What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in or around the womb. They are one of the most common gynecological problems, affecting as many as 1 in 3 women of childbearing age. They can vary from the size of a pea to that of a grapefruit or a small melon.
Uterine fibroids do not always cause symptoms and some women are only diagnosed during a routine scan. However, when they do cause symptoms, they can cause both inconvenience and pain. Some of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Heavy or painful periods
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Low back pain
- Needing to pass water more frequently
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Reduced fertility
- Increased risk of complications during pregnancy or labor
It is unclear exactly what causes uterine fibroids, but they are thought to be linked to an imbalance in estrogen levels as they usually occur during a woman's reproductive years and disappear naturally after menopause.
They are also more common in women who are overweight or have high blood pressure, and African Americans are more likely to suffer from uterine fibroids than women of other ethnicities.
Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids often go away naturally by themselves over time, and it is not always necessary to treat them unless they are causing symptoms.
One of the most common treatments is progesterone. This is a female reproductive hormone and can be taken orally, given as an injection or an intrauterine device (IUD) . Progesterone thins the lining of your womb so that your periods become much lighter or stop altogether. However, it can cause side effects including:
- Irregular bleeding
- Breast tenderness
Another common medication is a drug called tranexamic acid (Lysteda). This stops the small blood vessels in the womb lining from bleeding and can make periods much lighter. It is only taken during your period but must be taken three times every day. Side effects include:
- Increased risk of blood clots
Another option for treating fibroids is using a gonadotrophin hormone releasing agonist (GnRHa). These shrink fibroids by affecting hormonal levels. They can cause menopausal symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Muscle stiffness
- Vaginal dryness
In severe cases of uterine fibroids, surgery may be necessary. This could be to remove individual fibroids or a complete hysterectomy.
Ablation is a surgical procedure in which the womb lining is burned away using heat or lasers. This helps to reduce menstrual bleeding but is only suitable for small fibroids inside the womb and can cause complications.
Ways to Help Shrink Fibroids Naturally
There are also many ways to help shrink fibroids naturally. These include dietary and lifestyle changes and therapies such as acupuncture.
Avoid eating foods which cause weight gain and increase inflammation such as processed meats and fried food, refined sugars and carbohydrates, alcohol and caffeine. Stick to organic meat and dairy products to avoid hormones and other additives which can upset your hormonal balance.
Eat more whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of the best vegetables are leafy greens as these not only have an anti-inflammatory effects but also contain vitamin K which helps to control bleeding. Flax seeds are are good source of omega 3 fatty acids and can help to regulate estrogen levels.
Eat plenty of iron-rich foods to replace what you lose during heavy bleeding and avoid anemia. These include organic, grass-fed beef, eggs, leafy green vegetables and black beans. Having some foods high in vitamin C at the same time can help your body to absorb iron more easily.
Exercise is another important way to keep your weight under control and reduce inflammation. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, several times a week for the best effects.
Acupuncture for Uterine Fibroids
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy which involves placing fine needles at specific points on the body to maintain health and treat disease. In recent years it has grown in popularity for the treatment of gynecological conditions such as uterine fibroids. Acupuncture for uterine fibroids works in a number of different ways:
- Reduces inflammation and pain
- Regulates hormonal levels
- Supports fertility and healthy pregnancy
Acupuncture is a safe and natural way to reduce the symptoms of uterine fibroids. It can be used alone or alongside conventional treatments to relieve pain, restore hormonal balance and maintain optimal gynecological health.