Living with uterine fibroids can cause discomfort and pain for many women. To find relief, some women look for natural, non-invasive methods to manage their symptoms. While certain cases of uterine fibroids require medical treatment, adopting healthy lifestyle changes may help alleviate the symptoms of fibroids.
Manage and Relieve Fibroid Symptoms with Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle factors such as hormonal imbalances, a diet deficient in important nutrients, and a lack of exercise may contribute to the development and persistence of uterine fibroids. Making the appropriate adjustments to achieve better overall health may help you to improve your symptoms.
If you’re looking for natural ways to manage fibroid symptoms, this article will help you learn which foods are best to avoid, which foods you should enjoy more, and how incorporating exercise into your routine can bring you relief.
Consult your doctor before you make any big lifestyle decisions, which include taking supplements.
What Are Fibroids?
Even if you have been diagnosed with fibroids, you might not know exactly what they are. Therefore, a brief definition may be helpful to you.
Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas or myomas) are noncancerous tumors of the uterus. They are the most common pelvic tumor in women. Varying in size and number, fibroids can be as small as a pea or as large as a cantaloupe.
One out of three women experience fibroids symptoms during their lifetime. Fibroids often appear during a woman’s childbearing years when her estrogen levels are higher.
Chef Ahki, renowned vegan chef and author summarizes:
80% of the women in the United States will suffer from fibroids, a tumorous growth found in the uterus. Due to rare symptoms, fibroids go vastly under reported and every woman in America is at risk, especially African-American women. The United States performs more hysterectomies than any other country in the world, and 78% of hysterectomies are performed on African-American women. How can we supposedly be “advanced” with such a significant health crisis.
The effects of fibroids in the uterus can be painful and disrupt the normal flow of life for women. The unwelcomed symptoms of uterine fibroids can include:
- Heavy and lengthy bleeding during periods
- Passing clots
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic region (which can involve the lower back, buttocks, and legs – pain is often due to pressure on the organs in the pelvic region)
- Increased urinary frequency and waking up at night to urinate
- Pain during intercourse
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Fibroids Symptoms
Dealing with the intense bleeding, discomfort, and pain of fibroid symptoms can cause a lot of stress for women. Research studies have noted a possible link between increased stress and fibroids. Because elevated stress levels can also disrupt your hormonal balance it’s important to try to keep stress to a minimum.
Some stress relief techniques include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Counseling and therapy
In addition to decreasing stress, be sure to try and keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
Studies have shown a significant link between high blood pressure and the increased risk for uterine fibroids, though the exact relation is still unknown. One possibility is the association of obesity with both fibroids and hypertension. Estrogen is stored in fat and while no one knows where fibroids originate, once present, they grow with estrogen. Losing weight through healthy eating and exercise will not only be helpful in lowering your blood pressure, it will also improve your fibroid symptoms and impede their growth.
“Prevention is better than a surgery, and much less costly!” – Chef Ahki
Try the following tips to naturally balance your blood pressure:
- Manage stress
- Use no-sodium herbs and spices to season food instead of salt
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Lose weight to reduce visceral fat
- Quit smoking
Monitor your blood pressure by regularly visiting your physician and checking your blood pressure daily with an at-home monitor.
Fibroid Symptoms Relieve: Fibroids and Diet
Atlanta Fibroid Center patient Alivia Brooks decided to take charge of her health and make improvements to her diet. When she discussed her fibroid treatment options with Dr. Lipman, he confirmed that diet can affect fibroids and their related symptoms.
Because fibroids grow with estrogen, utilizing an anti-estrogen approach makes sense. This can be done in a number of ways:
- Try to eliminate or significantly reduce hormone rich foods like red meat, non-organically raised chicken and dairy.
- Increase consumption of colored fruits and vegetables. They contain flavonoids which are compounds that block an important enzyme in estrogen production.
- Lose excess body fat through healthy eating, exercise, moderation in alcohol consumption, and adequate rest. Because estrogen is stored in body fat, being as close to your ideal weight for your frame is helpful for your fibroid health and overall health.
