Exercise (like running or riding a horse) sleeping on your stomach, big bear hugs, and even sex - sore breasts can really interfere with your life. “I wanted to wrap my boobs in crime scene tape,” a woman told me recently. “You know, the kind that says ‘do not cross.’ Honestly, they hurt so much, I had to point the shower head further north.” Sore breasts in menopause are common and can impact your daily life.
So why do your breasts hurt? Breast pain (officially known as “mastalgia”) is familiar to most women; up to 70% of women experience it at some point. That breast sensitivity just before your period is “cyclical” mastalgia and is caused by hormone fluctuations. Those same shifting hormones can cause breasts to get a bit lumpy and swollen as well, so it’s good to know what’s going on. This is often experienced in relation to pregnancy, as a postpartum symptom. However, hormone-prompted breast pain can also happen in perimenopause, though the good news is - most women don’t experience breast pain after menopause is complete, hoorah!
While hormones are a big cause of breast pain, they’re not entirely to blame. We asked Naturopathic Doctor Suzanne McMurry of Naturopathic Cancer Treatment to help us understand what causes breast pain – particularly when it’s not necessarily our cycle anymore – and what we can do about it.
“As far as breast soreness in menopause, there are some factors that can definitely influence this. First, if the women is on bioidentical hormones, or just hormones in general, the dosage may be too high. She should schedule a visit with her gynecologist or primary care doctor."
“Second is diet related. This relates to either food sensitivities, specific to Immunoglobulin-G related food allergies. (Not the allergies that cause life-threatening reactions, but those that result in symptoms that continue to get worse over time.) These allergies trigger the immune system, increasing inflammation and resulting in symptoms related to breast tenderness, joint aches, digestive upset, headaches and migraines, just to name a few. Caffeine consumption also has a strong, direct correlation with breast tenderness. If you’re drinking more than one cup of coffee daily, substitute the rest with decaf or better yet, herbal teas and water, and do this for a week. Keep note if this improves your pain."
“Third relates to excess fatty tissue. In menopause, your ovaries are no longer producing estrogen. The main driver in estrogen production at this stage is your fat tissue. Some women store most of their fat in their breasts, others in various other places (stomach, hips, etc.). This excess fat can give you symptoms related to what you may have experienced during or around your menstrual cycle. Exercise, Epsom salt baths, sauna treatments, all are great ways to eliminate the estrogens released from your fat tissue. These treatments also help to detoxify your body, enabling efficient and effective elimination of hormones."
“Lastly, plastics and those products in our environment that produce xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are found in plastic containers and leach into our foods when they undergo high temperatures, like heating your food in the microwave. Xenoestrogens have a strong binding capacity to our estrogen receptors within our own bodies. This in turn produces an even stronger reaction, stronger than our self-made estrogen. The strong reaction results in even stronger symptoms, related specifically to breast tenderness, breast enlargement, headaches, and irritability and moodiness.” To avoid xenoestrogens in your food, always use glass containers in the microwave."
In addition to Dr. McMurry’s expert advice, some additional lifestyle adaptations could help you be more comfortable.
ANY TIME YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO. Honestly, you know your body best, and if something seems wrong, that’s all the “permission” you need to consult with your doctor.
Most of the time, breast pain is benign and doesn’t require medical attention. However, if breast pain lasts for several months, worsens, or is accompanied by a persistent lump, go get yourself checked out. If your breast pain comes with numbness in hands or fingers or other chest pain, get help immediately, as that can indicate a heart attack.
Sore breasts don’t need to be a fact of life. If you’re experiencing cyclical or non-cyclical breast pain, check with a doctor or naturopathic doctor about what’s causing your symptoms and how to find relief.
The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional. Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.
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