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Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Nutritional Suggestions

There are a number of natural treatments that may help women with FBD. These therapies may be employed alone or in combination with conventional treatments.

Nutritionists make several general recommendations concerning FBD and diet:

  • Reduce fat to less than 20% of your diet, particularly saturated fats (animal products).
  • Include more foods that are high in fiber. (Fiber is important in aiding bowel transit time.)
  • Limit eggs, chicken, and dairy products.
  • Include soy protein products (tofu).
  • Reduce caffeine intake or consider avoiding caffeine or other stimulants (e.g., coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate) altogether.
  • Reduce or eliminate sugar, white flour, and refined foods.
  • Take vitamins (beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B-complex, vitamin B6).
  • Take minerals (selenium, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, iodine).
  • Consume omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish, fish oil supplements, or Perilla-seed oil supplements.

In addition, some form of daily exercise (walking, bicycle riding, yoga, weight training) and not smoking are strongly recommended.

Therefore, many choices concerning type of diet or foods to include and/or avoid will be personal ones based on each individual's particular circumstance and experience. Consult your physician with any concerns before making nutritional changes to control or treat FBD.

Dietary Fat

Beginning as early as 1980, numerous studies have examined the relationship between FBD and dietary fat. Obesity tends to increase estrogens, free fatty acids, and triglycerides (Leijd 1980; Clarke 1981; Bates 1982; Siiteri 1987; Blum 1988; Zumoff 1988; Kaplan 1989; Hunt 1995; Singh 1995; Vanhala 1998; Inukai 1999; Despres 2000; Hudgins 2000). The typical Western diet provides about 40% of its calories from fat. However, nutritionists recommend that a healthy diet should include 30% of calories from fat with only 10% of these calories coming from saturated fat. Some researchers suggest that additional lowering of dietary fat levels (to 15%) may help stabilize hormonal imbalances that can lead to FBD (Mishra 1994). In an early two-part study, investigators put 16 women on a diet with fat comprising 20% of total calories. After 3 months, the investigators found significant reductions in circulating estrogens, while levels of serum progesterone remained stable (Rose 1987a,b).

In another early trial, researchers studied women who had severe cyclical FBD for at least 5 years. These women were advised to limit their dietary fat to 15% of calories consumed, while increasing complex carbohydrate consumption. After 6 months, the women reported significant reduction in the severity of premenstrual breast tenderness and swelling (Boyd 1988). In a follow-up study in 1997, 817 women were randomly assigned to two groups (an intervention group to reduce intake of dietary fat and increase carbohydrates and a control group) and followed for two years. In all subjects, baseline mammography images were taken and compared with images that were taken two years later. After two years, there was a reduction in breast mass, leading the authors to conclude that "a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet reduced the area of mammographic density, a radiographic feature of the breast that is a risk factor for breast cancer." The authors suggested that longer follow-up of a larger number of subjects is required to determine if these effects are associated with changes in the risk for breast cancer (Boyd 1997).

A study conducted at Harvard University followed more than 300,000 women (Huang 1999). Their data suggested that "greater waist circumference increases risk of breast cancer, especially among women who are otherwise at lower risk because of never having used estrogen replacement hormones."

Conversely, mounting evidence also suggests that some dietary fat is desirable and provides protection for the breast (Kaizer 1989; Franceschi 1996; Maillard 2002). Women experienced better breast health if their diet included moderate levels of fat. However, women desiring to add some dietary fat should not do so by merely increasing their consumption of meat, dairy products, and products with vegetable oils that contain saturated fat (palm and coconut oil). Better sources of dietary fat come from unsaturated fats such as fish, olive, peanut, and sunflower oils; olives, and avocados.

