Fibroids are the most common solid pelvic tumor in women and occur in 20-25% of women by age 40. They range in size and shape and usually occur as multiple tumors. Uterine fibroids are benign and can be located throughout the uterus.
Common symptoms associated with uterine fibroids are: heavy periods, bleeding between periods, pain with menses, painful intercourse, as well as fatigue and weakness as a result of anemia due to blood loss. Depending on the size and location, fibroids can cause pain in the upper thighs, back and/or pelvis, and exert pressure upon the bowels or the bladder. Not everyone may experiences symptoms. You may have fibroids and not know it. The only way to determine if you have fibroids is to have your doctor send you for a pelvic ultrasound. If the fibroids are large enough they may be palpated during your gynecological exam.
Fibroids are stimulated by estrogen or potent estrogen-like substances. We are not only exposed to our own production of estrogen, but to exogenous sources, estrogens found in our food and environment. Herbicides, pesticides, hormone injected meats, plastics (particularly phthalates) and beauty products through exposure to chemicals like parabens and phthalates can bind to the estrogen receptor and cause fibroids to grow.
The digestive system is another factor in hormone balance. The pathogenic (unhealthy) bacteria that may also reside in the intestinal tract has been shown to change the estrogen structure so that instead of it being eliminated out of our body’s through our digestive tract it recirculates back into the bloodstream adding to the estrogen load. Also an overgrowth of yeast known as candida can produces numerous toxins affecting the liver’s ability to process hormones more efficiently.
The first step in preventing and treating uterine fibroids is by improving your diet. Avoid or decrease the intake of saturated fats, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy and non-organic meats. A harmonious diet should consist of high fiber (often supplemented with ground flax seeds or chia seeds), organic and low glycemic vegetables and fruits, whole grains (brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa), nuts and seeds, legumes and lean organic animal proteins for the non-vegetarian/vegans. A high fiber diet will help to increase the elimination of the excess estrogens. Always wash your fruits and vegetables to reduce the consumption of any pesticides. You can use a vinegar water soak for the harder skinned vegetables and fruits. Ultimately it is best to buy organic when possible.
Hydration is key, although unfiltered water could do more harm than good. Unfiltered water can contain many contaminants you may not be aware of. Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead, VOCs, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides and medications are present in our water if it isn’t properly filtered. Purchasing a home water or an under the counter sink filtration system is an excellent way to avoid most of these contaminants. It is also important to avoid drinking water out of plastic bottles due to the phthalates ability to leach into the water contributing to the growth of your fibroid because of its estrogen like effect.
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to decrease the size of the fibroid or to keep it from growing further. Specific nutritional supplements and herbs will help to balance the female hormones, promote estrogen excretion from the body and stimulate the liver to break down the hormones more efficiently. Acupuncture is also effective at assisting in decreasing the size of fibroids.