Experience with Natural Breast Reduction?
February 8, 2009 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I am sick of the discomfort, soreness, heaviness, and occasional back pain that comes with my breasts. I really, truly hate them. I'm 20 and not about to get surgery, and I've been trying to research a product like Alexia. Anyone have experiences with this? I can't find anything online that doesn't sound like an advertising plant.

(alexiabreast.com careful, there are semi nsfw pictures.)

The ingredients listed are chromium (as picolinate), "proprietary alexia blend," guggulsterones, theobromine cacao, green tea extract, caffeine, and sclareolides.
An "herbal" remedy, it claims to work in the first couple weeks, with zero side effects. I have read only in one place on the internet a girl disliking it, and her complaint was minor aching and soreness, which I already have. Everyone else seemed to really like it, but everyone else also sounded like they could have been advertisements stuck in by the company.

They want me to take the pill 3 times a day. That is a lot of stuff to put inside me, and I'm worried about side effects.
A bottle is filled with a one month supply, and is 70$. Yowzah! I would like for something I'm digging deep to pay for to work.
"Proprietary Alexia Blend" sounds suspicious. Like "Natural Flavors," or something.

I am in shape. I am not going to lose any weight doing this, as I am pretty small everywhere but my chest. I work out, I eat well. I am working on my pectorals but it isn't really helping me.

I know the first answer to this will probably go something like "Don't alter your body, don't do anything, your boobs are fine, get used to it. And shame on you." But this isn't about vanity or body image. I have already discussed this with my boyfriend, and aside from being concerned with my safety, he's fine with it. He understands that its about pain, discomfort, and feeling out of place in my own skin. Please understand that before you scold me for trying to change myself.

Yes, I will call my doctor and ask them about it on Monday. They probably wont be able to provide me with firsthand accounts, though. Has anyone tried Alexia (or something similar)? Has it worked, has it gone awfully? Would you recommend it?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are your reasons for not considering surgery? Two of my friends have undergone breast reduction surgery and have been ecstatic about the results (no pain when engaging in everyday activities, easier to buy clothes, more comfortable about their overall appearance, etc.). If your breasts are causing you real, medical harm and you have insurance, the surgery is potentially covered. If you are already going to talk to your doctor, why not open the discussion to all available options. I don't know you and IMNYD, but paying $70/month for something that is not FDA-approved and can't produce clinical studies of its effectiveness seems a little snakeoilish to me.

In the meantime, your plan to strengthen your pectoral muscles (also work on core and back muscles) should make you more comfortable but if your breasts are truly out of proportion with the rest of your body, you may not be able to completely eliminate the stress they are putting on the rest of your body.

Good luck!
posted by ilikecookies at 1:37 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just looking at the website and the ingredient list, there's no way that the product does what it claims to do. It's just another "herbal weightloss" program that's high on promises and low on reality. You can't spot-reduce fat cells in your breasts and you most certainly can't do it buy spending all this money on a glorified vitamin. This is just a clever way to transition one scam product into a new niche market by pretending to treat a very real problem. This is not a medical product and I highly doubt any doctor would recommend something like this. Call on Monday and talk about non-surgical non-hoax options.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

I couldn't find any empirical evidence to suggest these pills will work for you. I think you would be better off saving your money. That is an awful lot of money to spend on anecdotal information. They even dance around the FDA approval thing by saying "ingredients have proven safe and effective" but they don't say effective at what.
posted by Silvertree at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2009

There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to change your body, but an expensive, non-FDA-approved "herbal remedy" whose ingredients list is remarkably similar to that of a can of Red Bull isn't going to do it.

I can't find anything online that doesn't sound like an advertising plant.

Yeah, there's a reason for that.
posted by ook at 1:43 PM on February 8, 2009

I wouldn't trust anyone who would choose that name for a medical product.
posted by phrontist at 1:46 PM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

I can't speak to the efficacy of the pills, but perhaps a different bra would help? I have heard good things about the Frog Bra, which claims "no bouncing ever." Not the prettiest thing in the world, but it's really supposed to help women with large breasts.
posted by desjardins at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2009

It's a scam.