Beneficial Fatty Acids

Beneficial or essential fatty acids (EFAs), just like other vitamins and minerals, are vital for good health. EFAs are polyunsaturated fats ("good" fats) and contribute to healthy functioning of cell membranes, the skin, immune system, and cardiovascular system. Although fatty acids are essential for overall health, our body does not manufacture them. We need to obtain them through our diet.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) is a source of natural dietary fat. CLA is an essential fatty acid occurring in dairy and other products such as whole milk, cheese, and red meats from ruminant animals. CLA is considered to be "a healthy fat" because it is polyunsaturated (liquid at room temperature). Because CLA content in dairy products is directly related to the fat content, CLA levels are greatest in higher fat (rather than lower fat) products. Good dietary sources of CLA are homogenized milk, butter, plain yogurt, cheese, and ground beef. Interestingly, the CLA content of milk and other dairy products is highest in pasture- or range-fed cows (McBean/National Dairy Council 1999). Skim milk does not contain CLA (Roloff 1997). As stated earlier, CLA is found in dairy products; however, it occurs at relatively low levels in these dietary sources. Therefore, we probably cannot get adequate CLA from food alone.

Animal studies have documented a number of potential health benefits of CLA: an anti-carcinogenic effect, lowered total and LDL cholesterol, a reduction of body fat, increased rate of bone formation, and improved glucose utilization (McBean/National Dairy Council 1999). Although FBD is often a benign condition, there is important tumor-modulating, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory effects associated with CLA that are beneficial and perhaps preventive. In studies conducted using laboratory rats, CLA was found to confer lifelong protection against mammary cancer and reduce the density of mammary glands.

Researchers suggested that CLA fed during mammary gland development resulted in diminished mammary epithelial branching, which might possibly result in reduced mammary cancer risk. Data showed a "graded and parallel reduction of terminal end bud density and mammary tumor yield produced by 0.5 and 1% CLA. No further decrease in either parameter was observed when CLA in the diet was raised to 1.5-2%." Researchers concluded: "Optimal CLA nutrition during pubescence could conceivably control the population of cancer-sensitive target sites in the mammary gland" (Banni 1999). Researchers also conducted studies in laboratory rats to investigate the role of CLA in inhibiting mammary carcinogenesis. They found that CLA "can act directly to inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of normal mammary epithelial cell organoids and may thus prevent breast cancer by its ability to reduce mammary epithelial density" (Ip 1999a,b). Apoptosis is the normal, healthy programmed death of cells. CLA is therefore suggested because of its anti-tumor effects.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important members of the EFA family. Omega-3 and omega-6 are scientific names derived from the chemical composition of their fatty acid molecules. Each one contains different fatty acids. Although the names are scientifically useful, most people just need to know that both of them are essential fatty acids and the body needs both of them in balance.

Omega-6 fatty acids are generally available in adequate amounts from grains and vegetable oils commonly present in the processed foods in our diet unless lifestyle (consumption of alcohol, excessive sugar, and saturated fats) or health conditions are a factor. Dried beans, including inexpensive northern beans and soybeans, are an excellent source of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are also found in linoleic acid from safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.

Greater effort is often required to ensure that adequate omega-3 EFAs are available from our daily diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish oils from mackerel, salmon, halibut, and herring. Flax seeds and green leafy vegetables also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Women with severe mastalgia and FBD appear to have abnormal fatty-acid levels that may lead to endocrinologic hypersensitivity (imbalance of proper hormonal ratios and the resultant effect on other systems) (Ayres 1983; Mansel 1990c). FBD seems to be associated with exaggerated estrogen-progesterone ratios and increased levels of prolactin (Kumar 1985; BeLieu 1994). Thus, increasing omega-6 fatty acids may reduce FBD symptoms (Mansel 1990a). The correct balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids will also help inhibit the inflammatory cascade that may precede the onset of fibrous tissue.

Gamma linolenic acid

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a plant-derived omega-6, is most abundant in seeds of an Eastern flower known as borage (Belch 2000; Henz 1999; Cameron 2009). Although a member of the omega-6 family, it is metabolized differently than other omega-6s. Aging results in defects occurring in human enzymes responsible for producing anti-inflammatory molecules from dietary fats. The result is an increased risk for inflammatory conditions of all kinds. Supplemental GLA can counteract this acquired enzyme defect, supplying vital biochemical precursors with powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

GLA plays an important role in modulating inflammation throughout the body, especially when incorporated into the membranes of immune system cells (Johnson 1997; Ziboh 2004). In early 2010, a team of Taiwanese researchers discovered that GLA regulates the inflammatory “master molecule” nuclear factor-kappa B or NF-kB, preventing it from switching on genes for inflammatory cytokines in cell nuclei (Chang 2010).

