Fibrocystic breast disease – help your body’s well-being with nutrition

By Suzy Sherratt D.N.N. – Look After You

Fibrocystic breast disease is common in women and most usually benign, though it can be associated with increased cancer risk due to high oestrogen levels. Symptoms of swelling and one or more lumps in the breast can be associated to the menstrual cycle with the majority of women experiencing temporary pain and a minority experiencing severe discomfort. The lumps can be fluid filled sacs called cysts or thickened milk glands.

Following research carried out over 15 years in the 1970-80’s it has been known that Fibrocystic breast disease responds positively to the avoidance of caffeine, as the methylxanthines in caffeinated products promote it. What the studies have shown though is that cutting the caffeine for less than six months was not of benefit whereas actually cutting consumption completely and avoiding it for good was beneficial. Caffeinated products include: Tea & green tea, coffee, chocolate & chocolate drinks and cola soft drinks.

Replace these with plenty of water to help the body’s metabolic pathways clean up and for hot drinks use herb & fruit teas and drinks like Rooibosch or Redbush tea. The other benefit I have seen in my practice so often where clients give up caffeinated products and alcohol is that night and hot sweats gradually abate and disappear as they are so much better hydrated……..that inappropriate sweating is a sign that the body is dry and having to cleanse itself via the skin with a big perspire! Draining and further dehydrating for the body!

Fibrocystic breast disease is also thought to be caused by excess oestrogens in the body. From a naturopathic perspective we know that the liver is tasked with the job of breaking down excess oestrogens but if the intake of dehydrating substances as above is high, this will leave the liver challenged to do its job of detoxifying the excess oestrogens easily!

Nutritionally speaking, a high fat diet contributes to excess oestrogen so cutting foods like red meat, chicken, cheese and milk will help – replacing these proteins with plant alternatives such as pulses, beans, nuts and seeds and occasional white or oily fish. Attached are a couple of recipes – a veggie sweet potato stew and a Thai mackerel stew to start making changes with. Pulses like chick peas, lentils and red kidney beans are high in phytoestrogens which are a gentler form of oestrogen and can block the uptake of oestrogens by the cell receptors. A 1989 study found that vegetarian women, in comparison with meat-eaters, excrete 2 to 3 times more oestrogen in their faeces. Additionally, the blood levels of certain powerful oestrogens are 50% lower than those of meat-eaters.

It’s also great to really bump up your intake of green leafy vegetables like broccoli as they contain compounds that help break down oestrogens like oestradiol into less challenging family members! Dark leafy greens are also a great source of magnesium which is so helpful to women during their cycle as the pituitary uses magnesium for the female hormonal cycle. Cook yourself this recipe for stir fried greens adding some tofu at the beginning stage or some kidney beans at the last stage of cooking, it’s a delicious recipe served with a small portion of brown rice or buckwheat or brown rice or buckwheat noodles!
References:
Minton, J.P.; Abou Issa, H. Nonendocrine theories of the etiology of benign breast disease; World Journal of Surgery 1989.
Adlercreutz, H. Diet and plasma androgens in postmenopausal vegetarian and omnivorous women and postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 49:433, 1989
Rose, D. Effect of a low-fat diet on hormone levels in women with cystic breast disease. I. Serum steroids and gonadotropins. J Natl Cancer Inst 78:623, 1987
Rose, D. Effect of a low-fat diet on hormone levels in women with cystic breast disease. II. Serum radioimmunoassayable prolactin and growth hormone and bioactive lactogenic hormones. J Natl Cancer Inst 78:627, 1987
Goldin, B. Estrogen excretion patterns and plasma levels in vegetarian and omnivorous women. N Engl J Med 307:1542, 1982
Goldin, B. Effect of diet on excretion of estrogens in pre- and postmenopausal women. Ca Res 41:3771, 1981