A good barbell strength program would help you build some stability in your back and core to support the weight. Make sure it includes things like barbell rows, body rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts to work your upper and lower back and establish a support structure. I have read it can help quite a bit for women with large breasts.
posted by schroedinger at 1:55 PM on February 8, 2009

The Frog Bra is great, but it definitely mashes them down and there is still some bouncing, by the way. If your breasts are very sensitive I imagine it might be painful.
posted by schroedinger at 1:56 PM on February 8, 2009

You sound at your wit's end about your bust. Sadly, this is starting to cloud your judgement, because I'm sure if a younger friend asked you if pills could make her breasts bigger or her nose smaller, you would tell her that things just aren't that simple. If these pills worked, I doubt anyone would undergo surgery, but they don't, which is why they do.

Specifically, the list of ingredients for Alexia pills is remarkably similar to the ingredients of typical diet pills - because that's what they are. Of course, some women lose weight from their breasts when they diet, but even if that applies to you, diet pills are not an effective way to achieve it.

I don't have an answer for you, but these pills are certainly not one either.

posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:58 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't take anything that's not approved by the FDA.

I'm 20 and I have large breasts too. I'm also an undergraduate science student. I know what you do and what you don't put into your body.

The best you can do is lose weight; you'll lose weight from your breasts and build up your strength in the process.
posted by kldickson at 1:59 PM on February 8, 2009

I am sick of the discomfort, soreness, heaviness, and occasional back pain that comes with my breasts.

In terms of relieving physical discomfort, have you been professionally measured and fitted for your bra? If there is a specialty bra store in your location (and I mean more specialty than department stores or Victoria's Secret) it may be worth a visit to check you are wearing the appropriate bra size and style. While this is not the permanent physical solution you seek, a bra that fits properly will better support the breasts and likely help with some of the heaviness, back pain, and discomfort.
posted by kitkatcathy at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing that it's a complete scam. Nthing that every woman I know who's gone for reduction surgery these reasons (chiefly back pain) has said it's one of the best things they ever did. And several ample women I know that have not wanted/needed surgery have raved about their experience being fitted by (and shopping at) Bravissimo.
posted by K.P. at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2009

An "herbal" remedy, it claims to work in the first couple weeks, with zero side effects.

This, on it's own, is a HUGE red flag. It's such a standard snake oil pitch. Is this stuff sold by some type of MLMish scheme? I'd be surprised if it isn't.

I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to do here. Take a pill and have your breasts magically shrink? Firstly, if that did work? It's not by any means 'natural'. Breasts aren't actually supposed to do that. Just because the ingredients come from a plant doesn't make their supposed effect natural or good. If the pills did work like this then you're taking a potent drug (which hasn't been correctly tested for safety or efficacy no less) and it's important that you think of it that way.

What breasts do do is change in composition over the course of your menstrual cycle, laying down more duct cells in the time before ovulation then reabsorbing them to some extent and laying down fat cells instead in the time between ovulation and menstruation. It's not a big change but can be noticeable, and is a tightly regulated process under control of your hormones. As has already been mentioned you can't spot reduce fat from any part of your body, so a medication that causes tissue loss from your breasts only has to be messing with that hormonal control. That's not a path I'd like to go down personally, if it really did work then the chances of a) side effects throughout the rest of your body (as hormones work systemically) and/or b) breast cancer (because you're changing the proliferation and apoptosis of those cells) is going to be pretty high. Also, for this to work there'd have to be something really special in that "proprietary alexia blend" because the other ingredients won't be having this (or any useful) effect.

I doubt your doctor can give you advice on this because it's not a medical treatment. So it either doesn't work, which is what I'd put my money on, or it does and it's an unregulated drug with unknown risks and is frankly kind of scary.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot to mention. Causing the tissue in your breasts to reduce without effecting the rest of your body is a MAJOR biological process. The biochemistry and physiology of what would occur is complex and have widespread implications in your body. I'm not exaggerating when I use the term 'potent drug'.

I don't believe that's what this actually is, it's a scam weight loss pill just like many others on the market, but it's useful to think about what would actually be going on if it did work to put the whole thing into context.
posted by shelleycat at 2:14 PM on February 8, 2009

Yes, please go get fitted for a good bra. It will make a world of difference.

