Many of our patients ask if symptoms of fibroids include weight gain. Additionally, many of them ask about the possibility of weight loss after Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). Today we will answer these questions and explain the link between fibroids and weight gain.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that are often present in women’s uterus. They are not life-threatening and often do not disturb women; therefore, asymptomatic fibroids don’t require any treatment. However, if a patient experiences heavy periods, bleeding between periods, pressure and pain in the pelvic area, increased urinary frequency, constipation, enlarged abdomen, anemia, and some other signs of fibroids, adequate treatment is required.
The reason why fibroids occur in women isn’t fully understood. Meanwhile, numerous research studies underline the effect of hormone levels on the growth and development of fibroids. Particularly, estrogen – a female hormone – activates the benign tumors. Pregnancy with high estrogen levels and menopause with low estrogen levels are two good examples of conditions that progress and regress fibroids respectively.
Do Symptoms of Fibroids Include Weight Gain?
This is a tricky question. If you ask only about the numbers on your weight scale, the answer is yes. When uterine fibroids become bigger, they obviously gain weight contributing to the entire body weight. The gain can be as much as 50 pounds in some documented cases! Additionally, big fibroids visibly increase the abdominal area making a woman look pregnant. From this perspective, fibroids directly contribute to the weight gain.
In addition, the number one reason why women have heavy periods is fibroids. With each heavy period, an ever increasing deficit of iron and hemoglobin result from this excess blood loss. This deficit of iron and hemoglobin is called anemia. It manifests most commonly as increasing fatigue, which leads to a reduction, and then a complete cessation of exercise. The longer this continues, the more likely there will be increased weight gain.
Weight Gain: a Symptom of Fibroids or a Risk Factor?
If your concern is excess body fat and particularly its connection to fibroids, there is more to the explanation. In short, excess body fat might be indirectly provoked by fibroids as well as might contribute to their growth. Let us look at some examples.
When Excess Fat Is a Symptom of Fibroids
As mentioned above, uterine tumors may cause different unpleasant symptoms. Abnormal bleeding and pain along with infertility often result in the emotional response of the body — stress. One of the ways we often mitigate stress is eating carbs and sugar. Unhealthy food habits along with lack of physical activity due to anemia and lack of energy often lead to weight gain. In this case, we can say that excessive body fat is an indirect (or secondary) symptom of uterine fibroids.
When Excess Fat Is a Risk Factor for Fibroids
Among well-known risk factors for fibroids are genetic predisposition, vitamin D deficiency, and excessive body fat. Based on the information available today, we know that excess fat contributes to fibroid growth. This is because body fat can produce and store estrogen, the hormone that promotes fibroid growth. Therefore, the more fat cells are in a woman’s body, the more estrogen is present, which often catalyzes the development of fibroids.
To summarize, the connection between myomas and weight gain can be described as follows:
- When uterine fibroids become large and respectively heavy, they add to body weight.
- Symptomatic fibroids often cause stress and anxiety that may lead to unhealthy diet and excess body fat.
- The # 1 cause of heavy periods are fibroids and they can cause anemia. This can lead to a reduction/cessation of exercise which will often promote weight gain.
- Excess body fat is a risk factor for fibroid growth because it produces and stores estrogen.
Fibroid Treatment or Weight Management: What Should Come First?
When it comes to finding a solution for both, fibroids and weight gain, it’s essential to understand the priorities. Women with fibroids are strongly encouraged to follow a healthy diet, establish a good sleeping routine, master stress relief techniques, and stay physically active. The combination of these tactics will help manage some fibroid symptoms and also contribute to body fat loss that can help balance estrogen and inhibit fibroid growth.
However, these techniques and lifestyle changes will not eliminate all fibroids entirely; the only permanent solution is to treat the fibroids. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure that is very effective and treats all fibroids without the risks of surgery (myomectomy or hysterectomy). UFE procedure doesn’t require a hospital stay and usually takes around 30 minutes.
Weight Loss After UFE
When treating fibroids (myomas) with UFE, blood vessels “feeding” fibroids are blocked. It causes myomas to die and gradually reduce in size. Normally, fibroids will shrink by 50% approximately in 3 months after the UFE, and by 60-70% in 6-12 months after UFE.
In women with large fibroids, the shrinking process will lead to losing some pounds after the procedure. Women no longer look pregnant as the uterus gets back to the normal size and shape. Additionally, the majority of women experience significant symptom improvement after UFE: heavy bleeding stops, periods get shorter, and pain disappears. As a result, women regain energy to plan and follow a healthier lifestyle, to resume exercising again, to care for mind and body, and to achieve the desired weight goal.
If you would like to learn more about uterine fibroids and their symptoms, or about the uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) procedure, contact Dr. John Lipman, one of the leading fibroid experts in the USA, by calling 770-214-4600, or make an appointment on ATLii.com.