Evening Primrose Oil

Several European studies support using evening primrose oil to treat breast pain and cysts (Pye 1985; Gateley 1990; Mansel 1990b; Gateley 1991; McFayden 1992; Cheung 1999; Norlock 2002). Evening primrose oil is a good source of beneficial gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. In a 1990 survey, as many as 13% of surgeons and 30% of breast surgeons in Great Britain recommended evening primrose oil, particularly for cyclic mastalgia (Pain 1990; BeLieu 1994). Evening primrose oil significantly improved the fatty-acid profiles of women with FBD (Gateley 1992) and improved pain symptoms.

Borage and Flax Seed Oils

These two oils modulate inflammatory prostaglandins (Mancuso 1997; Belch 2000). This is mainly due to the GLA-rich content in both oils. It may take 4-6 weeks before there is noticeable improvement. Nonetheless, treatment should be continued for 4-8 months.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Dietary Fiber

A diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables benefits women with FBD. Natural, beneficial chemicals present in fruits and vegetables assist enzymes in the body to detoxify potentially harmful compounds (called carcinogens) (BCERF 1998). In fact, women who maintain a vegetarian diet are actually able to excrete two to three times more estrogen than omnivorous women. This could partially explain why vegetarian women have a lower incidence of breast cancer (Goldin 1981, 1982).

In addition, some chemical components of fruits and vegetables benefit the function of (switch on) the parasympathetic nervous system, thus minimizing development of tumors and cysts. Increasing fiber consumption appears to be a component in reducing the symptoms of FBD in some women. Fiber assists elimination of waste from the system, decreasing levels of circulating estrogens (BCERF 1998). Obtain plenty of fiber from your diet. Good sources of dietary fiber are legumes (kidney and pinto beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and carrots), raw fruits (apples, oranges, and bananas), and grains (particularly bran and oats) (Anderson 1988; Van Horn 1997). Additional fiber may be obtained from dietary supplements in the form of powders or capsules.

Indole-3-Carbinol and diindolylmethane

Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a naturally occurring dietary compound (a phytochemical) found in some fruits and the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, bok choy, and radishes. Phytochemicals are also natural anti-cancer compounds. I3C appears to work by partially inactivating estrogen (Michnovicz 1997; Bradlow 1994; Wong 1997), fighting free radicals (Arnao 1996), and directly interfering with tumor cell reproduction (Bradlow 1999a). Many scientists believe that I3C’s beneficial effects are partly driven by one of its principal byproducts, diindolylmethane (DIM) (Carter 2002; Auborn 2003). Perhaps the single most important mechanism of action of I3C and DIM is modulating estrogen metabolism. Epidemiological, laboratory, and animal studies indicate that dietary intake of I3C prevents the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers, including breast, endometrial, and cervical cancers. While estrogen increases the growth and survival of tumors, I3C has been found to arrest growth and increase apoptosis (programmed cell death) (Auborn 2003).

Indole-3-carbinol triggers the release of enzymes that help break down estrogen precursors into a harmless form rather than the form linked to breast cancer (Michnovicz 1997; Bradlow 1999b; Meng 2000; Terry 2001). Cabbage and broccoli also contain sulforaphane, another phytonutrient shown to stimulate the release of enzymes that attach to cancer-causing substances and transport them from the body (Mowatt 1998).

The National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture have said that by eating five servings of vegetables and fruit a day, a person can cut the risk of cancer by more than 50%. Most people do not come close to meeting this guideline, particularly the recommendation for vegetables, because they either do not like cruciferous vegetables, the vegetables are not readily available, or they cannot eat the quantity required daily to meet recommended dietary guidelines for phytonutrients. Sometimes raw vegetables are not easy for the system to digest. Storage and processing by the supplier or overcooking in the home contributes to loss of phytonutrients. Often, only half the phytonutrients in any serving of raw vegetables ultimately becomes available for absorption--the other half is quickly eliminated from the body. Concentrated vegetables (particularly those with the water content removed and which are ground to the consistency of powdered sugar) are more digestible. In this form, it is estimated that 90 to 100% of phytonutrients, and all of their cancer-fighting properties, become available for bodily absorption (Mowatt 1998).

