Diet, nutrition, water, weight, time of life, time of the month and hormones--some combination of these factors is likely to lead to breast tenderness some time in a woman's life. In fact, nearly three in four women suffer from breast pain and discomfort at least once in their adult lives. And some have this problem quite frequently.
Make your burgers rare. "The more animal proteins you eat, the slower your body will excrete estrogen," says Susan Doughty, R.N., a nurse practitioner at Women to Women, a clinic in Yarmouth, Maine. This excess estrogen often winds up in breast tissue, which is particularly sensitive to hormones.
Dehydrogenate your menu. Besides reducing meat and poultry, eliminate or drastically cut back on your intake of margarine and other hydrogenated fats, advises Christiane Northrup, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. Hydrogenated fats interfere with your body's ability to convert essential fatty acids from the diet into gamma linoleic acid (GLA). Since your body needs GLA to help prevent breast pain, you may be asking for discomfort if you overdo hydrogenated fats and suppress the production of GLA.
Eliminate caffeine. The role of caffeine in contributing to breast discomfort has not been proven, but many doctors recommend no caffeine anyway. "I've seen women with pain and other symptoms of benign breast changes get markedly better after abstaining from caffeine," says Thomas J. Smith, M.D., director of the Breast Health Center at New England Medical Center in Boston. But you have to cut it out, not just down. Besides coffee and tea, other caffeinated items include soft drinks, chocolate, ice cream products and many over-the-counter pain relievers.
Get your vitamins. A good multivitamin/mineral supplement and a diet with plenty of foods rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and B-complex vitamins are effective weapons against breast tenderness. Most of these vitamins indirectly affect the production of a hormone that can cause breast pain, says Dr. Northrup. Another helpful nutrient is vitamin E. "Many women find relief when they take a vitamin E supplement of 200 to 400 international units a day, particularly when they're experiencing pain," according to Ellen Yankauskas, M.D., director of the Women's Center for Family Health in Atascadero, California.
Slim down if you need to. If you're overweight, simply dropping some of that excess weight may be enough to cure breast tenderness, says California nurse Kerry McGinn, R.N., author of The Informed Woman's Guide to Breast Health. In women, extra body fat makes the body produce more estrogen than it needs.
Try these herbal teas. "Corn silk, buchu and uva ursi teas-available at most health food stores-are three very mild diuretics that seem to relieve breast tenderness in some women," says Dr. Yankauskas. By flushing fluid from your system, diuretics can help reduce breast swelling.
Or go the over-the-counter route. If you prefer to go with an over-the-counter pain reliever, look for one containing the active ingredient pamabron, Dr. Yankauskas advises. Pamabron acts as a mild diuretic.