Fibrocystic breast disease is relatively common in women of childbearing age, but uncertainty about the condition can create discomfort, pain, and anxiety. Although having fibrocystic breasts doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer, the symptoms can be disruptive and worrisome. This article explores The Wellness Way approach to alleviating the discomfort of fibrocystic breasts. Balancing hormones can significantly improve this issue and potentially even address other symptoms along the way.
What Are Fibrocystic Breasts?
Fibrocystic breasts, also known as mammary dysplasia and previously as fibrocystic breast disease, are commonly seen in premenopausal women. It’s the most common benign (non-cancerous) breast condition affecting women and is characterized by lumps, discomfort, and pain in the breast tissue. These changes in breast tissue can vary in severity and tend to occur in response to hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Many women notice symptoms right before menstruation begins. Fibrocystic breast changes are rare after menopause unless a woman is taking estrogen replacement. 
Symptoms of Fibrocystic Breasts
Some common symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease include:
- Lumpy breasts
- Breast tenderness or soreness
- Breast pain (cyclic mastalgia)
- Fibrous tissue (“Fibrosis”)
- Breast cysts
- Nipple discharge
It’s important to note that fibrocystic breasts aren’t associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, if you have any alarming symptoms or questions about your breast health, it’s a good idea to get a clinical breast examination.
How Are Fibrocystic Breasts Diagnosed?
The mainstream medical system typically diagnoses fibrocystic breast disease through a clinical examination, medical history, and diagnostic tests. Mayo Clinic, for example, uses these diagnostic procedures: 
- Medical history and breast exams: A healthcare provider will begin by taking a detailed medical history, family history, and a list of your symptoms. They will usually also conduct a breast exam to assess the texture and look for any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue.
- Mammography: A mammogram is another standard tool used for diagnosis. It involves taking X-ray images of the breasts and looking for cysts, calcifications, or other breast changes. Fibrocystic breasts usually show up as dense breast tissue.
- Breast Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the breast tissue. It can help a medical provider distinguish between solid masses and the fluid-filled cysts common in fibrocystic breasts.
- Fine-Need Aspiration (FNA): If there is a lump or cyst, the healthcare provider may perform an FNA to extract a sample of fluid or tissue from the breast for analysis. This process can help confirm the nature of the lump and rule out cancer. If the fluid is clear or straw-colored, it usually means it’s non-cancerous. If it’s not clear, more tests may be necessary.
- Biopsy: A doctor may recommend a biopsy if there are suspicious findings or if they cannot determine the nature of a breast lump with other methods. During a biopsy, a small tissue sample is removed and sent to a laboratory for examination. This procedure can confirm whether the tissue is harmless or cancerous.
If fibrocystic breast disease is confirmed, the doctor will proceed with their standard of care treatments.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, referring to these methods as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the current state of the body with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are other natural therapies that can support healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Fibrocystic Breasts
When it comes to fibrocystic changes in the breasts, mainstream healthcare practitioners are first and foremost concerned with ruling out cancer. Once practitioners have determined they’re dealing with benign breast disease (not cancerous), they’ll recommend medications and lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms.
Medications for Fibrocystic Breasts
- Pain Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) or other over-the-counter meds, like aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are common.
- Birth Control: Oral contraceptives may be used to manipulate hormones, reducing the abnormal buildup of breast tissue.
- Other Hormone Medications: Medications to reduce prolactin, like cabergoline (Dostinex), or reduce estrogen, like tamoxifen (Soltamox), are also common. The endometriosis drug, danazol (Danocrine), is also used.
These pharmaceuticals may alleviate some discomfort by synthetically suppressing hormones and inflammation, but they all have side effects. Those side effects are why many women seek out home remedies and natural ways to alleviate fibrocystic breast symptoms.
Medical and Surgical Procedures for Fibrocystic Breasts
If medications aren’t helpful, a doctor may recommend other medical or surgical interventions, including: 
- Fine-Need Aspiration (FNA): Medical providers can also use FNA to drain fluid from cysts to collapse them and relieve pain or discomfort.
