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Unraveling the Mystery of Fibroids: Discovering Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated: May 1, 2023

What Are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are a widespread health issue, affecting more than 11 million women each year, with women of color ebing at greater risk. However, the actual number of women impacted is likely higher since many individuals do not exhibit symptoms.


Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus. They can be single or multiple, and they're usually benign (not cancerous). Fibroids can be as small as a pea or larger than a grapefruit, depending on their location within your uterus.

The most common type of fibroid is called "subserosal," which means it's located just under the outside layer of your womb (uterus). If you have this type of fibroid, it may cause pain during intercourse or even exercise.

Another type is called "intramural," meaning it grows inside your muscular wall instead of outside like subserosal ones do. This can make them harder to detect on an ultrasound scan until they're quite large (usually over 2 inches across). Intramural fibroids tend not to cause symptoms unless they become very large and press against other organs such as the intestines or bladder. If this happens then symptoms might include nausea/vomiting after eating spicy foods due to digestive issues caused by pressure on nearby organs.


Causes of Fibroids

Several factors can increase a woman's risk of developing uterine fibroids, including age, hormone imbalances, race, obesity, family history of uterine fibroids, high blood pressure, early onset of menstruation (getting your period at a young age), vitamin D deficiency, and having a diet higher in red meat and lower in green vegetables, and fruit, as well as drinking alcohol, including beer. Studies suggest that genetics and prolonged exposure to high levels of estrogen may also increase the risk of developing fibroids. Black women are especially burdened by fibroids.


Hormone imbalances, particularly estrogen, and progesterone appear to promote the growth of uterine fibroids. Increased levels of estrogen, paired with low progesterone cause the smooth muscle cells in your uterus to grow rapidly, resulting in the growth of fibroids.


Also, according to a study published on Patient.info, women who have used chemical hair relaxers are 17% more likely to develop fibroids than those who have never used them. Additionally, women who have used hair relaxers for 10 years or more have an increased risk of fibroids with the frequency of use per year. These findings suggest that there is an association between hair relaxer use and fibroid risk.

If you have a family history of fibroids or other reproductive disorders such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), then it's likely that you may be genetically predisposed towards developing them yourself. However, this does not mean that all women with these conditions will develop them either! If you're worried about whether or not genetics could play a role in your chances of getting fibroids one day--don't be! There are many other factors involved besides what was passed down from your parent's side.


Diagnosing Fibroids

If it is suspected that you have fibroids, your doctor will likely recommend that you have an ultrasound. This is a painless test that uses sound waves to create images of the uterus and its contents. Ultrasounds are useful in determining the size and location of fibroids as well as their characteristics (solid or cystic).

Ultrasounds may also be used to guide other diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic fields and radio waves instead of sound waves to create detailed images of organs inside the body; hysteroscopy (a type of endoscopy), which allows doctors to see inside the uterus using an instrument called a hysteroscope; or hysterotomy--a surgical procedure performed through an incision made just above where the vagina meets the pubic bone.


Symptoms & Complications of Fibroids

Fibroids can cause a number of symptoms and complications that include:

  • Heavy bleeding: This is one of the most common symptoms of fibroids, especially in women who have not yet reached menopause.

  • Pelvic pain: It's also not uncommon for women with fibroids to experience pelvic pain, which may be mild or severe.

  • Frequent urination: If you feel like you have to go more often than usual when you urinate (especially at night), it could be due to a buildup of fluid caused by your fibroid tumors pressing on nearby organs like your bladder.

  • Infertility: Fibroids can interfere with ovulation and implantation, making it difficult for you to get pregnant.

  • Miscarriage: If you do become pregnant, your fibroid may grow larger or cause bleeding that could lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.

  • Painful Intercourse: The pressure from your fibroid can make sex uncomfortable or painful.


Common Treatment Options for Fibroids

Common treatment options for fibroids include medication, uterine artery embolization (UAE), and hysterectomy. Medication is not a permanent solution but can be used to manage symptoms until your condition improves or surgery can be performed. UAE is an outpatient procedure that uses small particles to block the blood supply to your fibroid(s). This causes them to shrink in size over time as they naturally reabsorb into your body.


Hysterectomy involves removing your uterus altogether and can be done through laparoscopic surgery or traditional open abdominal surgery depending on the type of fibroid you have and its location within your body.


Alternative Treatments for Fibroids

Natural treatments that aim at supporting hormonal balance to reduce fibroid growth and alleviate associated symptoms include making certain lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, eating a diet high in green vegetables, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, lean meats such as chicken and turkey, legumes, citrus fruits, and foods with vitamin D. Prioritizing stress management and sleep is also recommended.


Also, there are several herbs that may help manage fibroids. Ginger and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation associated with fibroids. Red raspberry leaf is commonly considered a reproductive tonic and has been found to provide relief for PMS, cramps, and heavy menstrual bleeding due to a compound it contains called ferulic acid. Dandelion leaf is a diuretic, which may help reduce swelling associated with fibroids. Lady's mantle has also been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help relieve symptoms associated with fibroids.


When to See a Doctor

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it's time to see your doctor:

  • Unexplained bleeding or spotting between periods

  • Pelvic pain that is not related to your menstrual cycle

  • Urinary problems (such as frequent urination or difficulty emptying your bladder)

Takeaway

If you're experiencing fibroid symptoms, it's important to know that these tumors are common and treatable. Fibroids can be managed with a variety of treatments, including medication, surgery, or even natural remedies. If you have any questions about your health, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible and seek the assistance of a nutrition consultant and/or herbalist.



Hey! I'm Davina B. and I'm a Certified Nutrition Consultant, Herbalist and creator of Blissfully Balanced Tea Co. I specialize in women's hormone health and it's my passion to help women who struggle with symptoms of hormonal imbalances like difficulty losing weight, fatigue, sleeplessness, PCOS, PMS, painful periods, fibroids and thyroid issues feel vibrant and healthy through good nutrition, stress management, healthy mindset, movement, education, self-discovery, self care, and my unwavering support.


In 2016, I lost over 50 pounds and transformed my body, mind, and spirit. I balanced my hormones and no longer experience debilitating PMS, life-disrupting period pain, insomnia, migraines, and digestive issues. I am so happy that I feel more vibrant and healthy than ever and now I have the honor of helping other women do the same!


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Need a personalized nutrition plan? Click here to book a 45 Minute Nutrition Consultation with me! Includes a 7 Day personalized meal plan and recipe book with 35 scrumptious recipes, plus access to my Holistic Nutrition Fundamentals & Meal Planning Training Video!


I am not a medical doctor. I draw from my experience and training as a holistic nutrition consultant and herbalist. This is meant for informational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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