What causes breast tenderness?
The short answer as to what causes breast tenderness is hormone imbalance. Both the hormones estrogen and progesterone have effects on breast tissue. The relevant hormonal imbalance is often estrogen dominance, which means there is relatively higher estrogen and lower progesterone. Although, higher levels of progesterone can also cause breast pain. Some women will find that their breasts hurt from ovulation onward, whereas others will find it only occurs a few days before their period starts.
Serious conditions must be ruled out by your medical doctor as a source of breast pain, particularly if there are other abnormalities, like a breast that doesn’t move normally, inversion of the nipple, or discharge from the nipple.
Breast tenderness is often worse in the week before menstruation, that is during PMS (just to add to the fun). During this week there is supposed to be a sudden drop in both estrogen and progesterone, the sudden drop of one without the other may explain why there is breast pain. How do these levels drop? Through the liver.
How is the liver involved in breast tenderness?
The liver is responsible for phase I and phase II detoxification of estrogen. Efficient liver processing of hormones requires vitamin B6, vitamin B12, 5MTHF (a special, active form of folic acid), indole-3-carbinol (a nutrient found in broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), sulfur (found in garlic, onions, eggs), and calcium-d-glucarate (found in cruciferous vegetables, apples and onions). Many of these substances are found naturally in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), apples, grapefruit, garlic, and onions. Dietary sources of these substances may be inadequate in women with breast tenderness in which case I recommend supplementation.
Evening Primrose Oil has also been shown to help relieve breast tenderness.
How can a naturopath help breast pain?
I can help with breast pain by ordering appropriate lab tests and supporting healthy liver detoxification of hormones and chemicals that may be acting like hormones. I can also help balance hormones through the use of appropriate herbs.
Tests that may be helpful for breast tenderness:
Cycle day 3 LH, FSH, estradiol, estrone, and cycle day 21 progesterone. A breast exam should be performed to rule out a breast mass, and if in doubt, an ultrasound and/or a mammogram should be done.
Book an appointment here or call the office for more information at 416-481-0222.
Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.
Breast Pain Research
Based on our preliminary findings, exercise treatment is beneficial for patients with mastalgia and it can be suggested by clinicians.
Phys Sportsmed. 2017 Feb;45(1):17-21. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2017.1252702. Epub 2016 Nov 3.
The effects of exercise on mastalgia.
Genç A1, Çelebi MM2, Çelik SU3, Atman ED4, Kocaay AF3, Zergeroğlu AM2, Elhan AH5, Genç V3.
Smoking, caffeine consumption, and perceived stress were associated with mastalgia (breast pain).
J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2001 Jun;22(2):71-6.
Cyclical mastalgia: prevalence and associated health and behavioral factors.
Ader DN1, South-Paul J, Adera T, Deuster PA.