Uterine Fibroids: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Support Strategies
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumor growths in or on the muscular wall of the womb that can cause morbidity for women, including menorrhagia, abdominal pain, pelvic prolapse, and infertility and miscarriage. Understanding the role of estrogen in fibroids is not only important for understanding the anatomy of fibroids but also for the development of successful therapeutics.
Current research has shown that fibroid tumors are a symptom of estrogen dominance and can be prevented or even reversed through a healthy lifestyle (1, 2, 3). In this article, you will discover 12 natural support strategies to help improve your hormone balance and help your body function better.
Even though most fibroids are asymptomatic, they are still the most common reason for hysterectomy. Fibroids are easiest to treat when they are small but they are also very hard to detect at this stage.
Very small fibroids rarely produce any symptoms and most do not know they have them. As uterine fibroids grow larger they cause menstrual bleeding to increase. This can become very painful especially during menstruation. Eventually, they can press on surrounding organs like the bladder and kidneys. This can become very serious and may require surgery.
Fibroids Cause Major Health Problems:
It is estimated that 60% of reproductive-aged women are affected, and 80% of women develop the disease during their lifetime. Several genetic, hormonal, and biological factors have been shown to contribute to the development and growth of fibroid tumors. Of these factors, estrogen is particularly critical since fibroids are considered estrogen dependent because no prepubertal cases have been described in the literature and tumors tend to regress after menopause.
Depending on the severity of the fibroids many doctors can remove only the fibroids and keep the uterus intact. This does not always solve the problem. About half of the women who keep their uteruses find that their fibroids grow back. Fibroids are responsible for about one-third of all hysterectomies (4, 5).
Risk Factors For Uterine Fibroids
As in the case with endometriosis, an impaired or sluggish liver, blood sugar imbalance, chronic inflammation, hormone imbalance, and toxins appear to be major contributing factors in the development of uterine fibroids.
Women with uterine fibroids are often estrogen dominant and have low progesterone levels (6). Stabilizing estrogen/progesterone levels can cause fibroids to shrink and dissolve all together. This is likely due to progesterone’s ability to help speed up the clearance of estrogens from tissue.
Major Causes of Estrogen Dominance:
The major cause of estrogen dominance in our current society comes from the overuse of chemicals & preservatives. An endocrine-disrupting compound was defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “an exogenous agent that interferes with synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding action, or elimination of natural blood-borne hormones that are present in the body and are responsible for homeostasis, reproduction, and developmental process.”
Xenoestrogens and Uterine Fibroids
Interference with these natural biological processes due to xenoestrogens can predispose women to infertility, ectopic gestation, poor pregnancy outcomes, and other reproductive disorders that may be programmed during development (e.g., endometriosis, uterine fibroids). Liver congestion is another major cause for estrogen metabolites to be recirculated in the body rather than being excreted as a waste product. (9)
Xenoestrogens mimic the effects of true estrogen and interact with cellular receptor sites. This process contributes to estrogen excess and blocks the effects of true estrogen. To make matters worse, these endocrine disruptors lodge in fat cells where they are resistant to breakdown (10, 11).
Many of these chemicals will act in a synergistic effect when combined with other endocrine disrupters. This synergistic process exponentially enhances their effects within the body causing major problems at the cellular level.
Most Common Sources of Xenoestrogens:
Commercially-Raised Animal Products:
These include CAFOs (conventional raised cattle), dairy cows, chickens that are not pasture raised, and really just about any conventionally raised animal. Always look for USDA Organic labeling and pasture raised chickens, etc.
Plastics & Canned Goods (many have plastic lining)
Many canned goods are lined with BPA (Bisphenol A – a very well known and recognized plus ubiquitous endocrine disruptor) and we even need to be cognizant of what other lining they use as an alternative to BPA on products labeled as “BPA Free” as these are not regulated and could pose undesired harm as well and be potentially worse than BPA itself!
Personal Care Products (makeup, lotion, & perfumes)
I know we all want to feel soft, smell nice, and look pretty, especially women. Many personal care products are laden with endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals that can be deleterious to our health from constant exposure.
Oral contraceptive use is as common these days as changing diapers on a baby. Women pop these pills left and right for different reasons. Whether birth control or hormone manipulation, these pills come with some not so attractive side effects. Oral contraceptives that contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies in vitamins B6, B12, and folate.
