Contributed by Gail Headrick, Women’s Health CNP
Most women have heard about uterine fibroids, but many times are not exactly sure what they are. Fibroids are benign (not cancerous) smooth muscle tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus (womb). Many times fibroids cause no symptoms, but some women with them experience heavy bleeding, painful periods, a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area, frequent urination, pain during sex, lower back pain, or fertility issues.
Fibroids affect about one-fourth of women of reproductive age, and can be common in women in their 40s and early 50s. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink. Other factors have been linked to increased risk of fibroids such as a family history, being African American, obesity and a diet high in red meat and ham.
The exact origin of fibroids is not known, but there is strong thought that hormones and genetics play a large part. Fibroids begin from a single cell, which multiplies. These cells respond to hormones and contain estrogen and progesterone receptors in higher concentrations than normal uterine muscle cells. Because of this, any treatment approach should be about hormone balance.
Diagnosing fibroids begins with a pelvic exam to check the uterus, ovaries and vagina, so yearly exams are must for women. Typically the fibroid can be felt by your provider during the exam, and the size is estimated such as a walnut, golf ball, orange or something larger. Many times an imaging test will be done, such as ultrasound, to confirm the diagnosis.
In extreme cases fibroids can lead to some type of surgical procedure, but most women can benefit from an integrated approach in treatment. In my practice, I focus on the root of the problem and work with women toward healing. With fibroids this involves improving estrogen elimination from the body, understanding what influences estrogen levels and bringing the body back into hormone balance.
Individual women can have great influence on their overall hormone balance which affects fibroid development and growth. Lifestyle strategies that assist with this are:
Improving estrogen elimination
- Regular aerobic exercise
- Eating plenty of green vegetables, green tea, and garlic to improve liver function
- Take supplements, specifically flax seed and other omega-3 essential fatty acids and probiotics, to improve gut health
- Increase fiber intake to ensure bowel regularity
Decrease estrogen intake
- Eat organic, hormone-free, meats, poultry, eggs and dairy
- Avoid traditional hormone replacement therapy – the one size fits all type
- Drink spring or filtered water
- Use hormone-free and paraben-free make-up and skin products
- Reduce exposure to household chemicals, use gloves and “green” product
Improve overall hormone balance
- Choose a provider who works with you as an individual, and understands your unique hormone status and needs
- Use bioidentical progesterone to balance estrogen in the body (typically women need to reduce estrogen and improve progesterone for balance)
- Reduce white food intake (sugar, refined flour products, processed food) to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels
- Maintain proper body weight (your BMI matters!), and reduce mid-body fat
By taking your health seriously and investing in new choices, even fibroids can be influenced. I wish you the best of health!
Gail Headrick has been a primary provider at Avera Midlife Care for Women in Sioux Falls, SD, for the past ten years. She specializes in caring for women experiencing hormonal transitions. With a philosophy of treating the whole person based on body science, she has helped thousands of women regain their health and vitality.