Breast tenderness may not be the most life-changing of PMS symptoms, but sore and swollen breasts can make you feel uncomfortable all the same. Breasts so heavy and sensitive that something brushing up against you makes you wince can make you feel grouchy and vulnerable.
Breast Tenderness Is Very Common
So-called fibrocystic breasts (fibrocystic means benign breast pain that’s related to your monthly cycle, rather than something more worrying, like breast cancer) are very common in women of child bearing age, and breast tenderness is one of the top ten PMS symptoms. Breast tenderness often goes hand in hand with feelings of bloating, swelling and fluid retention in the second half of your cycle, together with weight gain.
It’s all because your body is getting ready for pregnancy (even if you’re not) and responding to the monthly fluctuations in hormones which are part of your cycle. In particular, oestrogen and prolactin are significant for breast tenderness: oestrogen is what makes you curvy, creating fat around your hips, bottom and thighs for example, and prolactin is naturally produced when we breastfeed.
What Can You Do About Monthly Breast Tenderness?
The best thing to do to prevent breast tenderness is to balance your hormones throughout the month by eating whole foods and consuming essential fatty acids (like evening primrose oil, or borage oil) and fibre (like flax and complex carbohydrates), getting regular exercise and reducing stress. (I never said there was a ‘magic bullet’ for PMS!)
On top of all that, the following tips are specific to reducing breast tenderness caused by monthly hormonal changes. (Be aware that certain medications can cause breast tenderness as a side-effect too: these include the Pill and antidepressants).
SALT Aggravates BREAST TENDERNESS (And BLoating)
Salt (sodium) is a factor in fluid retention and bloating generally. And we all eat too much of it.
It’s not just a case of reducing the salt you use in cooking, or what you add to your plate at the table. Most of the salt – and sugar, for that matter – that we consume is hidden in shop bought foods. Examples include butters and margarines, bread, canned food and ready meals – not to mention most crisps, crackers and other savoury snacks (salted nuts, anyone?).
If you are prone to bloating and breast tenderness, try to cut down wherever you can and see if it makes a difference. It will certainly make a difference to your health overall.
Saturated fats and dairy aggravate breast tenderness
A high consumption of saturated animal fats has been shown to increase oestrogen levels which in turn exacerbates PMS symptoms like breast tenderness. This is probably due to the hormones used in livestock farming and milk production (basically, farmers give cows oestrogen to make them grow and get fat).
If you already have an imbalance of oestrogen – as demonstrated by PMS symptoms like breast tenderness – it doesn’t help to take on board artificial oestrogens from external sources.
caffeine aggravates Breast tenderness
Xenoestrogens aggravate breast tenderness
There are also substances called xenoestrogens in plastics and packaging, and via agrochemicals like pesticides. Xenoestrogens mimic oestrogens and disrupt hormone balance. You can avoid and reduce these by buying organic food and choosing glass packaging and loose unpackaged food wherever possible.
A Supportive bra really helps!
A good well-fitting bra will make you feel more padded and secure and will give you support when your breasts are sore to the touch and feel like watermelons.
And you can even sleep with a comfortable soft bra on, providing that it doesn’t restrict you.
Wearing a decent bra is of course especially important during exercise – something that will really help your anti-PMS plan. And of course, you don’t only have to wear a sports bra for sport.
I get my sports bras online from www.lessbounce.com, run by Selaine. Less Bounce provides a great choice, always has a wide range of sizes in stock and excellent returns service. I also like how they use real women to model the bras on all their advertising. [This is a personal recommendation, by the way, not in any way a paid promotion. I've been a customer of Less Bounce for many years]
A Word About Breast Tenderness in Perimenopause
‘But’, you may be thinking, ‘I’m perimenopausal. My hormone levels are declining. How can I be getting breast tenderness because of oestrogen dominance?’. Well, it’s not about the absolute amount of circulating oestrogen in your body – which may well be on the wane. It’s about the level of oestrogen in relation to progesterone. And as we get older we produce less progesterone (because we ovulate less regularly) and this can lead to an imbalance of oestrogen.
This means breast tenderness can be a common symptom during perimenopause too, I’m afraid.