Five ways to encourage breast health

I took a class this past summer with Rocio Alcaro, Ecuadorian ethnobotanist and healer on her techniques for enhancing health and preventing disease in the breasts. It was a life-changing class and very much resonated with the way I educate women about caring for their breasts as an herbalist and women’s health care provider. Rocio educated us about her work with plant medicine and the energy women store in their breasts, including negativity, anger, and suffering to name a few. She also told us that not only can we store this energy in our breasts, but we can absorb negative energy through our breasts as well, almost as if it is a magnetic point in our body. Rocio is an engaging and humble healer, and to be in her presence and hear her teachings is quite an honor. I invite you to think about these ideas with an open mind and heart.

While talking with a patient the other day during an annual exam, I asked her if she performed self-breast exams while I performed a clinical breast exam. She answered “yes, but not regularly.” I then proceeded to tell her how I encourage women to think about self-breast exams. Instead of a just a “cancer check,” I encourage women to make it a regular self-care practice to “get to know their breasts.” And, even more important, to give their breasts some loving massage. I also encourage sending more positive energy to our breasts, rather than fear. If our thoughts create things, which I believe they do, then I definitely want to be sending good energy their way. Others feel the same way. Breast cancer expert Dr. Susan Love says “I am opposed to the notion that women should look on their breasts as though they were enemy soldiers being searched for weapons.”

Here are 5 ways you can take your health into your own hands, literally and enhance the health of your breasts.

 1) Here is a simple way to do monthly—(or more regularly!) self-breast massage:

–Massage the underarms with your finger pads, first one underarm and then the other. Move from above your breast tissue upwards and outwards towards your inner arm. Do this several times on each side.

–Use both hands to simultaneously push lightly from every side of the breasts towards the nipples for two or three minutes on each side.

–Massage the breasts lightly in circles. First rub the circles from the outside to the inside. Then reverse directions and rub from inside to outside. Do this for several minutes, or whatever feels good for you (or your time allows).

Remember if you are in a relationship—I am sure you can enlist a willing partner to do loving breast massage on you!

2) Moving the lymph is key for healthy circulation everywhere, but especially with our breasts. We have a plethora of lymph nodes, or collection areas in the area of the armpit and around the collarbone. Lymph contains white blood cells and continuously cleans and filters the tissues around the breast. We want to continually foster this process of clearing and cleaning as stagnation is not healthful for our breast tissue. Did you know your breast tissue extends up into the armpit as well? We’ll talk about what to massage your breasts with later, but just know any movement or strokes you do should encompass all of the breast tissue.

3) Use herbal infused oils or herbal creams to enhance the health benefits of your breast massage. Good old olive oil or coconut oil is fine as well. I found a lovely breast massage cream by Herbal Revolution called “For the Love of Breast” this summer and it makes me want to douse myself in its heavenly scent. The texture is perfect and it is infused with such as chickweed, plantain, dandelion, lady’s mantel and other breast and lymphatic plant allies. Treat yourself and your breasts to a special oils that you anoint yourself with regularly. This is about self-love….we’ve got to love the whole experience!

4) Underwire bras are a piece of clothing you may want to shed to enhance your breast health. The more of a red mark you see under your breast tissue, the worse the bra is for you. Think about the amount of hours the bra is on you, 8 hours, 12 hours? The circulation of the lymph and blood to and from the breast meets a block when it encounters underwire, especially if it is pushing into your skin enough to leave a mark. I know, I know…but what are you supposed to do if you are large breasted? First, go get a proper fitting for a bra at a specialty bra/underwear store if possible and look for alternatives that lend support but don’t constrict. And, when you get home, take it off!

5) Deep breathe! If there weren’t enough reasons already to practice conscious deep breathing exercises, here is another. Lymph movement is enhanced by deep diaphragmatic breathing. This type of mindful breathing also lowers stress response and brings on a feeling of well-being. Many women feel anxious when “examining their breasts.” That is why I teach women to first just get to know your breasts, and engage some deep breathing during self-massage to further enhance a feeling of love towards your breasts.

I hope you find this information to be helpful on your own journey as a woman! I’d love to hear your questions, comments and general thoughts…