Fibroids are extremely common. In fact, about 75 percent of women experience them at some point in their lives. (1) Ranging in size from a few millimeters to the size of watermelons, fibroids are responsible for more than 200,000 hysterectomies each year.
What are fibroids? They’re non-cancerous tumors found within the uterine walls, often resulting in a change in the size or shape of the uterus as well as several unpleasant symptoms. However, they can also be symptomless. So whether you know you have fibroids or not, it’s a great idea for any woman to do things to naturally prevent these common growths in the uterus.
Studies have shown that avoiding high blood pressure lowers the risk of developing them. According to research from the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, there’s a strong and independent association between blood pressure and risk for fibroids in premenopausal women. (2)
Some risk factors for fibroids are out of your control, but there are many you can manage. These includes things like eating higher-quality beef, working more leafy green vegetables into your diet and drinking less alcohol. There are also a lot of things you can do to balance your hormones naturally, which is a key part of natural fibroid treatment.
Natural Treatments for Fibroids
1. Avoid Foods that Make It Worse
- High-Fat, Processed Meats. High-fat, processed meats are some of the worst food choices for women when it comes to fibroids. Foods high in unhealthy fats like non-organic meats are processed meats can increase inflammation levels and often contain chemical additives. (Think hamburgers and processed breakfast sausages.) When you eat beef, you should always opt for grass-fed beef.
- Conventional Dairy. Non-organic dairy is very high in steroids and other chemicals that can alter hormones and encourage the development and growth of fibroids.
- Refined Sugar. Consuming refined sugar can increase pain and reduce immune function in the body. It may also lead to weight gain and hormonal imbalance, two factors that encourage the development of fibroids. Studies have even shown that a high dietary glycemic index is associated with higher risk of uterine fibroids in some women. (3)
- Refined Carbohydrates. Managing hormones not only involves the elimination of sugars from the diet, but also refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs cause insulin levels to spike and hormones to become out of whack. Consuming processed grains like those in instant hot cereals and commercial breads causes a sharp rise in insulin. These refined carbohydrates have been stripped of everything but starch, so they offer negative health consequences and no good nutritional value.
- Alcohol. Overdoing it in the alcohol department increases inflammation throughout the body, reduces immune function and encourages hormonal imbalances. By reducing or eliminating alcohol, you can help to get your hormones back on track and hopefully shrink those fibroids fast.
- Caffeine. Too much caffeine is taxing on your body, especially your liver. When you give your liver more work to do than it ideally should have, it isn’t going to do as good of a job at keeping your hormones in check. Drinking more than two cups of coffee daily may boost estrogen levels in women and could worsen conditions with a hormonal basis like fibroids. (4) The more you can keep your alcohol and caffeine consumption down, the easier it is for your liver to detoxify your body and keep your hormones in proper, fibroid-discouraging balance.
2. Eat Foods that Heal Fibroids
The following foods should be included in your diet to keep your fibroids at bay:
- Organic Foods. Eating organic foods can help to prevent and shrink fibroids. Pesticides impact estrogen and other hormones levels. Since hormonal balance is key to natural fibroid treatment, you want to reduce your pesticide intake as much as possible.
- Green Leafy Vegetables. Green leafy vegetables discourage the growth of fibroids in a woman’s body. These vegetables are vitamin K-rich foods. This vitamin aids in clotting and helps control control of menstrual bleeding.
- Cruciferous Vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables support detoxification of your liver and balance estrogen levels. Research has shown that high consumption of broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, tomato and apple seems to be a protective factor for uterine fibroids. A greater intake of cruciferous vegetables (and fresh fruits) is believed to be capable of reducing the incidence of uterine fibroids in women. (5)
- Beta-carotene Rich Foods. Upon digestion the human body turns beta carotene into vitamin A, which promotes the growth of healthy tissues as well as the repair of tissues, which can both be very helpful for healing fibroids. Some foods high in beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach.
- High-Iron Foods. Fibroids sometimes cause some women to lose more blood during their monthly menstruation. This can lead to anemia. To replace the excessive loss of iron, include high-iron foods like grass-fed beef and legumes in your diet to help replace that lost iron and prevent anemia.
- Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds help balance estrogen levels in the body, which can help to shrink fibroids. You should aim for at least two tablespoons per day if you have fibroids. You can sprinkle flaxseeds on oatmeal, in your smoothies or simply eat the seeds by themselves.
