Fibroids, or leiomyomas, grow in the uterine wall, possibly triggered by hormonal or genetic factors. Most fibroids are noncancerous and do not present symptoms. But if they do become symptomatic they cause:
- Pain in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvis
- Abnormal, heavy, or painful menstruation
- Abdominal distension
If you’re a woman who’s been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or muscular tumors of the uterus, you might be worried about what lies ahead. And it might help to know that you’re not alone. In fact, about 20–80% of women are at risk of developing fibroids before they hit their fifties. While some of these women live with fibroids without ever being troubled by any of their symptoms, others go through a host of reproductive health complications, the most complex one being infertility.1
Typically, fibroids stop growing and shrink with the arrival of menopause, which is why its growth might be influenced by the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.2 But once they cause symptoms, conventional medicine recommends treating this condition with the help of hormone therapy which shrinks the fibroids, surgical removal of fibroids, or the removal of the uterus itself. However, more and more women today are seeking less aggressive interventions with fewer side effects from alternative health systems. And if you’re one of them, we’ve got all the options listed below.
1. Eat A Low-Estrogen, “Fibroid” Diet
Ayurveda also recommends following a diet high in fresh vegetables and whole grains and low in manufactured, processed, high-fat, high-protein, meat-heavy, dairy-based foods to lower the symptoms of fibroids.3 4 5
Switching up your diet can help your body cope with fibroids. Studies have found that they tend to grow and cause severe symptoms when your body has high levels of estrogen. A “fibroid diet” should, hence, be one that balances estrogen levels in the body. To do so, it’s important that your diet supports liver function, which is responsible for removing excess estrogen from your body.6 Here are a few things you should keep in mind.
Eat Low-Fat Foods
A high-fat diet has been associated with higher concentrations of estradiol, a steroid hormone that increases the risk of developing uterine fibroids.7 In fact, research has found that women with uterine fibroids tend to eat a lot of red meats and not enough fish, green vegetables, and fruit.8 Excessive intake of meat and poultry can build up fat in the body. This fat, in turn, is used by the body to produce more estrogen, which then puts undue pressure on the liver. So be sure to avoid transfats and limit foods rich in saturated fats such as red meat, lard, cream, cheese, and poultry with skin.9 Instead, opt for beans and legumes and choose low-fat organic dairy products.
It might be a good idea to skip that beer with your meal or at least, limit yourself to one pint if you’ve got fibroids. Studies have found that alcohol consumption is directly proportionate to the prevalence of uterine fibroids.10 This is because alcohol intake stresses out the liver, hampering its ability to process estrogen.11
Most of us are addicted to our morning cuppa. But, if you’ve got fibroids, it might do you good to either completely avoid or reduce your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine is known to promote hormonal imbalance by adversely affecting the liver’s ability to process estrogen. Besides this, caffeine can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron, which can be problematic seeing as how women with fibroids may already be anemic due to heavy bleeding. A good way to quit caffeine is to slowly try herbal teas such as chamomile, oat straw, valerian, or vervain. That said, do remember that caffeine is not limited to coffee. Other foods with high caffeine content include energy drinks, tea, sodas, chocolate bars, and certain flavors of ice cream.12
Avoid Processed Foods
Skip the processed food aisle at your next grocery run. This is because your liver needs B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, to effectively process estrogens and restore hormonal balance in order to stop fibroid growth, However, processed foods containing artificial colors such as hydrazine and tartrazine, preservatives, and flavorings hamper this process. Not only do some of them promote hormonal imbalance and trigger fibroids but they are also believed to be carcinogenic. Besides this, food processing techniques are also known to strip foods of magnesium and zinc. And studies have found that deficiencies of these nutrients can increase your risk of fibroids.13 So say no to food that’s boxed, canned, frozen, and packaged. Instead, opt for wholesome, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meals that you’ve made from scratch.
Load Up On Nutrient-Rich Foods
While there is no single diet that is perfect for everyone, certain foods might improve a woman’s hormonal health. Studies have found that women whose diets included a higher measure of fresh fruits, vegetables, and preformed vitamin A (found in dairy and fish) had a lower risk of developing fibroids.14 15 Here are a few foods you should load up on.
- Cruciferous vegetables: These are known to be especially capable of converting estrogen into helpful hormone-balancing by-products, reducing the risk of fibroids.
