the aim of withdrawing a little fluid for testing. A breast biopsy may be performed, in which a small amount of the cystic tissue is removed for analysis. If there are one or two largish lumps, surgical aspiration may be performed, during which the trapped fluid and dead cells are withdrawn from the lump, through a fine needle.
Pain killers and antiinflammatories offer symptomatic relief from cyclical breast pain, but do little to address the problem itself. Sometimes the oral contraceptive pill is suggested, and for some women this significantly reduces breast pain. Danazol is a hormonal drug which has been shown to relieve breast pain in 70 – 80% of women. Unfortunately, there are a number of very unpleasant side effects including irregular periods, loss of libido, leg cramps, weight gain, and in some women, a deepening of the voice and hairiness. Bromocriptine is a drug used to inhibit the release of the hormone prolactin. It has been shown to be effective in around 65% of cases of cyclical breast tenderness. Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, headaches and irritability.
Diet and nutrition
Dietary change can significantly decrease or even eliminate problems with cystic or painful breasts, through changing the underlying hormonal imbalances. An efficient eliminative system is vital for regulating estrogen levels, and dietary changes are partly aimed at optimising the function of the liver and bowel. A healthy liver more efficiently breaks down cirulating estrogen for elimination, helping to normalise the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Having regular daily bowel motions is also important for ensuring excretion of estrogen metabolites from the body. In clinic I have noticed a strong correlation between constipation or sluggish bowels and FBD.
For optimum liver and bowel function, the ideal diet is rich in fibre from fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, lentils, brown rice, nuts and seeds. Refined carbohydrates, and processed or “chemicalised” foods should be kept to an absolute minimum. Minimise your intake of saturated fats in the form of meat, dairy products and palm oil; and increase the amount of omega-3 and GLA by consuming more oily fish, flax oil, avocado, nuts and seeds and evening primrose oil.
Vegetarian women and women eating a diet low in saturated fat diet tend to have lower estrogen levels than meat eaters, and fewer estrogen dominance symptoms such as FBD, PMS and period pain.
Include brassica vegetables in your diet every day. Choose from brocoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. High in I3C (see breast cancer chapter), these vegetables help to change estrogen metabolites into a less potent form, helping to protect breast health.
Until recently there was no proven link between caffeine consumption and breast lumpiness and pain. In 2001 a study in Fertility and Sterility (2001; 76: 723 – 729) confirmed that drinking more than two cups of caffeinated coffee a day boosts estrogen levels (estradiol). In fact women consuming four or five cups of coffee a day had 70% higher estrogen levels in the first half of their cycle, compared with women drinking one coffee a day. For many women FBD improves significantly when caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks) is eliminated completely.
There is a connection between thyroid function and breast health, and an undiagnosed underactive thyroid may contribute to the development of FBD. Iodine deficiency can contribute to hypothyroidism (as it is used in the manufacture of the thyroid hormone thyroxine) , and interestingly rats with induced iodine deficiency exhibit all the typical symptoms of FBD. Iodine deficiency is most likely to be an issue if you are a vegetarian, not eating seafoods, and perhaps not using any kind of iodised salt. thyroxine. Adding a little iodised salt to your food, or sprinkling kelp over your dinner will boost iodine levels. Don’t go mad with the kelp though, as you can definitely overdo the iodine boosting, and end up causing serious thyroid problems. A half teaspoon of granulated kep each day should be enough to meet your iodine requirements if you are not eating seafood or iodised salt.
The majority of FBD sufferers experience significant relief from using vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E helps to rebalance the abnormal estrogen/progesterone ratio common in women with FBD, thus reducing the cyst-promoting effects of excessive estrogen.
Vitamin E reduces the number, size and pain of breast lumps in approximately 80 percent of women. In many cases, the FBD completely disappears after several months of regular vitamin E use. Effective dosage seems to vary from woman to woman, with some responding to as little as 300 iu a day of d-alpha tocopherol, while others require up to 1000iu a day.
