How to ease breast tenderness

Do your breasts sometimes feel tender, sore or swollen for up to a couple of weeks every month? You might find this affects your confidence when exercising, as well as being an uncomfortable background niggle. It is a common experience for many women at any stage of life, but it is often worse during the perimenopause years. And understanding why breasts might be ouchy can provide some reassurance. Let’s delve into the causes of breast tenderness and explore some natural remedies that may alleviate sore and tender breasts.

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Why do my breasts feel tender?

Breast tissue is incredibly sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, particularly to oestrogen and progesterone, which contributes to soreness. Hormonal changes linked to menstruation or during the menopause are usually the primary culprit behind breast pain. Breast pain related to the menstrual cycle (known as cyclic mastalgia), tends to worsen during the luteal phase (the run up to menstruation) when oestrogen levels increase, and progesterone levels drop. These hormonal shifts lead to a build-up of fluid and lymph node swelling, making breasts feel swollen and tender.

Ovulation, which typically occurs around 12 to 14 days before your period starts, can also trigger breast pain. If your breasts seem more sensitive around this time, it is likely due to hormonal fluctuations associated with ovulation.

Essentially, the hormonal dance your body goes through each month can directly affect how your breasts feel.

Why have my breasts changed shape and size?

Breasts can change shape and size depending on your weight, and will naturally change when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. And then as you are perimenopausal or are near menopause and there is a drop in oestrogen levels, the glandular tissue in your breasts begins to shrink. This leads to your breasts becoming less dense, with some women feeling their breasts are ‘sagging’. However, one in five women go up a bra size after menopause, mainly due to gaining weight.

When should I be worried about my breasts?

Cysts or fluid-filled sacs, which feel like small grapes, are quite common as women approach and enter the menopause. Most are harmless and often disappear after the menopause. However, fibrocystic changes can cause discomfort and be alarming so you should contact your doctor if you are worried. You should seek medical advice if you notice new or changing breast lumps, nipple discharge (especially if it’s brown or bloody), breast pain that significantly disrupts your daily life, or lumps occurring only in one breast. These symptoms could indicate an underlying infection, rapidly changing cells or other medical conditions that need attention.

Lifestyle changes to help with breast pain

There are a few simple changes you can make to your lifestyle, to help with breast tenderness.

  • Cut back on caffeine and alcohol – reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol in the weeks leading up to your period might alleviate discomfort. Switch to herbal or rooibos tea and try a delicious non-alcoholic spirit during the second half of your cycle.
  • Go for a bra fitting – have your breasts re-measured and use the opportunity to treat yourself to some new lingerie. Eighty-five per cent of women gain relief from wearing a well-fitted bra.
  • Take exercise – when you are exercising, try and use gentle weights to tone the chest muscles.

Natural remedies to help with breast pain

There are many natural remedies and supplements you could take which may help with breast pain.

  • Vitamins and minerals – Vitamin B6, vitamin E and magnesium have all been shown to help ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including breast pain. So ensure you are having enough from your diet. Liver, salmon, poultry and chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6; vitamin E rich foods are sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts and spinach; and magnesium rich foods are green veggies, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate.
  • Cruciferous vegetables and citrus – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, rocket and Brussel sprouts as well as citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit all naturally contain calcium-d-glucarate which is protective to the breasts. Calcium-d-glucarate helps to detoxify excess xeno-oestrogens via the liver and the gut.
  • Evening primrose oil – this supplement specifically targets breast pain as it contains polyunsaturated fatty acids called GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid), which may be important in maintaining healthy breast tissue. This can be taken for several cycles in a row and may help with other premenstrual symptoms in addition to breast pain.
  • Angus castus – also known as vitex, this herb has gained attention for its potential to alleviate painful breasts, including breast tenderness and conditions like fibrocystic breast disease.

Round up

Understanding the causes of breast tenderness can help you to take proactive steps in managing your symptoms. While it’s essential to keep an eye out for any unusual changes with your breasts and seek medical advice when needed, making some small lifestyle adjustments and exploring natural remedies can often bring much needed relief.

Breast tenderness is very common for women in their often long and complex hormonal journey, so please don’t feel you’re alone. There are always ways to navigate through it with greater comfort and ease.

If breast tenderness is worse for you during the perimenopause, learn more about what your body needs to thrive during these transformative years by joining our online Nutrition for Menopause course.

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