- Cold-water deep-sea fish: Fishes like salmon, tuna, herring, halibut, mackerel, and sardines are usually rich in fish oils, which the body uses to manufacture prostaglandin E3 (PGE3), which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like compounds that lower pain caused by fibroids.
- Organic eggs: These are a healthy source of protein. Organic eggs generally come from poultry that is given feed high in omega-3 fatty acids, making the eggs rich in the nutrient.
- Garlic and onions: The antioxidants in onions and garlic are very beneficial for fibroid-afflicted women. Garlic, in particular, can help shrink and prevent fibroids through its ability to prevent the formation of new blood vessels and thereby limit blood supply to fibroids.16
2. Try Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) remedies have shown some success in shrinking fibroids without any side effects. Herbs used in TCM to fight fibroids include Gui-Zhi-Fu-Ling-Wan (cinnamon twig and poria pill), San-Leng (Rhizoma sparganii), Chuan xiong (Ligusticum wallichi), and Han lian cao (warrior’s grass).17 18
A University of Arizona treatment program using Chinese herbs combined with body therapy and guided imagery showed positive results, with fibroids shrinking in 22 out of the 37 women volunteers. The test women also experienced a reduction in troublesome symptoms. Most importantly, they were satisfied with the therapy.19 In another Taiwanese study, women who took Chinese medicine were found to have a significantly reduced need for fibroid surgery as compared to those who did not take the medicine – more proof that traditional Chinese medicine can help women with fibroids.20
If you’d like to give TCM remedies a shot, be sure to consult an experienced TCM practitioner. Do not take any of these herbs without professional guidance.
3. Give Acupuncture A Shot
Chinese practitioners commonly use acupuncture for uterine fibroids where specific points along “energy channels” on the body are identified for needling. Acupuncture postulates that fibroid growth is promoted by the complex interplay of sex hormones and growth factors. Acupuncture is believed to regulate our glands (pituitary, thyroid) and central nervous system, thus improving the functioning of dysfunctional organs. Possibly the biggest advantage of acupuncture is the absence of any drugs or any long-term side effects. 21
Electric acupuncture is another option where a mild electrical current is passed through acupuncture points on the ankle that are believed to connect to the uterus. The current stimulates the uterus to expand and contract and break down fibroid tissue.22 23
4. Take The Ayurvedic Route
This ancient healing tradition believes that diseases are a result of imbalanced doshas (kapha, vata, pitta) or “humors” in the body. An excess of kapha and the constriction of vata leads to blockage and congestion in the lymphatic system, resulting in these benign growths. Ayurveda believes that suppressed emotions and creative impulses aggravate vata and trigger fibroids. An experienced ayurvedic practitioner will take all aspects of your condition into account while prescribing treatment for fibroids. Here are a few ayurveda-recommended therapies and lifestyle changes to treat fibroids.
Try Abhyanga Or Massage
A daily ayurvedic massage is a strongly recommended treatment for fibroids. Fat and muscle tissue is stimulated through massage. This tones the lymphatic system, dissolving blockage and congestion and eliminating toxins from the blood.
Physical exercise stimulates the body, enables the natural elimination of toxins and dissolves congestion caused by excessive kapha. However, it is best to stick to lighter forms like yoga, dance, or walking instead of rigorous exercise that aggravates vata.
Use A Castor-Oil Pack
Applying an external castor oil pack can ease your pain and help dissolve kapha-related congestion too. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Dip a piece of cotton fabric in castor oil, just enough to soak up oil without dripping.
- Place this poultice on your lower abdomen, and cover first with a plastic wrap, and then a towel.
- Place a hot water bottle or mildly warm heating pad on the plastic and add another towel. The plastic prevents the oil from dripping out while the heat further drives the warmed oil into the body.
Give Herbs A Go
Several ayurvedic herbal preparations used to treat fibroid patients have proved effective against fibroids. Here’s a list of herbs that studies have looked into along with their benefits.
- Kanchanara Guggulu: This is a combination of several herbs and treats kapha accumulation in the tissues.
- Shigru Guggulu: This herb is rich in iodine, is analgesic, and has anti-inflammatory compounds. Drumstick leaf extract is its main ingredient.
- Haridra Khanda: This herb when combined with turmeric removes toxins from the blood.
