Fibrocystic Breast Disease (Holistic)

About This Condition

Breast tenderness and lumpiness may point to fibrocystic breast disease (FBD), a non-life-threatening but uncomfortable condition that affects many women. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Get to know EPO

    3 grams of an herbal evening primrose oil supplement every day may help alleviate symptoms

  • Go on a low-fat diet

    Lower estrogen levels by eating fewer high-fat foods, especially from animal sources

  • Get routine checkups

    Rule out the possibility of breast cancer by performing monthly self-exams and visiting your doctor for regular medical exams


About This Condition

Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) is a term given to a very common group of benign conditions affecting the breast in younger women.


Both breasts become tender or painful and lumpy, and these symptoms vary at different times in the menstrual cycle. Despite the fact that signs and symptoms of FBD appear to be quite distinct from textbook signs and symptoms of breast cancer, any lump in the breast should be diagnosed by a doctor to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Exercise may decrease breast tenderness. In one study, women who ran 45 miles per menstrual cycle reported less breast tenderness as well as improvement in other symptoms, such as anxiety.1

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Try a low-fat diet
Lower estrogen levels by eating fewer high-fat foods, especially from animal sources.

FBD has been linked to excess estrogen. When women with FBD were put on a low-fat diet, their estrogen levels decreased. After three to six months, the pain and lumpiness also decreased. The link between dietary fat and symptoms appears to be most strongly related to saturated fat. Foods high in saturated fat include meat and dairy products. Fish, nonfat dairy, and tofu are possible replacements.

Cut the caffeine
To reduce pain and tenderness, avoid coffee, black tea, green tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and over-the-counter drugs containing caffeine for at least six months.

Some, but not all studies have found that women with FBD drink more coffee than women without the disease. Eliminating caffeine for less than six months does not appear to be effective at reducing symptoms of FBD. However, long-term and complete avoidance of caffeine does reduce symptoms of FBD. Some women are more sensitive to effects of caffeine than others, so benefits of restricting caffeine are likely to vary from woman to woman. Caffeine is found in coffee, black tea, green tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and many over-the-counter drugs. A decrease in breast tenderness can take six months or more to occur after caffeine is eliminated. Breast lumpiness may not go away, but the pain often decreases.


What Are Star Ratings?
2 Stars
Evening Primrose Oil
3 grams daily
Taking evening primrose oil may help alleviate symptoms.

In double-blind research, evening primrose oil (EPO) has reduced symptoms of FBD, though only slightly. One group of researchers reported that EPO normalizes blood levels of fatty acids in women with FBD. However, even these scientists had difficulty linking the improvement in lab tests with an actual reduction in symptoms. Nonetheless, most reports continue to show at least some reduction in symptoms resulting from EPO supplementation. Based on this research, many doctors recommend a trial of 3 grams per day of EPO for at least six months to alleviate symptoms of FBD.

2 Stars
40 drops of a concentrated liquid herbal extract or 35 to 40 mg of the equivalent dried, powdered extract taken once daily in the morning with liquid
Agnus castus has been shown in some studies to reduce breast tenderness.

Since many women with FBD and cyclical breast tenderness also suffer from PMS, there is often an overlap in herbal recommendations for these two conditions despite a lack of research dealing directly with FBD.

In one double-blind trial, a liquid preparation containing 32.4 mg of vitex and homeopathic ingredients was found to successfully reduce breast tenderness associated with the menstrual cycle (e.g. cyclic mastalgia). Vitex is thought to reduce breast tenderness at menses because of its ability to reduce elevated levels of the hormone, prolactin.

Doctors typically suggest 40 drops of a liquid, concentrated vitex extract or 35–40 mg of the equivalent dried, powdered extract to be taken once per day in the morning with some liquid. Vitex should be taken for at least three menstrual cycles to determine efficacy.

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Refer to label instructions
Iodine appears to be helpful in treating FBD, it should be taken only under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.

Some doctors use iodine to treat FBD symptoms. In animals, iodine deficiency can cause the equivalent of FBD. What appears to be the most effective form—diatomic iodine—is not readily available, however. Some people are sensitive to iodine and high amounts can interfere with thyroid function. Therefore, supplemental iodine should only be taken with the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.

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Vitamin E
Refer to label instructions
Some studies have reported that vitamin E reduces symptoms of FBS, many women try it for three months to see if it helps.

While several studies report that 200–600 IU of vitamin E per day, taken for several months, reduces symptoms of FBD, most double-blind trials have found that vitamin E does not relieve FBD symptoms. Nonetheless, many women take 400 IU of vitamin E for three months to see if it helps.


1. Prior JC, Vigna Y, Sciarretta D, et al. Conditioning exercise decreases premenstrual symptoms: a prospective, controlled 6-month trial. Fertil Steril 1987;47(3):402-8.

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