These are very critical nutrients, that when depleted, will disrupt methylation, DNA synthesis, and neurological function. In other words, resulting in depression, anemia, and poor cognitive function (brain fog, impaired memory). However, a deficiency in one can certainly alter the function of another. (12,)
Over the counter drugs and prescription medications obviously pose a danger to the populace. With the opioid epidemic to over-prescribed anti-depressants, anti-biotics, and sleep aids, these drugs have life altering effects for the individual.
For example, PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) such as Nexium, Prilosec OTC, etc. have detrimental effects on the gut microbiota due to gastric acid suppression leading to unwanted overgrowths of pathogens like helicobactor pylori, clostridia and contribute to many other undesired effects on human health mediated through alteration of the gastrointestinal microbiome. (13)
Food Additives & Preservatives
There are many studies indicating that food additives and preservatives will induce asthma, eczema, liver toxicity, ADD/ADHD, leaky gut, and disruption of digestive enzymes. Many children with behavioral disorders like ADD show reactions to Red 40 and when this substance is removed mood and behavior is greatly improved.(14)
In Styrofoam and PS (polystyrene) cups studies, hot water was found to be contaminated with styrene and other aromatic compounds. It was observed that temperature played a major role in the leaching of styrene monomer from Styrofoam cups. Paper cups were found to be safer for hot drinks.
I personally use a Berkey countertop water filter device with fluoride filters added. I also re-use my Mountain Valley glass bottles to refill and take with me wherever I go. Bring in your own stainless steel cups to Starbucks rather than using their plastic cups. The heat from your java will create steam on the underside of your plastic lid and drip down into your drink allowing for a constant BPA exposure! (15)
Laundry & Dishwashing Detergents
The environmental working group has an exhaustive list of products that are rated from a grade of A to F. They list the potential dangers of harmful ingredients that their team researches and they publish this. Many modern laundry detergents are loaded with endocrine disrupting chemicals that will interfere with the body’s systems. (16)
Household Cleaners & Air Fresheners
Perfumes/colognes, air fresheners, and dryer sheets to name a few are well studied and known to induce asthma as well as endocrine disruption. From the fragrances you hang in your car, plug into your wall, to the Windex or antiseptic wipes for your countertops all contain BPAs, parabens, phthalates, triclosan and other harmful compounds.
This could be one of the reasons you have weight-loss resistance, thyroid dysfunction and/or respiratory problems! Some phthalates inhibit testosterone synthesis and antimicrobials such as triclosan suppress thyroid hormone and are estrogenic. The labeling terms “natural,” “nontoxic,” and “green” are unregulated and require no standardized ingredient information.
In a recent study researchers found that the VOC composition of “green”-labeled fragranced products was not significantly different from that of other fragranced products with regard to number of hazardous chemicals as defined under U.S. federal laws. (17)
Pesticides and Herbicides
Residues of pesticides can be found in a great variety of everyday foods and beverages, including for instance cooked meals, water, wine, fruit juices, refreshments, and animal feeds. Pesticides residues have also been detected in human breast milk samples, and there are concerns about prenatal exposure and health effects in children.
Minimize Xenoestrogen Exposure:
To prevent or eliminate fibroid tumors it is essential that a woman minimize her exposure to xenoestrogens. Additionally, she must reduce her intake of sugar, caffeine, vegetable oil, hydrogenated oil, alcohol, & prescription/OTC medications which all have powerful estrogenic effects.
Elevated stress must be dealt with since it wears out the adrenals and leads to impaired production of progesterone. The individual should be focusing on good sleep, relaxation techniques and lots of deep breathing as these all help to balance hormonal function.
Hormone Balancing Diet:
To effectively stabilize estrogen/progesterone levels one should consume a diet rich in vegetables of all kinds, sprouts, berries, grapefruits, free-range & grass-fed meats, coconut, avocado, & lemon, & extra-virgin olive oil. This diet should be low carbohydrate, moderate protein and moderate fat.
This will stabilize the blood sugar and help the body burn through fat stores and detoxify estrogen more effectively. Cruciferous vegetables are preferred due to their high content of indole-3-carbonyl and sulforaphane which powerfully enhances estrogen metabolism and detoxification (20).
