Find your breast practice
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to aesthetics, preference can be dependent on the personal or the cultural. Some like them voluptuous, while others prefer “no more than a handful” or petite. Thankfully, there is no universally defined “perfect” breast size or shape. Although their appearance can differ, their function doesn’t discriminate. They are givers of life and pleasure and how they look and feel can give women vital feedback on their inner health and monthly cycle.
It’s commonly perceived that, unlike your buttocks or your thighs, there is really not much you can do for breast health or appearance — how do you exercise your breasts? But, as with all the other structures of the body, there are many natural and effective ways to help improve the way they look and feel.
Breasts are essentially made up of fat and glands, attached to the chest wall by muscle and an intricate system of ligaments. The circulation in the breast is much the same as in the rest of the body, relying on arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels. The arteries carry nutrient-rich blood to the cells of the breast and its tissues. This gives them what they need for good health. Toxins are constantly removed through the body’s veins and lymphatic vessels. This detoxification process is essential for breast health and for good tone and texture of breast skin.
Hormones are produced by glands in the body and have a significant effect on how the breasts feel at various times during the menstrual cycle. Women who have experienced menopause and are not taking HRT no longer have breast changes caused by hormonal activity.
It’s common for breasts to become a little tender with each cycle, though extreme tenderness many days beforehand can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. Such imbalance may be caused or exacerbated by stress, diet, food intolerances, toxic overload and lack of exercise.
A balanced and nourishing diet rich in organic produce is favourable for good breast health and normal hormone function. Foods rich in xanthines can worsen breast tenderness. These are present in chocolate, black tea, cola drinks and coffee.
As breasts are very fatty, they make perfect vessels for storing fat-soluble toxins from food and personal care products. A group of prominent scientists from Cornell Medical Center, the American Cancer Society, Beth Israel Medical Center and the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggested recently that, although the science is not yet conclusive, the public should begin to reduce its exposure to oestrogen-mimicking chemicals (xenoestrogens):
“Cumulative exposure to estradiol and other hormones links many of the established risk factors for breast cancer … Some hormonally active compounds, such as those in soy and broccoli and other phyto-oestrogen-containing foods, can be protective against breast cancer, while others, such as some environmental contaminants, appear to increase the risk of the disease by increasing levels of harmful hormones.”
These contaminants can be found in a plethora of items, from plastics and bleached products, including tampons, coffee filter papers and toilet paper, to chlorine bleach, unfiltered tap water, lawn pesticides and pesticides used on conventional food produce, hormones used in the raising of conventional livestock, chemicals in skincare products (such as parabens) and the list goes on.
According to Kenneth Odlen, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health in the US, prescription hormones in the form of hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills have both been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
Gentle breast massage helps stimulate the lymphatic system and promotes the removal of toxins. It improves both breast tone and the condition of the skin around the area. Frequent (firm but gentle) touching and massaging also help you notice any changes in your breasts. Whenever you are massaging the breast and nipple, use gentle, circular motions (and rub your hands first to warm them).
Unrefined vegetable and nut oils to help facilitate the massage through lubrication and are replete in vitamins and essential fatty acids that enhance both the health and appearance of the skin. Extend the massage to under the armpit. Massaging with oil regularly helps keep the skin on and around the breasts smooth and toned and assists in the prevention of stretch marks caused by weight fluctuations, including during pregnancy.
A fibroadenoma is a smooth, firm breast lump made of fibrous and glandular tissue. The cause is not known, though they are more common in younger women and may become tender before the monthly period or during pregnancy. According to the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre they are not cancer and rarely change into breast cancer (although it is imperative to get any lump checked out by a doctor to determine what it is). Women have a choice in whether to have the fibroadenoma removed, but it continues to grow in size, removal is recommended.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. Fluid is produced and absorbed by the breast as part of the usual cycle of hormonal breast changes. Why some women are more susceptible to cysts is unknown, but it seems that they are more common in women aged between 35 and 50 and also in women taking HRT. Many women have a cyst or a number of cysts without knowing it and they don’t usually require treatment. If painful, some women decide to have the lump drained. According to the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, cysts are not cancer and don’t change into cancer. However, in rare cases, cysts may have a cancer growing within them or close to them.