I will be a voice of dissent on a breast reduction. If I had one thing I could go back and change in my life, that would be high on my list. If you plan on breastfeeding (and even if you don't plan on it now, you might later), the odds are that you will encounter some manner of difficulty due to reduction mammoplasty. See this site for good information on the subject. And although the odds are low that there will be further/lifelong complications from the surgery itself, problems can and do happen. Those of you thinking of having the surgery (Anon, I see you say you're not, but just in case), please, please look at ALL the available outcomes before doing it and don't let your current discomfort cause you to do something hasty.
posted by Addlepated at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2009

A recent, widely-reported study showed a connection between caffeine intake and slightly-reduced breast size: Google of [study caffeine breast size].

Caffeine can also apparently protect against some health conditions, but might be slightly dangerous to your heart.

Drinking tea is probably cheaper than whatever that supplement costs.

(Please, some moderator delete this response from my other thread here. Gar.
posted by amtho at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2009

That product is a total scam.

Weight lifting has helped me so, so much with my back pain. Supportive, "reducing" bras have helped me with discomfort both physical and emotional. And getting older and more comfortable with my body has helped me go from someone who didn't like my breasts to someone who at least feels neutral about them.

If you're still wanting smaller breasts after trying those options, I think surgery is the only effective choice.
posted by serazin at 2:24 PM on February 8, 2009

And here's that Google search for you - this seems to have been a legitimate study, although I'm not seeing a link to "Nature" or the NY Times.
posted by amtho at 2:34 PM on February 8, 2009

I totally understand where you're coming from but I think you know those pills aren't likely to work. I also decided the surgery was too drastic for me right now and I just gave in and went to a really good bra shop. Spend that $70 on a good bra at a specialty bra shop (I found one that helped a lot and didn't smoosh anything like a lot of those non-movement bras). I'm sure people will give you suggestions if you have a mod post your city.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2009

Unfortunately, the only way to reduce the size of your breasts are with surgery or weight loss. Since you say you have no more weight to lose/can't lost more weight, then surgery is your only real option.

Nthing get a pro-bra fitting in the meantime. I hear Nordstrom's are the gold standard at this if you live near one. (I've never been there.)

If you do decide, down the line, to get surgery, see if there's a way that you can find out what the insurance company requires you to do and your doctor to say in order to get it approved. Maybe you have a friend who works there? My mom happened to work in claims for the insurance co that a friend who needed a reduction was a member of. They kept denying her the surgery despite the debilitating pain and back and neck problems that had been going on for YEARS. I asked my mom what the issue could be, and she was like "you have to go for X sessions of physical therapy, X sessions at a chiropractor, and then if that doesn't help, your doctor has to write a letter and say that therapy isn't helping. Those are the magic words." Of course, the ins co wasn't about to make this info public, otherwise they'd have a whole bunch of reductions to pay for all of a sudden. This wasn't fraud (at least not in my mind)...my friend did the therapy/chiropractor visits (earnestly, hopefully...she didn't want to go under the knife, either!), it didn't help, she got the surgery. Insurance companies suck sometimes, and she was one of the lucky ones since she knew what she had to do to get it approved. And FWIW, she's thrilled she did it.
posted by AlisonM at 2:45 PM on February 8, 2009

To make the connection between the caffeine study and the OP: the product you describe contains caffeine, you say. The study I linked to says that caffeine - the study involved a cup of coffee three times per day - does indeed reduce breast size. So, if the pills work when taken three times per day, it may be due to their caffeine content. Which you can achieve on your own, probably cheaper.

That said, building strength as others suggest is probably a good idea, caffeine has other unfortunate side effects (including tenderness / soreness and increased heart disease risk of some kind), and the reduction in size wasn't that much.
posted by amtho at 2:50 PM on February 8, 2009

A friend of mine had something like G-sized breasts, and she was able to get a reduction surgery through her parents' insurance because of the health effects of having to support her ginormous boobs for the rest of her life. Prior to her surgery she had to wear two or three heavy duty sports bras to be at all comfortable, so she had a real problem going on. So, if you are not considering surgery because you are thinking you cannot get it paid for, seriously look into it. My friend was only reduced to a D, because any more and she might not have been able to breastfeed in the future, but it made a world of difference for her. If you have access to insurance through your parents, look into it NOW. At least consider it. Because if you are this miserable, then surgery is really going to be the thing that makes the biggest difference, and it will actually have the desired result.

