Here’s something you might not learn until you hit your mid-30s: there’s a little-talked about growth that happens to nearly 80% of white women and 90% of black women by the time they hit 50. That growth is made up of smooth muscle cells and fibrous tissue that likes to grow where estrogen goes, and can be ruthless.
What am I talking about? Why, the take-over-your-mentrual-cycle-and-your-life fibroid!
I knew basically nothing of fibroids until I felt a bulge one cycle when I couldn’t fit my diva cup all the way in. After those insanely frightening thoughts of cancer melted away post ultrasound results, I was left with diving into everything I could learn about the stalk-like fibroid.
First, it’s almost always NOT cancerous (less than 1 in 1,000 are), and many women will have them without knowing that they do (obviously, which the numbers I mentioned above, the majority of women will experience them).
But they can also get a bit out of control, causing symptoms such as frequent urination, excessive bleeding both during and in-between periods, anemia from the blood loss, painful sex, and discomfort in the rectum. I had the out-of-control periods and where mine was located, it pushed out my coccyx bone which my dance students jokingly referred to as my “growing tail.”
While allopathic medicine takes the approach of either using medications such as Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, which put you into a menopause-like state, or recommends surgeries such as a myomectomy or hysterectomy to remove the fibroids, these are extreme choices that not every woman would like to have to make.
My own personal journey with a laparoscopic myomectomy – which is when a surgeon makes small incisions on the belly to go in and remove the fibroid(s), leaving the uterus intact – turned into a nightmare when they unknowingly burned my intestines in three places. Two weeks later, I landed in the ER with sepsis, lost 40% of my colon along with 8in of small intestine, and ended up with an ostomy bag for 6.5 months due to this “simple” surgery.
Given my situation, I highly recommend women try to naturally work with their fibroids before choosing the surgical, or even “early-menopause” medication, routes. We know that fibroids thrive in an estrogen-dominant environment, so there are a few key things to focus on to support your body’s natural hormone balancing act:
1) Make sure your liver is supported.
One of the liver’s jobs is to detox extra estrogen and help move it out of your body. But your liver will always focus on what it immediately needs to break down, which includes things like alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and drugs (prescription or illegal). In this case, estrogen detox gets pushed to the back of the line, giving it a chance to recirculate through the body, causing higher estrogen levels than you probably would like.
Great ways to help your liver daily include eating plenty of beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, turnips, nuts, seeds, avocados, and liver (if you can!) to support Phase 1 detox, and green leafy vegetables, chicken, beef, liver (there it is again!), garlic, and rosemary to support Phase 2. Plenty of fiber helps Phase 3, which is what moves the extra estrogen out of your body via your stool.
Supportive nutrients for your liver include methionine, glutamine, taurine, and glycine, along with sulfur, molybdenum, and vitamin B12. My favorite liver-supporting supplement? Glutathione, otherwise known as the “master” antioxidant.
2) Work on your estrobolome.
What is this weird word I speak of? Perhaps the most fun word that one can say out loud! Besides the cool way it rolls off the tongue, it’s also a major part of hormonal balance in your body,particularly when it comes to estrogen.
You probably know a little something about your microbiome, or the bacteria that helps to break down and absorb food in the gut. Your estrobolome is essentially a subset of your microbiome, whose focus it is to break down and process estrogen. Just as your gut doesn’t function properly when bacteria levels are off, you can end up having too much estrogen circulating through your body if your estrobolome is off balance.
What’s a girl to do? Well, a few good places to start include:
- Use a quality probiotic daily (I prefer soil-based probiotics)
- Eat plenty of fiber, particularly foods that feed good bacteria such as Jerusalem artichoke, apples, flaxseeds (during the first half of your cycle), and root vegetables.
- Increase your consumption of vitamin A, vitamin D3, and Omega-3s, which all impact the composition of the microbiome.
- If you are currently on birth control pills, it might be time to consider an alternate form of birth control, as they have been shown to negatively impact the gut.
3) Stress Reduction.
You can eat the most pristine diet in the world, take all the herbs and supplements religiously, and stand on your head for 20 hours a day and still have fibroids if you don’t do the most important thing: reduce your stress.
I could easily write a book on how stress impacts your hormones, since it does in so many ways. But I’ll keep it relatively short and sweet here: stress impacts every one of your hormones, your thyroid, and your adrenals. Because they work in delicate concert with one another, added stress sends these energy centers into overdrive, which eventually lowers their function. That is why you often feel wired but tired, clear than full of brain fog, moody, and struggle with energy during long episodes of stress.
Everyone is different in their needs, but instituting daily calming practices will help you in ways small and large. A few options include a meditation or visualization practice, qi gong or tai chi, yoga, breath work, epsom salt baths, infrared saunas, and naps, which help to move you out of your sympathetic nervous system and into your rest-and-repair parasympathetic nervous system. Which will ultimately save your hormones!
4) Banish xenoestrogens (as much as possible!).
These little buggers have taken over our lives and wreck havoc on our hormones. What they are: chemical endocrine disruptors that come into our body via food, drink, what we put on our skin, drugs, and pollutants. They are found in things we use everyday: water bottles, makeup, hair care products, receipts, carpet, non-organic foods, over-the-counter pain relievers, and a multitude of other things.
These chemicals have the ability to mimic our hormones, specifically estrogen, binding to our estrogen receptors and creating estrogen dominance. Because they are harder for the body to break down, they are often stored in our fat cells.
Removing as many of these xenoestrogens as possible will help in fighting fibroids. Switching out beauty products that contain parabens, staying away from foods that have been sprayed with pesticides, drinking out of and storing food only in glass are all good places to begin. As mentioned above, supporting your liver will help with moving xenoestrogens out of the body, as well as sweating and good bowel movements.
5) Other supportive supplements and lifestyle options.
There are many other anecdotal healing options that women have noted worked for them when it comes to shrinking their fibroids. Very few of these are proven methods, but then again, there is little research into what can naturally aid in the diminishment of fibroids. Here are just a few ideas:
- Proteolytic enzymes, which are said to help break down the protein fibers in fibroids
- Herbs including vitex, black cohosh root, and red raspberry leaf, which are said to help by balancing hormones
- Castor Oil packs on the abdomen, which have anti-inflammatory properties and are soothing for the belly
- DIM and/or d-Calcium Glucarate, each of which help different phases of liver detox (and it’s a good idea to do a DUTCH test under the care of a knowledgable practitioner in order to find out which detox pathways your estrogens favor)
Both herbs and supplementation tend to work a whole lot better when they are targeted to your specific needs, and the best way to determine these is by working with a trained practitioner. Castor oil packs are generally safe for most people to use.
Although some women may eventually still need surgery for their fibroid if it grows too large, there are many natural methods we can take to help support our body in lessening fibroids along the way. It takes a holistic approach to shrink them, but in shifting the way you treat your body, you’ll positively impact your total health and wellbeing in ways you’ve probably never even dreamed of! It’s completely worth it.
About the Author
Christine Garvin, MA, NE, is a Whole Health Coach based in Asheville, NC. She weaves together her personal health journey – including a fibroid surgery that went terribly wrong – with her training in holistic health, nutrition, and hormones to help women heal their gut and achieve hormonal balance.
She sees clients all over the world via Zoom, and she offers self-guided healing programs at her website. Find out more at Christine Garvin: Front page.