Dry brushing is a quick, relaxing, and easy breast cancer therapy that you can do at home whenever you want. It supports your lymphatic, nervous, and immune systems all while providing a relaxing and invigorating self-care therapy. Dry brushing has certainly received some strokes of popularity lately. However, the practice has been around for centuries. It comes from ancient practices dating back over 5,000 years, to stimulate circulation and blood flow. Almost all historical civilizations documented the use of dry brushing for health and beauty, including Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, Romans, Native Americans, and Chinese.
Why dry brushing should be part of your breast cancer healing journey
Lymph Drainage and Lymphedema
First, here’s a quick summary of your lymphatic system: Lymph fluid circulates throughout the body through the lymph “nodes” to transport harmful toxins toward the body’s many pathways of detoxification. However, the system can get clogged from too much lymph fluid buildup or thick proteins. This is called lymphedema and, in turn, can lead to edema and fibrosis. This system is one of the body’s first lines of defense against pathogens such as infections, bacteria, yeast overgrowth, and viruses since white blood cells and other immune system mechanisms reside in the milky-white lymph fluid.
Even though this bodily system is super important, it is often overlooked by most Western medicine doctors since most medical schools do not teach about it. Another reason why having an integrative health team is critical for your healing. Lymphatic work should be a consistent part of your new vibrant health lifestyle as it helps prevent illness and leads to quicker healing. This is because it opens your body up to eliminate toxins, reduces swelling and congestion, energizes you, and boosts your immune system.
Lymphedema happens when too much plasma, or protein-rich fluid, builds up in a particular area of the body. This can happen to women who have had one or several lymph nodes removed as part of conventional surgery and undergone radiation therapy. This potentially debilitating condition can also occur in people with diabetes, pregnant women, and anyone who leads a generally sedentary lifestyle. Dry brushing is one way to help prevent lymphedema. Please review this blog post for more info on prevention and healing.
Note: Dry brushing should be part of your lymphedema treatments, but not the only thing you do. This blog post provides a few other suggestions.
Exfoliation and Detoxification
“Dry brushing unclogs pores in the exfoliation process. It also helps detoxify your skin by increasing blood circulation and promoting lymph flow/drainage. By unclogging pores, it’s easier for the body to sweat and eliminate toxins in your system. ” says Dr. Khetarpal of the Cleveland Clinic. Reducing your toxic exposure and detoxing is so important that it is #2 in 7 Essentials System®. Also, who doesn’t want more radiant skin? Dry brushing is also used to get rid of flaky skin and increase circulation for a smooth, silky look.
Nervous System Rejuvenation
Dry brushing can help to stimulate the vagus nerve, which can help to calm the sympathetic system and switch to the parasympathetic state (which is the “rest, relax and digest” state of the body). It wakes up your system by stimulating nerve endings in your skin and stimulating the vagus nerve. This helps your body switch into the parasympathetic state, which is the opposite of the “fight or flight” state that floods your body with chronic stress and cortisol. I honestly feel invigorated after dry brushing for a few minutes, which is another amazing effect of this quick, at-home treatment. Additionally, before getting a massage, ask to dry brush first. This will prepare the nervous system for deeper stimulation and relaxation, which will enhance the overall effects of the therapy.
Relaxation and Adrenal Health
Relaxation isn’t just about taking a breather. It is directly linked to adrenal health, which is an essential part of preventing dis-ease and healing breast cancer. For years, I suffered from adrenal burnout–my adrenal glands produced insufficient cortisol and adrenaline. They were burned out from a lack of sleep, and a pile of chronic stress wore heavy on me as I was burning both ends of the candle. I was exhausted all the time, and it was affecting my physical and mental health.
Staying in the stress response over the long term is one of the main factors for developing chronic diseases, including breast cancer. A Stanford University study found that 65% of advanced breast cancer patients had either consistently high or abnormally fluctuating cortisol levels. As expected, those with high cortisol levels also had fewer natural killer (NK) cells to ward off cancer. To learn more about adrenal health (directly relating to chronic stress levels and sleep quality), please read this blog post on adrenal fatigue and this one on adrenal health. I also take Adrenal Calm every evening as part of my healthy breast protocol.
What type of dry brush should I use?
Look for a brush with natural fibers such as agave. The brush fibers should be firm and move easily but not extremely stiff. I suggest getting a brush with a long handle for hard-to-reach areas. You can also use exfoliating gloves if you have more sensitive skin or need something lighter when traveling.
Step-by-step dry brushing routine for breast cancer healing
If you don’t remember anything else in this article, remember these five things:
- Use really light strokes and touch.
- Everything should get pulled up to the Main Drains: collarbones, armpits, groins, and knees.
- If you are short on time, just do the Main Drains.
- Always brush upwards (unless doing the Main Drains) and on dry skin.
- Any moment you have is the best time to do it—the main goal is to just do it.
Below is the protocol that we taught at the Healing Diva Retreats.
- Start with the Main Drains to open your lymph and main drainage points: Collarbones, armpits (7 circles one way and then 7 the other), groins, and knees. Do 7 strokes, brushing down and out.
- Arms: 7 circles one way and then the other, then sweeping brushes up your arms. You can do your hards next just to make the skin softer, and it feels nice. However, there aren’t lymph nodes in your hands.
- Breasts: Go under your breast and stroke out to your armpits 7 times. If your lymph nodes were taken out, then brush downward.
- Sides of the stomach: Brush from hip to armpit 7 times and then brush up your spine.
- Belly: Do 7 big circles one way and then the other.
- Neck: This will help with brain fog and sinus issues.
- Feet: There are lots of veins that start in the feet and can congest your lymph nodes, so start at the bottoms of your feet and go up the inside of your legs to your calves. Do the same for the tops of your feet. If you have swelling in your ankles, then brush the back of your knees.
- Face: You have nodes behind your ears that can also lead to brain fog if clogged. Pull circles from your ears and then down your checks to your collar bones 7 times.
- Do whatever else feels good to you!
- Optional: Rubbing coconut oil or another moisturizer after dry brushing can elevate the process and make for a more soothing experience. You can also take a cool shower or bath afterward to clean off brushed areas.
Dry brushing for breast cancer is helpful at any stage of prevention and healing. I also highly suggest doing it before and after any conventional treatments and therapies such as saunas or the BioMat. .
Please note: If you have sensitive skin or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, talk to your doctor before starting dry brushing practice. Also, never dry brush over an open wound and raised bumps or warts. Lastly, please ALWAYS check with your personal doctor before trying anything new. This article is written for a general audience, not for your specific situation.
Author: Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, better known as Dr. V, is a Doctor of Chiropractic & has 44 years of experience in the wellness industry. For personalized support, please partner with a trained Breast Cancer Conqueror Coach.