- Whole Grains. Instead of refined grains, opt for healthier whole grains like millet, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, rye and oats.
3. Try Supplements that Aid in Fibroid Reduction
Be sure to check with your doctor before introducing new supplements into the mix. These supplements have a strong reputation for creating better hormone balance:
- Vitex (4,00mg 2 times daily). Vitex or chasteberry reduces estrogen levels by promoting the production of progesterone. For best results, vitex should be taken for at least six months.
- Fish Oil (1,000 milligrams daily) or Flaxseed Oil (1 tablespoon daily). The essential fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed oil can help reduce inflammation in your body, which may play a part in fibroid growth.
- B-complex (50 milligrams daily). If B vitamins are lacking in the diet, the liver is missing some of the raw materials it needs to carry out its metabolic processes and regulate estrogen levels.
- Progesterone Cream (1/4 teaspoon, days 6–26 of cycle). Applying progesterone cream topically can help balance out low progesterone. When treating fibroids, it’s important to work with a doctor who has tested your hormone levels so you can be best advised if natural progesterone cream is the right option for your body.
- Milk Thistle (150 milligrams 2 times daily). Aids body in liver detoxification, which can balance hormones.
4. Turn to Essential Oils
Thyme, clary sage and frankincense are the best essential oils for natural fibroid treatment. They all have the ability to help balance hormones naturally. Clary sage oil has also been shown by researchers to significantly lower cortisol levels as well as have an anti-depressant effect on mood. This is just one of several studies that show clary sage oil’s ability to benefit a woman’s hormones. (6)
Rub two drops of these essential oils over your lower abdomen two times daily; put two drops of frankincense oil on the roof of your mouth two times daily.
More Natural Treatments for Fibroids
5. Sip on Herbal Teas
Herbal teas help soothe the symptoms of fibroids by decreasing inflammation and rebalancing certain hormones. Teas made with chasteberry, milk thistle, yellow dock, dandelion root, nettle and red raspberry all have systemic benefits for the uterus and reproductive system.
6. Try Castor Oil Packs
By applying a castor oil pack to your abdomen, you increase circulation in the lymphatic and circulatory systems and also increase lymphocytes — white blood cells that eliminate disease-causing toxins from the body. Many holistic practitioners believe a buildup of toxins plays an important role in fibroid development.
Castor oil also contains anti-inflammatory ricinoleic acid. While there hasn’t been any scientific research to date that directly studies the impact of castor oil packs on uterine fibroids, it makes sense why castor oil packs could be helpful. A 2011 study did show that castor oil packs can help detoxification for by decreasing symptoms of constipation. (7)
7. Avoid Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Stay clear of the following to improve your hormonal health as well as your general health: pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, bleach, food preservatives, harmful cleaners (even certain eco-cleaners) and food dyes. You’ll also want to opt for natural, unbleached feminine care products as well as organic body care products and makeup.
Getting regular exercise can actually help to prevent fibroids before they start! According to one study, the more a woman exercises, the less likely she is to get uterine fibroids. (8)
Symptoms of Fibroids
The uterus contains two types of tissue. The inner lining or endometrium is the tissue that sheds monthly during menstruation. However, most of the uterus is made up of of muscle tissue or myometrium. Both the endometrium and myometrium are capable of producing benign “tumors.” An overgrowth of the endometrium causes uterine polyps while an overgrowth of the myometrium causes myomas or fibroids.
About 70 to 80 percent of women experience fibroids by the age of 50. (3) Not every woman who has fibroids experiences symptoms. Here are some of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual period lasting seven days or longer
- Bloating or fullness in the stomach/pelvic region
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Pain with intercourse
- Backache or leg pains
- Reproductive issues, including infertility and miscarriages
Sometimes fibroids cause complications during pregnancy and labor, including a six-time greater risk of cesarean section. (4)
Types of Fibroids
The medical term for fibroids is leiomyoma or myoma. The location, size and number of fibroids influence signs and symptoms. There are several types of fibroids that can grow in a woman’s body including:
Intramural fibroids — These fibroids grow within the muscular uterine wall. If they’re large enough, they can actually distort and stretch the uterus or womb. They also cause prolonged, heavy periods along with pressure and pain in the pelvic region. Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroid.
