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Conventional treatment for fibroids includes hormones and hysterectomies, but thankfully there are natural alternatives.

Also known as uterine myomas or fibromyomas, fibroids are non-cancerous growths of muscle and fibrous tissue in and around the womb, and are linked to oestrogen production. They vary from pea-sized to as large as an eight month-old foetus. Weight is a contributing factor, due to excess oestrogen produced in overweight women. An estimated 25 percent of women aged 30 and over will suffer from fibroids.

“Women with fibroids can experience many symptoms,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of The Natural Health Bible for Women. “Heavy menstrual flow can cause clotting, and excess blood loss each month can lead to anaemia. Depending on the fibroids’ position, they may affect fertility and cause pain during intercourse. When fibroids are pressed against the bladder this can cause frequent urination; or, if closer to the bowel, constipation. Sufferers often describe a feeling of pressure or dragging, and their abdomen can look as though they are in the early stages of pregnancy.”

Food remedies

“Dietary changes are a great starting point,” says Eliza Blackwood, naturopath and nutritional therapist at CBD Natural Health. “Fibroids are oestrogen-dependent, so naturopathic treatment focuses on modulating oestrogen, hormones, and inflammatory factors. We recommend foods high in hormone-balancing phytoestrogens, like soy products, chickpeas, lentils, linseeds, and legumes. Phytoestrogenic foods help stop excess oestrogen circulating, preventing it from contributing to fibroid growth. Also, eat more good oils, via fish, extra virgin olive oil, and raw nuts and seeds.”

Vegetables help to lower oestrogen levels: eat more that are high in carotenoids, like carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens, plus foods high in B vitamins, such as wholegrains, to regulate oestrogen levels. Fruits, veg and wholegrains also provide quality fibre, which lowers oestrogen by ensuring your bowel functions properly. Omega-3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, flaxseed, and walnuts - minimise the more aggressive uterine cramps sufferers may experience. Refined and processed foods, saturated fat, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol and smoking all cause inflammation, which aggravates symptoms.

Herbal helpers

“We utilise very specific herbal medicine to astringe and tone the uterus, such as lady’s mantle, shepherd’s purse, horsetail, plus hormone balancers like peony. Plus, you may be recommended to take a quality iron supplement, as anaemia is common with heavy bleeding,” says Blackwood. Dr Glenville recommends milk thistle to improve liver detoxification, which assists with hormone-balancing and excess oestrogen excretion.

Therapies to try

* Yoga, Pilates and tai chi increase blood circulation to the pelvic area, alleviating symptoms.
* Regular aromatherapy massage using ginger and marjoram oils reduces cramps and aids hormone balance. Marty Ryan, from Love Your Gut Seminars adds, “Belly massage changes anxiety and relaxes the belly wall and pelvic floor muscles, creating better blood and lymph flow to pelvic organs and mobilising the structures that hold the uterus in place. This also decreases pain.”
* In Chinese medicine, fibroids are considered to be caused by stagnant blood forming masses in and around the womb. Acupuncture improves circulation of qi and blood in the area, relieving pain and bleeding, and reducing fibroid size.
* The Aviva Method is based on simple exercises that influence the female hormonal system and reproductive organs. Teacher Kitty Papp says she would love more women to learn it, before opting for hormone medication or surgery. “The Aviva Method not only relieves symptoms, it deals with underlying causes, including poor pelvic circulation and hormone imbalance, and regulates hormone production; as balance is restored, fibroids shrink and gradually diminish. The movements give significant relief to severe abdominal pain and heavy bleeding.” (http://www.avivamethod.com.au/)