- Surgical Removal: If a cyst doesn’t go away after repeated FNA, surgical removal is a possibility.
While these procedures can remove cysts and alleviate discomfort, they don’t address the underlying imbalance that led to the fibrocystic changes.
What Causes Fibrocystic Breasts? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
At The Wellness Way, we think differently! The most common cause of fibrocystic breasts is estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance comes from various combinations of traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute (like a car accident) or chronic (like being in a physically abusive relationship). Examples of traumas that could contribute to estrogen dominance and fibrocystic breasts include the following:
- Physical abuse
- Abdominal injuries
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accidents
- Severe illness or infection
- Witnessing violence or a natural disaster
- Military combat – PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Having a baby
- A death in the family or a close friend
These physical traumas may set off a state of chronic stress within the body. The result may be hormone imbalance and fibrocystic breasts.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors in the body. Examples of toxins that could contribute to fibrocystic breasts include:
- Sugar – Excessive sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, it has trouble regulating blood sugar levels, which can result in weight gain and increased body fat. Fat cells produce estrogen, contributing to estrogen dominance and raising the risk of developing fibrocystic breasts. 
- Environmental chemicals – Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are commonly used in plastics, personal care products, fragrances, and household items. They may disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking or interfering with natural hormones, including estrogens. When absorbed into the body, these “xenoestrogens” can bind to estrogen receptors, potentially increasing estrogenic activity. Examples of these endocrine disruptors include PCBs, bisphenol-A (BPA), and phthalates. When they accumulate in the breasts, they may contribute to fibrocystic changes. 
- Medications – Certain pharmaceutical drugs, including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, can lead to too much estrogen in your system, contributing to estrogen dominance and fibrocystic breasts. 
- Alcohol consumption – Frequent alcohol consumption can contribute to estrogen dominance by impairing liver function, increasing the conversion of male hormones to estrogens, increasing abdominal fat, and more. Women who consumed over 25 grams of alcohol daily had higher levels of circulating estrogens (roughly translated to just over two drinks a day.)  A 2012 study found an association between drinking alcohol in adolescence and benign breast disease. 
- Food allergies – Healthy foods can act like toxins if you’re allergic to them. Continuing to eat foods you’re allergic to can lead to chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalance. 
- Gut dysbiosis – Intestinal dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) may also contribute to estrogen dominance. Overgrowth of certain gut bacteria increases an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. When this happens, estrogens recirculate instead of being eliminated. The result can be estrogen dominance and associated conditions like fibrocystic breasts. 
Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering inflammation and imbalance. When the stress hormone cortisol goes up, progesterone goes down, and you may be left with estrogen dominance and fibrocystic breasts.
Emotional stress can come from the following:
- Relationship issues – Relationships can turn toxic, leading to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which can, in turn, affect hormone levels, including progesterone and estrogens.
- Financial stress – Financial struggles can lead to a hormonal imbalance due to the long-term effects of stress and cortisol.
- Watching the news – The mainstream media rarely focuses on the positive. Regularly exposing yourself to bad news increases fear, worry, and overall stress.
- Feeling overwhelmed – Stress from significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city, can lead to high cortisol, low progesterone, and estrogen dominance.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger – Holding a grudge creates stress in the body. Chronic stress may show up as inflammation, weight gain, and hormonal imbalance.
- Grief/feelings of loss – Grief is another form of stress that may create imbalances in the body.
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.
The Wellness Way Approach to Hormone Imbalance and Fibrocystic Breasts
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.
Essential Tests for Assessing Your Inflammation Levels and Hormone Health
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Female Panel: Female Panel
- DUTCH Test: DUTCH Complete Hormone Panel
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
Your Wellness Way practitioner will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Women with Fibrocystic Breasts
First, focus on lowering inflammation in the body. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as the Wellness Way practitioner recommends. Here are some general dietary guidelines for women with fibrocystic breasts.
