Monday, July 21, 2008

Does my Fibroid look big in this?

Uterine fibroids are an increasingly common problem presenting to women all over the world. They are the number one reason for hysterectomy in the US[1]and it is estimated that one in every five women are affected, most commonly in those over 30. They are non-cancerous growths that usually originate in the muscular component of the uterine wall and can vary in size, number and position. Some may be small and discrete while others can grow to a size resembling a pre-term pregnancy.

So what causes Fibroids? Some common contributing factors towards Fibroid growth include:

  • Hormonal imbalance: oestrogen stimulates growth of tissues and in an oestrogen dominant environment, Fibroids can really flourish
  • Liver function: poor oestrogen clearance via the liver and bowel
  • Poor diet: high levels of refined carbs, increased intake of saturated fats and low levels of fibre
  • Obesity: fatty tissue, especially around the abdominal area, increases the conversion of oestrogen resulting in an increase in circulating oestrogen[2]
  • Caffeine: intake from all sources has been linked with elevated oestrogen levels[3]
  • Hypertension: elevated blood pressure may increase the risk of fibroids through injury to uterine muscle[4]

While many of us may actually have fibroids that go unnoticed, it’s the symptomatic ones that have the potential to give us the most trouble. They are usually found during a routine examination, ultrasound or as a result of a number of symptoms that may be experienced. The most common symptom is heavy bleeding and the larger fibroids can also produce weight gain, urinary frequency, constipation, pressure symptoms and discomfort in the lower abdomen. This pressure and discomfort have often been referred to a sensation as if “everything may fall out” either before or during the period. Pain and infertility may also be present.

We can now ask the question, “Is my weight contributing to Fibroids?” or “Are my Fibroids contributing to weight gain?”

Either way, balancing the hormonal profile is imperative in treating this condition and this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Herbs: common herbs used to reduce oestrogen excess and control fibroid proliferation include Paeonia, Chaste tree, Calendula, Thuja and Echinacea
  • Fibre: reduces oestrogen levels in blood and urine. Include psyllium husks, linseeds, fruits and vegetables with the skin on
  • Phytoestrogens: plant based oestrogens exert similar effects to the oestrogen our body produces. They can stop oestrogen binding to receptors and can slow the conversion of oestrogen that takes place in fatty tissue. Include soy products, fruits and vegetables, sprouts, legumes, seeds and grains
  • Protein: needed for oestrogen metabolism in the liver. Include grains, legumes, lean meat, fish and eggs
  • Alcohol: excessive amounts of alcohol can increase oestrogen levels while moderate amounts (one glass of beer or wine per day) is thought to lower oestrogen levels[5]
  • Liver clearance: bitter foods and herbs will assist the liver in metabolising oestrogen and help with elimination
  • Exercise: along with maintaining a healthy weight, helps with oestrogen clearance, improving cardiovascular health, improves bone density, reduces stress and can have profound effects on the menstrual cycle

As with most other imbalances in our body, a few important changes to your diet and lifestyle can make the world of difference. Change can only come from within so take control of your health and enjoy the benefits.

[2] Ruth Trickey, (2003) “Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle”, Allen & Unwin NSW, pg 66-67
[5] Ruth Trickey, (2003) “Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle”, Allen & Unwin NSW, pg 69