Did you know that more than half of people with breasts experience fibrocystic breast changes during their lifetime? Fibrocystic breasts are composed of non-cancerous nodular or glandular breast tissue, which feels lumpy or rope-like in texture, and are most common in people in their 20s to 50s. While many people may not have symptoms, some experience breast pain, tenderness, and lumpiness, especially in the upper, outer area of the breasts. These symptoms typically become most bothersome before menstruation. In addition to pain, tenderness and lumps, some people experience green or dark brown nipple discharge and breast changes that are similar in both breasts.
In Western medicine, it is thought that the fibrocystic breasts are the cause of fluctuating reproductive hormones, particularly estrogen. When examined under a microscope, fibrocystic breasts have quite distinct features including fluid-filled sacs (cysts), scar-like fibrous tissue (fibrosis), an overgrowth of cells lining the milk ducts and tissues, and enlarged breast lobules (adenosis). It is also thought that fibrocystic breasts may be linked to hypothyroidism, so thyroid function should be monitored. While fibrocystic breasts are a benign condition, they can still cause uncomfortable and unwanted symptoms. Classical Chinese medicine has a different way of thinking about fibrocystic breasts and with acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle recommendations, can offer relief.
How to Diagnose Fibrocystic Breasts with Classical Chinese Medicine
In classical Chinese medicine, fibrocystic breasts indicate that there is stagnation in the breast tissue. This stagnation is like a “stuckness” that occurs when there is a pathological disruption in the circulation of Qi and blood. There can be multiple causes, according to Chinese medicine but oftentimes, it is particularly related to liver qi stagnation, which is associated with the emotions of anger or frustration. When we hold on to or suppress emotions like anger, stress, and irritability, this can disrupt the smooth flow of Qi and blood. Another factor that can lead to fibrocystic breasts is the accumulation of phlegm, especially if cysts are present. Phlegm is just another manifestation of impaired circulation of Qi, blood, and fluids.
Tips on How to Treat Fibrocystic Breasts
Here at Five Seasons, we combine our knowledge of classical Chinese medicine with other natural health tips to offer various ways to reduce the size of lumps and cysts, as well as address the root cause of the issue.
- Regular exercise is a great way to move Qi and blood – Qi Gong, yoga, or any other kind of movement you enjoy.
- Acupuncture is another great tool to move Qi and blood, and can address not only fibrocystic breasts, but help to balance the entire system.
- Chinese herbal formulas are often used at Five Seasons to shrink the nodules as well as manage hormonal symptoms, and patients often notice an immediate difference!
- Castor oil packs can help relieve breast tenderness by invigorating blood and helping the lymphatic system circulate. Read our full blog on how to make your own castor oil packs at home.
- Fig poultices can be used both preventatively or as a treatment for breast lumps. Figs are rich in pharmacologically active latex and work to draw out toxins and activate the lymphatic system. Cut fresh figs in half, place over nipples (the most porous skin is here) and hold them in place with medical tape or a soft bra. Wear them overnight for a week for prevention or longer if combatting existing lumps.
- Self-massage! Never underestimate the power of touch to increase circulation and offer comfort and relief.
- Spend time without a bra. Let the ladies out! We can’t emphasize this enough. We once had a patient who wore a bra to sleep to keep them nice and perky but ended up creating cysts! Clothing and bras that are too tight prevent the lymphatic system from being able to detoxify.
- Dietary changes: A high fiber, low-fat diet including cruciferous veggies, beans, garlic, mushrooms, and onions can be beneficial. Limit alcohol, dairy, sugar, caffeine, and greasy foods.
- Breathing Exercises: Incorporate deep, slow breaths to expand the chest and diaphragm and improve the circulation of blood and Qi.
- Lifestyle plays an important role in breast health as well. Emotional well-being, sleep hygiene, and stress responses can all impact the natural flow of blood and Qi. Meditation, practicing gratitude, and spending time in nature can all aid in restoring proper circulation.
It is important to see your doctor if you find a new breast lump or area of thickening, have specific areas of continuous or worsening breast pain, experience breast changes that continue after menstruation, or have a breast lump that was examined but has since gotten bigger or changed.
Click here to book your appointment today and finally get some relief from fibrocystic breasts.