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What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are growths in your uterus. Between 60 and 80 percent of women have or have had fibroids. They’re also called:
- benign tumors
- uterine leiomyomas
While fibroids aren’t cancerous or life-threatening, they can sometimes cause health problems.
Fibroids range in size to as small as a seed to larger than a grapefruit. You can have one fibroid or multiple growths.
You may not have any symptoms at all. Most women don’t know they have this condition.
Signs and symptoms depend on the size, location, and number of fibroids. You may experience:
- periods that last longer than a week
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- spotting or bleeding between periods
- pelvic pressure or pain
- backache or leg pain
- frequent urination
- difficulty emptying your bladder
- difficulty getting pregnant
You may be at higher risk for fibroids if you:
Fibroids can grow in any part of your uterus. They are named by where they grow:
Fibroids typically grow slowly or not at all. In many cases, they shrink on their own, especially after menopause. You may not need treatment unless you’re bothered by symptoms. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan. You may need a combination of therapies.
In moderate to severe cases where symptoms are bothersome, worsening, or not improved with medication, fibroids may be treated with surgery or ultrasound therapy. Surgery may involve removing just the fibroids or your entire uterus.
At-home care, diet changes, and natural remedies may help treat fibroids and relieve symptoms. The lifestyle changes below are also important in the prevention of fibroids.
These natural treatments may or may not help your fibroid symptoms, since relief depends on how severe your symptoms are and how your fibroids have progressed. You should speak with your doctor before trying any of these options.
A clinical study in China showed that obesity and excess weight increased the risk for uterine fibroids. This happens because fat cells make high amounts of estrogen. Losing weight may help prevent or reduce the size of fibroids.
Your daily diet is a very important factor in treating fibroids. The right nutrition can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk. Certain foods can also help ease symptoms.
Foods to avoid
According to clinical studies, eating too much red meat increases your risk of uterine fibroids. Drinking alcohol also increases your risk.
Eating excess refined carbohydrates and sugary foods may trigger or worsen fibroids. These foods raise blood sugar levels. This causes your body to produce too much insulin hormone. Avoid or restrict simple refined carbohydrates like:
- white rice, pasta, and flour
- soda and other sugary drinks
- corn syrup
- boxed cereals
- baked goods (cakes, cookies, doughnuts)
- potato chips
Foods to eat
Fiber-rich unprocessed foods help:
- curb your appetite
- balance hormones
- prevent excess weight gain
Brightly colored foods such as fruits and vegetables also help reduce inflammation and lower your risk for fibroids. Add these whole foods to your daily diet:
- raw and cooked vegetables and fruit
- dried fruit
- whole grains
- brown rice
- lentils and beans
- whole grain bread and pasta
- fresh and dried herbs
Vitamins and supplements
Milk and dairy may help to reduce fibroids. Dairy products contain high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These nutrients may help prevent growth of fibroids.
Some types of vitamins may also help reduce the growth and size of fibroids. Research confirms that your risk for fibroids may increase if you have low amounts of vitamin D and vitamin A from animal sources, such as dairy.
Uterine fibroids may worsen menstrual pain, bloating, and cramping. A number of vitamins may help ease these symptoms:
You can find these vitamins in food as well as supplements. If you want to start incorporating supplements into your daily routine, talk with your doctor before you begin.
- Limit foods with added salt or sodium.
- Check your blood pressure regularly and discuss readings with your doctor.
- Get regular exercise.
Herbal remedies may help to treat fibroids or reduce related symptoms. Further research is needed to find out if these remedies work and what the most effective dosage is.
Herbs are potent medicines and can interact with other drugs. They’re also not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Talk with your doctor before taking herbal medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Herbal remedies are used in traditional Chinese Medicine to slow fibroid growth and treat symptoms. One herbal formula is called Guizhi fuling or Gui Zhi Fu Ling Tang. This formula contains several herbs that act to shrink uterine fibroids, balance hormone levels, and keep your uterus healthy:
- ramulus cinnamomi
- semen persicae
- radix paeoniae rubra
- radix paeoniae alba
- cortex moutan
Chasteberry, or vitex, is taken for heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, and other symptoms. This herbal remedy helps to balance hormone levels.
Isphagula husk, senna, and castor oil
Fibrous herbs such as isphagula and senna are used as natural laxatives. Add these herbs to water or juice to help relieve constipation.
Castor oil is an herbal oil that can be taken as a supplement to help occasional constipation.
At-home care may help to manage stress, which can worsen fibroids and your overall health. Try these treatment options that can help manage stress:
- warm compresses or applying local heat
- warm baths
- yoga and exercise
- massage therapy
In most cases, symptomatic fibroids are treated with hormonal medications, ultrasound therapy, surgery, and other treatment. Medications help to shrink fibroids or ease symptoms. Surgery may involve removing just the fibroids or your entire uterus.
Some treatments your doctor may recommend include:
- hormone balancing medications
- progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD)
- MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery
- uterine artery embolization, which works by blocking blood supply to the fibroids and uterus
- myolysis, which is removal with a heat source (such as radiofrequency waves); Acessa is an example of this procedure
- cryomyolysis, which removes fibroids by freezing
- myomectomy, which is surgery to remove just fibroids
- hysterectomy, which surgically removes your uterus
See your doctor if you experience any symptoms related to your fibroids, no matter how mild. Your doctor will examine you and decide if treatment is required.
Follow-up appointments may be needed to monitor your fibroids. If you’re having difficulty becoming pregnant, your doctor can determine if it’s due to fibroids.
Your doctor can determine whether alternative or natural fibroid treatment is right for you. Treatment depends on your age, health, and lifestyle. It may also vary by the number, size, and location of your fibroids.
Changes to your diet and lifestyle are the first plan of action to treat uterine fibroids. These healthy changes are important even with surgery or medication.
Diet, natural remedies, stress management, and alternative pain relief may also help ease symptoms such as pain, heavy bleeding, and constipation.
Talk with your doctor or nutritionist about the best diet and exercise plan for you. Make small changes every day to be consistent and create new healthy habits. Make a weekly meal plan to help you stick to a balanced diet. Join a gym or exercise with a partner to stay motivated.
Consult your doctor before taking any type of herbal remedy or supplement. Keep a list of all your medications, supplements, and herbal remedies. Purchase herbal supplements from reputable sources to avoid contamination and unhealthy ingredients.