What is Fibrocystic Breast Condition?
Once referred to as Fibrocystic Breast Disease, it is a common, non-cancerous condition characterized by lumpy and painful breasts, which can worsen shortly before menstruation.
What causes fibrocystic breast conditions?
There may be many factors, but the largest contributor is the changing levels of many of the body’s hormones, predominately estrogen and progesterone. Monthly fluctuations of hormones with the menstruation cycle, signal glandular tissue in the breast to grow rapidly and retain fluid, causing swelling and tenderness. Unlike the sloughing-off process in the uterus during menstruation, where each month the cell lining that has rapidly formed is released from the body, the breast does not have a mechanism to slough off and dispose of cells left after each monthly cycle.
Over time, the accumulation of cells and fluid that are not absorbed by the body and left behind in the glandular tissue in the breast, along with inflammation caused by cell debris, make women over the age of thirty the most commonly affected by fibrocystic breast conditions.
If it’s a benign condition, should I be concerned?
Certainly the monthly discomfort and tenderness is something to consider addressing, but more importantly, and the largest risk involved with having fibrocystic breasts, is the condition’s similarity in look and feel to more serious types of breast lumps. Although there is no evidence that fibrocystic breast conditions contribute to or cause cancer, the presence of benign lumps can make it more difficult to perform an effective breast self exam. How does one feel the difference between a harmless lump and one that should be evaluated by a medical professional? Very dense fibrocystic tissue can even make it harder for mammograms to be effective by hiding potential cancerous cells.
Are there foods that contribute to fibrocystic breast conditions?
Some studies have suggested, but not proven, that phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens) found in coffee, tea, chocolate and colas may contribute to the increase of fibrocystic conditions by acting in the same way as estrogen and progesterone. These phytoestrogens may trigger the same rapid cell growth in the breast that happens prior to menstruation as a result of the body’s hormones. Many women have experienced improvement in symptoms of breast tenderness and lumpiness by limiting or eliminating these foods from their diets.
Also reducing sodium intake will also help to reduce the fluid retention common in the period of time prior to menstruation along with the swelling of breast tissue which may cause discomfort.
What should I consider to help fibrocystic breast condition?
Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, may help with the symptoms of swelling and tenderness by its ability to reduce inflammation and fluid retention, common with fibrocystic breast conditions. It may also help slow the rapid growth of cells that contribute to the condition.
No one has been able to prove why Vitamin E is helpful with this condition, but it does appear to help with the symptoms.
Food sources of Vitamin E and some easy ways to add them to the diet:
Almonds - half a hand-full as a snack
Olives – add black or kalamata olives to chopped cucumbers, tomato, feta cheese and greens for a delicious green salad with an olive oil vinaigrette dressing.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard – Add fresh spinach to every salad and frozen spinach or chard to soups and pasta sauces.
Avocados – slice avocado and add to sandwich in place of mayonnaise or butter.
Salmon – brush lightly with pure maple syrup and low-sodium soy sauce and bake.
Wheat germ – sprinkle on morning cereal or add to baked goods, such as muffins or pancakes.
It may not be possible to get adequate amounts of Vitamin E to affect the condition by food sources alone, so supplementation of Vitamin E may be considered.
Studies have shown that women with fibrocystic breast conditions have experienced improvement of their symptoms with supplementation of natural Vitamin E. Keep in mind it is a fat-soluble vitamin, not a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the body stores excess amounts which in some cases can cause toxicity, so daily recommended dosages should be followed closely.