Breast Changes, Herbal Supplements, and On a Personal Note

Hello Ladies,

When I reviewed the Parfait Charlotte for GG+ cup sizes, I mentioned that my breasts had changed shape and size after taking an herbal supplement.  Since then, I have received numerous comments and email messages asking what I was taking and to discuss my decision to pursue alternative medicine.  To give the question a truly thoughtful answer requires me to divulge personal information about myself and my medical history.  As this blog is a part of my business, I have wavered as to whether it would be beneficial to discuss something of this nature here, but ultimately I decided to share my struggles in the hopes they can help someone else find comfort.

Almost as soon as my monstration . . . I mean, menstruation started, my Aunt Irma has been about as accurate as a broken watch.  In fact, during my formative high school years I was convinced my period was a sentient being with whom I was clearly at war.  Weeks would pass without so much as a single spot only to resurface for a month of on/off bleeding.  When I was around 16, I started birth control to regulate my period, and the problem subsided.  However, I struggled with the side effects of the prescription medication, especially with my weight.  Even low dose options created issues for me.

Aunt Irma in all her glory
Aunt Irma in all her glory

A few years ago, I was referred to a respected gynecologist, and he was absolutely amazing at identifying my issues and diagnosing problems quickly.  In the end, we discovered I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  Check out this great description from the Mayo Clinic

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. The name of the condition comes from the appearance of the ovaries in most, but not all, women with the disorder — enlarged and containing numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of each ovary (polycystic appearance).  Infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne and obesity can all occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. In adolescents, infrequent or absent menstruation may signal the condition.  In women past adolescence, difficulty becoming pregnant or unexplained weight gain may be the first sign.  The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

During this phase, I was at my highest weight and experiencing a slew of additional symptoms ranging from the cosmetic (hair thinning and acne) to the serious (high blood pressure and pre-diabetes).  After discussing the symptoms and potential long term risks, I knew I needed to lose weight in order to treat my PCOS.  Body image demons took a backseat to fear for my health.  My grandparents, who were the two most awesome people ever, allowed their weight and the ensuing problems to dictate the last 15-20 years of their life.  I knew I did not want to experience this and resolved to make better choices.

I won’t rehash my weight loss journey here because I have written extensively about it in the past, but suffice it to stay, the weight slowly dropped off and my symptoms totally subsided.  However, the downside of the weight loss was the upper fullness in my breasts diminished, and the tissue became softer and less firm.  After a few years, I decided to pursue more holistic remedies and discussed not taking birth control with my doctor.

Amazingly, my period cooperated.  For the first time in my life, I felt like my reproductive system and I finally reached a truce in a battle which raged for over 15 years.  However, at the start of this year, my body went haywire.  I became lactose intolerant, and my period decided to show up almost three weeks late to the party.  Realizing that I was resting on past victories, I hit the library and checked out several excellent resources on dealing with PCOS:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome:  A Woman’s Guide to Identifying and Managing PCOS

A Patient’s Guide to PCOS:  Understanding—and Reversing—Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

One of the suggestions I saw frequently was to begin a Vitex (also known as “chastetree”) regimen because of its ability to regulate your pituitary-hypothalamus axis.  Potential benefits included regulating periods, boosting moods, and alleviating hormone related acne.  Nevertheless, the supplement is not a quick fix and requires several months of consistent daily use to build up in the system.  Vitex should be taken around the same time each day, ideally on an empty stomach.  Personally, I split up the dosage and take one in the morning when I wake up and the other at night before bed.  Following several months of use, it’s good to take a break from the supplement.  Side effects can include skin rash or upset stomach, but I have never had any issues.

Initially, I was taking the pills on a less than regular basis, but even with that caveat, I could see an immediate difference in how my symptoms were progressing.  As I became more consistent, everything continued to improve.  In the past, I would breakout closer to my period—an embarrassing event whose frequency is now limited, and after six months of daily use, I finally coerced my period back to a 28 day cycle.  Life was looking pretty darn good . . . although the view from the top certainly changed.  In what seemed like an overnight phenomenon, all of my bras did not fit me properly.  Tissue overflowed the cup, and styles which worked in the past were less than ideal.  Had my boobs gotten bigger?  Breaking out the tape measure, I noticed I went from 41″ across the bust to 42″.  Since I was actually in the process of losing weight, it did not make sense for me to go up an entire inch.  Not to mention, my breast tissue, especially in the upper section, was considerably firmer.

Confounded by this sudden change, I researched Vitex and its relationship to breast size, and I found that for some women, the herbal supplement can change the size and shape of the breasts.  I went from being more of a 30H with balanced fullness leaning toward bottom heavy to being a 30HH with completely even upper and lower fullness.  It was quite a shift—so much so that the Cleo Marcie (you remember the bra I reviewed twice?) fits perfectly now and is my favorite.

