Breasts are beloved body parts that tend to get a lot of cultural attention, either as a result of the sexuality they inherently possess or as a result of their incredible life-sustaining capabilities as milk-creators for newborn babies. Unfortunately it is rare for those that have breasts to give them the nurturing attention they truly deserve, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a multitude of ways to do so. One of the most simple yet effective ways to care for one’s breasts is breast massage.
I first read about breast massage in Christiane Northrup’s renowned book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, many years ago. More recently the term has been finding its way into the mainstream conversation via beauty brands like Living Libations and Poppy and Someday, both of which create specific formulations to enhance breast massage.
To dive deeper into the topic of breast care, we spoke with Rachelle Poitras, a certified holistic nutritionist and herbalist from Vancouver, who has created Metanoia, an online platform dedicated to inspiring women to connect with their breasts as a means of bettering their health.
Carson: What led you on this journey?
Rachelle: My journey started when I discovered the first (of many) fibroadenomas in my breasts. I had surgery to have one removed and several years later a tumor grew in the exact same spot. I was again recommended surgery but felt that this wasn’t going to get to the root of the problem. I needed to address deeper imbalances. The surgeon I had a consultation with had a terrible bedside manner and really put me off wanting to be cared for by her. I told myself if I was ever going to have surgery again, it was going to be with a surgeon that I loved and felt comfortable with. I didn’t want to open myself up literally and energetically to someone that, simply put, I didn’t like. I think it’s so important to work with doctors and practitioners that support you.
After deciding to forego the surgery, I figured there had to be another way to treat this issue. If my body could create this imbalance, it could also heal it. So, after many, many years of trial and error, studying holistic nutrition and herbalism and working with many different modalities (Ayurveda, energy medicine), I did begin to heal.
What was incredibly frustrating during this time was how difficult it was to find holistic information on breast health. No one seemed to know anything and I figured I couldn’t be the only woman in need of information in this area. No matter the issue we want to feel empowered. So I decided to create a platform where women could learn about holistic breast health and walk away with tools to heal themselves and promote overall health.
C: Why is breast massage important?
R: Breast massage is important for many reasons. It supports healthy lymph flow, increases breast tissue nutrition and oxygenation, boosts blood circulation, removes toxins and excess estrogen, releases stagnant energy like stress, hurt, sorrow and grief, helps reduce breast tenderness, unblocks plugged milk glands and increases breast milk production.
C: How often should we be massaging our breasts?
R: Every day or as often as you can. If you’re experiencing breast pain and tenderness, especially around the menstrual cycle, massage a few times a day, this will really help to reduce pain, tenderness and inflammation while increasing lymphatic flow. Things done consistently and on a regular basis yield greater benefits in the long run.
C: Can you tell us a bit about mammograms versus thermograms for breast exams?
R: Thermography is a wonderful preventative, radiation-free, non-invasive and pain-free tool that uses digital infrared thermal imaging to detect the amount of heat (inflammation) coming from the breasts and body. This is much more proactive when it comes to early detection, especially when you consider that a thermogram can detect a change in the breast tissue approximately eight to ten years before a mammogram or a physical exam could. Breast inflammation is often a marker for inflammation in other areas of the body which can indicate poor gut health, poor thyroid function, etc. If inflammation is detected via thermogram, a protocol can be put into action to reduce inflammation before growths ever start to develop.
Mammograms are quite an outdated method of early detection for breast cancer. They do not promote breast health and generally are regarded as unsafe. This is because mammograms are a form of x-ray, and thus they rely on the use of radiation to examine breast tissue. The amount of radiation used in a mammogram is 200 times stronger than a regular x-ray - and that’s for each breast. Additionally, mammograms cannot distinguish between a healthy and cancerous cell as they only pick up on more dense breast tissue, which often results in overdiagnosis, misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatments. Biopsies are the only procedure that can accurately detect cancerous cells. After all, breast tissue is always changing, as are our bodies.
There are always exceptions and specific situations where a mammogram may be needed, however, I personally believe that the best diagnostic tool overall is you. It’s your intuition and it’s knowing your body. After all, about 90% of worrisome lumps in breasts are found by women themselves.
The most important thing to do is be proactive with our health, and to implement healthy habits that set us up for good health in the long run.
C: We know that many cosmetics and self-care products contain harmful chemicals and toxins. What are three chemicals we should be looking to avoid at all costs?
R: Parabens, petrolatum, and aluminium. A lot of these chemicals are found in conventional deodorants which accumulate in the breast tissue and can be problematic. Aluminium, for example, is known to mimic estrogen and is used in antiperspirants to block the pores and prevent sweating. These chemicals accumulate in lymph nodes and glands, and then create a breeding ground for disease and hormonal imbalances.The skin is very thin in the armpit region and anything that is put onto the skin is absorbed. Our armpits have their own microbial environment that contains large amounts of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria support our immune system, but the above chemicals disrupt this natural intelligence.
When shopping for deodorant or any kind of skin care, don’t rely too much on the labels. “Natural” doesn’t mean much anymore and the term usually isn’t regulated.
C: What happens to the body during lymphatic drainage? Is there any risk associated with lymphatic drainage done incorrectly?
R: Lymphatic drainage is an important pathway for detoxification. Breasts contain very little muscle tissue, which restricts the flow of lymph. When lymph becomes stagnant, toxins are retained and proper nutrition and detoxification of the breasts is inhibited. Our breasts contain an abundance of lymph vessels, which are responsible for draining toxins from the breast tissue. Important lymph nodes reside under the armpits and upper chest area and are responsible for filtering harmful substances. They also contain important immune cells that fight off the bad guys.
Even though it is possible for drainage to be restricted, it actually isn’t possible for the lymphatic to drain incorrectly. The lymphatic vessels have one-way valves which prevent backward flow of the lymph. This allows the lymphatic system to continually flow in one direction. Self-care routines like breast massage simply help the flow along.
C: Many women experience noticeable changes in their breast size and sensation throughout their cycle. How can we pay better attention to those shifts as an indicator of health, and what are some things we can do to support these changes?
R: It’s important to pay attention to any soreness, pain or tenderness that might arise. These are signs that things are out of balance. If things are in balance, you shouldn’t experience any symptoms. If I’m experiencing any tenderness, which does happen, I take this opportunity to look back and examine what my diet was like, if I was exercising regularly, what my stress levels were at, etc. It’s important to listen to our bodies and to our intuition. We’re always being guided toward health. That’s what that pain is for, to guide us in taking the appropriate steps to regain homeostasis.
C: In one of your wonderful breast mask recipes you include castor oil. What are the benefits of castor oil when it comes to breast health?
R: Some of the incredible breast benefits of castor oil include shrinking and healing benign masses and swellings like cysts, lumps, tumors and fibroadenomas. Use of castor oil also improves lymphatic drainage and reduces swollen lymph glands. Some other fun benefits include stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, which helps fight premature signs of aging. It’s truly an oil everyone should have on hand.
C: Could you share a how-to for breast massage with us?
R: There are many different techniques that are recommended for breast massage. I believe the most important thing to know is that you can’t do it wrong. We often get caught up in doing things right, but when it comes to the breasts, what’s essential is to move the lymphatic. The lymphatic is incredibly important, as we learned earlier, and it needs to be paid special attention. I love this breast lymphatic massage video. It’s a really simple and effective technique.
Do this practice with an organic breast massage oil to help nourish, nurture and cleanse the breast tissue, and, don’t forget, the breasts respond to loving and positive intentions as well!