Fibroids, specifically uterine fibroids, are quite common among females who are at a premenopausal stage but may not cause symptoms. Not all types of fibroids need attention as they dissolve themselves after menopause. Fibroids can shrink and disappear on their own and don’t require medical attention in that case. Physicians either recommend pharmacotherapy or surgery in case of serious fibroids but many people go for natural or herbal treatments though not much data is available to support the recommendation of such treatments. This article focuses on the best appropriate yet easily adaptable ways to get over fibroids where medication was not of any use.
Fibroids: Causes, Symptoms and Types of Fibroids
Leiomyomas, commonly known as fibroids, are the type of tumor that are noncancerous in nature and develop in the uterus. Leiomyomas are one of the most common types of uterine tumors even though they are noncancerous. These tumors are quite common among females in their premenopausal phase affecting around 20-80% of the women below the age of 50. One out of every three women face this issue and experience symptoms like heavy periods with pain, back pain, abdominal pain, constipation, frequent urination or dyspareunia. Symptoms fluctuate depending on the location, number and size of fibroids.
Fibroids can vary from the size of a seed and can become bigger than grapefruit and can also vary from single to multiple in one person. Some risk factors that can make you think you might have fibroids if you don’t have any symptoms include age limit 30-50, alcohol consumption, obesity or family history, being African-American, poor diet, experienced periods at age less than 10 and birth control pills intake.
Depending on the part of the uterus where fibroid grows, fibroids can be of three types:
- Fibroids that grow in the walls of the uterus, Intramural Fibroids
- Its tend to grow in the cavity of the uterus, Submucosal Fibroids
- Fibroids that grow out of the uterus surface, Subserosal Fibroids
Natural Treatments: Of Any Help?
Fibroids in most of the cases are known to shrink and dissolve on their own and do not require any medical attention in this case. But some people present with quite severe symptoms that are unmanageable by the person and in this case, physicians usually recommend two treatments: either birth control pills or surgery. There are many other medicines, but their high risk-to-benefit ratio marks them unsafe to be used in such cases. To avoid the adverse effects of medicines, these are prescribed only for a short duration to get hold of the situation and sometimes they are given to prepare the patient for the surgery.
As an alternative to medicines, only a few dietary and herbal remedies have been seen practiced but that too don’t have proven to show any promising results. According to an article published in 2016, several food items can be used in fibroids but still, researchers are not sure that which food is beneficial for fibroids and which should be avoided. More data and research are needed in this aspect to come to a solid conclusion. Of all the studies that have made to the internet and journals regarding the benefits of herbal remedies have been conducted on the cell cultures pointing towards the ambiguity of getting similar results if administered in humans. So, for complementary or herbal medicines to be used safely in humans for fibroids, there is an urge to be researched thoroughly by scientists.
Lifestyle modifications, however, can be of much of a difference according to some experts in easing the harsh symptoms of fibroids like depression and painful periods. Exercises, healthy dietary habits and incorporation of relaxation techniques in everyday life could bring a lot of sanity in the lives of people going through any tough or rough time.
Dietary Changes and Lifestyle Modifications to Eradicate or Avoid Fibroids
It is not one food item that can push your body towards the risk of developing fibroids but the dietary habits and lifestyle which can either straighten your life or ruin it completely. The number of dietary changes along with lifestyle modifications are required to improve your quality of life. Some of the key factors that should not be neglected in fibroids or to avoid factors are discussed in detail.
- Mediterranean Diet: Mediterranean diet consists of fresh or cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans and fish. A diet revolving around these food items significantly reduces the chances to develop fibroids. There are many such diets available under the shade of the Mediterranean diet which can equally serve the purpose.
- Meat Intake: People who have diets that are rich in red meat or have more energy, basically the diets having high proportions of calories, have more chances of developing fibroids. Replacing red meat (beef, ham) with white meat (turkey, chicken, fish) lessens the risk to almost negligible. Intake of red meat also puts you at risk of having high cholesterol and heart diseases according to the American Heart Association due to a high amount of trans and saturated fats in red meat. Therefore, it is safe to switch to white meat to avoid any risk of developing fibroids, high cholesterol or heart diseases.
- Weight Loss: According to a clinical study conducted in China, excessive weight and obesity equally increase the risk of fibroids as the production of estrogen is increased by the fat cells. Weight loss can help in reducing the risk of fibroids or the size of fibroids.
