Fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the muscular wall of the uterus. Fibroids can be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit. The body's level of the estrogen hormone seems to play a role in the condition as fibroids tend to grow during pregnancy and shrink after menopause.
Several alternative therapies offer ways to reduce estrogen levels naturally. The hope is to forestall or eliminate the need for a hysterectomy.
Mind/Body Medicine for Uterine Fibroids
For women with fibroids, mind/body medicine focuses on significantly reducing stress. This is vital because stress can interrupt the development and release of eggs (a process called ovulation). When this process doesn't happen, the body's level of estrogen remains unnecessarily high, precipitating fibroid development. Mind/body medicine offers many therapies that teach relaxation and how to lower stress levels, including:
- forms of guided imagery and creative visualization
- yoga (including breathing exercises and stretches)
- dance therapy
Here's an example of a relaxation breathing exercise that would be part of a guided imagery regimen:
- Wearing loose clothing, lie down or sit in a comfortable chair.
- Slowly close your eyes. Begin breathing deeply and slowly.
- When exhaling, imagine tension effortlessly flowing out of your body with each breath.
- As you inhale, picture yourself filling your body with fresh air and energy.
- Continue the slow, deep breathing for as long as you are comfortable.
Hydrotherapy for Uterine Fibroids
Hydrotherapy directed at the lower abdomen can stimulate blood circulation, which delivers nutrients and other beneficial substances to the cells and cleans away waste products. These treatments can also provide pain relief. Castor oil, made from the leaves of the castor oil plant, is commonly applied to the lower abdomen as a warm pack.
The cold-pressed oil contains a substance that boosts the action of cells important to the immune system. Alternating hot and cold sitz baths can also be effective.
Nutritional Therapy for Uterine Fibroids
According to nutritional therapy, diet and supplements can stabilize or even lower the levels of estrogen in the body. As estrogen amounts drop, existing fibroids should shrink and new ones can be prevented. Diet and supplements may also reduce some of the symptoms of fibroids.
One of the liver's roles in the body is to break down estrogens. Therefore, the diet should allow the liver to do its work and not include foods that can tax this organ. These taxing foods to be avoided include:
- dairy products
In addition, meat and dairy products can be a source of hormones (including estrogen) from livestock. Because they are also high in fat and estrogen is stored in fat cells, these foods may cause additional problems for women with fibroids. Instead, focus on eating fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and raw seeds. These steps should also result in a diet that's high in fiber and low in fat.
The B vitamins also aid the liver and are recommended. They can be added in the form of whole foods (such as lentils, rice bran, and blackstrap molasses) or supplements. Vitamin B6, in particular, enhances the breakdown and removal of estrogen from the body.
Natural plant estrogens, called phytoestrogens, can actually compete with human estrogen in the body, resulting in an overall lower level of estrogen. Soybeans are a good food source of this substance and can be used as a whole cooked bean or in its other forms, including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.
Researchers have linked heavy menstrual bleeding with low levels of vitamin A in the blood. One study gave women doses of vitamin A for 15 days, after which time menstrual bleeding was reduced in about 90 percent of the patients. To achieve proper levels of vitamin A in the body, most practitioners of nutritional therapy recommend eating foods rich in beta-carotene (such as carrots and sweet potatoes) or taking beta-carotene supplements. A naturopathic physician may recommend a program of several supplements to normalize estrogen levels, including B vitamins; vitamin E; beta-carotene; cysteine, methionine, choline, inositol (to help the liver metabolize estrogen and other substances more efficiently); and iron (if the fibroids cause heavy menstrual bleeding and anemia). Dietary recommendations include adopting a low-fat, high-fiber diet and avoiding meat, dairy products, eggs, refined sugar, and caffeine.
Other Therapies for Uterine Fibroids
- Acupressure for Uterine Fibroids -- Points along the liver and spleen channels are often targeted for symptom relief.
- Herbal Medicine for Uterine Fibroids -- Some herbs that can ease the symptoms of fibroids are blue cohosh, dong quai, and wild cherry.
- Homeopathy for Uterine Fibroids -- Remedies for short-term relief of symptoms can be very effective, but a careful diagnosis by a professional is necessary to tailor a long-term remedy for fibroids.
- Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Uterine Fibroids -- Several types of treatments can remove toxins and prevent certain organs (such as the liver) from being overworked. These therapies can also alleviate constipation and hemorrhoids related to fibroids.