Why do my breasts hurt during my period?

November 5, 2018
cyclic breast pain, toronto naturopath, naturopathic doctor toronto

Do you experience tender breasts a few days before your period? But then it’s gone once your period starts?

You’re not alone. Almost 35% of women experience swollen and tender breasts (aka. cyclic breast pain) before their period.

So why is this happening to you?

You might not be producing enough progesterone in the luteal phase. Remember, if you’re not ovulating, progesterone isn’t being made by the corpus luteum (tip: go back and read my ovulation article). When progesterone is ‘low,’ estrogen becomes the dominant hormone in the body. 

Or, you may have enough progesterone, but your breast tissues might be sensitive to estrogen. 

Estrogen dominance

Why is this happening?

  • Excess body fat, because fat makes estrogen

  • Stress 

  • Constipation

  • Not eating enough fibre

  • Liver isn’t detoxing well

  • Exogenous estrogens

  • Nutritional deficiencies

And because you’re probably thinking about the scary ‘C’ word, cyclic breast pain, does not usually happen because of cancer.

Supporting Breast Health

You can start supporting your breasts right now. Cyclic breast pain can be a thing of the past if you start including the following strategies:

Stop introducing estrogen into your body

The only estrogen that belongs in your body is your own. That means no estrogen from plastics, from food chemicals or anything else. 

If you’re putting your leftovers into plastic containers, swap them for glass. Same with your water bottles, choose glass or stainless steel instead. Get familiar with the Dirty Dozen. If you’re buying any products off that list, choose organic instead. If you wear lipstick everyday, choose a version that is green (not the colour, but all the power to you if you can rock a green lip). 

dirty dozen

Help your liver

Once you stop introducing unwanted ‘outside’ estrogen into your body, you gotta deal with the estrogen that’s already there (the estrogen that your body makes and the ones coming from plastic and all that junk). 

Let’s get something straight though, your body needs estrogen. But, when there’s too much circulating around, it’s not helping, it’s hurting. 

Your liver is your body’s most important detoxification organ. And it’s the organ that specifically gets ‘used’ estrogen out of your body. It’s always detoxing.

Think about a cashier at the grocery store on Saturday morning. You have 5 minutes to get out of the store. if you put down 10 items onto the belt, she can scan the items quickly and send you on your merry way. But what if you put 75 items on the belt and wanted to price match each one? It’s probably going to take her longer than 5 minutes. Now what if she didn’t know all the codes to your fruits and vegetables, and had to call out for every code? You’re not leaving in 5 minutes, that’s for sure. 

When your liver has a lot of toxins to get out, it’s harder for it to do its job. And, to be frank, if you don’t have the vitamins, minerals and amino acids that it needs to work effectively, then that’s going to affect it too.

Here’s where you can start:

  • Don’t introduce outside estrogens into your body (unless they’re phytoestrogens)

  • Introduce a B supplement for phase 1 support, and eat protein and your brassica vegetables for phase 2 support

  • Drink a turmeric latte, it’s better than the fake orange pumpkin spice

  • You can also take herbs that are specific for your liver. I like dandelion and milk thistle, but you’ll want to work with your ND for this part here.  

Make sure you poop

When your liver finally detoxifies that estrogen, it doesn’t magically disappear from your body, the products are sent to your large intestine (imagine estrogen with a little tag attached). Everything is going to hang out there until you have a bowel movement. Here’s the thing, if it’s there for too long, bacteria in your large intestine will snip that tag, letting the estrogen circulate back into your body. So all that work your liver did to detoxify it? Yes, it was for nothing. 

So we want to make sure that you:

  • Are having a bowel movement 1-2 times per day

  • Healthy balance of good bacteria 

You might have to:

  • Eat enough fibre – whether it be a combination of fruits and vegetables, and ground flax seeds (these really help with estrogen elimination)

  • Take a probiotic and/or eat more fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, etc. 

  • Take a magnesium supplement because it promotes bowel movements (talk to your ND about best form and dose)

Other quick tips

  • Drink water instead of coffee or other caffeine-rich drinks (soda, energy drinks, etc.)

  • Cut out alcohol for the time being

  • Skip sugar because it’s inflammatory, and you don’t need any more inflammation in your body right now

  • Consider how much red meat and dairy you’re eating, these contain outside estrogens and hormones that might not be doing your body any good

When to call a Naturopathic Doctor

You don’t need to live with tender breasts for a week every month. 

Use some of the tips I listed above to start you off. And if you need some extra support, give me a call (or for you millenials,  book an appointment online). I can help make sure your hormones are working for you, and not against you. I can also help you figure out the supplements that your body needs. (So you don’t leave a health food store with a bag of everything). And, if you like or are curious about acupuncture, we can do some of that too!

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