I’ve had several clients lately that were really suffering as a result of fibroids. I feel for them because I’ve been there: I started having issues with fibroids in my late thirties, and despite multiple surgeries, they kept coming back until all hell broke loose a decade later… but that’s a story for another time.
More than 70% of women have fibroids at some point, and most won’t even know they are there – they are generally benign and don’t do much of anything. But for those of us that do notice their presence, fibroids can be quite problematic - they can grow pretty dramatically at midlife (especially during perimenopause) when hormonal fluctuations lead to an estrogen dominance, and cause heavy bleeding, clotting, cramps, pelvic pain and pressure, abdominal distension, frequent urination, constipation/bowel problems, and pain during sex.
Research has shown that both estrogen and progesterone promote fibroid growth, which is why birth control use seems to be a factor. The good news is that for most women, as they transition into menopause and their hormones even out, the fibroids shrink on their own.
If you’re not so lucky and fibroids are giving you problems, here are some things to think about:
This is not the time to be using HRT – since estrogen and progesterone seem to cause proliferation of fibroids, adding any extra hormones is not a good idea.
To deal with too much estrogen in your system, phytoestrogens from soy, flaxseeds, berries, and cruciferous vegetables can be a lifesaver - these compounds are “smart” in that they mimic estrogen when you are too low, and block the absorption of circulating estrogen when you’ve already got enough.
DIM and I-3-C, derived from cruciferous vegetables, is a supplement you’ll want to add, as it helps your body to metabolize estrogen and balance hormones.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with larger fibroids – supplementing has shown in laboratory studies to reduce fibroid size by 75%.
Elevated levels of cortisol and hypertension are both associated with fibroid growth, so get that blood pressure down and manage your stress. Get lots of nitric oxide (beets, walnuts, spinach) to open up those arteries, and consider supplementing DHEA if you find your cortisol is still too high.
Last, fibroids are connected to the sacral chakra – having to do with relationships, creativity, sexuality, and self-sabotaging behaviors that prevent you from achieving your dreams. This is the time of life when these issues really come to the forefront, so take the time to ask your body what it is trying to tell you. What areas of your life are calling out to be examined or healed?
If you have fibroids that are causing discomfort or pain, by all means see a doctor! Sometimes the best course of action is to get them out – in the meantime, try some of these natural approaches, and see if they don’t just disappear all on their own.
P.S. I’ve written before about the prevalence of unnecessary hysterectomies – this procedure is quite commonly used as the default treatment for fibroids, the line of reasoning being “you don’t need your uterus anymore, it’s got fibroids in/on it, might as well take out the whole thing.” In rare cases that might be necessary, but more often than not it is just lazy medicine, akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. (Awkward analogy, but it’s all I could think of.) If this is the course of action prescribed for you, please talk to your healthcare practitioner, and then another one, and maybe even one more to make sure this is really necessary before you go under the knife - it is usually possible to remove the fibroids and still preserve the uterus and/or ovaries. Do your research and ask lots of questions - there are multiple surgical options available.