Reading through this completely off-topic post, I am sure you may wonder why I am sharing this information.  My motivations are manifold.  First, if you experience symptoms consistent with PCOS, please talk to your doctor.  At least 10% of women suffer from PCOS, and if left untreated, it can cause problems later in life.  Furthermore, if you are having difficulties conceiving, ask your doctor about PCOS as many women struggling with infertility have this syndrome.

Aside from spreading PCOS awareness, I also discussed my experience to encourage women to view their breasts as dynamic and changing.  A simple alteration in diet, weight, lifestyle, herbal regiments, etc. will impact your bra size.  Focus on finding the right size and style bras for your new shape, and do not stay rooted in what worked in the past.  Along this vein, avoid ruling out any styles or brands altogether because those small changes could very well turn a bra that didn’t quite work into your new favorite.

Erica

P.S.  I am in no way advocating the use of Vitex in the treatment of PCOS.  Please discuss Vitex or any herbal supplement with your doctor first.  My doctor encouraged me to try Vitex based on my past history.  If you are considering taking an herbal supplement, please verify that it does not interact with any of your existing medications.

P.P.S. Here are two great resources on PCOS: How PCOS is Treated and Do I Have PCOS?

Breast Changes, Herbal Supplements, and On a Personal Note
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.

33 thoughts on “Breast Changes, Herbal Supplements, and On a Personal Note

  • October 1, 2013 at 7:56 pm
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    Thank you for sharing so openly about your diagnosis. PCOS is so common yet so rarely talked about. I myself don’t have any such issues that I’m aware of, but I feel you on the birth control pill side effects :\ Best of luck on your continued success with the herbal treatment!

    Reply
    • Erica
      October 2, 2013 at 10:12 am
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      Missy M, the lack of awareness is one of the reasons I ultimately decided to share my struggles. We often keep quiet about these issues, leaving some women to suffer in silence and others to never know they can get help. Birth control is great for some women, but for me, it was definitely not the best solution.

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  • October 1, 2013 at 9:08 pm
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    Fantastic post, Erica! Thank you for sharing your journey so honestly. I think if I’d been in your shoes I would have felt really frustrated and out of control, and I’m so glad you’ve found a solutions that’s working well for you. Hope you continue to feel well!

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    • Erica
      October 2, 2013 at 10:13 am
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      Thanks, Sweets! I won’t lie. I do feel frustrated and lacking in control, especially as my period’s start date approaches. I’m left wondering “Well, is it going to show up on time, or am I going to have to guess?” So far, things have been better with the Vitex, but it still creates unnecessary stress.

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  • October 2, 2013 at 10:43 am
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    Thanks Erica! I’ve traveled a similar path with my cycles and know the frustrations. Thank you for sharing. PCOS has never been discussed with me, so I will ask my doctor.

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    • Erica
      October 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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      Hi Amy! The entire PCOS topic is truly interesting, and I encourage you to both talk with your doctor and perform independent research. Some of the information I found seems to indicate that the PCOS could itself be a symptom of your body not processing insulin properly. Hopefully as more research becomes available, doctors can get to the bottom of the problem and determine more effective treatments.

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  • October 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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    Thank you for sharing. On a slightly off topic note, what are your thoughts on Vitex as non-surgical relief to women who have lost some firmness due to pregnancy or significant weight changes?

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    • Erica
      October 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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      Hi Kacey! I would talk with your doctor about the herbal supplement to be on the safe side (as I know it can interact with certain medications), but it’s worth a try. From what I have read, not all women experience the breast change, but considering it would only cost you around $30 for a six months supply, the investment would be low. Plus, you never know what other benefits it may have for you.

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  • October 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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    Dear Erica,

    You may want to investigate http://pcosinfo.wordpress.com/treatments/natural/vitamin-d/ and or search PCOS along with Vitamin D. (Vitamin D is not a vitamin, it is a prehormone!) I also try to direct people to the Vitamin D Council it is a wonderful website with great information on Vitamin D. The recommended daily intake by the Vitamin D experts is a minimum of 5000 iu.
    Most modern doctors were taught the following in medical school:
    ‘The classic understanding is that vitamin D is activated in the kidney and passes in the blood stream as a hormone to control blood calcium levels. In this understanding vitamin D has an endocrine function – it is created at one place in the body and is used to send signals to cells in other parts of the body. In the classic understanding, vitamin D has do with bone health and nothing more.”
    “The modern understanding of vitamin D includes this endocrine signaling, but also understands that vitamin D is also activated inside many other cells, where it is used to signal the DNA machinery inside that cell (autocrine signaling) or inside adjacent cells (paracrine signaling) to up- or down-regulate genes that code for specific proteins.” Simplified, Vitamin D can turn genes on and off!
    Wishing you the best,
    IVY

