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Uterine Fibroids

UTERINE FIBROIDS

Uterine fibroids, also called uterine myomatas or leiomyomas are lumps of smooth muscle tissue that can occur anywhere in the uterus, including just under the lining of the uterus, on the outside of the uterus or within the wall of the uterus. 

While the vast majority (99%) of uterine fibroids are completely benign,fibroids.jpg a small percentage can turn into a cancerous form called leiomyosarcoma. 

Submucosal fibroids occur just under the inner uterine lining. Intramural fibroids occur in the wall of the uterine muscle. Serosal fibroids grow outward from the surface of the uterus and can become extremely large or stalk-like.

Fibroids are extremely common and affect up to 80% of women. Not all of these women will show symptoms--in fact, only about 25% will show symptoms. The most common symptoms are an enlarged uterus, heavy vaginal bleeding, pressure on the bladder (causing frequency of urination), pain with sexual activity, and abdominal or back pain. 

What causes fibroids?
Fibroid tumors are triggered by estrogen so any woman with estrogen dominance will be more likely to have fibroids. Fibroids appear to respond to estrogen and have more bin ding sites to beach_couple.jpgestrogen than normal smooth muscle in the uterus. Estrogen dominance can come from exposure to xenohormones (hormones from outside the body) such as those found in dioxin, hormone-laden meat, hormones in cosmetics and other molecules that mimic estrogen. Pregnancy will not usually cause fibroids but will cause them to increase in size because the uterus is enlarging. Because these tumors are rapidly proliferating, a cancerous change is possible.

Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Symptoms of uterine fibroids include unnatural vaginal bleeding or very heavy vaginal bleeding and gradual increase in abdominal size from the enlarging subserosal myomata. This can lead to abdominal pain and cramping pain in the uterine area. 


What accounts for this increase of uterine fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids remains unknown. Estrogen dominance and xenohormones play a role. Xenoestrogens are compounds which have an estrogen-like molecular structure that creates estrogenic effects in our bodies. Xenoestrogens include the growth hormones so common in non-organic milk, beef and chicken, most pesticides, and even the plastics used to wrap food and plastics used for heating (in a microwave) and food storage. 


In short, we’re overloaded in xenoestrogens — which probably accounts for why estrogen levels in America are roughly double those of women in undeveloped countries. Emotions play a role in uterine fibroids and these issues must be also addressed. Genetics may also be a contributing factor. 


How do you treat fibroids?

Traditional Medical Approach: Watchful waiting. If you have no signs or symptoms like most women, then watchful waiting could be your best choice. Fibroids aren't cancerous. They usually grow slowly and tend to shrink after menopause when levels of reproductive hormones drop. This is the best treatment option for a large majority of women with uterine fibroids.

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Medications used to treat uterine fibroids target hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, treating symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure. They may shrink the fibroids but they do not eliminate them. Medications such as Lupron and Synarel produce the opposite effect of your body’s natural hormones. It is sort of like tricking your brain into thinking that you have enough hormones so your body stops producing them. Of course as the hormone levels, menstruation stops and the fibroid shrinks. 

Other conventional treatments consist of:

At least 500,000 women per year in the US undergo a hysterectomy (which generates over $4billion in income) to prevent further growth of uterine fibroids. Other surgeries include removing the fibroid alone—a procedure called a myomectomy. Another procedure involves placing a substance that causes the equivalent of a blood clot in the arteries that supply the myomatas. The fibroids will slough off without a proper blood supply.

Functional Medicine Approach: The functional medicine approach includes proper testing such as a eFHP or PHP Panel and correcting the hormonal imbalance which is usually estrogen dominance. Balancing hormones and the body’s chemistry can make a great difference. Reducing stress and balancing hormones through certain nutritional and herbal supplements along with healthy dietary and lifestyle changes may help slow the growth of these benign tumors and may even shrink them. 

In conventional medicine, medications such as Lupron will shrink the fibroids but can only be taken for a short period of time because of its many side effects. Finally, the onset of menopause will shrink the uterine fibroids down eliminating the symptoms. How? As you go into menopause, the estrogen levels are decreased so the estrogen that is causing them to grow is not as elevated and many times they shrink on their own. Insulin resistance can contribute to the formation of fibroids and must also be addressed, which is why functional medicine is the proper way to go. If you balance your chemistry, the fibroids may cease to grow. 

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