- Increase your daily levels of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are a risk factor for fibroids. Having an adequate vitamin D level significantly lowers your risk for fibroids. A daily intake of 1,000U/day should be adequate to maintain normal levels.
Foods to Avoid with Fibroids
Hormonal imbalance can contribute to fibroid development. It’s important to avoid foods known to contain high levels of added hormones or have the ability to alter reproductive hormone levels, most notably estrogen. You should also steer clear of foods that contribute to weight gain and inflammation.
To help regulate your estrogen levels, restrict the following foods from your diet:
- Processed and packaged foods
- High-fat red meat, ham, lamb (trim off the fat from poultry before cooking)
- Dairy products such as cheese, cream, butter, and ice cream
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined carbohydrates and sugars
- Excess caffeine
Good Foods for Fibroids
While there are some foods that are disruptive to your overall health, there are plenty more foods that are great for you!
There’s no specific fibroids diet, but a simple rule that will serve you well throughout your life is to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Plant-based and whole foods are nutrient-dense and rich in essential vitamins and minerals that may help lower your risk for fibroids.
Add the following foods to your diet to help alleviate fibroid symptoms:
- Anti-inflammatory foods: pineapples, fresh rosemary, berries, fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies)
- Vitamin-rich foods: almonds, hazelnuts (vitamin E), egg yolks, cod liver oil (vitamin D)
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, turnips, arugula
- Iron-rich foods: legumes, grass-fed beef
Also, consider replacing soda and other sugary drinks with water or green tea. Water helps to detoxify your organs and green tea contains polyphenols that can help counteract the negative effects of excess estrogen. Specifically, Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG aka Green tea extract has been shown to be helpful in reducing fibroid size and symptoms. It has strong antioxidant properties and can help in reducing inflammation and promoting weight loss.
Fibroids and Exercise
Regularly engaging in a physical activity that you enjoy is a vital part of health and wellness. Because exercise helps with weight management, stress reduction, maintaining stable blood pressure, and hormonal balance, it’s a great way to manage fibroid symptoms.
A lot of women have found success alleviating fibroid discomfort through a holistic approach to exercise.
Through my fibroid journey, I found relief with not just physical exercise, but exercise for the mind. I created healing exercises for women that are suffering from fibroids to learn how to utilize body awareness, breath, and visualization, where it’s not just a workout, but an experience.
It promotes womb wellness and burns hormonal fat. Workout modalities are interval training, cardio, stretching, and weight training. These types of exercises promote symptom relief by opening up the pelvic floor, hip mobility, digestion, and elimination. – Phyllis Frempong, Registered Nurse and Fibroid Queen
Fibroids and Yoga
Many women have expressed that yoga is a great exercise for fibroids. Yoga is a mind and body practice that has many benefits including stress relief, increased flexibility, and improved energy.
Do some research to discover which style of yoga resonates most with you. Begin with low-intensity styles of yoga such as restorative yoga. Try following along with instructor-led online videos. Approach your yoga practice with ease.
Commonly referred to as “meditation in motion”, tai chi is another style of mind-body practice that began in China as a form of martial art. It’s a low-impact exercise that encourages practitioners to focus on deep breathing and physical sensations.
Tai chi shares many of the same health benefits as yoga. Because the movements of tai chi are done in slow-motion, it’s a form of exercise that can be done by almost anyone.
Low-impact cardio exercises such as swimming, cycling, or even walking help to ease the symptoms of fibroids by aiding in weight loss. Having a high body mass index (BMI) may be linked to fibroid growth.
Adding light cardio to your daily routine encourages fat loss and may prohibit uterine fibroid growth.
Can vigorous exercise and fibroids coexist? And can fibroids cause bleeding after exercise?
These are important questions that many women have, especially if they’ve suffered unexpected bleeding or “gushing” episodes.