    Reply
    • Erica
      October 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm
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      Hi Ivy! I remember we were talking about Vitamin D at one point in emails, and I need to tested to see if I should pick up supplements or not. I know I don’t get out as much in the sun anymore. When I got my initial tests done, I don’t know if he checked for Vitamin D deficiency or not, but that’s is fascinating to see it’s connection to PCOS. The more I read about the syndrome, the more I realize it impacts so many different systems and needs to be treated in multiple ways. Thanks for sharing that website!

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  • October 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm
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    Thank you so much for sharing Erica. I too have PCOS and it is always very comforting to read about someone who has the same disease as I do. Iam currently taking metmorfin and birth control, which thankfully has not caused any weight gain. I hope more people will become educated about PCOS.It is a disease not many people talk about but millions of women are affected by it. Thanks again for being brave enough to share your story.

    Reply
    • Erica
      October 5, 2013 at 11:24 am
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      Hi Olivia! When I was heavier and pre-diabetic, I was on metformin for a while, and that worked rather well. The side effects for me were minimal, and it did help with regularity a little. I’ve heard good things about prescribing metformin for women with PCOS who are trying to conceive too. Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad that we can get more information out there for other women suffering with the disorder.

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      • November 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm
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        I was diagnosed with pcos after having my little boy. God knows how I fell pregnant as my cycles were haywire.

        I’m on metformin now which seems to works but my cycles still aren’t 100% regular.

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        • Erica
          November 14, 2013 at 11:09 am
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          I took metformin for a while myself, and I did see some positive results. Of course, there were also some interactions and side effects that I didn’t like, but metformin does have an excellent track record for improving ovulation cycles. 🙂

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          • November 16, 2013 at 6:06 am
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            I really had to fight my dr to be prescribed it, because I’d already had a child he was of the opinion that I didn’t need it, plus I was, at the time, still breastfeeding. Luckily I won.

  • December 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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    Hi Erica, this is the first time I’ve ever commented on one of your artciles (I’ve read many — love the website by the way!)
    Anyway, I just wanted to say thankyou for talking about this subject and your journey… I think awareness about “alternative” medicine needs to be raised – I find that most doctors will dismiss alternative medicine as scientifically unproven and useless, and in response I think a lot of people decide that the doctor knows best and continue with sometimes unsubstancial treatment.

    I do not have PCOS, however It was investigated as a possible problem I was having a few years ago, which in fact turned out to be an underactive thyroid – it can give very similar symptoms, and one doctor was actually hell bent on me having PCOS… I’ll try not to ramble on forever, but basically the medication which I was given to treat my thyroid problem was woefully inadequate, and I was refused any kind of alternative by many doctors…. Some denied that there was an alternative, and others called the alternative medicine quackery.

    So my point is, THANKYOU for sharing your experience, and hurrah for “alternative” medicine — it is just that. Medicine! I encourage all to do their research, take control and demand the care they deserve 🙂

    Reply
    • Erica
      December 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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      Thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences, Lily! Alternative medicine does seem to be regarded negatively by many medical professionals which saddens me. There are many holistic products available which can greatly help people without the added side-effects or chemicals. Of course, this isn’t to say modern medicine does not have its own merits too, but I prefer to examine all the possibilities first before deciding on a treatment plan. Everyone is different, and it can be helpful to know all the options, even if they are “alternative.” Thanks again for the support and for reading!

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  • January 9, 2014 at 7:52 pm
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    Thanks for sharing your experience Erica. I have taken Vitex (for perimenopause which started for me at age 37). It really did nothing to improve my symptoms so I wasn’t on it for long. I don’t recall any such changes to breast size but it was 5 years ago. Now I’m on other, more potent, phytoestrogens and hormonal precursors. I should pay attention to what’s happening (as my breasts have grown over the past year from a 32FF to a 32G). I think, however, it’s the perimenopause that’s causing the majority of my changes, vs. the hormones to support my changing hormonal landscape. My body has changed in a variety of ways – and I see how it holds onto fat differently. I’m don’t mean to sound in any way negative about this transition, though it is uncharted territory. I know that menopause is a moment in time, hormonally speaking, and I continue to be active and positive about my health and how I look. It’s a complex time, however…

    I have a coworker who’s 30 and has PCOS. She struggles with her weight and other symptoms of the syndrome. She’s recently done a serious workout regimen (working with a trainer for 3 months) and it seems to have recalibrated her metabolism. She’s lost weight so her blood sugar seems to be much more stable. I’m quite inspired by her dedication to work within a complicated scenario.

