What are Fibroids?
Medically referred to as Leiomyomas, Uterine fibroids are a benign tumor-like growth of the myometrium (the muscular layer of the uterus). They are unique and different from adenomyomas and endometriosis (other anatomical growths that can occur in the uterus).
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
There are a number of reasons a woman can develop fibroids. Some of these reasons include: unopposed estrogen levels, high progesterone levels, high prolactin levels, genetic abnormalities that regulate the growth of endometrial cells. Recent research is also suggesting a role for immune cells in propagating the growth of fibroids.
Why are Fibroids a problem?
They can lead to menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), which may put a Woman at risk of developing anemia. Also, they may affect the fertility of a Woman. Research has shown that fertility may not be affected with the presence of fibroids, however, in the case of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) implantation rates may be reduced. As a result, many fertility doctors may opt to remove the fibroids before proceeding with any Assisted Reproductive Technology.
Who is most at risk?
Upwards of 70% of Caucasian Women are estimated to develop fibroids at some point in their lives, and upwards of 80% of African American Woman. Women of African American descent may be almost three times as likely to develop fibroids in comparison to Caucasian Women, have three times the severity of symptoms, and may develop them almost 3-5 years earlier than the average Caucasian Woman with fibroids.
Smokers, heavy alcohol consumers, Women with a meat-heavy diet (especially red meat), Women who do not consume enough vegetables and fruits in a day (namely citric fruits) may be at an increased risk of developing fibroids.
There is a strong genetic connection. Women who have a first-degree relative with fibroids are already at an increased risk of developing fibroids. Additionally, the earlier the onset of your first menstrual flow, the more at risk you are for developing fibroids as well.
How can you prevent fibroids or reduce the symptoms?
- Eating a diet that is high in vegetables and fruits
- If you are not vegetarian, it is recommended to opt out of red meats and choose alternatives like turkey, chicken, and fish instead
- Vitamin D: particularly in Women of African-American Descent (who are more likely to have polymorphisms of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase, or COMT for short, enzyme in the liver) increases the COMT function to eliminate excess amounts of estrogen from the body. Excess estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and low thyroid function (increased levels of the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) can all contribute to the development of fibroids.
- Taking herbs that help stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen delivery to the uterus. Low oxygen levels in the uterine cells can lead to decreased activation of the genes that reduce the amount of estrogen receptors in the uterus (the greater the amount of estrogen receptors, the more sensitive the fibroid is to estrogen, and the greater the growth of the fibroid). However, this should be avoided in Women who have heavy menstrual bleeding as this technique may increase bleeding.
- Green Tea Extracts can increase an enzyme known as Sex-Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG), which holds on to hormones, like Estrogen, and prevents them from exerting their effect on the cells of the uterus.
- Acupuncture and specialized Botanical formulas for Fibroids can help to reduce excessive bleeding, pain associated with the heavy bleeding, and possibly reduce the size of fibroids.
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about Uterine Fibroids should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor or Family Physician.