Subserosal fibroids — Fibroids that grow outside the walls of the uterus sometimes press on the bladder, causing urinary symptoms like difficulty emptying your bladder. These are the fibroids that can sometimes cause backaches. This occurs when subserosal fibroids bulge from the back of your uterus and press on your spinal nerves, causing a backache.
Penducluated fibroids — These fibroids grow on small stalks inside or outside of the uterus.
Submucosal fibroids — Fibroids that grow just underneath the uterine lining. This type of fibroid is more likely to cause heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding. They are sometimes cause problems for women trying to get pregnant. Submucosal tumors are not as common as other types.
It is possible to have more than one type of fibroid at the same time. Fibroids can also occur in the cervical tissue. These fibroids are rare and are called cervical fibroids.
Fibroids Risk Factors & Root Causes
The following factors can raise a woman’s risk for fibroids:
- Heredity: A woman with a mother or sister who had/has fibroids is more likely to develop fibroids herself.
- Age: Fibroids tend to appear when a woman is in her 30s and 40s.
- Race: African American women are two to three times more likely to develop fibroids than women of other races or ethnicities. Black women tend have fibroids at younger ages, and have more fibroids and larger ones.
- Diet: Eating a lot of poor quality beef and any type of pork is linked to higher fibroid risk.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop fibroids compared to women who maintain a healthy weight.
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure or hypertension seems to increase a woman’s risk of fibroids.
- Hypothyroidism: Overt hypothyroidism has been associated with the presence of uterine leiomyoma (fibroids).
- Early menstruation: Women who being menstruation prior to the age of 10 are at a higher risk for fibroids than women who started menstruating after the age of 10.
- Birth control: Taking birth control pills can make fibroids grow more quickly because of the increased estrogen level in the body. Foods that are high in estrogen, andhormone-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen may also play a role in the development of fibroids.
Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes fibroids, but research and clinical experience point to a few factors likely contributing to the development of uterine fibroids. (5) Since fibroids run in families, fibroids appear to be genetic. For example, identical twins are more likely to both have fibroids than nonidentical twins. Many fibroids also contain changes in genes that are different from the genes in normal uterine muscle cells.
Hormones are another root cause. Estrogen and progesterone hormones are responsible for stimulating the growth of the uterine lining each month in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone also appear to promote the growth of fibroids, which contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal uterine muscle cells. Another reason this hormone theory makes sense is the fact that fibroids tend to shrink after a woman goes through menopause. Menopause coincides with a decline in a woman’s hormone levels.
Fibroids vs Polyps
- Fibroids are made up of hard muscle tissue that grow within the hard muscle tissue of the uterus.
- Polyps are made of endometrial tissue and are malleable, stemming from the inner lining of the uterus.
Size of polyps:
- Polyps are typically very small, ranging from a few millimeters to centimeters.
- Fibroids can range in size from millimeters to the size of watermelons.
Potential for cancer?
- Polyps can develop into cancer, although that is rare.
- Fibroids are benign growths.
- Fibroids can cause pain, pressure and discomfort.
- Polyps generally do not cause any pain.
Fast Facts on Fibroids
- Fibroids are more common in women than polyps, and can typically develop in the later reproductive years.
- Intramural fibroids are the most common type. They grow inside the wall of the uterus.
- 1-in-5 women of child-bearing age have fibroids.
- Fibroids are most often found in women over age 30 and are rarely seen in women under 20; they tend to shrink after menopause.
- They are more common in African-American women than Caucasian women.
- There are four kinds of fibroids: Intramural fibroids, subserol fibroids, submucous fibroids and pedunculated fibroids.
- Fibroids can grow anywhere in the uterus. Growing closer to the center of the uterus is linked to more bleeding related symptoms and infertility.
- Any type of fibroid can impact reproductive function and may cause infertility or miscarriage.
- Some women with fibroids who experience unusually heavy bleeding during their periods may become anemic.
- Fibroids are responsible for over 200,000 hysterectomies annually.
Final Thoughts on Fibroids
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have severe vaginal bleeding or sharp pelvic pain that comes on suddenly. Large fibroids can be detected with a physical examination. Smaller ones can be seen with an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.
What if you have a fibroid? Well, the good news is that in most cases, fibroids are usually pretty harmless. With the right approach, they can go away on their own. For some women, their location and size can cause problems and even lead to the need for removal. If you ever have fibroids, I hope my natural remedies will help you to successfully get rid of fibroids, and keep them away.
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