Fibroids and endometriosis are two of the biggest health complaints I hear about from women. There is hardly a week that goes by that I don't get an office call or a letter from a woman who is trying to avoid fibroid surgery or who is looking for relief. I decided to write this article in response to all of these wonderful women. It offers suggestions for safe and gentle natural therapies, like diet and whole herbs, that you may want to explore with your holistic physician or natural health practitioner. At Crystal Star, we always suggest you consult with health professional before starting a self-help program.
The incidence of fibroids and endometriosis has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. More than a half million American women have hysterectomies every year because of complications caused by fibroids and endometriosis. As much as 40% of American women 35 and older have fibroids. Some data suggest uterine fibroids are more common than blue eyes.
What are Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign growths between the size of a walnut and orange that appear on or within uterine walls. Their symptoms can be mild to severe with excessive menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain, bladder infections, painful intercourse and infertility topping the list. Further, most fibroids are not cancerous, and, according to some estimates, have less than 1/2 of 1% chance of becoming cancerous before menopause. In fact, research suggests most fibroids go away on their own after menopause.
Breast fibroids are also highly common. Breast fibroids feel like moveable, rubbery nodules near the surface of the breast. Women complain they cause swelling and that getting a hug is too painful. In a small number of cases, breast fibroids can be fast-growing and may require medical treatment. Even then, you should know that a recent study in National Cancer institute shows radiologists report false positives 16% of the time.
How is Endometriosis Different?
Endometriosis is caused by excess growth of endometrial tissue that is not shed during menstruation. The tissue escapes the uterus and spreads, attaching to other areas of the body- ovaries, lymph nodes, fallopian tubes, bladder, rectum, even kidneys and lungs. It grows abnormally, bleeding severely during the menstrual cycle, from the vagina or rectum, or bladder or back through the fallopian tubes, instead of normally through the vagina.
Endometriosis can mean heavy periods and pain all month long, and it increases risk for benign uterine and breast fibroids. It's credited with up to 50% of infertility cases in American women.
In many cases, natural therapies can help a woman's body normalize naturally. Further, symptoms of fibroids and endometriosis can be reduced by making simple diet changes and following specific herb and supplement protocols.
Do You Have Warning Signs Of Fibroids Or Endometriosis?
A visit to your holistic physician will give you a definitive diagnosis, but two or more yes answers to the symptoms below should alert you of a potential problem.
Severe abdominal cramping and shooting pain; and abdominal-rectal pain
Excessive, painful menstruation; passing large clots; prolonged abnormal menstrual cycles
Chronic fluid retention, abdominal bloating
Irregular bowel movements or diarrhea during menses
Sensation of fullness or pressure in the abdomen
What Causes Endometriosis And Fibroids?
While scientists are still not entirely certain why endometriosis and fibroids develop, here are risk factors to be aware of:
Excess Levels of Estrogen / Deficient Progesterone:
Excess estrogen fuels abnormal tissue growth and is a direct cause of both fibroids and endometriosis for many women. When estrogen production declines during menopause, fibroids normally go away on their own. However, quite understandably, this isn't nearly soon enough for women who are suffering from the problem.
Even low dose radiation may mean increased risk for fibroids. Breast tissue is so sensitive that the time between a mammogram and fibroid growth is sometimes as little as three months.
Too Much Caffeine and Commercial Meat:
Drinking 4-5 cups of coffee daily increases estrogen, triggering fibroid growth. Research from a 2001 study reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility shows women who consume 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, the equivalent of 4-5 cups of coffee, produce 70% more estrogen in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle than women who consume less than 1 cup of coffee. If you like beef, you should know that Italian research reported in Obsetrics and Gynecology shows while eating red meat doubles the risk of developing uterine fibroids, eating plenty of vegetables cuts fibroid risk in half! Experience with the problem has me convinced that eliminating caffeine and hormone-injected meats can dramatically reduce fibroid problems for many women.
Feedback I've had from birth control users suggests that even the newest low dose oral contraceptives can cause breast swelling, and aggravate fibroid problems and endometriosis for susceptible women.
Natural Therapies To Balance Hormones for Fibroids & Endometriosis Relief
A low fat, vegetarian diet. What you eat can make a big difference. Breast swelling and painful uterine cramping can be significantly improved within weeks after a change to a low fat, vegetarian diet.
Reduce caffeine. Caffeine from coffee, chocolate and colas can aggravate fibroids. Women with a predisposition to fibroids have a hard time metabolizing caffeine in these forms. Some women report they can consume green or white tea without ill effect.
Rethink high fat dairy foods like cheese, milk, and ice cream. Naturopaths and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine routinely suggest eliminating fatty dairy foods from the daily diet to reduce toxic accumulations like fibroids, fatty tumors, cysts and boils. This diet change by itself can produce amazing fibroid relief. Cultured low fat dairy products like yogurt and kefir, are generally well tolerated.
A short cleanse can really help. A 24 hour vegetable juice diet helps clean out acid wastes and reduce body congestion. Consider the 24 hour cleanse in Linda Page's bestselling book, Healthy Healing 12th Edition: A Guide to Self-Healing For Everyone.
Foods that are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) are a healthy choice. EFAs are liquid fats that help to metabolize hard, clogging saturated fats that contribute to fibroid growths. EFAs also help maintain hormone balance and reduce inflammation- important for fibroid relief. Sea greens like dulse and nori (also a good source of iodine- a proven fibroid fighter), seafoods, dark greens like spinach, cantaloupe, olive oil and avocado are healthy sources of EFAs.
Add cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Cruciferous veggies are one of my favorite healing foods. Indole 3 carbinole is the constituent responsible for their bitter flavor. Indole 3 carbinole vegetables may also reduce fibroid symptoms by improving estrogen metabolism.
More fiber in your diet is a natural estrogen balancer. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. More fiber in your diet means less circulating estrogen and reduced body congestion because excess estrogen is excreted through the bowel. Having an apple or pear every day keeps your system free flowing.
Finally, maintaining a healthy weight is another key to reduce fibroids and prevent their recurrence. Fat is a storage depot for hormones and wastes that fuel fibroid growth.
Natural therapies can help bring your body back to health if you're suffering from hormonal imbalances. Your foods and lifestyle choices can be paramount in your recovery. Medical intervention may be necessary, but even in these cases, gentle natural therapies can guide a woman's body to faster recovery.
by Healthy Healing Publications' Herbal Consultant, Sarah Abernathy
The products, service and advice contained in this article are intended solely for informational and educational purposes and not as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional if you have questions about your medical health.