For Women Only: Breast Tenderness

Several of my friends have told me that breast size increases with menopause. This was quite the opposite of what I expected. I thought most women would experience a decrease in cup size. But after reading numerous articles on the subject, I've discovered that breast swelling and tenderness (which might also be described as PAIN!) is fairly common during perimenopause.

Why am I writing about this particular subject? Lately, I've been doing a lot of bra shopping. I can barely squeeze into bras I was wearing comfortably just a few short months ago. The rest of my body parts have remained consistent, while my breasts are beginning to remind me of my postpartum breastfeeding days. Swollen and quite painful. Not fun.

In case anyone else out there is going through the same thing, I thought I'd share some natural remedies for breast discomfort due to PMS or perimenopause. My sources include articles by Dr. Christiane Northrup and Dr. Aviva Gold (

Because breast tenderness could be a warning sign of breast cancer, it is advised that you see your doctor if you have any symptoms or changes in your breasts. But according to everything I've read, breast pain is almost always due to excess estrogen or a hormonal imbalance. The natural remedies I am going to share are designed to help you balance your hormones through diet and lifestyle changes. I can't personally vouch for any of these suggestions yet, as I'm just starting this program today. I'll get back to you and share what has worked for me if and when I have any success.

1) Drink plenty of water. Isn't that a hoot? I've been blathering on about water lately (due to a muscle tear in my calf) and here is yet another reminder to stay hydrated. Elimination of excess estrogen is key to relieving breast pain. Drinking plenty of water promotes healthy digestion and elimination, detoxifying the liver, and reducing the amount of estrogen in the body.

2) Ditch the caffeine and alcohol. Did I really just type that? Yes. Sadly, I did. I'm not sure how closely I will comply with this advice, but all sources say caffeine and alcohol are both clearly linked to breast pain. I'm quite addicted to my morning cup of coffee. I can attempt to switch my afternoon cup over to green tea, which still has a small amount of caffeine, but much less. I already drink very little in the way of alcohol, so I'm hoping I don't need to cut out the tiny amount I occasionally enjoy!

3) Reduce inflammation. Any inflammation in the body can cause pain. You might feel pain in your joints, muscles, headache, stiff neck, back, or in the breasts. Reducing overall inflammation in the body will help with ALL of these symptoms. Try eating less red meat and more fish. Increase consumption of healthy fats: olive, avocado, and coconut oils are good examples. Eliminate transfats found in margarine, shortening, and packaged baked goods. Eat less sugar. Add spices such as ginger and turmeric which reduce inflammation.

4) Eat lots of healthy stuff. You might think I already do this, but I tend to balance eating lots of nutritious foods with a small amount of treats. I'm going to now make an EXTRA effort to consume LOADS of fresh greens. Stuff like kale, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts help eliminate excess estrogen from the body. Foods like cucumbers, celery, melon, and cranberry juice also act as diuretics to help reduce bloating and water retention.

5) Add some natural supplements to your diet. Dr. Romm prescribes 2 TB. freshly ground flax seeds on a daily basis. You should grind them fresh (you can use a blender or coffee grinder) and add them to shakes, smoothies, or salads. Eat them raw, not cooked. Flax seeds contain plenty of fiber for healthy elimination as well as good oils. Also add seaweed to the diet for increased iodine which is key to a healthy thyroid gland. Magnesium citrate is suggested to help with elimination and sleep issues. Natural vitamin E has been shown to help most women experiencing breast pain.

6) Reduce stress. Stress is a major factor in hormone disruption, inflammation, and pain. We cannot avoid stress completely, but we can find practices which help us cope with stress. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, chanting, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and other practices can help. In addition, Dr. Romm prescribes breast massage. Find a scented oil you like and massage your own breasts, in or out of the shower, for a few minutes at least several times per week.

7) Try herbal remedies. Evening primrose oil is commonly suggested for menopausal symptoms including breast tenderness. Vitex or chasteberry is another common herbal remedy reported to positively affect many menopausal complaints. Because we are all unique, what works for one woman may not work for another. Sometimes these remedies can do the opposite and bring on breast pain. I'm going to try everything else first, and then turn to herbal remedies if I still need relief.