Fibroids are benign tumors that develop in the uterus and can lead to painful, heavy periods. In some cases, they can become quite large and problematic. In others, they go undetected and are without symptoms. In this article I’m going to review what fibroids are and how to treat fibroids naturally.
While for some women, uterine fibroids don’t cause discomfort or other any other symptoms, for others, fibroids can be painful and grow to the point that they interfere with other bodily functions. Sometimes, fibroids can cause fertility issues as well.
We understand that fibroid growth is stimulated by estrogen and progesterone, which means by supporting optimal hormone health we can effectively prevent their development. When it comes to treating fibroids, balancing hormones while making appropriate diet and lifestyle interventions is the most beneficial. I’ll discuss all your options below.
Symptoms of Fibroids
The symptoms for uterine fibroids vary widely. Some women report no symptoms at all. The size of the fibroid is often what determines the degree of symptoms.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones responsible for stimulating the growth of the uterine lining during your menstrual cycle. This may be why fibroids tend to shrink when a woman stops ovulating and having a regular period, as is the case in menopause.
These hormones are created by the ovaries, but require your liver, gut, and kidneys in order to eliminate excess. We’ll discuss more about natural approaches to fibroids in this article, but know that optimizing the levels of estrogen and progesterone are a must, as is the metabolism of these hormones.
And while consensus is that estrogen and progesterone play a significant role, it appears excess testosterone may also contribute the fibroid growth. So if you’re a postmenopausal woman who has not seen fibroids diminish or have developed new ones, it may be due to testosterone. It mays also be because the fibroid is very large and may take time to shrink in the absence of elevated estrogen and progesterone.
Treatment Options for Uterine Fibroids
Addressing the root cause of the menstrual dysfunction is often preferable to immediately starting hormonal birth control as a quick fix.
While hormonal replacement has its place in supporting women’s health, many doctors are too quick to prescribe birth control to women whose cycle issues could potentially be solved by a change in diet and lifestyle.
When fibroids reach a particular size, it is often necessary to have surgery to remove them. The size and location of the fibroid largely determine the recommended course of treatment. In worst-case scenarios, a hysterectomy is performed. Removal of your uterus may not be necessary, please speak with your Gynecologist about other options or a combination approach.
Natural Approaches to Fibroids
Addressing the Estrogen Dominance
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I always test estrogen levels and the corresponding metabolites, 2-OH estrone, 4-OH estrone, and 16-OH estrone. We know that metabolites like 4-OH and 16-OH estrone can lead to unfavorable changes in a woman’s body, including the growth of tissues. To reduce estrogen, you have to eliminate it through bowel movements and support its metabolism in the liver. DIM and cruciferous veggies can help this promote estrogen clearance of the liver. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium are both involved in estrogen metabolism, specifically in the hepatic conversion of 2-OH-hydroxyestrone to 2-methoxyestrone. Reducing caffeine and alcohol and incorporating adequate physical activity may further support proper estrogen metabolism.
Support Liver Detoxification
Enhancing the liver’s ability to promote healthy estrogen levels and clearance is just as important as making sure the estrogen levels are balanced. A healthy liver is critical, since it is the organ that handles the bulk of detoxification of xenobiotics, metabolism of estrogen and other hormones, and the conversion of inactive to active thyroid hormone. Milk thistle, is one of our most useful liver botanicals, as it not only provides support for detoxification pathways and regeneration of liver cells. Antioxidants such as NAC and glutathione are great additions to helping the liver perform its job. A weekly Liver Flush IV™ can also help to speed up the removal of harmful estrogen metabolites from the body.
Controlling Blood Sugar
For improved hormonal function, the goal should be to keep blood sugar as steady as possible. Healthy fats should be consumed at each meal as well. A higher fiber intake from plant foods can help with the excretion of extra hormones in the stool.
Micronutrient-dense foods like liver, eggs, fatty fish, leafy greens, and full-fat dairy products provide vitamins and minerals that support metabolic function, detoxification in the liver, and ovarian health.
Improving your Gut Health
Excess hormones are eliminated through our poop, so having regular bowel movements and a healthy digestive system is crucial to good hormonal function.
Not surprisingly, there’s a two-way street between hormonal balance and gut function. Your ability to eliminate excess hormones through your stool will affect your hormonal profile, and fluctuations in hormones can affect your bowel function too.
If you have too many “bad bugs” in your gut leading to dysbiosis or an inflammatory gut, these activate your immune system, driving up insulin levels and leading to high levels of androgens. This immune activation also interferes with ovarian follicle development and can cause infertility. Gut health can also influence estrogen metabolism and levels, as some bacterial species possess the enzyme beta-glucuronidase, which can reactivate the hormone.
To rebalance your gut flora, consider starting Gut Be Calm™, to heal your inner gut lining. If you’re struggling with major gut symptoms like constipation, bloating, loose stools, or reflux, your digestive function could be exacerbating your hormonal imbalance. Even more reason to begin the Gut Be Calm™ for healthy bowel elimination.
If you are struggling with fibroids, it may seem like it is a war that will never end. But relief is possible, with the right combination of treatment and lifestyle changes. Finally, if you need help identifying the diet and lifestyle issues that are holding you back from healing, I’d love to work with you. I truly enjoy helping women who are experiencing hormonal disturbances make the changes they need to recover a healthy period and start feeling better immediately!