New Zealand has one of the lowest soil selenium levels in the world. While it is still not definitively clear, there is a significant amount of research indicating that a deficiency of selenium contributes to the development of FBD, and possibly also to breast cancer. (see nutrition and breast cancer chapters).
B vitamins are essential for the liver to effectively break down estrogen. A high potency balanced B complex containing 50mg of B6 is a useful addition to any clinical nutrition regime for FBD. An additional 50mg of B6 may sometimes me needed in conjunction with the multi.
Evening Primrose Oil capsules are slow acting, but often extremely effective in relieving FBD after two to three months of continual use. Doses of between 1500 mg to 2000mg twice daily may be required. After three months of this high dose, many women find that they can reduce their intake to 2 – 3000mg a day and maintain the therapeutic effect.
- Plumbum. The whole of the breast feels hard and tender and there is often severe constipation. .
- Carbo Animalis. Indicated when the FBD affects the right breast and results in a clearly defined nodule which produces spasmodic pain.
- Bryonia. Hard, heavy breasts with slight heat but severe pain. The symptoms get worse at the time of menstruation.
- Belladonna. Hot breasts with hard, sore lumps which feel very much worse for any kind of touch, pressure or movement. The pain is shooting and darting in nature.
Vitex Agnus Castus, commonly known as chaste tree has long been the herbalists choice for gently relieving FBD problems. Vitex decreases prolactin levels which leads to an increase in progesterone levels, in turn helping to minimise the problems of excess estrogen often associated with FBD. Vitex regulates hormones and inhibits the release of FSH and LH (see anatomy chapter). This leads to less estrogen to stimulate breast tissue. This extremely safe and gentle herb is often slow acting, and continuous use for three months may be necessary before an obvious improvement in symptoms. Do not use Vitex if you are on the oral contraceptive pill or pregnant.
The humble dandelion is a herbal favourite for liver cleansing and detoxing. It has also been a traditional herbal ally in the treatment of both breast cysts and uterine fibroids. Dandelion is best taken as a dried herb or a tincture, rather than using one of the commercial dandelion coffees (which are processed and lacking in active ingredients). Use 10 to 30 drops of dandelion tincture daily, or two capsules of dried herb three times daily.
Phytolacca or pokeroot is a lymyphatic cleanser which can be used as a topical application to decrease breast lumpiness and pain. Massage pokeroot ointment into the breasts on the days they are lumpy or sore. Do not use this ointment if you are breastfeeding, as it is highly toxic if ingested by a baby.
Castor oil packs can work wonders in the treatment of FBD. Use a flannel or towelling facecloth, folded over several times and dipped into castor oil until wet but not dripping. Put the cloth over the breast lumps and cover with a piece of plastic or cling film. Next cover with a hot-water bottle as hot as can be tolerable comfortable. Over this place a thick towel. Just sit back and relax for about an hour. When you have finished with your pack, you can wash the oil from your skin with a solution of water containing two teaspoons of baking soda. Try to use the packs every night, or at the very least three nights a week until your lumps have gone.
The liver meridian runs up through the outside edge of the breasts, and from a TCM perspective, this is the meridian most often involved in breast health issues. Lumpy or painful breasts are often the result of a stagnation or blockage of the flow of qi in the liver meridian. Emotional stress and turmoil has a negative effect on liver qi, as does supression of emotion or frustration. Many women notice that their breast pain and lumpiness worsens with stress, and the resulting disruption to the free flow of qi in the liver merdiain.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to effectively restore the free flow of liver energy, and can dramatically improve FBD. This treatment is most effective during the early stages of the disease while the breast lumps are still small and few in number.
Natural progesterone cream is useful to reduce the problems of estrogen dominance which are common with FBD. Salivary progesterone levels should be monitored before and during use.
From “Wellbeing” by Lynda Wharton
Of course we all know what the argument will be. These are nor peer review studies that the iodine supporters claim are fradulent 90% of the time anyway.
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