Anything that impedes the detoxification process is not ideal for good breast health, including anti-perspirants and bras. Anti-perspirants often contain aluminium chlorohydrate (a neurotoxin) alongside other toxic chemicals. Aluminium is commonly used in anti-perspirants to stop perspiration, but perspiration is important for cooling the body and also promotes excretion of waste, so anti-perspirants keep toxins in when they need to get out.
Deodorants work by inhibiting bacteria under the armpits and/or masking odour and are a healthier alternative. Bicarb soda makes an effective deodorant in preparations or it can be used neat on the skin. Essential oils can also be very effective. Oils such as cypress can quash wetness, while others such as bergamot have lovely, deodorising scents. Then there are those, like tea-tree, that have potent anti-bacterial properties.
Consuming a chlorophyll supplement can help cleanse the body on the inside and reduce the severity of body odour.
By nature, bras put a lot of restrictive pressure on the breast, which can reduce the flow of toxins that need to be released. Too much pressure can flatten the lymphatic vessels and stop the toxic flow from the breast. If you wear a bra, it’s important to make sure it fits well. Studies show that 80 per cent of women wear bras that don’t fit properly.
A tight bra that is constricting is not only uncomfortable but it limits circulation around the breast. Seek out a lingerie fitter in a reputable department store who can help fit a bra to your breast size and shape correctly.
The upside to bras is they offer support to reduce jiggling while you are engaged in sporting activities and they help stop injury to breast tissue. For large-breasted women, they are important for posture and back health. Plus, they help defy gravity, keeping them perkier for longer!
Breast sagging is usually very normal, though the causes are varied: from genetics, multiple pregnancies, breastfeeding and weight fluctuations to gravity, hormonal changes and, of course, age. There are many natural ways you can improve their appearance simply by both looking after the health of the skin on and around the breasts and strengthening the muscles in the breast area.
Natural breast lift
Pectoral muscles that are under-worked manifest in signs of breast sagging. Exercise physiologist Damien Kelly says that, although breast size and shape are ultimately dependent on adipose tissue, it’s possible to help firm and lift them. He says, “You can’t make a difference to the soft tissue of the breast, but strength training will tone the pectoralis muscle below your breast. Exercises such as push-ups, chest presses, flies and some dips work the chest area.”
Damien stresses, “Chest exercises are often done wrongly. To get results, you must grade the weight so you can move through the full range of motion required. Push-ups are an example of using body weight. At first, you probably can’t do them military-style (prone on your toes with deep elbow bends). Instead, leaning on a table lightens the load on the elbow joint and allows you to do a full movement. As you get stronger, you increase the depth of the elbow bend and eventually go on the ground on your knees, then toes.”
Damien recommends these exercises be done 2–3 times a week as many times as you can but says it’s important to choose a weight that you can only do 12–15 of. He says, “Give it a couple of months before you’ll see significant results.”
As discussed above, regular massage with oil can be helpful alongside other treatments. Pink or white cosmetic clay mixed with yoghurt applied to the area as a mask can help tone and refine the skin. Cold water splashed on the breasts helps contract and tone the breast tissue. After a warm shower, splash the breasts with cool water and follow by massaging them with oil. Cooled herbal teas that boast skin-toning properties include witch-hazel, horsetail and lady’s mantle. Essential oils that can help tone breasts are fennel, clary-sage, angelica, lemongrass, geranium, cypress, carrot, hops, parsley and spearmint.
Breast toning massage oil
50ml sweet almond oil
10ml vitamin E oil (tocopherol)
3 drops geranium essential oil
5 drops grapefruit essential oil
2 drops carrot seed essential oil
Mix all the oils thoroughly and store in an amber glass bottle. Massage a few teaspoons over the breasts.
Note: Keep essential oils out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, talk to a natural health practitioner before using essential oils.
Breast augmentation or reduction is very popular these days but, like any other surgery, it poses risks, not only from aesthetic point of view but because of the possible complications that come with putting a foreign object into the body. It’s important to discuss the risks thoroughly with your surgeon. One side-effect of breast implants can be reduced breast sensitivity. This means internal changes may not be as easily detected as they were before the procedure. It also means they may not be as sensitive to the touch.
Note: Any changes in your breasts, while often are benign, are best checked to ensure there is nothing nasty going on. According to the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, Women can get to know the normal look and feel of their breasts through routine daily activities such as showering, dressing, putting on body lotion, or simply looking in the mirror.
Carla Oates is a natural Beauty expert and the author of Feeding Your Skin.
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