Animal studies indicate that I3C is safe at recommended doses (NIEHS 2000). Human trials have also found no significant side effects (Wong 1997). A study found that the naturally occurring chemical I3C found in vegetables of the Brassica genus is "a promising anticancer agent that we have shown previously to induce a G1 cycle arrest of human breast cancer cell lines, independent of estrogen receptor signaling." It was noted that a combination of I3C and anti-estrogen tamoxifen cooperated to inhibit growth of the estrogen-dependent human MCF-7 breast cancer cell line more effectively than either agent used alone. Authors suggested that "I3C works through a mechanism distinct from tamoxifen." It was concluded that "these results demonstrate that I3C and tamoxifen work through different signal pathways to suppress the growth of human breast cancer cells and may represent a potential combinatorial therapy for estrogen-responsive breast cancer" (Cover 1999).

Note: See Life Extension’s Breast Cancer protocol for more information.

Soy

Soy has been the subject of research for overall breast health. Some studies indicate that soy foods containing phytoestrogens (natural estrogens from plants) may offer some protective benefit. Researchers also believe that soy may play a role in balancing hormone levels in premenopausal women and perhaps in relieving premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms (Imaginis 2001). Good dietary sources of soy are canned soybeans, tofu, soy protein bars, and tempeh.

Researchers speculate that some of the anti-tumor activity of soy compounds may result from production of enzymes that attack free radicals (Molteni 1995). However, as with other nutrients, agreement is impossible and many authorities are reluctant to give soy universal endorsement. Others suggest that soy can modulate hormonal activity and even act as an antioxidant. If using soy, carefully monitor your breasts to assess the response of breast tissue to soy products.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, might be an even greater concern in FBD than fat. Italian researchers found that heavy consumption of starchy foods, including pasta and white bread, increased breast cancer risk (Franceschi 1996; Augustin 2001). Both simple and complex carbohydrates are composed of sugar units. Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or two sugar units. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruit and vegetable juices, candy, soft drinks, and foods with added sugar. The problem with simple carbohydrates is that they induce an insulin spike upon ingestion. Insulin can promote cancer cell division which is why consumption of starchy foods might increase cancer risk. Complex carbohydrates are made from many sugar units that structurally look like beads in a bracelet. Good sources of complex carbohydrates such as whole grain products, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (dried beans and peas) do not induce a sharp insulin spike because they release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream. Both simple and complex carbohydrates are converted to blood sugar by the body to use as energy or fat storage. However, complex carbohydrates are better because they include vitamins, minerals, and fiber (Quagliani 1997).

Vitamins

Vitamin E

Since 1965, using vitamin E has been recommended by some researchers for treatment of FBD (Abrams 1965). However, researchers are not unified concerning the use of vitamin E to successfully treat or manage FBD and evidence has been inconclusive. Vitamin E in the form of alpha tocopherol has corrected abnormal estrogen-progesterone ratios in some patients with mammary dysplasia (London 1981). Results of that study, however, were not replicated in 1985 (London 1985). Another study of 105 women with FBD found that 600 mg of vitamin E for 3 months had no effect on symptoms (Meyer 1990).

Folic Acid

Many physicians recommend taking folic acid along with vitamin E. In some women, combining the two seems to have a more beneficial effect than either alone. Folic acid, abundant in green, leafy vegetables is often deficient in the standard American diet. Women of child-bearing age are particularly encouraged to include folic acid in their diet. The more biologically-active form of folic acid, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), or L-methylfolate, is suggested for supplemental use.

Vitamin A

Studies have shown that vitamin A has been able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells (Fontana 1992; Wu 1997; Yang 1999; Widschwendter 2001). Therefore, there is some justification for women with FBD to take vitamin A. In one of only a few studies (Band 1984), 12 women with FBD were given 150,000 IUs of vitamin A daily for 3 months. Nine of the women reported marked pain reduction.

However, large doses of vitamin A can also be toxic. Therefore, beta-carotene may be a more practical treatment. In one study, 25 women with moderate to severe pain before their menstrual periods were given daily supplements of beta-carotene and retinol. After 6 months, most of the women reported marked reduction in breast pain with no side effects (Santamaria 1989). A diet high in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables will raise beta-carotene levels. You may also wish to use a beta-carotene supplement.

