5 Ways to Prevent and Stop the Growth of Fibroids
Fibroids have been the source of heavy bleeding, constant spotting and even pain in women for decades.
WHAT ARE FIBROIDS?
A fibroid is a benign growth within the uterus. Some can be attached to the uterus and grow into the abdominal cavity. Fibroids typically grow during the reproductive years and peri-menopause. They shrink in menopause as estrogen levels decline.
Fibroids account for the majority of hysterectomies that are performed. The conventional medical approach has not changed much in the last 60 years. They watch and wait to see if the fibroid grows and if it does, then surgery or a surgical procedure is scheduled.
The three most common surgical procedures to treat fibroids are:
- hysterectomy (removal of uterus),
- myomectomy (Removal of fibroid from inside uterine lining),
- uterine artery embolization (tiny pellets are injected into the uterine artery to cut off blood flow to the fibroid.)
Fibroid surgery is something that I was introduced to at the age of 13. My mother suffered with fibroids. I remember the conversations she had with me the day her fibroids were discovered. She came home from her first appointment and the doctor had told her it was the size of a lemon, then at her next it had grown to the size of an orange. At her third ultrasound, the fibroid had grown to the size of a grapefruit and she was scheduled for surgery. This is the classic “watch and wait approach”. Her doctor monitored the fibroid for growth and once it reached a certain size she was scheduled for surgery. My mother’s surgery was planned for June after school had been let out for the summer. She planned to be recovering for 2-3 weeks. She told me that I would be in charge of cooking, grocery shopping and watching after my brother. My father traveled a lot for work and was gone long hours. She coordinated with our neighbor to drive me to the grocery store once a week and I would shop with my list and the money she had put aside for groceries.
I took it all very seriously. It was the first time I had really thought about what my life would be like without my mother. I remember feeling so helpless that there was no other way to “fix” the fibroid without surgery. Looking back now I can still identify with my frustration and all of the unanswered questions I had, “How did the fibroid get there? What was causing it to grow?”
I had a hard time accepting that there really was no answer. Years later when I was in medical school I discovered that my maternal grandmother also had a hysterectomy for fibroids in the 1960’s.
Hormone imbalances can be passed along a family line.
It helps to be aware of familial commonalities so you can reduce the risks in your own life.
There are some really horrific stories of fibroids causing hemorrhaging, women developing anemia, weakness and fainting. And I often hear, “I lived with heavy periods the last 10-15 years of my cycle. They just became heavier and heavier. I thought it was normal. A few years before I went into menopause my doctor told me I had fibroids. I had just gotten used to living with it.”
The point here is that heavy bleeding is not normal. It is a sign that something is not quite right. There are thousands of women walking around with heavy bleeding or having frequent periods and thinking nothing of it. Anemia or (low iron count) from heavy bleeding is not without risk.
Alternative practitioners have long suspected the estrogen/environmental link with fibroid growth and growing research continues to reinforce this theory. Hormone disrupting compounds are common in the environment contributing to uterine fibroids.
Fibroids grow in response to high levels of estrogen and in a few cases high progesterone. Frequent and heavy bleeding can be an indicator of elevated estrogen.
WHAT CAUSES ESTROGEN LEVELS TO RISE?
- Estrogen is produced by fat cells, women with a higher BMI are at an increased risk of estrogen dominance.
- During peri-menopause progesterone typically drops thus creating a temporary type of estrogen dominance.
- Environmental sources of estrogen. Chemicals called estrogen mimickers boost estrogen levels in the body and contribute to fibroid growth. Some of the biggest contributors are Phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
Phthalates are chemicals found in vinyl, soft plastic beverage bottles, plastic food storage containers, plastic food wrap, cosmetics, and anything fragranced. High concentrations are found in artificial scents and most commercial perfumes. When you realize the negative health, implications scented items quickly lose their appeal.
Here’s my quick story. When I got married my husband was used to using a highly-scented cleaning product called Fabuloso. This product is a staple in every Mexican household. Once I pulled up the ingredient list that reads like a hormone-disrupting horror story and showed it to him he realized Fabuloso wasn’t so fabulous.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in plastic baby bottles, water bottles, and the lining of metal food cans. BPA has been replaced with sister compounds that have the same chemical structure and most likely the same estrogenic properties. Mainly BPB, BPS, BPF, BPAF, BPAP. Beware these are the replacement compounds in products that say BPA-free. I moved all of my son’s plates, bowls, cups, forks, spoons and water bottles to stainless steel as soon as possible once he started eating real food.
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals that include pesticides such as DDT, solvents such as chloroform, polyvinyl chloride products, and others. The biggest exposure is through the diet.
So, what’s a woman to do?
HERE ARE MY 5 TIPS FOR PREVENTING AND STOPPING THE GROWTH OF FIBROIDS:
- Limit your environmental exposure by drinking from glass or stainless steel. Start to recognize where fragrances are lurking in your home. Common areas include personal soaps, shampoos, body products, cleaning products, and nail polish.
- If you have a fibroid or a family history get your hormone levels tested. Begin care with an alternative practitioner so you can get started on a hormone specific plan just for you.
- Consider a liver detox – A good detox is between 3-4 weeks. This boosts liver function and promotes estrogen metabolism of hormones.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The minimum serving should be 5 per day. If you have watched so of my other posts, you have seen me emphasize 5 to thrive.
- Organic is best.
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals that include PCB’s and DDT. They are commonly found in pesticides. These compounds interfere with estrogen metabolism. They have been measured in the blood and fat cell samples of women with fibroids. Choosing organic foods reduces exposure to these items.
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Dear Dr. Purcell,
My name is Nakia ans I am 35 years old, I live in Pennsylvania, I do not have any children, and my Doctor scheduled me to have a myomectemy for a fibroid that is the size of a fist. I have two fibroids, but one is 2 cm so they do not plan to remove this fibroid. I have to stay on birth control pills because I bleed horribly and for a long time when I am not using the pill. My goal is to have a child, which is why they are recommending the surgery. However, I feel like I should work on losing weight and then get off of the pill and see if I can conceive before getting this surgery done. I’ve had 3 opinions, and they all have said for me to get the surgery done because the larger fibroid has grown the past year. However, I feel like there must be something else I can do. Any feedback you can provide would be helpful. I’m scheduled for surgery this Thursday, and I’m not sure I should go through with this. Thank you for your time. Kindly, Nakia.
Thanks for reaching out. Dr. Purcell would like to speak to you more about your fibroids. We can schedule you for an orientation appointment. Feel free to email email@example.com or call 800-3188582 to schedule an appointment.
Quite informative. Thanks.