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January 4, 2012

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TCM advice for healthy breasts

WESTERN medicine says multiple factors contribute to breast cancer - genetics, diet, environmental pollution, lack of exercise, among others. It's difficult to pinpoint a cause.

Traditional Chinese medicine ascribes all breast problems to two major energy imbalances - one is energy stagnation in the liver, and the other is disharmony between the ren energy channel and the chong channel, according to Dr Xue Xiaohong, director of the Breast Disease Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to the Shanghai University of TCM.

These imbalances can be triggered by the fast, irregular pace of modern life and state of mind, including mood swings, depression, anger, stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.

TCM doctors say psychological pressure and lifestyle are major causes of increased breast problems, from abnormal, excessive cell growth to breast cancer.

Regular checkups with a gynecologist are strongly recommended for early diagnosis, while a healthy diet, regular lifestyle (regular meals, regular exercise, regular sleep, no overwork) and an even mood are important for prevention and treatment.

Negative emotions all lead to energy stagnation in the liver meridian, which travels through the breasts, causing problems there.

The ren channel governs uterus and ovaries while the chong channel is the destination of blood flows.

The smooth coordination of the two channels is important for healthy menstruation and reproductive function, while irregularity and disorder creates what Western medicine defines as a hormonal imbalance.

"For many women today, fatigue from work and home pressure is a major factor that disturbs the two channels' cooperation," she says.

The most common problem today is hyperplasia of the mammary glands, or excessive proliferaiton of cells. Not all hyperplasia leads to cancerous tumors, but a regular type-B ultrasound check twice a year is recommended for women over 35, she says.

"Self-examination was once popular but years' clinical experience have so far proved that it's not that effective for early diagnosis," Dr Xue says.

Regular exercise is essential to maintain healthy cell metabolism. A high-fiber, low-fat diet including beans, oats, pumpkins and carrots is recommended.

Fiber helps dispel excessive female hormones and prevents hormones from excessive stimulation of breast cells. Too much fat can increase the secretion of hormones as well as obstruct the removal of hormones, causing an unhealthy imbalance.

For women with hyperplasia problems, Dr Xue strongly warns against eating ready-made reinforcing products linked with female hormones, including placenta and bee pollin. Caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol should be avoided.

For those with relatively serious hyperplasia, TCM doctors may recommend herbs that help soothe the liver, relieve depression and regulate and activate blood circulation. These herbs include various patent drugs. Patients should never dose themselves.


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