In a 2004 study conducted by the NIH, researchers found that women who engaged in vigorous exercise for three or more hours every week decreased their risk of fibroids by 30-40%. While this is great news for fibroid prevention, if you’re currently living with uterine fibroids, it may be best to avoid exercises that put pressure on your stomach like crunches or heavy weightlifting. These sorts of exercises increase blood circulation to your abdomen which can lead to increased blood supply to your fibroids causing them to grow.
Uterine fibroids should not cause bleeding after low to moderate impact exercise. However, the chance of uterine rupture rises with increased blood or abdominal pressure. This is why low-impact activities such as yoga, tai chi, and light cardio are preferred exercises for women with fibroids.
Err on the side of caution while exercising if you’re experiencing fibroid symptoms and consult your doctor before beginning any intense workout regimen or if you experience pain during exercise.
What about CBD Oil?
The following CBD insights were provided by Lisa Nicole Cloud, CEO, Entrepreneur, and Strategist:
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other products containing CBD are being touted as a natural, organic remedy for a wide range of women’s health concerns. Although not approved by the FDA, studies have shown CBD to have calming effects on sleep, mood, and anxiety; eases hot flashes and improves bone density by balancing hormonal changes of menopause; and has anti-inflammatory properties that clear skin, cure acne, and calm rosacea.
It’s promoted for PMS symptoms like bloating, mood swings, and menstrual cramps. I am a believer in CBD as I personally use it for menstrual cramps, headaches, and healthy glowing skin.
CBD is a major ingredient in cannabis plants (like hemp and marijuana). Hemp-derived CBD has very low levels of THC and very high levels of CBD. It comes in different strengths and forms, often as CBD oil, but also in pills, oral sprays, and powders. It can also be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. Vaping it, however, may not be safe. Other formulations are my preferred administration practices.
Pure CBD products don’t make you feel high because quality CBD has less than 0.03% of THC and provide consumers with a certificate of analysis that lists all ingredients of the product. We only recommend CBD products made in the US with a certificate of analysis.
Consider UFE When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Enough
While diet and exercise are important for fibroid health, for many women this will not be enough to manage the significant symptoms. When this occurs, women will often seek out their Gynecologist for help. Unfortunately, most Gynecologists will only discuss surgical options that they provide and not Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) which is performed by a different type of physician, an Interventional Radiologist.
Women are entitled to know all of their options; not just the surgical ones.
UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is a minimally invasive fibroid treatment alternative. It is a non-surgical outpatient procedure with a high success rate (90 percent) and treats all of the fibroids in the uterus. Also, UFE is safer than its surgical counterparts (hysterectomy and myomectomy), and in the case of hysterectomy, UFE allows women to keep their uterus which is often under-appreciated by their Gynecologist.
“Sisters… your womb is always and eternally ready to heal. You simply have to provide the proper environment through nourishment, care and love.” – Chef Ahki
Losing your uterus has significant negative consequences for women and should be an absolute last resort to treat symptomatic fibroids. Alternatively, one should consider UFE.
How Does UFE Work?
A specially-trained Interventional Radiologist uses x-ray to guide a tiny catheter the size of a spaghetti noodle into the specific arteries that are feeding the uterine fibroids. Tiny particles are injected into the arteries that are feeding the fibroids until the fibroid branches are completely blocked.
Though the fibroids die, the larger uterine vessels that supply blood to the uterus are left alone and remain open…keeping the uterus healthy and alive! The dead fibroids will then begin to soften and shrink in size. As this process occurs, a woman’s symptoms begin to disappear.
Dr. John Lipman Provides Additional Guidance
UFE doctor John Lipman, MD and his friendly staff at Atlanta Fibroid Center will give you expert guidance on how to navigate your struggles with uterine fibroids. He is a nationally recognized leader in the nonsurgical treatment of uterine fibroids.
We’d like to extend a big thank you to our special contributors for this article:
This story was written by Chris Craft of Nao Media and medically reviewed by John Lipman, MD. Craft is not a trained physician and does not give medical advice in this article. Please consult a qualified medical professional with any questions.