Vitamins and Minerals for Breast Cysts
To avoid the risk of side effects from fish oil-based vitamin A, it is safer for most women to use the provitamin A, beta carotene. Beta carotene is found abundantly in many yellow, orange, red, and dark green fruits and vegetables. It is converted to vitamin A by the liver and intestines as needed by the body. In fact, many women who eat a plant-based diet can easily ingest 50,000 to 100,000 IU of beta carotene on a daily basis. (One cup of carrot juice or one sweet potato contains 20,000 IU of beta carotene). Supplements of beta carotene are also readily available in health food stores and pharmacies.
In several controlled studies, vitamin E was found to be quite helpful in reducing the pain and tenderness, as well as the size, of breast lumps. In one study, where subjects were given 600 IU of vitamin E for two menstrual cycles, 80 percent showed a positive response. Another study of 29 women with fibrocystic breast lumps, which worsen premenstrually, showed again a good response to vitamin E treatments. At doses of 500 or 600 IU per day, 16 women had moderate to total symptom relief. The other 13 women had reduction of cyst size or complete disappearance of the cysts.
In animal studies, iodine deficient rats were found to develop breast changes similar to human fibrocystic disease. Human studies have also suggested that women who are iodine deficient may have a predisposition towards developing breast cysts. Iodine is needed by the body for the production of the thyroid hormone. Lack of adequate thyroid hormone also affects the menstrual cycle.
Sea vegetables such as nori, kelp, and dulse, found in the produce section of health food stores, are good sources of iodine. Dulse is also available in liquid drops, while kelp is available in tablets. Kelp also comes in powdered form and can be used in cooking as a good salt substitute.
Essential Fatty Acids
Several studies have looked at the beneficial effects of evening primrose oil on fibrocystic breast disease. Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, and its chemical derivative, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). In one study of 291 women with severe breast pain, 45 percent of the women had symptom relief with the use of evening primrose oil. Another study of 41 women showed equally good symptom relief. The beneficial results were maintained in women who continued to use evening primrose oil after the study ended. Typical dosages used were 1500 mg twice a day. (This would amount to taking 6 of the 500 mg capsules commonly available.) In my experience, some women need to go as high as 9 to 12 capsules per day for relief of severe symptoms. Borage oil and black currant oil are more concentrated sources of GLA, so the number of capsules necessary is reduced. For example, 3 or 4 capsules per day of borage oil may be sufficient.
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