When I found out I had uterine fibroids* nearly a decade ago, they were small and inconsequential. But over time, my fibroids quietly grew and I started to get a lot of unsolicited questions about my “baby bump.”
That’s the sneaky thing about these non-cancerous tumors (more than 99 percent of fibroid cases are benign.) They can grow slowly, rapidly, or remain the same size. They range from pea-size seedlings to bulky masses that distort the shape of the uterus. Now my biggest fibroid is a whopping 12 cm, about the size of a grapefruit.
According to The Mayo Clinic, 3 out of 4 women have uterine fibroids sometime during their lives. African-American women are at an increased risk and suffer the most complications from fibroids.
|African-American women are at a higher risk for uterine fibroids.|
While the cause of fibroids is unknown, their growth has been linked to an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and heredity. So if your mother or sister has fibroids, you’re likely to develop them, too.
Although some fibroids shrink on their own, especially after menopause, when they’re huge like mine, most doctors recommend surgery--either a myomectomy to remove the fibroids or a hysterectomy to remove the uterus, with the possibility of removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
But before you opt for the ER, why not consider a natural alternative?
Natural health practitioners believe there are natural ways to prevent and shrink fibroids, and ease sometimes debilitating symptoms such as heavy and prolonged periods; frequent urination; constipation; and lower back pain. Here are some of the options recommended for shrinking fibroids naturally.
Research shows there’s a relationship between diet and developing uterine fibroids. Eating foods that are high in fiber helps to significantly decrease estrogen levels, which in turn may cause the fibroids to shrink.
In Healing Fibroids Naturally: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Care, Dr. Allan Warshowsky recommends a diet rich in fruits, dark leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and cold-water, deep-sea fish like salmon and tuna.
Women with fibroids should reduce or eliminate red meat, dairy products including eggs, wheat and gluten, soy, alcohol, and foods high in sugar, caffeine and saturated fat from their diet.
Herbs like milk thistle, chasteberry (vitex), burdock, yellow dock, red clover and artichoke help the liver detox, balance hormones, and reduce excess estrogen and inflammation.
Other herbs effective in treating fibroids include black cohosh, Siberian ginseng, Echinacea, goldenseal, red raspberry, licorice root, motherwort and dong quai. But women experiencing heavy bleeding should avoid dong quai, as it could increase blood flow. The herb is also not recommended for nursing or pregnant women.
Castor oil packs
Naturopaths believe placing a warm castor oil pack prepared with hexane-free castor oil and a white flannel cloth (both available in health food stores) over your abdomen several times a week is another effective method to shrink fibroids and relieve pain. While relaxing with the pack, this is the perfect time for meditation and positive visualization exercises to reinforce the desire for optimal health.
Research suggests exercise also combats fibroids. Aerobic exercises like walking, running, swimming and dancing stabilize insulin levels and help prevent hormonal imbalance. Eastern disciplines like yoga and tai chi stretch, tone and increase the flow of energy (chi) to the pelvic organs and hormone glands. And weight training improves muscular health and strengthens the muscles that support the uterus.
If you have fibroids, Everything She Wants wants to hear how you manage them naturally? And check out a blog I came across that chronicles one young woman's quest to shrink her fibroids naturally.
(*Portions of this post originally appeared on the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's Wellness Today blog.)