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation and cortisol. They can also lead to gut dysbiosis, potentially causing estrogens to go up by increasing beta-glucuronidase.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome. A Mediterranean diet, for example, improved menstruation-related pain in a 2020 study. 
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated. In fact, they may even be beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. 
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. 
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Flynn.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and other botanicals high in polyphenols support the gut and keep inflammation under control. 
A healthy diet can reduce inflammation, but supplements can support gut healing and hormone balance.
Potential Supplements for Women with Fibrocystic Breasts
A healthy diet reduces inflammation, but natural remedies like herbs and supplements can support proper hormone levels. Here are some herbs and supplements that may balance out estrogen and bring you closer to hormone balance:
- DIM (Diindolylmethane) – DIM is a compound derived from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. In studies, DIM reduces circulating estrogen, potentially lowering the risk of developing estrogen dominance. 
- Calcium D-Glucarate – Supplementing with calcium-D-glucarate has been shown to inhibit beta-glucuronidase produced by bacterial overgrowth, which can reduce recirculating estrogens. 
- Wellness Greens – Sulforaphane, a compound present in cruciferous vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts, helps to support the liver and reduce estrogen dominance and fibrocystic breasts. 
- Chaste Tree – Chaste tree (also known as Chasteberry or Vitex agnus castus) promotes healthy progesterone levels, which can help balance out estrogen levels. It’s used for breast pain in Europe. 
- Dandelion Root – Dandelion root promotes liver detoxification, helping it more efficiently break down estrogen byproducts and remove them from the system. 
- Milk Thistle – Milk thistle is primarily known for supporting liver health. However, the liver is crucial for metabolizing hormones, including estrogen. An efficient liver function may help the body process and eliminate excess estrogen more effectively. Since fibrocystic breast disease is associated with hormonal imbalances, improving liver health could indirectly help breast health. 
- B vitamins – The B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B6, may also be supportive. B6 is needed for progesterone production. 
- Iodine – Iodine deficiency is common in women with fibrocystic breast disease. In a review study, 70% of women with fibrocystic breasts noticed an improvement with iodine supplementation. However, it’s important to watch thyroid hormone levels while supplementing it. 
- Gallbladder Complex – The Wellness Way Gallbladder Complex has ox bile, artichoke, and beet, which help promote bile availability and movement. Optimizing bile production and flow can help the body remove excess estrogen, reducing estrogen dominance-related complaints, such as fibrocystic breast disease. 
- Evening Primrose Oil – Evening primrose is a good source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that may reduce inflammation and support healthy progesterone levels. In a 2021 review study, evening primrose oil reduced breast pain as well as NSAIDs or a commonly prescribed drug, danazol. 
- Fish or Krill Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill may help lower inflammation in the body, reducing breast pain. A 2014 study found that an omega-3 supplement reduced pain by about 42% after two cycles. 
- NAC (N-acetylcysteine) – NAC supplements are typically used for liver support and to stimulate the production of the super antioxidant glutathione. However, in a 2022 study, NAC reduced breast pain associated with fibrocystic changes. 
Each person is different – herbal remedies that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing factors to estrogen dominance and fibrocystic breasts.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for Fibrocystic Breast Disease
- Regular chiropractic care – If your posture is poor and your nervous system is affected, it can create stress and inflammation, affecting hormone balance.
- Regular thermography scans – Breast thermography is a non-invasive way of taking images to assess breast health and detect potential breast abnormalities early. It involves using thermographic cameras to capture and record the heat and temperature variations on the surface of the breast. Learn more by reading this article.
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about women’s health and natural ways to alleviate fibrocystic breast disease.
Educational Resources for Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Videos & Webinars Related to Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Articles to Support Those with Fibrocystic Breast Disease
CONNECT WITH US
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Please set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. To learn how best to overcome fibrocystic breast disease and other chronic complaints, contact a Wellness Way clinic today.
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