Mastalgia is the medical term for breast pain or breast tenderness. This is a common symptom that as many as 70% of women experience. It is most common to experience mastalgia the week before your period as part of PMS symptoms.
Ever feel you can’t walk down the stairs, exercise or even roll over in bed because your breasts are so sore? Yeah, that is mastalgia and there is a whole lot you can do about it that doesn’t require a pharmaceutical intervention.
What Causes Cyclical Mastalgia (aka sore boobs)
Sore or painful breasts before your period is what is referred to as cyclical mastalgia. This form of mastalgia is most common and due to a hormone imbalance.
Women with cyclical mastalgia typically experience both breasts becoming sore following ovulation (during the luteal phase) that resolves once their period begins.
Estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin are all involved in the stimulation of breast tissue that leads to tenderness, but for the majority of the women I see in my medical practice, it is excess stimulation by estrogen that drives breast tenderness. This is commonly referred to as estrogen dominance.
Hormonal birth control, like the pill, can also be responsible for causing breast pain. The synthetic estrogen stimulates breast tissue and can lead to an increase in tenderness. Taking the pill is essentially inducing estrogen dominance on your breast cells.
If you’re experiencing non-cyclical breast tenderness then you’ll want to check out my previous article regarding this.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance can be either frank (too much estrogen altogether) or relative (not enough progesterone).
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Water retention
- Hair loss
- Weight gain, especially butt, hips and thighs
- Mood swings, irritability
- PMS is often caused by too much estrogen
In some cases, the issue isn’t too much estrogen, but rather, too much of the wrong kind of estrogen. For example, if too much of the 16OHE1 metabolite is made it can stimulate your breasts to swell and become tender before your period. More on this soon.
Mastalgia? Here’s What to Do
If you take nothing else away from this article please understand this: Broccoli is your breast's best friend.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale (you know, the stuff your mom tried to get you to eat as a kid) support healthy estrogen breakdown in the body. This is how you take the estrogen you no longer need and move it out your system.
If you need help getting more cruciferous into your diet please grab my complimentary meal plan and recipe guide here.
Now for the nerdy talk…
Eat Cruciferous Vegetables for Mastalgia
These vegetables are rich in Indole-3 Carbinol ( I3C) which the body converts to Diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM makes estrogen play nice with everyone on the playground.
Here's how that goes down in your body: Eat broccoli and you get glucobrassicin. Glucobrassicin is converted to I3C (also loves up your hormones) and then is eventually converted to DIM.
You need adequate stomach acid to make the conversion from I3C to DIM, so if you're blocking acid with a drug, have low stomach acid in general, or have hypothyroidism, you may need to supplement with DIM while you work to correct the underlying cause of your low stomach acid.
DIM Helps Your Liver Process Estrogen
DIM supports Phase 1 estrogen metabolism in the liver. This means packaging it up to move it out. But don't forget Phase 2, bile, and pooping 💩, are also really important.
When it comes to estrogen metabolites, 2OHE1 is best and DIM has been shown to promote this over 16OHE1. Remember, 16OHE1 is the type that causes mastalgia and stimulates estrogen-sensitive cancer cells, like breast cancer.
How does DIM do this? It supports liver enzymes that promote 2OHE1 production!
How do you know what you're doing with your estrogen? You get a test. In my practice, we run the Dutch test from Precision Analytical to evaluate hormones and their metabolites. That way we know what's up with YOUR estrogen.
Eat Broccoli Sprouts for Mastalgia
Ok, so if you’re thinking maybe broccoli is cool and recognizing how much DIM rocks then you’re going to love broccoli sprouts even more.
Sulforaphane is a badass molecule that forms when you munch on a cruciferous plant. You gotta chew well to liberate myrosinase (enzyme) & glucobrassicin so they can get together & get the sulforaphane > I3C > DIM party started. (See above for the I3C + DIM talk).
Sulforaphane bumps antioxidant status, is cancer protective, supports liver detox, gets your estrogen moving into the right pathways so it can't be hating on your breasts, & improves gut flora + a ton of other things.
Broccoli sprouts & broccoli seed extract are HIGH in breast supportive nutrients!
Which is why I recommend all my patients eat sprouts 3-5 times per week. And good news, if you're worried about stuff like SIBO symptoms or thyroid disease, then sprouts are your jam! They are less likely to aggravate & are much more potent than eating the whole broccoli plant.
Now don't go ditching all your cruciferous & think you can just stick to sprouts. Sprouts are awesome, as is variety in your diet. Remember, science doesn't know everything about food. There are many other benefits that come with a varied diet.
You can sprout at home easily (hello Pinterest), look for sprouts at your local grocery, or you can opt for a supplement. It's about what is easiest for you because let's be real, if it isn't easy then you probably won't do it.
Supplements that Support Breast Health
Now that you know all this you can appreciate how awesome it is that Balance by Dr. Brighten is formulated to contain DIM, broccoli seed extract, chrysin, and a whole slew of other nutrients & herbs to support healthy hormone levels and breasts that don’t hurt. It’s all about keeping those estrogen metabolites in check. 😉
Magnesium, Calcium D-Glucarate, Folate, Resveratrol, vitamin B6 and B12, green tea, and turmeric all support the healthiest estrogen metabolism.
Step Up Your Exercise Routine
As much as you may not want to move if you have breast tenderness, regular exercise can help bring relief in the long run. On days when your breasts are more tender, opt for gentler exercises like yoga, pilates, stretching, or light walking.
Exercise 20 minutes minimum on the daily. Exercise is always winning in the research on breast cancer. So shake it, pump it, run it, flow with it…do what you love to move your body.
If you're looking for more support to get your hormones in balance and ditch breast tenderness, be sure to grab my Hormone Starter Kit! It's my gift to you in helping you jump start your healing journey.
Balance by Dr. Brighten
A comprehensive women’s formula designed to harmonize sex hormones and improve common hormone related issues. Formulated with B Vitamins, antioxidants and hormone supporting herbs, this product helps support the body in eliminating excess estrogens and environmental toxins.
Ader, D., et al. Cyclical mastalgia: prevalence and associated health and behavioral factors. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2001 Jun;22(2):71-6.