Here are 11 tips on how to maintain breast health with Nutrition, Lifestyle, Exercise and Massage based on Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
1. Find a release valve for your stress. According to Chinese medicine, stress, frustration, an unresolved anger can play an important part in the development of all types of breast disease, both benign and malignant. Chinese medical theories suggest that one of the best things a woman can do for her breast (and overall) health is to find a way to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.
2. Try self-massage for the breasts. According to Chinese medicine, any type of massage will help relieve stress and keep the body part receiving the massage more healthy due to improved flow of blood, body fluids, and nerve impulses. Breast self massage can be as simple as 50-100 light circles in each direction over the breast tissue and gentle rubbing over the entire flank and axilla area (underarm) to circulate the lymph glands and restore the flow of energy in the breast area. These techniques are simple, painless, and require very little time.
3. Eat your veggies! Studies show that women whose diets are high in vegetable based fiber, have lower rates of breast cancer. Especially the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage) seem to have a stronger cancer-preventing affect. So make sure you get 3 or more servings of vegetables every day.
4. Include olive oil in your diet. Studies of Italian, Greek, and Spanish women who include olive oil in their diet on a daily basis had at 25% lower rate of breast cancer than women who ate less or no olive oil. While it is not certain whether it is the mono-unsaturated fat or some other property of the oil which is responsible, it tastes great and can be used for salads, sautés, soups, casseroles, frying, basting, or on bread as a tasty butter substitute.
5. Control overall dietary fats. Cancer studies with a variety of types of cancer indicate that dietary fat is a major player in this disease. It is suggested that dietary fat should be kept under 25%. Some doctors suggest that, for women who have had cancer, overall dietary fat should be limited to no more than 15% of overall calorie intake.
6. Avoid pesticides and “xeno-estrogens”. Many studies show that cell abnormalities in animals at the top of the food chain are due to the ingestion of concentrated chemicals such as pesticides which tend to act like concentrated estrogen hormones or “xeno-extrogens”. We know that many cancers are estrogen dependent. This is another good reason to eat organic foods whenever possible.
7. Keep alcohol consumption moderate. Many studies have shown that alcohol consumption does increase breast cancer rates by a certain percentage. However, a small amount of red wine and dark beer and ale on a regular basis is also known to lower the risk of heart disease which still kills many more women than breast cancer does. Also, small amounts of alcohol are very relaxing and promote stress reduction. In the final analysis, moderate alcohol consumption may be better than complete abstention, but moderate is best.
8. Consider drinking green tea instead of cola and coffee. There have been many studies on the anti-carcinogenic qualities of green tea. Studies of people in Asia who drink copious amounts of green tea daily show a correlation between green tea consumption and lower rates of a variety of cancers. This type of tea can be purchased in many grocery stores and most all health food stores. It is refreshing and can be drunk iced or hot. Green tea has a small amount of caffeine and can help anyone who is attempting to quit or cut back on coffee, caffeinated colas, or black tea.
9. Exercise regularly and forever! Exercise releases stress as well as improving sleep, appetite, and mood. In a variety of research studies, both aerobic exercise and weight training have been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms in women of all ages including sleep disturbances, depression, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer. With all the options we have for exercise today, every woman should be able to find some type of sport, class, activity, or equipment to help her keep this commitment to herself.
10. Don’t forget monthly breast self-examination. Most women never do breast self-examination! Perhaps it is because we don’t want to search for what we don’t want to find. However, women who find a malignant lump when it is still very tiny have a better chance of full recovery than those who wait until it is large. If you have never been taught to do a proper breast self-exam, your gynecologist or health clinic can teach you how to do it. If you do not go to a clinic or health care practitioner, you can get the most up-to-date information on breast self-exam from the Mammacare Personal Training System. Call 1-800-MAM-CARE for more information.
11. Get professional treatment for benign breast diseases. According to some Western studies and Chinese medicine as well, benign breast diseases can signal a predisposition for breast cancer. The good news is that Chinese medicine has many effective treatments for benign breast conditions such as fibrocystic breast disease, mastitis, and premenstrual breast pain. Lumpiness or pain indicate a treatable internal imbalance, so don’t hesitate to get help if you have such a condition. It could be important for your long term breast health.
Breast health in particular and overall health in general is a lifelong commitment. Different women will have different health care needs and issues. Decisions about your specific needs should be discussed by you and your primary health care practitioner. However, there is a lot that you can do for yourself to maintain breast health for life!
By: Honora Lee Wolfe
About the Author: Honora Lee Wolfe is a local practitioner and teacher of acupuncture. She is the author of Better Breast Health Naturally with Chinese Medicine, Managing Menopause Naturally with Chinese Medicine, The Successful Chinese Herbalist, and Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists.