Ask Marilyn – can you recommend anything to help with fibroids?

Q: I’ve recently been diagnosed with fibroids. Are there any foods and supplements and natural therapies you can recommend?


A: One woman in five may develop fibroids.  Fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths, vary in size from as small as a pea to as large as a eight month old foetus. They sometimes run in families and are most common in women between the age of 30 and the menopause. After the menopause they shrink.


A large fibroid can cause heavy periods and/or bleeding between periods. The heavy period is caused by the fibroids making the womb bigger and increasing the surface of the womb lining that has to bleed. Many women experience low backache and painful periods and sex but some women experience heavy periods without pain. In some cases there may be no symptoms at all and the first indication that there may be fibroids is when there is trouble getting pregnant. Fibroids can enlarge and distort the womb, making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant.


Although fibroids are very common, no one knows for sure what the cause is but we do know that they are sensitive to oestrogen.   Fibroids are also more likely in overweight women because their fat cells manufacture more oestrogen.


If you think you may have fibroids visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis, preferably with an ultrasound scan, to rule out other problems. Fibroids can be removed surgically and the procedure is called a myomectomy.   


If your doctor suggests a hysterectomy, I would suggest that you only consider this as the last resort as it is a major surgical procedure. Although there are situations in which surgery may be the best answer for fibroids, a woman with mild symptoms has another option and that is to simply to watch and wait, and try the following natural solutions below, as many fibroids stop growing or shrink of their own accord.


During this watching and waiting period it is extremely important to eat a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet as this will help balance your hormones. Buy organic produce as much as possible if you suffer from fibroids. This will help you avoid xenoestrogens from the environment that can encourage the growth of fibroids.


Coffee and products containing caffeine should be avoided because they increase menstrual flow.


Limit your intake of saturated fats (mainly found in animal products, such as dairy and meat) as well because they block the absorption of essential fats and increase oestrogen levels.  Don’t cut down on fish though because beneficial prostaglandins that can ease heavy periods are produced from foods, like oily fish, nuts and seeds that contain certain essential fatty acids.


Avoid any substance that can compromise your liver, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Your liver processes the hormones that your body produces and renders them harmless. If your liver is not functioning well this can cause a build up of unwanted oestrogen which can encourage the growth of fibroids.


Eat plenty of foods rich in fibre because a fibre rich diet helps to eliminate unwanted oestrogen from your body. Whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, rye and fresh fruit and vegetables are great sources of fibre. Foods that are high in phytoestrogens, such as soya and legumes, can be very beneficial. Phytoestrogens boost the production of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that controls how much oestrogen is circulating in your blood.


Regular exercise (30 minutes a day) is also beneficial as it will exercise can boost circulation to your womb.


Agnus Castus has a good reputation as an herb that can help to balance female hormones and reduce excess oestrogen which may be stimulating the growth of fibroids.


Milk thistle is a liver tonic and boosts your body’s natural detoxification process by helping to deactivate and excrete unwanted, or ‘old,’ oestrogen out of your body.  (See Agnus Castus Plus on the Resources Page which also contains milk thistle).


For more information on the medical treatment of fibroids and other herbs which can be useful for heavy bleeding then see my book Nutritional Health Handbook for Women.


If you aren’t suffering unduly before deciding on any drugs or surgery remind yourself that fibroids are not life-threatening and that the natural approach can often help ease fibroids.

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