The Ayurvedic Perspective on Breast Health
When it comes to receiving proper and thorough medical care, issues specific to women often go underdiagnosed and neglected. As we’ve written about before, several studies have shown that women are more likely to be misdiagnosed and given less thorough and prompt medical attention than men. As a result, sometimes conditions like endometriosis or PCOS go undiagnosed for years.
In terms of breast health, there is a greater level of public awareness, and things like mammograms, regular checkups and self breast exams have become common practices for women. However, maintaining the health of our breasts extends so much deeper than these measures. When we understand that our breast health is intimately connected to our physical and emotional well-being, we can play an active role in cultivating healthy, balanced breasts, preventing inflammation and tumors from arising in the first place.
Ayurveda and the Breasts
In Ayurveda, it is recognized that our breasts don’t operate in a vacuum. Instead, the channels of the female reproductive system, or the Artava Vaha Srotas, are directly connected with one another and also work closely with the endocrine system, which oversees our hormonal secretions, immunity and metabolism.
The breasts themselves are composed of fatty tissue, glandular tissue (for lactation) and lymphatic drainage. The lymph is located all throughout the breast tissue, with its most concentrated locations being the area beneath the armpits. Keeping these tissues healthy and ensuring that lymph can flow freely are essential to maintaining breast health.
Ayurveda believes that the health of our tissues and lymph depends on both physical and emotional factors. Our diet, exercise and stress levels all affect the balance of our breasts. In addition, our breasts are intimately connected to all other parts of the body—if other areas are inflamed or blocked, our breasts can be affected too. Paying careful attention to our breasts can alert us to deeper underlying conditions. Some may feel a lump developing during a period of mourning, for example, while others may feel a recurrent pain in the chest as a result of stress or anxiety.
Taking care of our breasts in Ayurveda means taking care of our entire bodies and eliminating obstructions or toxins that may impede the flow of lymph and vitality throughout. In the coming weeks, we’ll go into greater detail how things like our doshas interact with our breast health. Until then, here are several general best practices and principles for taking a holistic approach to breast health.
How to Promote Breast Health
Practice regular detoxification
When ama, or toxins, accumulate in the body, essential channels—from digestive to hormonal to psychological—become blocked, leading to inflammation and the development of imbalance and disease. All of these blockages can affect the health of our breasts. As such, it’s crucial to regularly engage in practices that promote detoxification.
One way to do this is by taking up lifestyle practices that adapt to the change in seasons. We have several guides on adapting to the advent of Kapha, Pitta and Vata seasons. Another is to adopt some simple, quick daily detox practices into your life, such as self-massage and tongue scraping. When it comes to breast health in particular, dry brushing is a powerful detoxification practice that stimulates the flow of blood and lymph, thereby flushing out toxins from the body.
Eat a proper diet
What we eat directly influences not only the state of our digestion, but also our mood, skin, internal balance and—of course—breast health. It’s important to eat foods suitable to your dosha, and also to eat in accordance with the season (for more on how to eat during the summer, check out our blog here).
One thing that is especially important to note as it regards the breasts is the presence of pesticides and chemicals in food. Breast tissue is comprised largely of fat; since many toxins and pesticides are lipophilic, they absorb easily into the breasts. Several heavy metals, like polychlorinated biphenyls and DDT, have been found in breast milk, as have the BPA found in plastics and the organochlorines found in pesticides. It’s important to avoid products with these chemicals and to eat organic in order to prevent our breast tissue from becoming contaminated.
Give yourself a daily breast massage
As Ayurveda has long advocated, self-massage is a powerful way to naturally detoxify the body by loosening the muscles, promoting circulation and providing the skin with essential nutrients. It also reduces stress and anxiety, which can also be an underlying source of breast discomfort. Self-massaging the breasts offers the same detoxifying benefits that can keep the lymph clear of obstructions.
To give yourself a breast massage, you can take a massage oil or body balm and massage from the nipples outward in firm, circular motions. Then massage the area underneath the armpit, the outer area of the breast extending to the shoulder and above and below the collarbone from the shoulder toward the neck. Go slowly, one breast at a time, being sure to breathe deeply and stay attuned to your body in the process. If you practice this every day, it will soon become a relaxing and rewarding self-care ritual that brings a sense of groundedness and self-awareness to your routine.
Our stress levels can also play a role in our breast health, as stress can contribute to the accumulation of ama and blockages in both the mind and body. If you’re feeling stressed or burned out [LINK], the most important thing is to figure out the root cause and change your relationship to that cause. In the case of necessary obligations like work or childcare, changing that relationship can be largely a matter of mindset.
During periods of burnout, we can feel unmotivated and powerless. To combat these feelings, it’s important to engage in grounding self-care practices that can instill us with a sense of purpose, confidence and energy. You might start by practicing yoga in the mornings, or taking 10 minutes out of the day to meditate and journal. You can also learn breathing exercises to practice when you feel like your stress levels are rising out of your control. Our UMA Deep De-Stress Herbal Supplement, formulated with stress-relieving Ashwagandha, can also offer a potent natural remedy for bringing your mind and body into balance.
As you can see, breast health doesn’t have to be mysterious or intimidating, nor is it something we can only take care of after we detect a problem. Keeping our breasts healthy is about so much more than our breasts alone—it’s about feeling in touch with our bodies and working intentionally to bring mental and physical detoxification and grounding to our lives.