Chinese medicine has been discussing breast health and breast disorders such as breast lumps, pain, swelling, and what we now understand as cancer for thousands of years…and it offers an interesting and unique perspective on the topic.
One of the keys to breast health is maintaining proper Qi circulation through our energetic meridians, especially those that flow in the chest. In order for there to be proper Qi flow, there must be enough healthy Qi to circulate, and enough bodily ease and relaxation for energy to move without struggle. Think of our meridians like rivers that run through the body. If the river is clogged, water stops flowing to certain areas and instead builds up and overflows others. Essentially, lack of Qi flow causes accumulation in some areas and lack of nourishment in others. Ultimately, free flow of Qi is crucial in preventing and resolving imbalance and subsequent disease. There are a number of meridians that pass through the chest and breasts, but the meridians most closely connected to breast health are the Liver meridian, the Kidney meridian, and the “extraordinary meridians” called the Ren and Chong.
The Liver meridian is in charge of all Qi circulation, and plays a special role in regulating the menstrual cycle and overall female reproductive system. The Liver meridian is weakened by frustration, anger and pent up emotions, and is nourished by relaxation, peace of mind, and moderate physical exercise. The Kidney meridian is where all of our Qi originates. We are all born with a fixed amount of Kidney Qi - naturally, as we live our lives we use and deplete that Qi. The Ren and the Chong blossom from the Kidney and are responsible for keeping the female reproductive system healthy and happy. It is important that we have enough Kidney Qi to nourish these channels and that we replenish our energy regularly.
Now, there is more to breast health than just Qi flow. Chinese medicine also looks at patterns that can lead to imbalance. The most common patterns that can disrupt our breast health are phlegm accumulation, Qi and blood stagnation, and toxic heat. Phlegm accumulation is caused by poor fluid metabolism resulting from excess worry and overconsumption of phlegmy substances like dairy, sweets, and greasy foods. Blood stagnation is a result of long term Qi stagnation, as Qi is responsible for moving blood throughout the body smoothly. It can also be caused by long term tension and a sedentary lifestyle. Stagnant Qi and blood over time can turn into excess toxic heat trapped in the body, which can create major health problems.
All of this may be a lot to take in! Chinese Medicine is amazing, but it is also very complex. Fear not, it is an acupuncturists job to understand the meridians and what patterns are at play in each unique individual…below is a simple list of lifestyle tips to keep yourself healthy and balanced, and to keep your meridians flowing with ease.
- Listen to your body. Know when to push yourself and know when to rest.
- Get regular cardio exercise (yoga, walking, running, swimming, whatever form of movement you enjoy that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat) to keep Qi and blood circulating smoothly. And remember to wear a loose-fitting bra to avoid constriction.
- Eat organic whole, hormone-free foods - avoid dairy, greasy foods, refined sugar, and processed food. Eat lots of variety within the color and flavor spectrum, making sure to include dark leafy greens, fruit, lean protein, and warm nourishing broths.
- Let your feelings out, breathe deeply, create a process that helps you let go of frustration, anger, and worry. Try meditation or doing a soothing activity when you are feeling stressed.
- Get Acupuncture – it corrects energetic imbalances, calms the nervous system, improves blood circulation, balances hormones, and benefits your immunity and overall health.
- Take Herbs (as prescribed by a licensed herbalist) – there are a number of herbs that regulate hormones, focus on breast health, and allow the body to heal itself.