Vitamin C

The immune system requires vitamin C for proper function, tissue repair, diuretic action, anti-inflammatory responses, and adrenal hormone balance.

Supporting Detoxification Systems

The liver supports many mechanisms including providing a detoxifying and filtering system for all body wastes as well as binding and eliminating extra hormones (including estrogen clearance). If the liver does not adequately perform its detoxifying and binding functions, estrogen stores may increase. As noted earlier, increased fiber in the diet improves removal of toxins and waste from the system. Nutrients that support the liver include choline, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe), green tea, and N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). If you have FBD, consider using these supplements daily.

Herbs that support detoxification include echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). These herbs should be started about a week before menstruation begins, used for 7-10 days, and then discontinued for 4-7 days. Goldenseal should be followed by a probiotic that contains acidophilus and Bifido bacteria to replace good bacteria in the gut.

Supplements and Herbs to Relieve Cyclical Pain and Reduce Inflammation

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) and Milk Thistle (Silibinin Marianum)

Dandelion and milk thistle will help to detoxify the system (Maliakal 2001; Saller 2001; Cho 2002; Hagymasi 2002; Kosina 2002). Dandelion has also been used to treat painful breasts and relieve impacted milk glands. Drink up to two cups of dandelion tea daily.

As the body’s primary detoxifier, the liver serves as the frontline defense against chemical agents. Extracts from the milk thistle plant are among the most potent defenders of liver function. They are capable of halting and even reversing externally induced liver damage. Silymarin, silibinin, and other milk thistle components protect against these and other chemical insults. They have been conclusively shown to counteract toxicity from a wide variety of toxic substances, including ethanol (Lieber 2003), organic solvents (Szilárd 1988), and pharmaceuticals (Shaarawy 2009; Eminzade 2008).

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is used to treat prostate problems, but its anti-estrogenic characteristics also make it useful as a treatment for hormonal disturbances. Saw palmetto should be standardized to contain 85-95% fatty acids and sterols.

Chasteberry

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) has been used to relieve FBD. Chasteberry may decrease prolactin, leading to increased progesterone production during the menstrual cycle. Also, it seems to result in a shift in estrogen-progesterone balance, regulating hormones and inhibiting release of FSH and LH. This results in less estrogen to stimulate breast tissue. Eat the equivalent of 20-40 mg of fresh chasteberry berries daily or consume a chasteberry extract standardized to 0.5% agnuside.

Caffeine and Breast Conditions

Some women find that reducing or even eliminating caffeine intake by avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks significantly decreases breast discomfort (Russell 1989). However, the topic is controversial because studies results linking caffeine and FBD have been inconsistent or inconclusive (Allen 1985, 1987; Horner 2000; Imaginis 2000).

An early study by Minton (1981) was widely publicized because it claimed that abstaining totally from caffeine lessened symptoms and resolved FBD completely. According to Minton, abstinence from consuming methylxanthine (a chemical present in foods and beverages that contain caffeine) decreased the need for major breast surgery and breast biopsies because of benign disease (Minton 1979, 1981, 1989). A literature review on causes of breast pain found that some investigations did find an association between caffeine intake and FBD and breast pain (Norlock 2002). However, other studies over the past 20 years examining the relationship of caffeine to breast conditions reported inconclusive or even the opposite conclusions (Boyle 1984; La Vecchia 1985; Rosenberg 1985; Horner 2000). One study of more than 2000 women concluded that coffee consumption was not associated with an increase of breast cancer among women with a history of FBD (Rosenberg 1985). Another study even found "slight" evidence that the more coffee a woman consumed, the less likely she was to have breast cancer (La Vecchia 1985).

Even though the evidence of a direct link between caffeine and FBD is inconclusive, many clinicians do recommend low caffeine intake in women with FBD. Some women report significant relief from FBD symptoms after eliminating caffeine from their diets. If you suspect caffeine might have a role in your FBD symptoms, eliminate sources of caffeine (chocolate, coffee, tea, soft drinks) from your diet for 3 months to see if your symptoms improve.

