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Benign breast lumps

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Fibrocystic breast disease, also known as cystic mastitis or fibroadenoma, is not only common, but also worrying

Fibrocystic breast disease, also known as cystic mastitis or fibroadenoma, is not only common, but also worrying. Any lump or pain in the breast raises the spectre of breast cancer. Some have said that mastitis may predispose to breast cancer, but th

Women with mastitis often experience reddened, inflamed breasts, enlargement of the skin around the alveolar, increased secretions, dilated milk ducts and fibrous tissue around the ducts. These changes are known to be linked to an increase in prolactin secretion (Obstet Gynecol, 1984; 64: 381-5).

Substances containing caffeine and tannin (coffee, ordinary tea, cola, cocoa, chocolate and caffeinated medications), plus the drugs theophylline and theobromine, are called the methylxantines. There is very strong evidence that consuming methylxantine can cause mastitis (Surgery, 1982; 91: 263-7; JNCI, 1984; 72: 1015-9).

If you have this problem, avoiding these substances is the first line of treatment. (This includes decaffeinated tea and coffee, which still contain methylxantines.)

There's also evidence that beta-carotene can help to alleviate mastitis (Prev Med, 1984; 13: 549-54), as can supplements of vitamin E (Nutr Res, 1982; 2: 243-7; Obstet Gyne, 1985; 65: 104-6).

Evening primrose oil often relieves breast pain, whether or not there are breast lumps present. Results are best in women whose discomfort is related to their cycle ( Lancet, 1985; 2: 373-7).

A special form of water soluble diatomic iodine supplement may help relieve the pain associated with mastitis in two to eight weeks, and also gradually resolve the fibrosis. However, this should never be taken without professional supervision (Pro Annu Meet Am Assoc Cancer Res, 1986; 27: 189). There appear to be no studies of whether consuming kelp, sea salt or seaweed, all of which contain iodine naturally, can have similar effects.

Micro-organisms in the feces are known to synthesize estrogens. This means that any woman with a sluggish bowel will absorb these bacteria derived estrogens as well as re-absorbing estrogens in her food. One study which aspirated fluid through the breast of very constipated women discovered that they had far higher levels of estrogen.

If you have breast pain or lumps, you should avoid estrogen containing animal products as much as possible, and make your diet close to vegan. Also substitute rice and rice bran for wheat, rye, barley, oats and derived brans, to reduce the transit time of digested food in the intestines. Cutting down the time that food sits in your intestines may not only benefit you if you have mastitis but also reduce the risk of cancer (Lancet, 1981; 2: 1203-5; Cancer Res, 1981; 41: 3771-3).

Furthermore, rice contains gamma oryzanol, a rice extract, which has the added bonus of correcting a number of menstrual and menopausal disturbances (Asia Oceania J Obstet Gynaec, 1984; 10 (3): 317).

In Germany, Mastodynon, a combination herbal medicine, is often prescribed for mastitis by both herbalists and doctors, who consider it safer than hormones. These drops contain eight different plant extracts: Agnus castus, Caulophyllum thalictroides, Cyclamen europaeum, Ignatia amara, Irs versicolor, Lilium tigrinum, Humulus lupulus and Gonolobus condurango.

Studies have shown the remedy to be a safe and effective regulator of hormonal imbalance (Med Klinik, 1981; 76 (20): 566-7; Med Welt, 1982; 33 (46): 1641-3).

Although it's not yet available in the UK or the US, if you can't get hold of it, you might go to an experienced, qualified herbalist, who can make up a similar combination.

Occasionally, musculoskeletal disorders may produce a pain in the breast. In these cases, visiting an osteopath or chiropractor is the treatment of choice.

!AHarald C Gaier

Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homeopath and osteopath.

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