Flax Seeds for Breast Pain

Flax Seeds for Breast Pain
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A tablespoon a day of ground flax seeds appears to improve ovarian function, and is considered a first-line therapy for breast pain associated with one’s period (cyclical mastalgia).

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A study on the “Effect of Flax Seed Ingestion on the Menstrual Cycle” found a tablespoon a day of ground flax seeds lengthened the luteal phase—meaning flax can delay one’s next period by about a day—and resulted in fewer anovulatory cycles. These are the same kind of improvements in ovarian function seen in women eating plant-based diets: a longer luteal phase, and fewer anovulatory cycles—fewer failed ovulations—an indication that vegetarian women have fewer disturbances in their cycles. In fact, those eating vegan in this study never failed to ovulate at all, similar to women eating daily flax.

Since those same hormonal changes associated with eating a plant-based diet seemed to improve premenstrual and menstrual symptoms such as breast pain, maybe flax seeds would help, too. The effects of dietary flaxseed in women with breast pain associated with their cycles. “Although hormone treatments, such as tamoxifen, may be helpful, they often cause unpleasant side effects,” and there may be “risks associated with long-term use of hormonal therapy… Dietary flaxseed is, therefore, an attractive alternative for controlling [these] symptoms.”

So, 116 young women with severe cyclical mastalgia—severe menstrual breast pain—over a pre-study period of six months were randomized in a double-blind manner to either a muffin containing about three and a half tablespoons of flax seed, or, “a placebo muffin,” and followed for a few cycles. There was some placebo muffin effect, but there was a significantly greater reduction in reported breast pain, breast swelling, and breast lumpiness in the flax seed group. “It is concluded that flax seed is effective in relieving symptoms of cyclical mastalgia without significant side effects, and might be considered as an alternative treatment for cyclical mastalgia.”

But if it works, and there are only good side effects, why is it an alternative treatment, and not the primary, first line treatment? Well, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not issued treatment guidelines. But, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has. They first dispel the myth that caffeine is to blame, or that vitamin E supplements are helpful. Instead: “Dietary flaxseed should be considered as a first-line therapy for [menstrual] breast pain,” and only then, consider drugs if flax doesn’t work. Oh, and breast pain “should not be treated by use of mastectomy.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A study on the “Effect of Flax Seed Ingestion on the Menstrual Cycle” found a tablespoon a day of ground flax seeds lengthened the luteal phase—meaning flax can delay one’s next period by about a day—and resulted in fewer anovulatory cycles. These are the same kind of improvements in ovarian function seen in women eating plant-based diets: a longer luteal phase, and fewer anovulatory cycles—fewer failed ovulations—an indication that vegetarian women have fewer disturbances in their cycles. In fact, those eating vegan in this study never failed to ovulate at all, similar to women eating daily flax.

Since those same hormonal changes associated with eating a plant-based diet seemed to improve premenstrual and menstrual symptoms such as breast pain, maybe flax seeds would help, too. The effects of dietary flaxseed in women with breast pain associated with their cycles. “Although hormone treatments, such as tamoxifen, may be helpful, they often cause unpleasant side effects,” and there may be “risks associated with long-term use of hormonal therapy… Dietary flaxseed is, therefore, an attractive alternative for controlling [these] symptoms.”

So, 116 young women with severe cyclical mastalgia—severe menstrual breast pain—over a pre-study period of six months were randomized in a double-blind manner to either a muffin containing about three and a half tablespoons of flax seed, or, “a placebo muffin,” and followed for a few cycles. There was some placebo muffin effect, but there was a significantly greater reduction in reported breast pain, breast swelling, and breast lumpiness in the flax seed group. “It is concluded that flax seed is effective in relieving symptoms of cyclical mastalgia without significant side effects, and might be considered as an alternative treatment for cyclical mastalgia.”

But if it works, and there are only good side effects, why is it an alternative treatment, and not the primary, first line treatment? Well, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not issued treatment guidelines. But, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has. They first dispel the myth that caffeine is to blame, or that vitamin E supplements are helpful. Instead: “Dietary flaxseed should be considered as a first-line therapy for [menstrual] breast pain,” and only then, consider drugs if flax doesn’t work. Oh, and breast pain “should not be treated by use of mastectomy.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Nutritious Food

Doctor's Note

What if your diet is packed with plants? See last week’s video, Plant-Based Diets for Breast Pain. 

I’ve also hailed flax in videos such as:

So nice to see a professional medical association prioritize safe, natural therapies! To see the mentality here in the States, check out my video series that includes Medical Associations Oppose Bill to Mandate Nutrition Training. So, Do Doctors Make the Grade? Unfortunately, Doctors Know Less than They Think about Nutrition. This is largely due to the lack of Medical School Nutrition Education, though there is also The Tomato Effect.

Speaking of safe and natural, the subject of my next video is Does a Drink Of Water Make Children Smarter?

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Treating Breast Pain with Diet and Treating Breast Pain with Flax Seeds.

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