As noted above, methylxanthine is a chemical present in foods and beverages that contain caffeine. Methylxanthines increase circulating catecholamines (chemicals present in response to stress). There is some evidence that women with FBD have an increased sensitivity to catecholamines. However, as with caffeine, the studies are inconclusive (Schairer 1986).

Other Considerations

Thyroid Deficiency

According to some alternative-care practitioners, a malfunctioning thyroid gland may be a precursor to many disorders in females. With hypothyroidism, hormones such as LH, FSH, and prolactin may be overly stimulated. Researchers have linked breast abnormalities, including FBD, to repeated hormonal arousal (Lark 1996). An early study of 19 women with breast pain (mastodynia) and nodularity caused by FBD reported that almost half (47%) the women had total relief after daily treatment with 0.1 mg of levothyroxine (Synthroid®). Three patients had elevated serum prolactin levels. Their prolactin levels became normal and they experienced dramatic pain relief after treatment with levothyroxine (Estes 1981).

Iodine deficiency interferes with optimum breast health, and intake of levels far higher than the recommended dietary allowance of 150 mcg may be required to achieve benefits. Daily amounts of 3,000-6,000 mcg may help relieve the symptoms of FBD (Patrick 2008).

Iodine plays an important role in the health of women’s breast tissue (Eskin 1977). In the presence of chemicals and enzymes found in breast tissue, iodine has been shown to exert a powerful antioxidant effect equivalent to vitamin C (Patrick 2008; Smyth 2003). Iodine-deficient breast tissue exhibits chemical markers of elevated lipid peroxidation, one of the earliest factors in cancer development (Patrick 2008; Venturi 2000; Venturi 2001; Stadel 1976; Many 1991). Animal studies have shown that FBD can be induced by depriving breast tissue of iodine (Triggiani 2009; Eskin 1977; Krouse 1979). These changes can be reversed by iodine doses equivalent to 5,000 mcg per day in humans (Patrick 2008; Eskin 1995).

Women with FBD obtain substantial relief from oral administration of iodine at doses of 3,000-6,000 mcg, with 65% achieving improvements according to their own and their physicians’ assessments (Ghent 1993). In those studies, only 33% of placebo recipients reported any benefit. No side effects were detected at any of the doses used (Patrick 2008).

Iodine also helps regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol and contributes to normal immune function (Nolan 2000; Stolc 1971). Abnormal cortisol levels and deficient immune function are significant contributors to the risk of breast cancer; women with FBD may also suffer from elevated cortisol levels (Cohen 2002; Inaudi 1987; James 2008; Thornton 2008).

A review of three clinical studies using sodium iodide, protein-bound iodide, and molecular iodine showed clinical improvements in FBD of 70%, 40%, and 72%, respectively (Ghent 1993). The review concluded that molecular iodine was non-thyrotropic (did not alter) and the most beneficial. Thus, some suggest that treating thyroid problems might reduce the risk or incidence as well as improve the symptoms of FBD (Ghent 1993).

Another study looked at thyroid hormones and FBD. The data suggested that free T3 had an important role in the physiology of FBD (Martinez 1995). To further examine this theory, a study looked at the levels of triiodothyroxine (T3), thyroxin (T4), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and prolactin (Prl) in FBD (Zych 1996). The authors found that T4 levels were significantly lower in women with FBD than in controls. They concluded that there seemed to be a connection between FBD and thyroid function (Zych 1996). Taking daily iodine will help support a healthy thyroid. Kelp may also be beneficial. However, be certain the seaweed is harvested from clean water. A simple, convenient source of iodine is table salt containing iodine.

Proteolytic Enzymes

According to researchers from Germany, pancreatic enzymes may reduce tumors and cysts, inflammation, and soreness. In a study of 96 patients, cyst size was reduced significantly after women took an enzyme preparation for 6 weeks. Additionally, the women reported significant improvement and less pain. A preparation containing lipase, protease, and amylase was recommended (Ditmar 1993). Another proteolytic enzyme, serratio peptidase, has been researched as a treatment option for those diagnosed with FBD. In one double-blind study published in the Singapore Medical Journal, 70 women with breast engorgement were randomly divided into a treatment and placebo group. There was more reduction of breast pain and swelling in the women receiving serratiopeptidase than in women not receiving the supplement. No adverse reactions were reported (Kee 1989).