Do you suffer from very painful menstrual cramps and heavy periods? Does it interfere with your social life and work? Do you literally have to live by your menstrual calendar? You could have uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids affect an estimated 20% – 40% of women of childbearing age. (1) While it’s possible to not have any symptoms, for those who do experience symptoms, they can be uncomfortable to the point of needing medical attention.
The good news? These common growths are almost never cancerous, though this doesn’t mean they are without health risks.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Also known of as “leiomyomas” or simply “myomas,” uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus which often appear during childbearing years. They can range in size from too tiny to be seen by the human eye, to large enough to distort the uterus. They can also appear as one single growth, or in extreme cases, multiple growths which can expand into the ribcage. (1)
Uterine Fibroid Symptoms
While uterine fibroid symptoms may not always appear, when they do, they can include:
- Periods lasting a week or longer
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic region
- Difficulty urinating
- Increased frequency of urination
- Leg pain
- Back pain
In rare instances, intense pain may be felt due to a myoma outgrowing its blood supply and dying.
Classification of them is also based on their location in the body. For instance, intramural fibroids exist in the muscles of the uterine walls, submucosal fibroids grow inside the uterine cavity, and subserosal fibroids extend outside the uterus. (1, 2)
Common Causes of Uterine Fibroids
There are many indicating factors that could lead to the growth of uterine fibroids. Some doctors believe that a stem cell in the smooth muscles of the uterus is where myomas begin, after which a single cell divides repeatedly to form a growth. These growths are firm and rubbery, and distinctly different from muscles surrounding them, and they may grow slowly, rapidly or not at all. In fact, some may shrink away completely on their own, and may do so after pregnancy when the uterus returns to its normal size. (3)
Other factors which may cause uterine fibroids include:
- Growth Factor Hormones—Substances such as certain hormones meant to maintain body tissues may be responsible for growths.
- Estrogen Dominance – To function optimally, the female body requires an optimal balance of estrogens (a trio of related hormones called estradiol, estrone, and estriol) and progesterone. Estrogen dominance occurs when the hormonal balance is shifted in favor of the estrogens. This condition can also be called a progesterone deficiency. Excess estrogen can cause the fibroids grow, so you need to balance it with progesterone.
- Genetics—Genes found in fibroids contain different genetic structure than those found in other tissues of the uterus, which indicates the potential for myomas being genetic.
There are also risk factors known to be associated with uterine fibroids such as:
- Heredity—If your mother or other close family relative had them, you too are at elevated risk for them.
- Outside factors which influence hormone production—Environment, use of birth control and body composition can all influence the growth of fibroids. This may also include other factors which have effects on the production of hormones such as consumption of alcohol, tobacco and poor diet.
- Race—Black women have an elevated risk of developing myomas, and are also susceptible to developing larger growths, and at an earlier age than in other races.
- Obesity—According to a 1991 study performed at Harvard Medical School involving 144 women who had undergone either a hysterectomy or myomectomy, 51% registered as obese (120% of desired body weight, or DBW), and 16% were listed as “severely obese” (150% of DBW). The entire group were also heavier on average than the general population, which indicates a strong connection between obesity and risk of myomas, and likely has to do with the effect obesity has on hormone production. (4)
- A diet high in red meat—A diet high in red meat and processed meats has also shown to be a risk factor for the development of myomas. This may have to do with the effect fat has on increased female hormone production, or possibly due to hormones added to conventionally-raised meats. (5)
- Use of tobacco and alcohol—Not that you need yet another reason to stop smoking, but you can add “increased risk of myomas” to the list. Likewise, consumption of alcohol can also increase your risk, and both likely due to the effect they have on hormone production. Need any more reasons to stop smoking or to drink only in moderation? There are plenty! (6 )
Conventional Uterine Fibroid Treatment
Keeping in mind that as with most conventional medicine “cures,” these approaches focus on the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. This means the problem hasn’t been truly taken care of, so much as placated for now.
That said, conventional uterine fibroid treatments may include:
- Synthetic Hormones – Doctors often prescribe birth control pills or progestins (which are not progesterone) to help control the heavy bleeding.
- MRI guided focused ultrasound surgery—After confirming location of growths, sound waves are focused into the fibroid which work to destroy its tissue.
- Traditional surgery—In the case of very large or multiple myomas, doctors may elect to surgically remove them. This can be either as an abdominal myomectomy, or as an entire hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), depending on their severity of growth. (1)
Natural Uterine Fibroids Treatment
Due to the danger of hormone-altering medications, radiation levels in ultrasound, and the invasiveness of surgery, a natural approach to myoma prevention and relief is recommended in most cases.
Plus, as mentioned above, conventional treatments focus on the symptoms rather than the cause, which makes conventional medical treatment something of a “revolving door” approach meant to keep you (and your pocketbook) coming back.
That said, natural uterine fibroid treatments focus on the root of the problem, and often have health benefits beyond preventing or treating myomas alone.
These natural treatments include:
- Prevention—As with many ailments, prevention is the best cure. This means keeping your weight in check, following a diet high in green, leafy vegetables, including cruciferous veggies such as broccoli or kale, and avoiding alcohol, use of birth control pills and tobacco. Staying away from endocrine disruptors such as chemical sanitizers and fragrances is also HIGHLY recommended.
- Observation—Since fibroids are rarely cancerous, and so long as there is no discomfort, simply monitoring the growth over time may be the best approach. Fibroids may shrink away with menopause or after childbirth due to changes in the production of hormones, which makes treatment as easy as leaving things alone in these cases.
- Bioidentical hormone therapy—Balancing hormones using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is another option. This is because unlike synthetically-produced hormones used in conventional therapies, bioidentical hormones have the exact molecular and chemical structure of those produced naturally in the human body. This makes them the safe option. (7)
- Diet—As is often the case, a diet high in processed foods and conventionally-raised red meat and low in fresh, multi-colored fruits and vegetables can be the problem. For instance, studies show us that cruciferous vegetables (i.e. cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) in particular, and a plant-based diet in general, may reduce the occurrence of myomas. For cruciferous vegetables, this likely has to do with a substance which occurs in them known of as diindolylmethane, or simply DIM. DIM not only has been shown to help balance hormones and prevent myomas, it may also help to prevent some cancers. (8 , 9)
- Supplements—Another good approach to ridding or preventing myomas is through the use of supplements. These can include DIM, which is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables which aids in hormone balance and the reduced occurrence of fibroids. Vitamin D and omega-3 supplements may also be helpful, with good examples of all being Hotze 100mg DIM soft gels, 1000iu D3 soft gels and omega complete fish oil, all of which are free of gluten, milk products, artificial colors and flavors to ensure your optimum health.
While uterine fibroids are rarely life-threatening, they can have painful symptoms along with being a potential sign that your hormone balance isn’t what it should be. This in turn CAN lead to worse health problems.
By managing your weight, eating right and avoiding endocrine disruptors, those of childbearing age stand a better chance of avoiding these benign tumors.
However, and even though a “wait and see” approach can be taken in response to them, allowing them to spiral out of control can not only become painful and debilitating, it can open the door for other health problems associated with their development such as weight gain, heart disease and cancer.
Are your hormones out of balance?
If you are suffering from uterine fibroids, a great place to start is by assessing your hormone status. Take our symptom checker to find out if you have symptoms of hormone decline and find out what could be the underlying cause.
We can help
Call our Wellness Consultants today at 281-698-8698 for a complimentary wellness consultation. We believe that you deserve to have a doctor and a team of professionals to coach you onto a path of health and wellness, naturally, without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, so that you can enjoy a better quality of life.