Breast Disease

What is it Breast Disease?

Breast DiseaseMany women suffer from painful, lumpy breasts throughout their reproductive years. The symptoms in some women worsen and improve in a pattern that follows the menstrual cycle, but in others, the problem seems to obey no rules and symptoms occur without regard to menstrual hormonal surges. Some women suffer symptoms most of the time. These women, especially, might argue with calling these disorders of the breast benign, which generally means "good" or "kind," or at least "not bad." What the designation benign actually means in this case is merely not cancerous. If you suffer with any of the benign breast diseases—fibrocystic breast disease, chronic mastodynia, or cyclic mastalgia—you would probably agree that they're certainly not good.

Fibrocystic breast disease occurs most commonly in women between the ages of 30 and 50, rarely occurring after menopause. These fluid-filled cysts and lumps tend to be quite painful, increasing and decreasing in size through the menstrual cycle each month. Younger women more commonly develop nontender solid, rubbery lumps called fibroadenomas. Just because these lumps cause little pain, they should not be ignored, even in young women.

On that score, let us insert a word of caution. Some benign lumps of the breast sometimes can develop into cancers, and for that reason, you should never ignore any kind of breast lump in the hope that it will go away. If you suffer from benign breast disease, 1 strongly advise you to maintain regular contact with your personal physician, who can keep a close watch on your breast lumps. Absolutely no breast lump—even in women who get them often— should go unexamined by a trained physician who knows when to recommend mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy if the lumps fail to respond to nutritional or conventional therapy. With that, let's look at what nutrition has to offer for this problem.

What makes Breast Disease worse?

• Dietary saturated fat and a diet high in calories also appear to be connected in some way to the development of painful breast lumps and cysts, perhaps through increasing the output of female hormones. Recommendation: Reduce total calories to a level that will let you reach and then maintain your ideal weight and body-fat percentage. Refer to the discussion in Section 1 on macronutrients for dietary guidelines and to the section on calculation of lean body weight. Strive for an approximate body fat percentage of 15% to 20% if you are male and 22% to 28% if you are female. The two sources mentioned for calculation of lean body weight will also describe how to calculate your body-fat percentage. Reduce your intake of dietary fats to 30% of your total day's calories with approximately equal parts coming from saturated (animal fat, egg yolks), monounsaturated (olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, fish oil), and polyunsaturated (corn oil, safflower oil, other vegetable oils) sources.

• Breast DiseaseThrough the years, medical evidence has suggested both that caffeine did worsen benign breast disease and that it did not. When there is research that supports both sides, what conclusion can you come to if you suffer from the problem? That it can for some women and not for others, and therefore it might for you and is worth looking into. Caffeine (found in coffee, some soft drinks, and chocolate) and its relative theobromine (found in teas) act as stimulators to the activity of many glands in the body, including the milk glands in breast tissue. This increased activity, without the stimulation from the hormones released in pregnancy to cause the glands to produce milk, may instead result in the production of fluid-filled cysts and lumps. And discomfort. Recommendation: If you suffer from painful breast lumps, try to eliminate all sources of caffeine (and theobromine) from your diet and remain free of caffeine for at least 3 to 4 months to judge your response. Most research shows that simply reducing your intake is not enough; you'll probably have to go to zero caffeine. If, after that period of total abstinence, you cannot tell a difference in your breast problems, you are one of the women for whom caffeine makes little or no difference.

When you begin your caffeine-elimination trial, please heed this warning: Don't go off caffeine "cold turkey." Begin to slowly taper your intake or risk developing (as we did) a world-class headache that lasts for days and that nothing except caffeine will cure. If you're a big coffee drinker (which, we must confess, we am), the easiest and most painless method is to first reduce the amount of caffeine per cup by using a "blend" of half-caffeinated and half-decaffeinated coffee, of which there are several brands on the grocery shelf. After you have accustomed yourself to the 50/50 blend, then mix 1 part of that 50/50 store blend with 1 part of a fully decaffeinated coffee to get a 25% caffeinated/75% decaffeinated blend. Use that strength for a week or two, then cut it again. Use 1 part of the 50/50 store blend and add 2 parts of decaf, which now brings you down to 12.5% caffeine and 87.5% decaf. From there, the jump to total decaffeinated becomes a small hop, and you should suffer no ill effects. Remember, you must be forever vigilant in screening other foods and medicines: choose caffeine-free soft drinks, avoid chocolate (for which you can substitute carob), and read the labels on over-the-counter and prescription pain remedies, which may contain caffeine.

 
 
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Breast Disease
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