And, as everyone else is saying, get properly fitted. Go to a Norstrom's if you can and buy a couple of excellent bras (Macy's is also starting to carry that kind of thing, so look there too if you have one around). Don't go to Victoria's Secret. Good luck. I have big boobs too (not as big as yours, probably, but big enough) and I cannot imagine being so miserable all the time.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:57 PM on February 8, 2009

Scam. 2nding being fitted for a good bra. Go to Nordstroms and be fitted. Expect to pay close to $70 a bra. Treat them (the bras) well. Ask you physician for options, and you will learn that surgery and/or acceptance of your breasts are your only options, if you currently are in shape and not overweight.
posted by 6:1 at 2:59 PM on February 8, 2009

In addition to what other people are saying about getting a well-fitting bra, if you're taking hormonal contraception you might want to consider stopping or switching to a lower dosage. I totally, completely understand the feelings you describe -- until a few months ago I was a 30G/H, very short and skinny frame (there was NO extra weight to lose), and I felt completely out of place in my own skin. The only way I could describe the feeling was that I wanted to cut my own breasts off. Reduction surgery seemed too drastic to me (I'm in my mid-20s, and while I have no desire to have children at this point, if at some point in the future I want to I'd like to be able to breastfeed), not to mention expensive (not covered by crappy student insurance).

I was taking the second-lowest dosage of Loestrin. I stopped taking it for a couple of months, for unrelated reasons, and my chest quickly shrunk to a 30F/G, which I suppose is still pretty big but felt (and still feels) TINY to me. Psychologically, that one cup size (plus a bunch of new bras in the right size) made all the difference. It's still just as difficult to find clothes that fit, and I'm not going to take up jogging as a hobby, but I don't feel grotesque anymore. I restarted birth control but on the lowest dosage, and thankfully there's been no regrowth. But if I had to choose between hormonal birth control and not hating my breasts... I think I'd go with the latter.
posted by pluckemin at 3:06 PM on February 8, 2009

What everyone else is saying: the pills don't work. Honest companies with potential drugs don't turn around and market them as herbal supplements. They apply for patents. They go for FDA approval. They run multi-year, staged trials. And then they sell them at a huge markup that they hope the insurance companies will eat.

I don't think you should rule out surgery, but since you have, spend your time exhausting every other option. The suggestions to find a more perfectly fitting bra sound good.

I'd recommend hiring a personal trainer to tailor your workout. If even for only a couple sessions. You have special goals/needs that require a special routine.

Go for a free consultation. Get a female and tell her your breasts are putting too much strain on your chest and back. Ask her what she'd plan for you. If she's any good (and not all are) she'll design a routine that targets the right muscle groups.
posted by sbutler at 3:10 PM on February 8, 2009

What are your reasons for not considering surgery? Two of my friends have undergone breast reduction surgery and have been ecstatic about the results

I have a friend who elected not to undergo the surgery because she was too concerned about the possible loss of feeling, scarring, and loss of ability to breastfeed. While these aren't necessarily big risks, they are there - I know people who have had surgery and it's gone well, but there are definitely potential downsides.
posted by rodgerd at 4:23 PM on February 8, 2009

Hi anon, I don't want to derail your thread which is NOT about reduction surgery, but just wanted to say - I had a reduction in my early twenties, feel free to me-mail me if you have questions I can help with. *

*Did that come off as weird?
posted by Catch at 4:35 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

But if you have persistent pain every day of your life, aren't those small concerns?
It is my understanding that most capable doctors can reduce breast size by a couple cup sizes with little risk to sensation or breastfeeding ability. Scarring is a possibility, but is a scar on the underside of your breast really that big of a concern?
posted by jckll at 4:36 PM on February 8, 2009

I have to second the idea of getting a bra professionally fitted. I don't have the same issues you have, but when I wa sin college, I used to buy the cheapest bras I could find, as that was all I could afford. And I always hated them - they didn't fit right, the straps would fall, etc. Then I had a bra professionally fitted for the first time, and also, for that first time, I felt comfortable wearing a bra.

