06.23.2015 •

The Breasts as a Barometer

A women’s breasts can be viewed as a gauge of her external and internal environments. If there is a problem in either, the breasts may begin to show their condition via a physical or a felt change by the woman. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are many early warning signs that the breasts display, such as distention, pain, and even lumps, yet, especially if these signs seem minor, they can be overlooked, and the condition may be perceived as being normal. However, even a small change in a woman’s breasts can be an early indication that something is wrong. Using the breasts as a barometer can help a woman manage and potentially avoid developing serious disease in this delicate tissue.

TCM holds that the external environment that a women is exposed to can contribute to or detract from her health. In modern cities and many rural areas people are exposed to unclean air and water, and various causes of stress. Exposure to toxic substances has been shown greatly to affect the breast tissue (a wonderful book to read on this subject is, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, by Florence Williams). It may be surprising, but the daily minor exposure to seemingly benign products such as deodorants containing aluminum, body cleansers with sodium lauryl sulfate, and non-organic cosmetics can all directly affect the healthy tissue of the breasts. Due to the great amount of pesticides, chemicals, and pollution in many places, reducing exposure to these chemicals can greatly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Eating organic foods and using only natural products on the skin can help reduce the daily amounts of toxic exposure.

An important topic, often overlooked, is a woman’s internal environment, including her emotions. In TCM, emotions have a large and significant impact on the health of an organism. Worrying too much can injure the digestive system; having too much fear can deplete the adrenals; grief may damage the lungs; anger disrupts the liver’s proper functioning; and anxiety could damage the heart. All of these TCM organs have their own meridian system, and the main ones that affect the breasts are the liver, kidney, heart, pericardium, lung, and stomach. Each of these meridians goes through or connects with the breasts. Therefore, keeping one’s emotions in proper balance is crucial. One can cultivate balance in emotions by practicing mind-body exercises such as yoga, qi gong, meditation, and also by connecting with nature.

One of the best and most consistent ways for a woman to keep harmony between her external and internal environments is to eat highly nutritious foods, avoid toxins and/or detoxify regularly, regulate the emotions, and take the right supplements. Reishi mushroom is a herb that can be used to help with the external environment by protecting the body from harmful substances via its immune-regulatory functions. Reishi, when used in the context of the internal environment, can help settle the emotions, especially those of the organs that it directly influences: the heart, lung and liver. Reishi is also a very strong detoxifier and can help regulate and restore cellular vitality. The breasts, a woman’s guide to health, benefit from a balanced and healthy environment, inside and out.


Andrea Hejtmanek is a Registered Acupuncturist and Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in private practice since 2010. She also teaches at the Calgary College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. In addition, Andrea sits on the board of the Alberta Association of Traditional Chinese Medical Doctors and is the co-chair of membership services for the College and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta.