Twice a month, Yahoo Health’s Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, HHC, is answering the most common questions about hormones and how they relate to weight, sex, acne, bad moods, low energy, and everything in between. Read her introductory column to learn more about Alisa’s approach to stopping hormonal chaos and getting into hormonal flow.
THE QUESTION: My doctor recently diagnosed me with uterine fibroids, and I don’t know what to do. It sounds like the only option to manage my symptoms is to go on the birth control pill, but I’d rather not do this. Is there anything else I can do to treat fibroids?
ALISA’S ANSWER: Over the years, I’ve seen the power of using functional medicine to treat a wide range of conditions. The use of functional medicine in treating fibroids really highlights the value of this system. While traditional Western medicine might have you believe that the only option available is a regimen of birth control pills to slow the growth of the tumors, and that eventual surgery may be necessary, functional medicine offers a host of other, natural, non-invasive tools and strategies.
Research shows that dietary choices do make a difference when it comes to fibroids, or any other hormonal imbalance. One study showing an association between fibroids and the consumption of ham and beef also found that a high intake of green vegetables offered protective effects against the condition. Another study showed a reduced risk of uterine fibroids among women with greater intake of fruit and retinol, a form of vitamin A.
The main takeaway here is that despite the doom-and-gloom you may have heard in the doctor’s office, you can absolutely take action to treat your fibroids without medication or surgery.
The FLO Science: What are fibroids?
Fibroids are benign tumors that most typically grow within the uterine wall (“intramural” fibroids) but can also develop outside of the uterus (“subserosal” fibroids). Subserosal fibroids can develop into another category of fibroids known as pedunculated fibroids, which grow as stalks and can become very large. You can develop fibroids at any age and you may not experience any symptoms. But as time goes on and fibroids grow, they can cause painful cramping, very heavy menstrual bleeding, or prolonged periods.
If left untreated, fibroids can grow to be as large as grapefruits and create a host of problems, such as increased pressure on the bladder that makes urination and sex uncomfortable. Not to mention, the sizable growth can cause a woman to look about three months pregnant.
According to Western medicine, no one knows for sure what causes fibroids, but what we do know is that they seem to be affected by our hormones. Excess estrogen in the body seems to make them grow, and they will often decrease in size after menopause (when overall body estrogen is lower).
The FLO Fix: How to manage your fibroids naturally
While the Pill may sound like an easy fix, it’s not. It completely dismisses the possibility that any part of your diet and lifestyle could substantially affect the acceleration of the fibroids’ growth, and it brushes over the fact that if you ever want to have a baby, you’ll obviously need to come off of the oral contraception. If and when you do, the fibroids may grow rapidly and affect your ability to conceive.
If you’re wondering why your doctor won’t just surgically remove the fibroids before they become a problem, it’s because doing so can also put your chances of motherhood at risk. Surgery can damage the uterus and leave behind scar tissue that compromises fertility from a physical standpoint. Your doctor may instead delay surgery until you’re through your reproductive years, and then suggest the possibility of a hysterectomy — still, to this day, one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures — to completely avoid the risk of re-growth.
Neither of those scenarios sounds like a good option to me. I advise you instead to exhaust all natural options for as long as you can before turning to pills or procedures. The sooner you start balancing your hormones, the better. Here are five ways to start healing your fibroids now:
Change your diet to improve your estrogen metabolism. Your liver naturally eliminates toxins and you need to eat in a way that allows it to efficiently purge excess estrogen. Glutathione-heavy vegetables such as avocados, carrots, broccoli, spinach, apples, asparagus, and melon are great, natural liver detoxifiers.
Eliminate estrogen exposure. Chemicals lurk all over our homes and we need to be vigilant in getting rid of endocrine disruptors.
Stop sitting all day. Try not to sit for long periods of time and take breaks to move — regular movement that targets your pelvic area will help to heal hormonal issues like fibroids by allowing circulation back to your uterus.
Consider acupuncture. Chinese medicine can work wonders for hormonal imbalances, and acupuncture can be an effective method for boosting circulation.
Try uterine massage. A masseuse specialized in Mayan abdominal massage can help improve blood flow and circulation to the reproductive organs and break up adhesions.
Need more hormone help? If you’re needing some health upgrading, it’s time you started you looking into what’s going on with your hormones. I’ve designed a four-day hormone detox and evaluation to help you understand exactly what’s out of whack and how you can start getting back to balance so that your hormones no longer have to suffer. Click here to get your free detox and evaluation.
ABOUT ALISA: Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, creator of the WomanCode System, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She’s also presented at TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit.
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