Cleanse the Liver and Boost Omegas:
Liver cleansing herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion, & turmeric should be used daily to support estrogen metabolism and detoxification. Drink a gallon of clean water with fresh squeezed lemon daily to boost anti-oxidants and remove wastes from the body.
It is critical to take a high quality omega 3 supplement with over 1.5 grams per serving of EPA & DHA. It is also great to use curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Taking liposomal glutathione to support anti-oxidant stores is especially important. The Pro Omega CRP combines omega 3’s with liposomal curcumin, glutathione and N-Acetyl Cysteine for a powerful hormone supporting blend.
It is possible to improve hormone levels with natural support strategies and this may improve uterine fibroids. This is not an exhaustive list but it is a great start for someone looking to do this. It is important to note that these strategies are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure uterine fibroids and should not be confused as such.
Remember that each individual is different and some of these strategies will make a bigger impact than others depending upon your unique circumstances. I always advise working with a functional health clinician in order to get a customized plan based around your unique health challenges.
1. Minimize the Usage of Endocrine Disruptors: Get off all oral contraceptives, hormone creams, and hormone based prescription medications, etc. You should consult your doctor about this and weaning stages may be necessary. This also includes plastics, personal hygiene products, makeups, etc.
2. Drink Hydrating Fluids: Be sure to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water daily. Adding lemon/lime or apple cider vinegar to your water enhances the detoxifying effects.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Keep grains, sugars, bad fats and commercialized meat out of your diet. Load up on non-starchy veggies, low-glycemic fruit (lemons/limes, grapefruit, berries, granny smith apples), organic meat, good fats (coconut, grass-fed butter/ghee, olives, olive oil and avocados). Use herbs in abundance and fermented foods and tonics like apple cider vinegar
4. Practice Intermittent Fasting: Doing a liquid fast for 16-24 hrs daily or even just a few days a week can be an incredible practice to improve detoxification pathways. I personally enjoy doing 16-18 hour fasts daily where I eat my meals between a 6-8 hour eating window (12-7pm for example).
Outside of meal times I drink plenty of water, greens powders or green juices sometimes and herbal teas. For more info on intemittent fasting read this article
5. Use Di-Indole Methane (DIM): DIM is an extract from broccoli sprouts that helps the body to neutralize reactive estrogen metabolites (4 hydroxy and 16 hydroxy estrone and estradiol) and influences the production of non-reactive estrogen production.
I recommend 300-600mg daily of Estro-Protect which is a great DIM formula for my clients that have estrogen dominance.
6. Regular Exercise: Moving your body improves your respiration and perspiration outlets. It also helps mobilize body fat stores where many toxins reside and gets these toxins into our circulation. I recommend doing a lot of low-intensity movement each day such as walking, light bicycle riding, dancing, recreational sports, etc.
I recommend doing high-intensity strength training several times per week in the form of resistance training and surge training.
7. Juice Greens or Use Greens Powders: Juicing greens provides a tremendous amount of chlorophyll and phytonutrients that enhance the detoxification process. To learn more about proper juicing strategies read this article. I also recommend using greens powders such as Organic Supergreens here
8. Use Essential Oils: Using an essential oil diffuser in your home and applying essential oils can be of great benefit for detoxification.
9. Practice Oil Pulling: This is an outstanding way to remove microbial debris from the body on a regular basis. Read this article for more info on oil pulling.
10. Improve Your Gut Motility: Improving bowel movement frequency and consistency is a key detoxification concept. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet with good fiber sources such as chia seed and flax seed, using bone broths, fermented foods and probiotics will improve bowel motility.
11. Use an InfraRed Sauna: Fantastic way to boost your detoxification processes. Read this article on Sauna usage.
12. Use a High Quality Detoxification System: Using this system with help you sweep out the toxins you are exposed too on a daily basis. This is not a harsh colon cleanse that leaves you on the toilet all day, but instead it promotes a gentle and comfortable detoxification process that will not interfere with your daily life.
Within days most people notice they have improved energy, less pain, mental clarity, improved complexion and they sleep deeper. I have seen fantastic health results both personally and professionally using this system.