- Blood Pressure: According to a Dutch study, there is a strong association between the rise of blood pressure and the occurrence of fibroids. Therefore, it is necessary to take mandatory steps to eradicate even small chances of fibroid development. Reduce the intake of food items containing sodium or salt, get your blood pressure checked regularly and bring into the notice of your doctor if you find any irregularity, and exercise daily to keep the healthy blood flow.
- Alcohol-Free Diet and Caffeine: According to a study published in 2013, some black females from the united states were tested to find the link between alcohol and fibroids. It was found that alcohol, mainly beer, has some relation with fibroids but no relation was found with caffeine. But this only showed that some factors which may be linked with alcohol were also found out to be correlated with fibroids. There is not any assurance that alcohol would cause fibroids just because they have some common factors.
- Balancing of Estrogen: Female and male fertility are dependent on the hormone called estrogen. Increased levels of this hormone can put your health at stake for the development of fibroids and can also worsen the symptoms. Many treatments, in this case, are done to lower the levels of estrogen in the blood to avoid the fibroids. Obesity also increases the release of estrogen from the fat cells, so weight loss is one solution to it. Secondly, there are numerous chemicals (natural as well as synthetic) which if exposed to your body can disturb your hormonal balance and exposure to such chemicals must be avoided like plastics, pesticides, some personal care products, etc.
- Balanced Levels of Vitamin D: Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, if present in adequate amounts in the body can reduce the risk of fibroids and this too up to 32%. People who live in colder zones or are dark in completion are generally increased of fibroids due to inadequate vitamin D levels. Fortified food items (cereals, cheese, milk, dairy products), fortified orange juice, cod liver oil, fatty fish and egg yolks can provide you with a good amount of vitamin D.
- Vitamins Intake:2011 survey on around 22 thousand premenopausal women showed that the women who made animal-based vitamin A and fruits a part of their diet were less prone to uterine fibroids as compared to those who didn’t. Meat, fish, and dairy products are a good source of animal-derived vitamin A. According to the study, intake of food items containing certain vitamins, like oily fish, citrus fruits, green vegetables, flavonoid-rich food, broad beans, and soy products, also help in lessening the risk of fibroids along with the incorporation of healthy dietary habits. However, if a person is unable to take vitamins using food can take benefit from vitamin supplements. No link was found between the fibroids and intake of vitamin E, C, carotenoids or folate.
- Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle modifications are one of the most effective ways to get yourself out of any stressful condition. These changes help deal with symptoms of fibroids like depression and heavy or painful bleeding. Exercise, walk, tai-chi, breathing exercises and yoga are some of the positive investments you can make on your body to get you the best results. People who are obese or are overweight are more prone to the development of fibroids. Therefore, exercising and keeping yourself active can help you maintain or lose weight to avoid the chances of getting fibroids.
Foods to Eat and Avoid in Fibroids
Your dietary habits also determine your chances of getting yourself indulged in any disorder irrespective of how active you are. There is a list of some food items which you should eat and avoid fibroids or avoid fibroids which can ease your meal selection.
Foods to EAT
- Vegetables and fruits that are bright in color help in reducing inflammation and decrease the risk of fibroids.
- Unprocessed food that rich in fibers helps in stopping weight gain, reducing appetite and balancing hormones.
- Foods items that should be made part of your diet include lentils, herbs (dried and fresh), vegetables (cooked and raw), fruits (cooked and raw), quinoa, brown rice, whole grains, couscous, dried fruit, beans, whole grain pasta, and whole-grain bread.
Foods to AVOID
- Intake of red meat like beef and ham increases the risk of fibroids.
- Alcohol consumption has been seen to be linked with the development of fibroids.
- Highly processed sugary food items or those having high amounts of carbohydrates can worsen or initiate fibroids. This raises the blood sugar levels which trigger the release of insulin hormones.
- Food items containing carbohydrates that should be avoided include potato chips, soda, sugary drinks, pasta, white rice, crackers, flour, corn syrup, baked goods, and boxed cereals.
Considering the frequency of fibroid occurrence, many studies have been conducted on the effects of herbal remedies on fibroids. But still, there is a great room for the researchers to conduct more tests to further elaborate the herbal mechanisms and thereby promoting the use of herbs in treating fibroids by making to the physician’s prescribing pad. Some of the herbs with known effects on fibroids are listed below:
- Traditional Chinese Medicine: Herbal remedies have gained their importance through Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has shown beneficial results in shrinking the fibroids, maintaining the hormonal balance and keeping the uterus healthy due to the mixture of several herbs. Guizhi filing ( a herbal formula) is used for the said purpose as it comprises of herbs like poria, ramuluscinnamomi, cortex moutan, radix Paeonia alba, radix Paeonia Rubra and semen persicae.
