Breast diseases which are benign (not cancerous) include fibrocystic disease (lumps, fibroids and cysts), fibroadenomas, breast pain (referred to in western medicine as mastalgia), and abnormal nipple discharge. Although not malignant by definition, these conditions can be at worst very uncomfortable to bear, and at best an indicator that something in the body as a whole (and the breasts in particular) is out of balance. Chinese medicine has treated and written about breast disease for almost 2000 years.
Just as with breast cancer, it’s hard to know exactly what causes these breast lumps, fibroids, cysts, and pain to occur. Certainly genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors all play a role. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the most common factor associated with benign breast disorder is a pathological disruption of the circulation of Blood and Qi, particularly that of the JueYin and YangMing meridians. Another contributor may be an accumulation of phlegm, especially if there are cysts. Depending on a person’s age and constitution there may also be underlying Kidney deficiency, where the core fire and water of the body are in short supply.
Chinese Medicine focuses on treating current breast disease while preventing other disease and also balancing the whole body. A typical TCM treatment plan would likely include a combination of acupuncture (optimizing your flow of energy with tiny needles), acupressure / TuiNa / cupping (meridian massage), Chinese herbal medicine (prescribed specifically for you and your situation), dietary recommendations (reduce or eliminate sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol to start with, then incorporate foods which will benefit your constitution or pattern of disharmony), lifestyle explorations (emotional health, sleep hygiene, stress and your stress response, etc…), and Qi Gong (meridian stretches and mindfulness, perhaps the most important tool of all).
Our psychological and emotional well-being play an important roll in breast health. If we are constantly under stress, suffer from irritability, suppress our emotions, or have a tendency to over think things our circulation will stagnate. Physical exercise is important, as is meditation and actively practicing gratitude. Simply being in nature (especially when barefoot! ) can help restore circulation. Deep slow breaths expand the chest and benefit the circulation of Qi and Blood.
A healthy low-fat, high fiber diet is also important. Beans, garlic, mushrooms and onions can be particularly helpful. Avoiding alcohol, meats, coffee, soft drinks, sugar, tobacco, and greasy food is a good idea. Thyroid function should also be monitored, as there is a link between hypothyroidism and fibrocystic disorders.
The overall prognosis for those suffering with benign breast disorders is good. Chinese medicine can often provide physical comfort and a reduction in the size of lumps or cysts. Regular check-ups and monitoring of breast health is an important part of preventative medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, can be very effective in treating and preventing benign breast disorders.
If you live in the Vancouver area and would like to know if Chinese Medicine can help optimize your breast health, please call Yinstill at 604-873-9355 to schedule a complementary 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Erin Flynn.