- Triphala: This herb is believed to kill tumor cells without damaging healthy cells. It is also a gentle laxative that helps to clean out ama or toxins from the body. Triphala is a combination of 3 myrobalan fruits, the Indian gooseberry, bastard myrobalan, and black or chebulic myrobalan.
- The bark of the sacred Ashoka tree: Also known as saraca indica, this herb has recognized astringent properties and is traditionally used to reduce uterine bleeding associated with fibroids.
5. Practice Yoga
Yoga is typically recommended as a complementary therapy in ayurveda, along with medication and dietary changes. Some experts are of the belief that yoga by itself cannot cure fibroids but can help the body adapt to fibroid growth by softening and opening up the abdominal area. Here are a few yogasanas recommended for fibroid patients.
This shoulder stand is believed to help stretch the abdomen and reduce fibroids.
This twist tones the spine and opens up the abdominal organs.
This pose calms the mind, softens hard abdominal tissue, and may prevent fibroids.
Also known as the Reclining Hero Pose, it opens up the abdominal/pelvic area, relieves menstrual pain, and reduces any tension across the uterus.
Remember to practice these poses under the guidance of a qualified instructor so you can learn to hold and perfect them gradually as part of a regulated series of yogasanas (poses). Don’t perform these exercises during your menstrual cycle.2425 26
6. Try Naturopathy
Herbalists believe that fibroids are a stubborn lot. And while some herbal formulas shrink fibroids, they might not get rid of them entirely. At the same time, other herbs may not shrink fibroids but could prevent any further growth. However, naturopathy is still worth a try if you’d like to leave surgery or hormone-altering medication as a last resort. Here’s a rundown on herbs used to treat fibroids:
- Vitex berry: This herb balances hormones and can shrink or slow down fibroid growth. It also offers symptomatic relief from heavy bleeding and pain.
- Black cohosh: This herb normalizes hormones, relieves pain, and stops bleeding.
- Cinnamon: The oil of cinnamon stops fibroid-related bleeding.
- Other herbs: Motherwort and dong quai may effectively rid you of fibroids but could also trigger heavy menstrual bleeding. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass have a similar effect. An experienced naturopath will moderate their effect with other herbs in a formula. Avoid licorice, fennel seeds, peony, and cordyceps if you have fibroids.
- A herbal formula containing ginger, cinnamon, prickly ash bark, mullein, and cleavers improves blood circulation, tones lymphatic circulation and helps the body to naturally eliminate the tumor.
Herbal Tea Recipe For Fibroids
- Water 4 cups
- Vitex berries 2 teaspoons
- Black cohosh 1 teaspoon
- Dandelion root 1/2 teaspoon
- Prickly ash bark 1/4 teaspoon
- Cramp bark 1/4 teaspoon
- Place the herbs and water in a pan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, cover and allow the tea to steep.
- Strain the herbs and discard.
- Cool and drink at least 2 cups of the tea daily.
7. Give Homeopathy A Go
Homeopathy is a non-invasive, economical, and side-effect free treatment to explore for fibroids. Some homeopaths claim that the right treatment can eliminate fibroids and also prevent their regrowth. For women who prefer to undergo fibroid surgery, homeopathic treatment may help prevent the build-up of scar tissue, a common fallout of uterine surgeries.
There are a staggering 93 homeopathic medicines to treat fibroids and their related symptoms. Unlike other medical systems, homeopathic treatment is tailor-made to the constitution and specific symptoms of individual patients. Naturally, the experience and diagnostic skills of the homeopath will impact the outcome of treatment.29 Some of the short-term homeopathic medications include:
- Aurum mur: This is prescribed for when the uterus feels painful and swollen, and there are spasmodic contractions in the vagina.
- Calcarea iod: This is prescribed for small fibroids and yellow vaginal discharge.
- Fraxinus: This is given for a swollen uterus, watery brown vaginal discharge, and painful periods.
- Lacbesis: This is given when menstrual flow is very painful, the periods become short and scanty as menopause approaches, and the abdomen is very sensitive when wearing any kind of tight clothing.
- Silicea: This is given when there is bleeding between periods, heavy menstrual flow, or when the body feels icy cold.
