Many women suffer from uterine fibroids whether they know it or not. Fibroids affect approximately 80% of women at one time or another during their lifetime.
Some women suffer from debilitating symptoms that make it impossible for them to go about their daily routines while other women experience symptoms that are mild or moderate enough that they do not realize that fibroids are the underlying cause. They just assume their menstrual cycle is responsible for their heavy bleeding, cramping, and other painful symptoms.
Because women do not often discuss the personal details of their periods, many just assume that what they are experiencing is normal and do the best they can to alleviate their symptoms and treat fibroids at home. Home remedies can be beneficial in certain circumstances and may offer some relief but self-treatment of fibroid symptoms can only provide temporary relief at best.
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in and around the uterus. There is no known cause of uterine fibroids but experts know that some women are predisposed to them due to a number of factors. Some of these factors include:
- Age – Women between 30 and 40 are most affected by fibroids;
- Race – African American women are at a higher risk for fibroids;
- Women who started their period at younger ages;
- Women with a family history of fibroids are more likely to develop them;
- Overweight or obese women have a higher risk of fibroids;
- Women with low Vitamin D levels are at increased risk for fibroids.
Estrogen And Fibroids
Fibroids are known to grow when they are exposed to excess estrogen and these days women are often overexposed to estrogen. The earlier a woman starts her period, or the longer she puts off having children, the higher her estrogen levels remain. Excess fat promotes the creation and storage of estrogen, so women with higher ratios of body fat also have elevated levels of estrogen.
Our environment is one of the largest contributors to our estrogen levels. We are exposed to excess estrogen every day in the form of xenoestrogens which are substances that mimic our natural estrogen but cause serious issues. They bind with our estrogen receptor sites and inhibit their natural function.
Xenoestrogens can be found in plastics, pesticides, water sources, some oral contraceptives, some dairy products, red meat, and hormone replacement therapy. Soy can also affect estrogen levels by causing it to multiply or in some cases it can block estrogen. Although not as much of an issue these days (as more women are wearing their hair naturally), hair relaxers have as their main ingredient a chemical that is biochemically similar to estrogen.
Processed foods often contain ingredients that interact with our natural estrogen and can cause mutations. It is important to read labels if you are attempting to limit your estrogen exposure.
Fibroid Treatment At Home
There is some controversy surrounding the effectiveness of treating fibroids at home but many believe that making some lifestyle changes can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with fibroids.
Consider your diet. The foods you eat can affect your estrogen levels and create the perfect environment to promote fibroid growth. The reverse is also true and choosing foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients may be helpful in keeping fibroids from growing larger. Consuming more colored fruits and vegetables (which contain flavenoids that block an important enzyme in estrogen production) will decrease estrogen levels.
Natural Herbal Fibroid Treatments & Home Remedies
- Resveratrol belongs to a compound group called polyphenols. They are believed to have antioxidant properties reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease and suppressing the growth of uterine fibroid cells.
It can be found naturally in the skin of red grapes, peanuts, red wine, blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries.
- This antioxidant is extracted from turmeric and has anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that curcumin was effective in stopping fibroid cell growth in rats and concluded that it may be a useful treatment for uterine leiomyomas.
- Green Tea
- It is probably no surprise to see green tea on this list as it has been known for its antioxidant properties for centuries. Green tea extract (aka Epigallocatechin or EGCG) was used in a small study that evaluated women with symptomatic fibroids. Some women in the study took 800 mg of green tea and others were given a placebo every day for four months. The group that was taking the green tea extract showed reductions in both fibroid size and the severity of their symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Many women report they have kept their fibroid symptoms at bay through some changes in their lifestyle. Losing weight, eating healthier, getting enough sleep, and stretching exercises like Tai-chi or yoga are some of the fibroid self-treatments that women have reported as helpful.
There are also the usual methods of heating pads and over-the-counter medications to help ease fibroid symptoms but these, like all the other at-home fibroid treatments, often only relieve fibroid symptoms temporarily.
There is no known cure for fibroids and trying to self-treat them may become exhausting or eventually ineffective. Untreated fibroids can potentially cause serious issues.
The Downside Of Fibroid Self-Treatments
Untreated fibroids can sometimes become serious. Some of these issues include:
- Fibroids are the most common cause of heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. Losing a large amount of blood can lead to anemia which is a serious condition and presents with symptoms of severe fatigue, dizziness, weakness, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, chewing/craving ice (or occasionally inedible substances like dirt or clay), cold hands and feet.
- Urinary & Bowel Problems
- Fibroids that grow large can exert pressure on nearby organs or nerves. Pressure on the bladder can cause frequent urination or can obstruct urine and cause a UTI and similarly pressure on the bowel can cause constipation.
- Back & Leg Pain
- Large fibroids that are located on the back of the uterus can press against key nerves and create back or leg pain identical
- Numerous or large fibroids can interfere with every part of the fertility journey from fertilization to delivery.
- Inhibits Quality Of Life
- Many women who suffer from the symptoms of fibroids are unable to function for several days or weeks each month. They miss work, social functions, and time with their families due to heavy menstrual bleeding and pain. Women have been mistaken for being pregnant due to their bellies being swollen with fibroids. Many women with fibroids experience pain during sex which inhibits their desire to be intimate and affects their relationships.
Why Don’t More Women Seek Fibroid Treatment?
Women attempt fibroid treatments at home because most of them are told by their OB-GYN that their only other option for fibroid treatment is surgery.
Over 300,000 hysterectomies are performed each year and fibroids are the #1 reason why. Out of these 300,000+ uterus removal surgeries, the vast majority of them are medically unnecessary.
Women who have been diagnosed with fibroids are looking for less invasive ways to treat them and women may not know that the painful symptoms they are experiencing are a byproduct of fibroids. They are suffering and believing what they are enduring is normal. The same is true with respect to heavy periods. Just because you’ve been bleeding heavily for a long time does not mean that is normal (or normal for you). You do not need to suffer any longer! Your fibroids and their nasty symptoms can be eliminated and your quality of life restored.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) can effectively treat fibroids and give you back your life without surgery. UFE is an outpatient procedure done by an Interventional Radiologist and it takes less than 45 minutes to complete. During the procedure, the blood supply that the fibroids need to survive is cut off and they begin to die. As this occurs over time they soften and shrink. Dead fibroids mean no more fibroid symptoms which means no more missing out on life, work, or social events.
Eliminating fibroids does not have to mean losing your uterus or long surgical recovery times. Dr. John Lipman, the founder of The Atlanta Fibroid Center, is one of the world’s leading experts in UFE and has been helping women with fibroids for 25+ years.
Contact Atlanta Fibroid Center to learn more about uterine fibroids, the UFE procedure, and how it can help you become fibroid free.