Natural help for uterine fibroids
By Susun Weed
Uterine fibroids are solid muscle tissue growths in the uterus. They are also called fibroid tumors, myomas or leiomyomas. Fibroids occur so frequently (in up to half of all women over 40) that they could be considered a normal irregularity. The occasional fibroid can become enormous -- medical literature reports one that was 100 pounds! -- but the majority (80 percent) remain as small as a walnut.
Fibroids are the number one reason American women have hysterectomies. The causes of uterine fibroids are unknown, but estrogens and especially estradiol promote their growth. After menopause, fibroids disappear. But because estrogen levels can rise during the early menopausal years, previously asymptomatic fibroids may grow in the years just before the cessation of menses, resulting in symptoms such as a feeling of heaviness in the belly, low back pain, pain with vaginal penetration, urinary frequency or incontinence, bowel difficulties or severe menstrual pain and flooding. Women of color are three to nine times more likely to have fibroids than white women, and theirs grow more quickly.
Fibroid tumors are not cancer and not malignant. A tumor means a swelling or a growth and not a malignancy or cancer. Less than 0.1% of all uterine fibroids are malignant. Small fibroids often disappear spontaneously. Larger fibroids are more difficult to resolve but not impossible to control with natural measures.
Natural strategies for managing fibroids
The “root chakra” (the lowermost energy center in the body, including the uterus) is said to store unexpressed anger. It is believed that unwanted growths in these organs can be countered by allowing anger to discharge safely.
One woman’s fibroids and menstrual cramps disappeared within three months of beginning a vigorous exercise program. Exercise helps ensure regular ovulation, and irregular ovulation seems to worsen fibroids.
Consuming three or more servings of whole grains or beans daily not only reduces the size of fibroids but offers protection from breast and endometrial cancers as well.
Red clover flowers (trifolium pratense) are one of my favorite infusions, but their use during the menopausal years may increase difficulty with fibroids.
Strengthening the liver with herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle seed or yellow dock root helps it metabolize estrogen out of the body, thus reducing fibroids.
Vitex or chasteberry tincture (25 to 30 drops, two to four times daily) often shrinks small fibroids within two months. But results come from long-term use -- up to two years.
Ask someone to burn moxa over the area of the fibroid while you envision the heat releasing the treasures in your uterus. What is locked up in this fibroid? What can you give birth to?
Acupuncture treatments can shrink fibroids.
Poke root (phytolacca americana) used internally as a tincture (1 to 10 drops per day; start with less) and externally as a belly rub oil has gained a reputation as a profound helper in relieving pain and distresses from fibroids. Caution: Poke is considered poisonous and is not often found for sale. This is one remedy you may have to make yourself to try.
Warm castor oil packs on the belly or ginger compresses (soak a towel in hot ginger water) relieve pain and help shrink the fibroids.
Other ways of handling fibroids
The use of progesterone to treat women with uterine fibroids is hotly debated. One side holds that fibroids are created by lack of progesterone. The other side makes, to my mind, the better case: that progesterone increases fibroids. Evidence? Fibroids increase in size during pregnancy when progesterone production is high and atrophy after menopause when progesterone levels decrease. Whichever side is right, eating more whole grains and beans usually changes estrogen/progesterone ratios for the better and shrinks fibroids.
Reduce fibroids by reducing your exposure to estrogen. Avoid birth control pills, estrogen replacement/hormone replacement therapy and estrogen-mimicking residues from herbicides and pesticides used on food crops (eat organically-raised products). Tampons that are bleached with chlorine may mimic the bad effects of estrogen, too.
Lupron (leuprolide acetate), a drug which induces “artificial menopause” by shutting down the body's production of estradiol, causes a significant decrease in fibroid size within eight to 12 weeks. However, fibroids do re-grow to about 90 percent of their original size when the drug is withdrawn.
Major advances have been made in surgical treatments for women with fibroids. There are many options now besides hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), including hysteroscopic resection, uterine embolization, myomectomy and suprecervical hysterectomy. Since these are fairly new procedures, take the time to find a surgeon who is skilled in the procedures.
A hysterectomy can be a life-saving procedure, but by the age of 60, more than one-third of American women will have given up their wombs to surgeons. The presence of non-symptomatic fibroids is never sufficient reason, to my mind, for a hysterectomy. Of my students and apprentices who have had hysterectomies because of fibroids, those who “did their homework” -- that is, who helped themselves before and after their surgery with all the tools at their disposal -- seemed to fare much better than those who did not.
With very few exceptions, no woman is healthier without her ovaries. So even if you elect a hysterectomy, keep your ovaries.
These Wise Woman ways are arranged in order of risk: the safest first, the most dangerous last. If you have a uterine fibroid that is causing a problem, begin with the mildest remedies first. Set a time limit for your use of any remedy, but except in an emergency, don't go on to stronger remedies until you are sure the safer ones aren't effective for you. As with any advice, you are the best judge of what works for you.
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Susun Weed has been living the simple life for more than 30 years as an herbalist, goat keeper, author, homesteader and feminist. See Susun's complete Wise Women Herbal Series books. Visit www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com.