Bloating, bleeding, breast tenderness...the pleasures of the menstrual cycle. But we do have some control. For instance, the types of food we choose to eat (or not eat) may help relieve menstrual-related breast tenderness.

The Link Between the Menstrual Cycle And Breast Tenderness

Breast tenderness is usually caused by changes that happen in relation to a woman's menstrual cycle, especially during the days leading up to her period. 

During the two weeks after she ovulates, all women experience hormonal changes that encourage their body to retain fluid. In some women, fluid retention, in combination with other hormonal changes cause pressure and inflammation in the breast tissue, which can be painful.

In addition, the same hormones and inflammatory processes that cause a buildup of fluid and tissues and menstrual cramps in the uterus can also affect breast tissue, which leads to breast pain. Whereas uterine fluids are released with menstruation, fluid in the breasts has to be reabsorbed into the body. 

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent excess fluid buildup and reduce inflammation. Surprisingly, many of them are diet related. Christiane Northrup, MD, a leading authority in the field of women's health and wellness, writes about breast tenderness on her website and advises a diet that minimizes excess estrogen and decreases cellular inflammation.

"Breast tissue is exquisitely sensitive to high-fat, high-carbohydrate diets, which raise estrogen levels," explains Northrup. "Excessive estrogen production stimulates breast tissue, resulting in breast pain and cyst formation in many women. Many women with cyclic breast pain respond well to dietary change alone-for example increasing dietary fiber, eliminating dairy and caffeine, and adding foods or supplements rich in omega-3 fats or that contain soy."

Eat more...

  • Fiber, found veggies like cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, which help the body metabolize estrogen
  • Fermented soy-based foods like miso and tempeh.
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids including fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, flax seed, walnuts and sesame seeds.
  • And drink at least eight glasses of water per day to help your kidneys eliminate retained fluids efficiently.

Eat less...

  • Highly-processed carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, pasta and rice.
  • High-fat foods like French fries and other fried foods and most fast foods.
  • Salty, processed foods like potato chips, pizza, pretzels, lunchmeats and most fast foods
  • Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and other sources

Some experts recommend removing or decreasing consumption of dairy products reduce breast. Consider eliminating milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products for a month and see if it makes a difference.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.



Christiane Northrup, MD. Relief for Common Breast Symptoms.