Your Plan of Action – The Natural Approach
- Support the breakdown of oestrogen in the body to reduce growth of a fibroids
- Choose foods that support your liver and avoid excess oestrogen in your environment
- Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet if you have heavy periods
- Measure your iron levels and supplement if necessary
Best Test Options: Hormonal Test MGL5 (blood)
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids (also called myomas) are non-cancerous growths in or on the muscular wall of the womb (the myometrium). They can vary in number and size, according to the individual. Some fibroids can be as small as a pea, but others can be as large as a seven- or eight-month-old foetus.
Fibroids are very common and can affect 20 percent of women over the age of 30. They are not common in women under the age of 20, except in Afro-Caribbean women who are more susceptible to fibroid growths, even in their teens. Fibroids seem to run in families, but we are not sure at present whether this is a genuinely genetic predisposition, or whether lifestyle and diet play a role in some families.
What Are The Symptoms of Fibroids?
The main symptom of fibroids is heavy periods. When fibroids grow inside the womb (submucosal or intramural), the mechanism that operates menstrual flow may not work properly. The heavy bleeding can be a result of the fibroids making the womb bigger (creating a larger surface of womb lining that has to bleed every month), or the pressure of the fibroids may disrupt the normal blood flow. As a result, many women with fibroids will have heavy periods, but experience no pain.
Some women do experience pain with fibroids – not necessarily intense period pains, but a feeling of pressure and a dragging sensation in the abdomen. If fibroids are on stalks (pedunculated), they can twist, causing extreme pain.
If fibroids press on other organs, such as the bladder or bowel, you may experience frequent urination, constipation or even backache. Most women do experience some abdominal swelling, although it may be minor. In other women, the lower abdomen can look as though you are in the early stages of pregnancy.
In some cases, the bleeding can be so severe that sufferers develop anaemia. During menstruation, some women lose clots of blood that resemble pieces of liver. If the blood flow is heavy, the anti-clotting factors that are normally present in the menstrual blood may not be able to keep the blood flowing smoothly, hence the pieces of clotted blood. Other women can experience periods that go on for weeks, sometimes with no real break between one period and the next.
In many cases, fibroids can be symptomless. If they grow in a way that doesn’t cause pressure on the neighbouring organs, you can live with even large fibroids for many years without requiring any medical help. In most cases, they shrink during the menopause and post-menopause years.
In some cases the first indication that there may be fibroids is when there is trouble conceiving (infertility) or maintaining a pregnancy (miscarriage). Significantly large fibroids can enlarge and distort the womb, making it impossible for a fertilised egg to implant. Many women who have been treated for infertility may have perfectly normal cycles and were unaware of their presence until they have an ultrasound.
Can Nutrition Help?
What you eat can be crucial because it can help to control excess levels of oestrogen that can encourage the fibroid to grow. If you need to have surgical treatment because a fibroid is preventing conception, for example, then it is crucial that you start eating well as soon as you can, even before the surgery, in order to prevent a fibroid from re-growing after it has been removed.
Balancing blood sugar is often the first step in hormonal balance and can be achieved by eating more regularly and opting for complex carbohydrates paired with protein and healthy fats. Including plenty of pulses in your diet such as beans, lentils and chickpeas are an important step in balancing oestrogen levels.
Nutrients For Fibroids
As well as eating a healthy diet, supplementation can be beneficial. Take a multivitamin and mineral containing good levels of the B vitamins (research has shown that the B vitamins can significantly reduce the intensity of period pains), vitamin E (which has been shown to reduce painful periods) and magnesium (which acts as a muscle relaxant and your womb is a muscle).
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids help to strengthen the capillaries in the body, which can reduce heavy bleeding. Taken as a supplement, vitamin C has also produced excellent results for many women with heavy periods. One study showed that taking 200mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoids, three times daily, reduced bleeding in 87 percent of the women tested.
If you are bleeding very heavily, you may run the risk of becoming anaemic. Common symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, irritability and pallor, among other things.
Omega 3s are one of the most powerful food source anti-inflammatory agents. A ‘Western Diet’ does not usually provide enough omega 3s. Eating at least two portions of oily fish per week is recommended. If you do not eat fish, a supplement containing over 500mg of each of EPA and DHA is useful.
Many women attending our clinic have been taking evening primrose oil supplements, an omega 6 fatty acid, for years and have not been eating enough omega 3 oils, or taking them in supplement form, to counterbalance this. Some women are also taking combinations such as omega 3, 6, and 9 in supplement form because they have heard that we need a good balance of all the omega fatty acids. This is true, but you have to take into account what your own levels may be in the first place. It is much more common that we already have high levels of omega 6 which is found in processed foods, ready meals but also other foods like meats, breads, spreads and anything that contains or is cooked in oil. While evening primrose oil can be useful for hormonally driven breast tenderness, omega 6 oils have the potential to produce pro-inflammatory substances.
One of the drugs used for heavy bleeding, mefanamic acid, actually works by controlling ‘bad’ prostaglandins, which can increase the flow of blood.
We can test your balance of omega 3 and omega 6 to make sure the ratio is correct.
Tests For Fibroids
A Hormonal Test MGL5 (blood) can identify hormonal imbalances which might be promoting the growth of fibroids.
We can also check if you are deficient in key nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins and also the balance of omega 3 to 6 essential fats. Our Nutritional Profile MGL4 (blood) will show you what vitamins and minerals you actually need to take.
Where to Start?
Make sure you are eating well to support your symptoms. If you would like personalised advice on what to do next then request a consultation with one of our qualified nutritionists.