- Green Tea: Green tea (epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG) is a good source of a compound referred to as flavanols having antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are quite necessary to reduce oxidative stress which is the root cause of many diseases. According to study conducted in 2013 on 33 females with fibroids (one or more each), the females administered with 800 milligrams of extract of green tea for 4 months showed a decrease in their severity of fibroid symptoms along with the shrinkage in the size of fibroids in comparison to the females who were administered placebos for the same duration.
Green tea is also known for decreasing the number of fibroids along with its shrinkage because of its anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. Hence, green tea is good for treating fibroids, but more research is required to make it to the prescribing trend.
- Curcumin: Turmeric is a rich source of curcumin having antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin, through cell cultures, have proven to eradicate the fibrotic cells and can also hinder the reproduction of fibroids in the uterus. But this data remains confined to the experimentation on cell cultures. Further studies are needed to confirm whether the curcumin upon ingestion by humans would have a similar effect on the fibroids.
- Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a certain type of chemical that can only be produced by the plants when it is facing any infection or is under any kind of environmental stress. There are some fruits or plants that contain this chemical naturally like grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries. According to scientists, after experimenting on the cell cultures of fibroids, this chemical, resveratrol, can stop the growth of affected cells and may hinder the uterine fibroid reproduction. However, more data is needed as researchers are sure whether the ingestion of food containing resveratrol would have the same effect on the fibroids.
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Symptomatic relief of fibroids can be attained through these herbal remedies:
- Castor Oil: Symptomatic relief of fibroids contributes a lot in dragging the painful sight of fibroids to much-relaxed state. Constipation in fibroids can be easily relieved by using castor oil which in actual is taken as herbal oil.
- Chasteberry: Chasteberry is known for controlling the painful periods along with the heavy bleeding that are major symptoms of fibroids. It is used to maintain the hormonal balance.
- Ispaghula Husk and Senna: Ispaghula husk and Senna have been into practice from ancient times for the treatment of constipation owing to their fibrous nature. They are taken either in water or in juice.
Physical Stress Management for Fibroids
Stress management is one of the major steps in the treatment of fibroids. Several home-care tips and remedies are available that can be practiced reducing stress which otherwise can worsen fibroids. Warm baths, heating pads, warm compresses, yoga, exercises, and relaxation techniques if done regularly can not only provide physical relaxation but mental clarity and calmness. Nowadays, massage therapies have been made into practice by physicians and spas to further soothe the stressed mass.
Pharmacotherapy for Fibroids: Medicines
Pharmacotherapy is not quite often recommended for patients with fibroids but that too depends on the symptoms presented along with their severity. Patients with severe symptoms of fibroids are usually directed towards pharmacotherapy and that too is symptomatic. Progesterone-like and birth control medicines are sometimes prescribed to control the heavy menstrual bleeding, but they don’t shrink or eradicate fibroids.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) therapy is often used to shrink the fibroids by many physicians, but nothing comes that easy. GnRH therapy has severe disadvantages and one of them being bone depleting mechanism. Usually, the therapy is continued for six months considering the side effects, but the fibroids take their stance back upon completion of the therapy. So, people take into account surgical procedures as an alternative to medicines to avoid the occurrence of any life-long side effects.
Other Treatment Options
Physicians go through the number of treatment options available to find the one that best suits the patient’s conditions. Hormonal balancing medicines, ultrasound, surgeries, and some other treatments are some of the options that are considered in every case. Surgeries involve either the removal of fibroids or the entire uterus considering the area affected. Some treatments for fibroids are listed below:
- Medicines: Hormones that are altered in fibroids can be balanced by using hormonal balancing medicines to provide symptomatic relief.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUD): Intra-uterine devices are placed in the body to facilitate the release of progestin and further progesterone.
- Ultrasound Surgery: MRI-guided ultrasound surgery can be done if medicines have proven to be of no benefit.
- Uterine Artery Embolization: It stops the supply of blood and nutrients to the fibroids (uterine fibroids) by blocking the uterine artery.
- Myolysis: In this method, radiofrequency waves are used to remove the fibroids.
- Cryomyolysis: The freezing method is used for the removal of fibroids.
- Myomectomy: Surgery that involves the removal of fibroids.
- Hysterectomy: Surgery that involves the removal of the entire uterus.