By Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ)
What are Fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas, are the most common benign (non-cancerous) tumours of the female reproductive system with an estimated 80% of women being affected by the age of 50. Fibroids are abnormal uterine growths composed of smooth muscle cells and fibrotic tissue that can range in size from pea size to the size of a grapefruit. These fibroids may be asymptomatic in some women while causing severe menstrual issues for others and the leading indication for a hysterectomy.
There are different types of fibroids classified according to their location, these include:
• Intramural fibroids: Situated within the muscular wall of the uterus,
• Subserosal fibroids: Located on the outside of the uterus called the serosa,
• Pedunculated fibroids: A subserosal tumour that develops a stem,
• Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow in the middle muscular layer of the uterus called the myometrium, and
• Cervical Fibroids: These fibroids take root at the cervix.
What causes Fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown; however, their growth is dependant on the steroid hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone and specific growth factors.
Some risk factors for the development of uterine fibroids include:
• Genetics: a family history of fibroids
• Race: Woman of African descent are at a higher risk of developing fibroids
• Puberty: Fibroids have not been observed in girls before their first menses
• Age: Premenopausal woman are exposed to elevated levels of oestrogen for prolonged periods of time
• Consumption of alcohol
• High blood pressure
• Being overweight or obese
Symptoms of Fibroids?
Fibroids can often go unnoticed without symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the size, number and location of the fibroid or fibroids and include:
• Heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding, or bleeding between periods;
• Dysmenorrhea (painful periods);
• Pelvic and lower back pain;
• Painful intercourse;
• Difficulty conceiving;
• Urinary frequency; and
• Abdominal distention.
How are Fibroids diagnosed?
Fibroids are usually diagnosed during a routine pelvic examination. A transvaginal ultrasound or a pelvic MRI is used to confirm the diagnosis.
What are the natural treatment options for Fibroids?
Until recently large or multiple fibroids were removed surgically via a myomectomy and in severe cases a hysterectomy is performed. There are also several minimally invasive treatment protocols which include forced ultrasound surgery which uses high frequency sound waves to ablate the fibroids, cryomyolisis, endometrial ablation and uterine artery embolization. These treatment protocols are effective in removing current fibroids, but it does not address the mechanism of the fibroid growth and often fibroids return.
To naturally treat fibroids, it is important to address the mechanism of fibroid growth and this is focussed on addressing the elevated levels of oestrogen.
5 Tips to treat fibroids naturally:
1. Eliminate environmental xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are substances that have a hormone like action on the body which are used in but not limited to food production, pesticides, food packaging production and cosmetics. Here are some tips to reduce exposure to xenoestrogens:
• Choose cosmetics and toiletries that do not contain parabens
• Choose organic veggies that have not been exposed to pesticides
• Choose animal products that have been reared without any growth hormones or routine antibiotics
• Stay away from foods packaged in disposable plastic
High fat non-organic processed meat like hamburger patties containing unhealthy saturated and trans-fats should be avoided at all costs
• Rather use a glass water bottle than a plastic water bottle.
2. Losing weight
Fat cells can act as endocrine glands and secrete oestrogen. Although these levels might not be very high it is still significant enough to raise blood levels of oestrogen, especially in obese woman. Weight loss will also assist in not only decreasing insulin resistance which is important for optimal ovarian function but also in regulating blood pressure which is important in preventing uterine fibroids. A few tips on an effective diet program to combat fibroids include:
• Foods high in oestrogens such as soy and commercially raised animal products should be avoided
• Inflammatory foods should be eliminated from the diet, this includes foods such as diary, wheat, processed foods, sugar etc.
• Avoid fresh produce that was not organically grown seeing as pesticides, herbacides, synthetic fertilizers and food preservatives contain xenoestorgens that high jack oestrogen receptors in the body and further exacerbates oestrogen dominance.
3. Detox the liver and heal the gut
The liver is responsible for metabolising oestrogen. If the liver is not functioning optimally, high levels of oestrogen will further exacerbate oestrogen dominance. There are various supplements including Chedlidonium, Taraxicum and Carduus Marianus, that may be beneficial in supporting liver function.
After oestrogen has been metabolised by the liver, it is excreted via the gut. Leaky gut syndrome causes an up regulation of an enzyme called B-glucuronidase which breaks up bound oestrogen to be excreted and allows these smaller particles to be re absorbed into the system. A gut cleanse diet is essential in the healthy functioning of our hormonal system.
4. Supplements & Herbal treatment
Supplements that may be recommended by a qualified physician include:
• Chaste tree: Chaste tree may be beneficial in reducing oestrogen dominance by balancing out the oestrogen vs progesterone ratio of the menstrual cycle,
• Progesterone cream: Can be considered under the supervision of your health care practitioner,
• Omega 3 fatty acid: Due to its anti-inflammatory properties,
• B vitamins: To balance hormone levels,
• Liver support: A well formulated herbal mixture to help facilitate phase 1 and 2 detoxification of the liver and support the healthy functioning of the liver,
• Indole 3 carbinol is an antioxidant that helps eliminate excess oestrogen from the body.
There are several homeopathic remedies indicated for the treatment of fibroids. The correct remedy is chosen based on each individual case. Studies suggest that a thorough case taking based on the symptom picture will lead to a similimum prescription to aid in shrinking uterine fibroids.