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm
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      K-Line, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Hormone and body changes can easily change our bra sizes and breast shapes too, so it can be beneficial to watch how bras are fitting and adjust sizes/styles as necessary. Like your coworker, I found my PCOS became much more manageable with weight loss, and like her, I do have an easier time managing weight and PCOS symptoms if I exercise frequently. Within the last year I have been so busy with the shop that I don’t exercise as much. I didn’t experience a lot of weight issues because I’m on my feet all day, but I like the feeling I get when I actually exercise too.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2014 at 7:38 am
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    Hi Erica, I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I have learned so much! Being very new to the world of large-cup bras, reading your blog has definitely helped me navigate this very overwhelming terrain:-) I can also relate so much to your PCOS story as my personal experience with it has been very similar to yours. Although I chose to go a more natural route in most aspects of my life a few years ago I admit that I got lazy and stopped short of actively searching out many potential natural therapies for my PCOS. This post has given me the kick in the behind that I’ve needed to get out there again and continue my path to better health. Thank you!

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    • Erica
      June 28, 2014 at 12:17 pm
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      Hi Emily! I am glad the post helped you. There are a lot of great websites and books out there for coping with PCOS. Some days/weeks/months are easier than others, but I think it’s great to open a dialog about this common disorder. We can all learn so much from the experiences of others!

      Reply
  • January 18, 2015 at 7:58 pm
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    Were the same I’m 19 and sometimes my period comes like after 3 months, if I take vitex should I take one capsule like 2x a day?

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    • Erica
      January 21, 2015 at 2:12 pm
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      Hi Patricia! I would consult your doctor to be safe, but I started with one capsule per day which worked very well for me up until about 8ish months ago. It’s good to open a dialog with your doctor about it because if you have PCOS, you’re at higher risk for certain diseases too. 🙁

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  • April 4, 2015 at 2:59 am
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    I’ve been using vitex and Macs for the past 3 months and I only my period has regulated but sadly for the breast growth not so much I’m 19 and since I turned 15 my period is not regular it would come like after 2-3 months. I also took this supplement for breast growth, should I take it 2x a day? It says on the bottle if used as a dietary supplement should be taken 2 times. But I’m not doing diets.

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    • Erica
      April 4, 2015 at 10:15 am
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      Hi Patricia! From what I understand, the breast growth (and even the period regulation) is not guaranteed to happen. For some women, it does encourage a little growth or added fullness, but for others it doesn’t. You can certainly try taking the pills twice a day, but I always encourage everyone to discuss this with their doctors first. Herbal supplements are not without side effects and can impact other medications you may be taking. For what it’s worth, I was on Vitex for over six months when the breast changes occurred. It’s a slow moving herbal supplement that needs time to react. It started working to regulate my period at first, but I wasn’t totally regular until about 7ish months after I first started taking it. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  • June 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm
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    Hi. Were you using Vitex extract or the whole herb? Do you know how many mg per pill you took?

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    • Erica
      July 1, 2016 at 11:13 am
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      It was pill form, but I can’t recall the mg offhand. 🙁 I got it from the drugstore though!

      Reply
  • October 23, 2016 at 9:46 am
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    Did you maintain results after stopping the Vitex- both for PCOS and the breasts?

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    • Erica
      October 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm
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      On the boob front, definitely, but I did have some issues after awhile with regularity for PCOS. Unfortunately, my PCOS is just very hard to manage, and it really takes a lot of effort to keep it in line . . . and then sometimes it randomly decides that it has had it with whatever was working and now requires something totally different. Ugh.

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      • October 27, 2016 at 8:58 am
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        Thanks for the information. I know you said that you had taken the Vitex every day for so many months and then started taking breaks for a couple weeks every so often. Do you remember how long you were taking the Vitex in total?

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        • Erica
          October 27, 2016 at 10:13 am
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          Hmm, I would say I probably took the Vitex for close to . . . 14ish? months? With breaks, I think it was around 18 total months of treatment, but I’m honestly not sure. It may have actually been longer (It’s a bit terrible I can’t remember, right??), but it was very effective for me for a long time. As I mentioned, my PCOS can be really challenging to maintain, and I thought going on birth control would be helpful (the three methods I tried over 18 months weren’t). I’m actually entertaining the idea of starting it back up again.

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  • March 21, 2018 at 3:30 am
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    How long did you take vitex before you noticed increased breast growth?

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    • Erica
      March 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm
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      It was probably around the 7 or 8 month mark, I believe.

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What are your thoughts?