I always get my bras fitted when I go in to purchase some, and it makes all the difference in the world.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:38 PM on February 8, 2009

I looked up the caffeine study cited above as I'd never heard of it before. It's actually a nutrigenomics study and pretty cool (nutrigenomics is my field although I study IBD).

Firstly note that the association is not between caffeine and beast volume but coffee and breast volume. This is important, coffee is a complex mixture containing phytoestrogens as well as caffeine, and it's probably a micture of things in there having an effect. So taking a pill containing just caffiene doesn't cut it.

Secondly the association is actually between coffee (3+ cups per day), breast volume and a speicfic gene polymorphism. If you have the poymorphism then drinking 3+ cups per day may reduce your breast volume, although the differences seen weren't very big. If you have the other polymorphism (or take an oral contraceptive) then coffee has no effect. They don't have a mechanism in this paper (not enough is known) but were looking at various hormone levels in different subjects. They expect the coffee to have an effect on those major biological effects that I was talking about earlier.

Here's the bit about the association:
This interaction was mainly driven by the fact that a moderate-to-high coffee intake was associated with lower breast volume in women with the C-allele. No association between coffee and breast volumes was observed in women with the CYP1A2*1F A/A genotype or in women who currently used hormonal contraception. As hormonal contraceptives lower the CYP1A2 enzyme activity (Rietveld et al, 1984), the latter observation was expected.
And the conclusion:
In conclusion, the CYP1A2*1F genotype significantly modified the relationship between coffee consumption and breast volume in non-users of hormonal contraception. It is likely that various compounds in coffee exert a direct effect on the breast epithelium.
So if you happen to have the right gene version, don't take oral contraceptives, don't already drink 3 cups of coffee a day, and can tolerate coffee, then starting to drink that much may have an effect. If you already drink that much coffee then drinking more won't do anything extra, it's a threshhold thing not a dose response curve. If you don't have the polymorphism then you're out of luck. The paper indicates a 50% chance of each although it's in a Swedish population, your allele frequencies myay vary. In none of these cases will taking the herbal pills you've linked have any effect, and they cost a lot more than coffee.
posted by shelleycat at 4:44 PM on February 8, 2009

To add to the chorus, by this product only if you also might consider buying a wonderful bridge to Manhattan island I have recently procured.

And not to derail, but that study folks upthread are talking about is dubious to say the least in terms of its analytical design, by no means suggestive of causation over correlation even if the analysis were appropriate; and even if that were the case, any conclusions drawn are not necessarily generalizable to anyone who isn't Swedish, with a high-risk family history of breast cancer, and has a particular polymorphism in a specific gene.
posted by drpynchon at 5:31 PM on February 8, 2009

Breasts are mostly made of fat. If there were a pill that reduce fat, or even better, spot reduced it, everyone would have heard of it and be using it.

Diet, exercise to strengthen your back or pecs, a better bra, or surgery are your options.
posted by orthogonality at 6:01 PM on February 8, 2009

The ingredients listed are chromium (as picolinate), "proprietary alexia blend," guggulsterones, theobromine cacao, green tea extract, caffeine, and sclareolides.

In other words this is a lot of nothing and a couple of stimulants. Essentially, its just another herbal diet pill. I guess what they are trying to do is get you to lose weight through stimulants and hoping some of that weight comes off the breast area. This is pretty much a scam. You can do this better by just following a proper diet.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:48 PM on February 8, 2009

I have been thinking of following some scientifically plausible but untested ideas, such as avoiding tap water because of the oestrogen in the water supply, and also avoiding oestrogen-rich foods in case it is a sensitivity problem. What is the best way of cutting through the rubbish websites to find out if there's any real research in this area?

(I just spent a horrific day trying to find a swimsuit. I was a perfectly ordinary UK 12 on the bottom half and looked grotesque on top. It is also a miserable business to spend £25 on ugly 30H bras that don't fit properly. I went to two different branches of Bravissimo, the staff disagreed on the size, and I ended up with something too long in the torso that dug cruelly into my armpit.)

The odd thing about all the casual advice to lose weight is that the weight will come off the ribcage before it reduces breast tissue, leading in my case to the awful prospect of trying to find bras in a 26G.
posted by grapefruitzzz at 8:07 PM on February 18, 2009

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