Breasts are a really important part of the female endocrine system and don’t always get the health-related attention that they should. As part of the reproductive system, the health of your breasts can provide great insight into your overall health and nutritional status. The breast tissue is highly dynamic, changing throughout the menstrual cycle and also throughout the various stages of life. The health of your breasts are influenced by various factors including hormones, gut health, detoxification and nutrition.
Breast tissue is considered to be part of the endocrine system and therefore is very much influenced by hormones. Correcting the delicate balance of hormones – specifically, oestrogen and progesterone – is the key to healthy breasts. Hormonal imbalances may arise for a number of reasons such as impaired detoxification, nutrient deficiencies, thyroid disease or long term use of hormonal-based contraceptives. Key indicators of hormonal imbalance may include:
- heavy bleeding and/or clotting
- severe period pain
- low mood and/or anxiety (particularly in the week prior to menstruation)
- irregular menstrual cycle
- hair loss
- unexplained weight gain
- low libido
*if you suffer any of the above symptoms, it is important to check in with your GP or health practitioner
Detoxification is a processes that is continually happening in our bodies. The liver, digestive tract, lymphatic system, skin and kidneys are all involved in the breakdown and elimination of various toxins and by-products (such as hormones). Supporting these detoxification pathways is an essential part of keeping hormones in balance and maintaining healthy breast tissue.
Breast tissue contains a dense network of lymphatic vessels and lymphatic fluid. One of the main functions of the lymphatic system is to transport nutrients into tissues and collect metabolic waste produces by cells, so it is important to keep the lymphatic fluid moving. Daily skin brushing is an easy way to shift the lymphatic fluid and prevent congestion within breast and other tissues.
The bowels are an important route of elimination, so just like the lymphatic system, it is important to keep things moving. Fibre supports detoxification in a number of ways. Firstly, soluble fibres feed our healthy gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria are able to metabolise environmental chemicals that we are exposed to, modulating their toxicity. Secondly, fibre helps to add bulk to the stool, promotes peristalsis (contraction of the intestines) and therefore improves regularity of bowel movements. Lastly, fibre binds to bile acids in the gut and transports them out of the body via the stool. Bile acids are produced in the liver (released by gallbladder) and are involved in the digestion of fats and also provide a nifty elimination pathway for metabolites the liver produced in breaking down toxins.
*When increasing fibre intake, it is important to ensure you increase water as well. Also, take it slow and steady with increasing fibre intake – feeding those gut bacteria can create a little more gas.
Nutrition and Breast Health
Nutrition is really the link that ties everything in this article together. The reproductive system is particularly sensitive to nutritional deficiencies. The ability to reproduce is not essential for our own individual survival – hence, the reproductive organs are generally the last to get a share of the available nutrients.
There are a couple of key nutrients that are crucial for hormonal harmony including iodine, zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin A. It is also important that you intake of macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats – are well balanced to suit your individual needs. A deficiency in nutrients not only impacts on your delicate hormonal balance, but will always impede detoxification pathways, further compounding an imbalance in hormone. Nutritional deficiencies can also directly impact the health and integrity of breast tissue, the most common being iodine. Now, before you go out and start supplementing haphazardly, you should know that high doses can be dangerous – so please, seek professional advice.
What to do if you are concerned about your breast health?
Your first port-of-call is your GP. They will be able to provide a thorough breast examination and refer you for testing if necessary. Majority of the time, breast abnormalities are benign – however it is always best to have these things checked. Once you have the all clear from your doctor, you might consider seeing a nutritionist or naturopath, who will be able to help you navigate your way to hormonal harmony.