4 Tips For Preventing Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 12:29pm

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) is known to most women simply as having "lumpy breasts." The cause of FBD is increased estrogen production. Twenty to forty percent of menstruating women have FBD. Most women with FBD have lumps or cysts of varying sizes in both breasts. Accompanying pain often fluctuates with the hormonal changes that are part of a woman's cycle and is considered a symptom of PMS. Because FBD is a risk factor for breast cancer, seeking treatment is a good idea. (Notably, though, FBD is not as significant a factor for breast cancer as family history, early menses, or no history of pregnancy.)

Tips for preventing and treating fibrocystic breast disease

1.  Increased consumption of complex carbohydrates and fiber to reduce the risk of cystic breasts

Fibrocystic breast disease has been linked to constipation and to diets low in fiber. Having less than three bowel movements per week puts women more at risk of having cystic breasts. Regular bowel movements help the body eliminate toxins and hormones more efficiently. Diets high in vegetables, which provide complex carbohydrates and fiber, help to increase the frequency of bowel movements and provide essential vitamins and nutrients.

2.   Reduced consumption of methylxanthines may reduce the production of breast cysts

Methylxanthines are a component of coffee, chocolate, black tea, and cola drinks. Some women's breast tissue seems to produce cysts as a result of caffeine intake. In one scientific study, 97% of women who completely avoided methylxanthines showed reduction in size and sensitivity of breast cysts. Results were seen after 4 months of avoiding caffeine and were most significant in severe cases of FBD.

3.   Checking thyroid levels and taking iodine could reduce the risk of fibrocystic breast disease

Iodine is an important mineral necessary for healthy thyroid function. Iodine may also decrease breast tissue sensitivity to estrogen. Rats fed a very low iodine diet show changes in their breast tissue similar to those caused by FBD. Clinically, patients who are treated for low thyroid hormone have decreased breast pain and breast nodules. This suggests that low thyroid hormone or iodine deficiency may be a factor in fibrocystic breast disease.

4.   Consider taking vitamin E, evening primrose oil and B vitamins to normalize hormone levels

Taking supplements may help the body process hormones more effectively and increase progesterone production to balance excess estrogen. Vitamin E may relieve FBD and PMS symptoms by normalizing circulating hormone levels in the body. Evening primrose oil supports progesterone production in the body. B vitamins improve liver function, which is where estrogen is processed and eliminated from the body.

Controlling estrogen is key

These recommendations may work primarily by helping the body to process and excrete estrogen more effectively. Balancing hormone levels can decrease the size, number, and sensitivity of cysts in a woman's breasts, as well as reduce the risk of breast cancer and decrease PMS symptoms. For more information or a more personalized treatment plan, consult your naturopathic doctor.