- Tblaspi: This is prescribed for continuous bleeding.30
Undoubtedly natural treatments for fibroids have gained considerable traction in recent times. However botanical herbs and herbal supplements can have adverse effects on your health if they are consumed without consulting professionals from traditional medical systems. The bottom line – avoid self-treatment. If you’re more inclined towards conventional treatment, ask your physician for advice on how natural treatments can be combined with allopathy to treat fibroids.31
|↑1||Uterine fibroids. Women’s Health.|
|↑2||Uterine fibroids. Women’sHealth.gov.|
|↑3||Atreya. Ayurvedic Healing For Women. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000.|
|↑4||Dhiman, Kamini. “Ayurvedic intervention in the management of uterine fibroids: A Case series.” Ayu 35, no. 3 (2014): 303.|
|↑5||Maizes, Victoria; Dog, Tieraona Low. Integrative Women’s Health. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010.|
|↑6||Fibroids. Canadian Women’s Health Network.|
|↑7||Wise, Lauren A., Rose G. Radin, Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Edward A. Ruiz-Narváez, Julie R. Palmer, and Lynn Rosenberg. “Prospective study of dietary fat and risk of uterine leiomyomata.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-073635.|
|↑8||Chiaffarino, Francesca, Fabio Parazzini, Carlo La Vecchia, Liliane Chatenoud, Elisabetta Di Cintio, and Silvia Marsico. “Diet and uterine myomas.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 94, no. 3 (1999): 395-398.|
|↑9||Fibroids. Canadian Women’s Health Network.|
|↑10, ↑11||Nagata, Chisato, Kozue Nakamura, Shino Oba, Makoto Hayashi, Noriyuki Takeda, and Keigo Yasuda. “Association of intakes of fat, dietary fibre, soya isoflavones and alcohol with uterine fibroids in Japanese women.” British journal of nutrition 101, no. 10 (2009): 1427-1431.|
|↑12, ↑13, ↑16||Warshowsky, Allan; Oumano, Elena. Healing Fibroids: A Doctor’s Guide to a Natural Cure. Simon and Schuster, 2002.|
|↑14||Wise, Lauren A., Rose G. Radin, Julie R. Palmer, Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Deborah A. Boggs, and Lynn Rosenberg. “Intake of fruit, vegetables, and carotenoids in relation to risk of uterine leiomyomata.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2011): ajcn-016600.|
|↑15||Shen, Yang, Yanting Wu, Qing Lu, and Mulan Ren. “Vegetarian diet and reduced uterine fibroids risk: A case-control study in Nanjing, China.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research 42, no. 1 (2016): 87-94.|
|↑17, ↑22||Null, Gary. Get Healthy Now. Seven Stories Press, 2000.|
|↑18||Yen, Hung-Rong, Ying-Yu Chen, Tzu-Ping Huang, Tung-Ti Chang, Jung-Ying Tsao, Bor-Chyuan Chen, and Mao-Feng Sun. “Prescription patterns of Chinese herbal products for patients with uterine fibroid in Taiwan: A nationwide population-based study.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 171 (2015): 223-230.|
|↑19||Mehl-Madrona, Lewis. “Complementary medicine treatment of uterine fibroids: a pilot study.” Alternative therapies in health and medicine 8, no. 2 (2002): 34.|
|↑20||Su, Shan-Yu, Chih-Hsin Muo, and Donald E. Morisky. “Use of chinese medicine and subsequent surgery in women with uterine fibroid: a retrospective cohort study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012 (2012).|
|↑21||Zhang, Yan, W. Peng, J. Clarke, and Zhishun Liu. “Acupuncture for uterine fibroids.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1 (2008).|
|↑23||Balk, Judith L. “Traditional Chinese medicine and uterine fibroids.” Altern Med Alert 4 (2001): 43-45.|
|↑24||[Clenell, Bobby. The Woman’s Yoga Book. Shambhala Publications, 2016.]|
|↑25||Nett, Jaki. Wellbeing, Yoga Journal. Active Interest Media, Inc., Nov 2003.|
|↑26||Reclining Hero Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑27||Hobbs, Christopher and Kathi Keville. Women’s Herbs, Women’s Health. Book Publishing Company, 2007.|
|↑28||Balch, Phyllis. Prescription For Herbal Healing. Penguin, 2002.|
|↑29||Khalidi, Deborah Bellis. Getting Rid Of Fibroids. Lulu.com, 2013.|
|↑30||Lockie, Andrew. Family Guide to Homeopathy: Symptoms and Natural Solutions. Simon and Schuster, 1993.|
|↑31||Dionne, Carla. Sex, Lies, And The Truth About Uterine Fibroids. Penguin, 2001.|