Tumors in the uterus are called fibroids. One in four women will experience them during her childbearing years, most commonly in her 40’s. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink. African American women are at higher risk: 50% by the time they are 35 and 80% by age 50. Caucasians are not far behind with 40% having fibroids by the time they are age 35 and 70% by 50.

Diets high in beef, pork, and red meat have been associated with higher incidence of fibroids, while diets high in green leafy vegetables decrease the chance. Exercise can also decrease the risk. Women with fibroids can have symptoms before they realize there is a growth in their belly. Symptoms can include infertility, heavy or painful periods, abdominal swelling, increased urination, and pain in the belly whether with sex, compression of organs, or for no apparent reason. Family history of fibroids can increase a woman’s risk, as can polycystic ovarian syndrome. Obesity can also increase chances while having children and starting your period at a later age will decrease the chance; which all related to estrogen exposure.

Levels of estrogen are higher in the uterus when fibroids are present and the enzymes to break them down are lower. Estrogen encourages the fibroids to grow. For this reason, many doctors try progesterone oral contraceptives to treat fibroids, but progesterone receptors are often also increased in the uterus and can prevent the treatment from effectively shrinking the fibroids. Anti-progesterone drugs, however, have been shown to decrease the size of the tumors, and the Mirena IUD has some promising studies reporting decrease in size of myomas over 6-18 months. The research is inconclusive as to whether oral birth control can help or hinder the growth of fibroids.

There are several types of fibroids, classified by the layer of the uterus they are in. Many fibroids are small enough that they do not cause symptoms and do not need treatment, just monitoring every 6 months to make sure they are not growing. Other fibroids will need surgical removal because they press on body structures or blood vessels. Drugs such as Lupron, Donazol, and Gestrinone are used preoperatively to shrink fibroids before surgery and improve hospital recovery. Another option is cutting off the blood supply to the tumors that rely heavily on the trees of vessels they have created. This is not a good option for women who would still like to have children since it can affect the blood supply to the ovaries, too.

Naturopathy can offer treatments that help bring a woman back into balance. For example, often a hormone called sex binding globulin hormone can be low in women with fibroids, and ground flax seeds can increase the level of that hormone and help eliminate extra estrogen. Pelvic masses have been treated for centuries, so there are several botanical formulas that we can draw upon. Homeopathy and hydrotherapy can be effective, as well. Applying these treatments individually has been effective and combining these treatments can give needed hope to women with uncomfortable, protruding lumps in their bellies. Each woman has a different story and must be treated as such for the best outcome and prevention of reoccurrence or unnecessary complications.

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