by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Fibroids are nodules of fibrous tissue that can grown anywhere on the body. Uterine fibroids are the most common noncancerous tumors of the female reproductive organs. According to the location of the fibroid in the uterus, they can be divided into three types.
Fibroids can grow underneath the uterine lining (submucosal), within the uterus walls (intramural) or can be found on the outer walls of the uterus (subserosal).
The cause of their growth is unknown. With many of my female patients who have fibroids, it tends to be seen throughout their family history. Often times, their mothers, sisters, aunts or grandmothers have suffered from them as well.
Next to heredity, other causes have been thought to be stress related, improper diet, excessive weight gain and imbalances in hormone levels.
Hormonally, estrogen seems to be part of the problem. When estrogen levels are high during a women’s period, this estrogen surge seems to stimulate tumor growth. Therefore, fibroids often grow larger during the menstrual cycle as the uterus engorges with blood, then shrinks after the cycle. They also tend to grow larger during pregnancy and shrink after menopause due to the lack of estrogen.
Symptoms can range between no symptoms at all or a women can experience heavy bleeding, abdominal masses, abdominal pain, pressure against the bladder, bowels or pelvic floor, vaginal discharge, infertility, miscarriage or anemia.
Western medicine looks at several ways to treat fibroids, depending on their size and depending on how much pain or havoc they are causing the body. Western treatments include pharmacological inhibition of estrogen secretion, Progestin supplementation, prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors, a myomectomy, or hysterectomy.
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we treat fibroids differently, based on the site of the fibroid. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been found to be more effective than Western medicine (in most cases) as it works to bring the body back into hormonal balance, naturally .
When fibroids are less than 5cm, the success rate with acupuncture and herbs is higer. Although, clinically, I have had success with fibroids that are larger than 5cm and have been able to shrink these fibroids with a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine, diet as well as, lifestyle changes. Acupuncture treatments are based on the clinical diagnosis of stagnation and/or dampness. Combinations of local and distal acupuncture points are used in order to move energy and blood. Channels that are focused on include the Conception channel, the Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Kidney channels.
Herbal medicine has long been the apothecary of the world. Folklore and ancient recipes have been past down for centuries. Nowadays, research studies are being done on some of these herbs, herbal combinations and formulas. Formulas most effective for abdominal masses include:
-Chai Hu Shu Gan San with Xie Fu Zuo Yu Tang for Qi and Phlegm Stagnation.
-Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan with Xiao Liu Fang for Blood Stasis.
-Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan for Phlegm Damp.
These formulas have shown to be even more effective when combined with a diet low in fat that minimizes coffee, black tea, chocolate, alcohol and soy based products. The proper formula for you, should be determined by a licensed acupuncturist and/or herbalist only.
The Western Herbal Materia Medica has shown that some herbs are effective for balancing hormone levels. Chaste tree berry has been shown to promote progesterone production by increasing luteinizing hormone.
Linoleic acid, found in omega-6 fatty acid form and linolenic acid, found omega-3 fatty acid form are both essential oils found in fish oil. These two essential oils can reduce estrogen production and are beneficial for women with fibroids. Take 2,000 mg in divided doses (1,000 mg am/pm).
Diet and Nutrition
Nutritional considerations are a diet low in fat that minimizes coffee, black tea, chocolate and alcohol.
~Limit the amounts of red meat and pork eaten.
~Avoid high fat and fried foods. Some women have found that their fibroids decrease when taking up a vegetarian diet.
~Changes in lifestyle can also play apart in reducing fibroids.
~Increase or add exercise to your life.
Stress Relieving Practices
These practices do not necessarily remove the fibroids, but remember, stress is an underlining effect on all disease. When we are stressed, cortisol increases in the body, calling for an imbalance in hormone levels. Stress plays a role in our emotional state, how we feel about ourselves and how we feel we can (or cannot) overcome our situation. So practices geared towards relieving stress, should NEVER be overlooked.
Meditation, visualization and simple breathing techniques are all very helpful in relieving stress in our lives.
Holding on to certain beliefs in our lives, may be an improper way of thinking. Metaphysical expert, Louse Hay suggests that a probable cause of fibroids and cysts is “nursing a hurt from a partner or a blow to the feminine ego”. Certainly, these are all options to consider, when looking at stress triggers in our lives.
-Boericke, William M.D., Materia Medica with Repertory, 1927, Boericke & Runyon
-Chevallier, Andrew, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, 1996, Dorlilng Kindersley Limited
-Gaeddert, Andrew, Chinese Herbs In The Western Clinic, Get Well Foundation 1994
-Hay, Louise, You Can Heal Your Life, Hay House Inc. 1984
-Mehl-Madrona, L. Complementary medicine treatment of uterine fibroids 2002 Altern Ther Health Med 8;2:34-6, 38-40, 42, 44-6
-Richardson, Jack N.D., The Little Herb Encyclopedia (Third Edition), 1995, Woodland Health Books