13 Feb Fibroids: What the Fruitcake?
Friday nights aren’t fun when you’ve just been diagnosed with fibroids. Actually, no night (or day, for that matter) is. Why? Because you’ve got periods heavier than Victoria Falls in the rainy season, clots of blood that look as though chunks of your liver are leaking out your vagina, and you’re peeing the entire time, you’re constipated & you’ve got backache as a result of the buggers squishing your bladder and/or bowels.
What Actually are Fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as myomas, are non-cancerous growths on or in the muscle tissue of the uterus (the myometrium). They’re common and can affect 20% of women over the age of 30. Fibroids vary in number and size and are named depending on where and how they grow:
- Intramural fibroids grow in the wall of the uterus and they’re the most common.
- Subserosal fibroids grow on the outside of the uterus. (These are the ones that can put pressure on nearby organs as they get bigger).
- Submucosal fibroids grow on the inside of the uterus and extend into the uterine cavity. (These are the ones we’ve to thank for those heavy periods – they increase the surface area of the uterus).
- Pedunculated fibroids are attached to either the inside or outside of the uterus by a small stalk.
And yes, it is possible to have more than one type.
Symptoms of Fibroids?
In addition to the:
- heavy periods
- possible clots of blood during menstruation
- frequent urination
Other symptoms include:
- some pain – or more a feeling of pressure or dragging sensation in the abdomen
- excruciating pain if they’re the ones on stalks (pedunculated) – because these ones can twist
- possible difficulty conceiving or maintaining pregnancy
- abdominal swelling that can make you LOOK as though you’re preggers
- anaemia as result of the heavy periods (which may lead to exhaustion, shortness of breath, dizziness & headaches)
- ongoing periods
- painful sex
- or no symptoms at all
How are Fibroids Caused?
The long and short? We don’t really know. But what we do know is that fibroids are sensitive to oestrogen. So the risk of developing fibroids is dependent on your lifelong exposure to oestrogen. So, things such as the early use of the pill, alcohol consumption, obesity & exposure to oestrogenic toxins such pesticides may increase your risk of developing fibroids.
In addition to this, emotional stress may result in a menstrual cycle with no ovulation. This means that oestrogen is produced, but no progesterone (which is only released during ovulation). This results in something known as oestrogen dominance simply because there’s no progesterone to balance it out.
How are Fibroids Diagnosed?
There are a few ways to diagnose fibroids but often, it’s done through a simple internal examination with a pelvic ultrasound.
What are the Conventional Options For Dealing With Fibroids?
For more information on conventional treatments, you’ll need to have a chat with your doctor. Typically, these entail:
Watching & Waiting:
Generally, unless fibroids are greater than 10cm or growing inside the uterus, no medical treatment is required. This is because fibroids will naturally shrink by approximately 50% after menopause (when oestrogen naturally declines).
The surgical removal of fibroids, but leaving the uterus intact. It’s the first choice for fibroids that are easy to remove. Complications include a high bleeding risk (dependent on the size & location of the fibroid) and the development of scar tissues – which can then result in infertility. Oh, the paradox!
An invasive & rather extreme option involving the removal of the uterus with or without the ovaries, Fallopian tubes & cervix.
Uterine Artery Embolisation:
A relatively new non-surgical treatment, usually carried out by a radiologist who inserts a catheter into the leg. Small particles are then injected into the uterine artery to block the fibroid’s blood supply, causing them to shrink & die. Complications include risk of infection & pain.
Fibroids can re-grow after a myomectomy. And there’s a pretty good chance that’ll happen if no nutrition & lifestyle changes are made. Although these can’t shrink fibroids, these can be key in preventing further growth. So let’s have a chat about:
Fibroids, Nutrition & Lifestyle: Where to Begin?
Buy Organic where Possible.
Not only are these foods more nutrient-dense but they also contain fewer harmful substances that may interfere with oestrogen detoxification.
Aim for Reducing Alcohol Intake.
Amongst other things, not only does alcohol cause blood sugar to go out of whack but it also impairs the liver’s ability to detoxify oestrogen.
Zap the Xenoestrogens.
These are ‘foreign’ oestrogen-like chemicals particularly from pesticides or plastics. They’re stored in body fat and affect men & women differently. So, steering away from plastic bottles, containers & cling wrap is a great start (and the environment thinks so too!). And please, don’t heat these in the microwave either.
Factor in Phytonutrients.
We’re talking nuts, flax seeds and high quality soy. These reduce oestrogen stimulation of the uterus lining by competing with your body’s oestrogen.
Phytonutrient supplements include Diindolylmethane (DIM) from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage & kale. DIM works by promoting the conjugation and detoxification of oestrogen. Indole-3-carbinol is a similar supplement. Calcium d-glucarate – which plays a role in oestrogen detoxification by binding to oestrogen in the liver – is another great phytonutrient supplement to consider.
Give it Some Time.
Achieving any health goal requires effort, a whole heap of love for yourself and time. This ain’t some Tinkerbell approach where everything magically disappears overnight. Appreciate that from the get go. And view it as a marvellous opportunity to figure out how best to give your lady landscape some loving – sometimes a combination of the above (conventional & natural) is what’s required. But if you need some support along the way? My door is open – let’s chat.