Uterine Fibroids – Symptoms, Causes & Natural Treatment
Uterine fibroids are estrogen-responsive benign fibrous tumours in the uterine muscle. They may be single or multiple and the size may vary from microscopic to grapefruit-sized or bigger.
Approximately 5% of women in Australia will be diagnosed with the condition during their child bearing years.
Uterine fibroids tend to regress post-menopausal with decline of estrogen levels.
Causes of Uterine Fibroids
The underlying cause for fibroids is due to estrogen dominance or increased estrogen to progesterone ratio. There is a connection between uterine fibroids and the presence of toxic species of estrogen (i.e. OH16-hydroxyoestrone). Poor methylation is a contributing factor that encourages estrogen to be metabolized done this pathway. Estrogen metabolism down this pathway also increases the chances of estrogen cancers such as breast cancer.
- Obesity and insulin resistance
- Poor methylation
- Increased inflammatory prostaglandins
- Exposure to xeno-estrogens e.g. pesticides, dioxins, formaldehyde
- Genetic predisposition
- Excessive caffeine consumption
Signs & Symptoms of Fibroids
- Often asymptomatic if small
- Abnormally heavy and long bleeding – most common symptom
- Painful periods
- Sensation of fullness in abdomen
- If large, may have pressure symptoms e.g. urinary frequency, painful sexual intercourse
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR FIBROIDS
- Decrease excess estrogen
- Optimise methylation
- Ensure beta-glucuronidase levels are in range (often elevated with SIBO or bacterial overgrowth of the gut)
- Decrease exposure to xeno-estrogens
- Support conjugation of estrogens in the liver
- Support bowel clearance of estrogen from the bowel
- Reduce inflammatory prostaglandins
- Tone and astringe uterus
- Reduce size of fibroids
- Stimulate lymphatic function
- Balance bowel microflora
Diet plan guidelines for Fibroids
- Fresh, whole food, organic, low GI diet
- Emphasise anti-inflammatory foods: in cold-water oily fish, berries, nuts and seeds, turmeric, ginger, green tea, olive oil.
- Reduce pro-inflammatory foods such as commercially produced red meats, sugar, refined grains, alcohol and caffeine
- Eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates: insulin resistance is associated with estrogen excess
- Increase dietary fibre and probiotic foods: to promote clearance of estrogen from bowel
- Include bitter foods, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), turmeric and rosemary to improve liver clearance of estrogen
- Include phyto-estrogens: blocks effect of xeno-oestrogens
- Include foods that inhibit aromatase activity: white button mushrooms (Chen et al, 2006), cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, citrus fruits, many culinary herbs (parsley, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, coriander), celery, oysters, grapes, berries, red wine and green tea
- Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake, especially just prior to menses
- Ginger 1 g/day: improves symptoms of PMS
- Reduce exposure to xeno-estrogens: non-organic animal fats, unfiltered water, plastic-wrapped food, microwaving foods in plastic containers, tinned foods, etc.
- Weight loss diet if indicated
Supplements that support Fibroids
- Omega-3 EFAs – to reduce inflammatory prostaglandins
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids – (take 2 hourly during menses) reduces inflammation, reduces aromatisation, supports immune system and repairs capillary fragility
- Curcumin – anti-inflammatory, supports liver clearance of estrogen, and may help reduce angiogenesis within the uterus
- Indole-3-carbinole – supports liver metabolism of estrogen
- B6, folate, B12: methylating factors needed for the metabolism of estrogen
- Vitamin A – supports immune function and tones and astringes uterus
- Vitamin E – reduces adhesion formation
- Vitamin D – (depending on status): supports immune function and reduces adhesions
- Zinc – supports immune function and reduces adhesions
- Probiotics: anti-inflammatory, immune support and supports clearance of estrogen
- Iron: may be needed if iron-deficiency anemia is an issue
Herbal Medicine that supports Fibroids
- Uterine astringents – cranesbill, ladies mantle, beth root, shepherd‘s purse, yarrow, raspberry leaf, cinnamon
- Anti-haemorrhagic – panax notoginseng, goldenseal
- Hormone regulators – chaste tree, blue cohosh, dong quai
- Liver clearance of Estrogen – St Mary‘s thistle, schisandra, rosemary, turmeric
- Cinnamon and Hoelen Combination – Chinese medicine formula; very effective in reduction of fibroids
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF FIBROIDS
Fibroids is a condition experienced by females that can be both painful and cause complications with conceiving. The condition is heavily related to estrogen dominance and treatments and preventions of the condition relate around the underlying dysfunctions that lead to Estrogen dominance.
Bacterial overgrowth of the gut, SIBO, poor digestion and slow transit time, impaired methylation, nutrient deficiencies and poor diet and lifestyle are all key areas that may new addressing with fibroid patients.
At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have experience with fibroids and other hormonal imbalances. If you or a family member are suffering from fibroids or hormonal symptoms we would love to hear from you. How you recovered from fibroids previously, if so, what measures did you use? How were your fibroids diagnosed? What changes have you made that have improved the condition? Please leave a comment below.