Our breasts are the ultimate physical metaphors for the balance we strike between nurturing ourselves and nurturing others.
When a woman is nursing, the quality of her milk depends upon how well she is taking care of her own needs. Good quality milk requires rest, good nutrition, optimism, hope, joy, and loving relationships.
Breastfeeding ourselves (self nurturing) is one of the most common challenges for us women….always so willing to reach out and give what we sometimes don’t give to ourselves.
Here are some tips on how to maintain breast health with Nutrition, Lifestyle, Exercise and Massage based on Traditional Chinese medicine and Western supplements.
~Find a release valve for your stress. According to Chinese medicine, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can play an important part in the development of all types of breast disease, both benign and malignant.
Chinese medical theories suggest that one of the best things a woman can do for her breast (and overall) health is to find a way to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include Chi Kung, Healing sounds, Meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.
~Try self-massage for the breasts. According to Chinese medicine, any type of massage will help relieve stress and keep the body part receiving the massage more healthy due to improved flow of blood, body fluids, and nerve impulses.
Breast self massage will also allow you to get in touch with your nourishing and giving nature; this time a gift you will be giving to yourself!
For tips on self massage, just follow this link.
Food and Nutrition is one form of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine.
~ Eat lots of fruit, vegetables and Flaxseed!. Studies show that women whose diets are high in vegetable based fiber, have lower rates of breast disease.
Numerous studies have shown that fruits, vegetables, and seasonings such as broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage (the cruciferous vegetables), tomatoes, turmeric, garlic, and onions contain antioxidants that protect against cell damage and mutation caused by free radicals.
Indole-3-carbinol, the active estrogen modulatory ingredient in the cruciferous vegetables, is also available in supplement form.
Flaxseed is the food source with the highest known concentration of health-promoting lignans. You may start with one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed a day and work your way up to ¼ cup daily.
~ Include olive oil in your diet. Studies of Italian, Greek, and Spanish women who include olive oil in their diet on a daily basis had at 25% lower rate of breast cancer than women who ate less or no olive oil.
While it is not certain whether it is the mono-unsaturated fat or some other property of the oil which is responsible, it tastes great and can be used for salads, sautés, soups, casseroles, or on bread as a tasty butter substitute.
~ Eat Omega-3 Fats. Studies have shown that women whose diet is high in this type of fat have a lower risk for developing breast imbalances.
A diet that contains adequate amounts of omega-3 fats also helps prevent inflammation and tumor growth throughout the body.
You can get enough omega-3 fats by eating salmon, sardines, or swordfish two or three times per week. I suggest that we be mindful of fish exploitation so we avoid eating threatened species.
If you choose to go for the supplement form, you can take 100-400 mg per day of DHA or fish oil supplements (1,000-5,000 mg of omega-3 per day). Another source of omega-3 fats is flaxseed.
~ Get enough vitamin D. There are vitamin D receptors on all the immune system cells and optimal amounts of this hormone-vitamin are essential for proper immunity.
Clinicians are increasingly finding that women with breast disease have low serum levels of vitamin D. In addition to moderate sun exposure (about ten minutes or so per day) you can take at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. This will also help to increase bone density.
~ Keep refined carbohydrate to a minimum. Breast tissue is sensitive to excess androgens as well as to excess estrogen, both of which are normalized with a diet that keeps insulin and blood sugar normal.
High insulin levels trigger a metabolic cascade that results in cellular inflammation. And inflammation is believed to be a precursor for breast disease.
~ Avoid pesticides and “xeno-estrogens”. Many studies show that cell abnormalities in animals at the top of the food chain are due to the ingestion of concentrated chemicals such as pesticides which tend to act like concentrated estrogen hormones or “xeno-extrogens”. We know that many breast imbalances are estrogen dependent. This is another good reason to eat organic foods whenever possible.
To learn more about Xeno-estrogens, please follow this link.
~ Keep alcohol consumption moderate. Many studies have shown that alcohol consumption does increase breast disease by a certain percentage.
Alcohol is a known inhibitor of folic acid a vitamin required for DNA repair mechanisms. A healthy amount of folic acid may prevent breast imbalances.
~ Consider drinking green tea instead of cola and coffee. There have been many studies on the anti-carcinogenic qualities of green tea. Studies of people in Asia who drink copious amounts of green tea daily show a correlation between green tea consumption and lower rates of a variety of cancers. This type of tea can be purchased in many grocery stores and most all health food stores. It is refreshing and can be drunk iced or hot. Green tea has a small amount of caffeine and can help anyone who is attempting to quit or cut back on coffee, caffeinated colas, or black tea.
~ Exercise regularly and forever! Exercise releases stress as well as improving sleep, appetite, and mood. In a variety of research studies, both aerobic exercise and weight training have been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms in women of all ages including sleep disturbances, depression, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer.
Regular exercise can normalize insulin and blood sugar levels and also tends to decrease excess body fat, all of which keep estrogen levels normal.
You do not need to push yourself to get this benefit. Breathing in the healing powers of the sun and the moon in a morning or evening walk, gardening, dancing…will all do just fine.
~ Get professional treatment for benign breast diseases.
Chinese medicine has many effective treatments for benign breast conditions such as fibrocystic breast disease, mastitis, and premenstrual breast pain. Lumpiness or pain indicate a treatable internal imbalance, so don’t hesitate to get help if you have such a condition. It could be important for your long term breast health.
Breast health in particular and overall health in general is contextual and engaged. We all have different health care needs and challenges. It is important to listen to our needs, either emotional or physical with an attentive ear and a compassionate Heart.
Your deepest wisdom and intuition will show you the path to maintain breast health for life!
Honora Lee Wolfe “Better Breast Health Naturally with Chinese Medicine”
Christiane Northrup “The wisdom of menopause” “Women’s bodies, Women’s wisdom”