Uterine leiomyomas (fibroids) are benign smooth muscle tumours of the uterus that appear during the reproductive years. In addition to smooth muscle cells they are composed of variable amounts of fibrous tissue and collagen. They are usually spherical, well-circumscribed, white, firm lesions and range in size from a pinhead to 20cm across (the average size is 2 cm). Fibroids arise in the middle layer of the uterine wall and are either pedunculated within or outside the uterus, or develop within the uterine wall.
These tumours have been identified by ultrasound in 4% of women aged 20–30 years, in 11-18% of women aged 30-40 years, and in 33% of women aged 40-60 years. They grow under the influence of oestrogen and tend to shrink as oestrogen levels fall after menopause. Although they rarely become malignant, uterine fibroids may become clinically significant if they grow to a size that causes pressure on adjacent organs. Fibroids are generally asymptomatic but may be associated with the following:
- Excessive or prolonged bleeding which is experienced by approximately 30% of women with fibroids.
- Anaemia, as a result of the above.
- Very large tumours may result in pelvic pressure, urinary symptoms and constipation.
- Painful intercourse.
- A lump or swelling in the lower abdomen.
- Infertility (by interrupting endometrial implantation of the fertilised egg).
- Poor pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, premature birth, placental abruption, uterine inertia or obstruction of the birth canal. They may also reduce blood flow to the placenta or compete with the developing foetus for space.
Fibroids are the leading reason for hysterectomies in women of reproductive age.
Risk factors for developing fibroids include:
- Family history of fibroids
- Early menarche (2-3 times increased risk)
- Obesity with high insulin
- Inactivity (sedentary lifestyle with obesity/insulin resistance)
- Uterine irritation and/or infection
- Oestrogen dominance and/or decreased 2:16-hydroxy oestrogen ratio.
Fibroid tumours are extremely sensitive to oestrogen and have a significantly increased number of receptors for oestrogen, making them far more likely to grow in a state of oestrogen dominance. This is a potent growth promoter in fibroid development. Environmental xeno-oestrogens are also suspected to play a role in fibroid growth. Xeno-estrogens are chemical substances which mimic hormones. They can be found in industrial plastics, pesticides and insecticides, chlorine etc and are “hormone disruptors”.
The Naturopaths at Nurtura Health have access to many herbal and nutritional remedies which are indicated to support normal menstruation. As this condition is normally an “oestrogen dominant” condition, having healthy liver detoxification is of paramount importance to restore hormone balance and excretion. It is important to have a healthy oestrogen levels. In addition consideration would be given to reducing inflammation and swelling; reduction in pain; ensuring iron levels are adequate; and reviewing diet and lifestyle.
In all cases of hormonal imbalance and in particular with uterine fibroids, the Naturopaths would be happy to work collaboratively with the GP to ensure there are no underlying pathologies which would need referral to a Gynaecologist. However, many women have gained much relief with the additional use of natural and herbal medicines in these conditions.
Watch this space for future posts on other conditions in more detail!Disclaimer: The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided. Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication. Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues. All rights reserved.