Fibroids, also known as ‘uterine fibroids’, are a relatively common form of benign (meaning non-cancerous) tumours in women that form on the smooth muscle tissue (myometrium) of the uterus. Often these are multiple in number, and though they are usually harmless they may cause a number of unpleasant symptoms when they progress, including:
- Heavy/painful periods
- Urinary frequency or retention
- Gynaecological haemorrhage
- Abdominal bloating
- Painful stool
- Back ache
- In rare cases, infertility (in roughly 3% of cases)
If you suspect you may have these symptoms then you should seek a diagnosis which may involve an ultrasound or MRI scan. Some people are also more likely than others to suffer with fibroids, so if you fall into the following categories then you may be more likely to be suffering.
Groups More Likely to Suffer From Fibroids
Of course fibroids only affect women, and they are also most common in women during the middle-to-late reproductive years (between thirty and forty) – particularly if they have never given birth. It is also possible to be genetically more susceptible than average to fibroids, so if there is a history of it in your family then you may be more likely to suffer. African women are also more susceptible to the condition than Caucasian women.
Obesity is also a risk factor, so if you are overweight and already at risk then improving your diet and fitness may be a good way to help prevent fibroids. If you are diagnosed meanwhile, treatment is usually a relatively simple process using either an operation (similar to a caesarean) and/or hormone replacement therapy.
Foods That Can Help Treat Fibroids
If you suspect you may be suffering from fibroid symptoms, then it is important to see a GP who will be able to recommend the best course of treatment. However, the right diet can also help to improve the outcome and some foods may even be able to prevent the likelihood of fibroids developing.
Note that despite claims to the contrary, no diet alone can cause fibroids to ‘shrink’.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables for instance can help to prevent fibroids and even prevent them from growing further. This may help thanks to the role of inflammation-fighting nutrients and fibers. One study published in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, demonstrated that eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables could help to reduce the risk of developing fibroids (1).
One explanation as to why African women may be more susceptible to fibroids than Caucasian women is that African women generally consume fewer dairy products, owing to a greater prevalence of lactose intolerance. It is thought that milk, yogurt and cheese may help to inhibit the growth of cells that lead to tumors. That’s one more good thing that dairy does for us – don’t listen to the naysayers!
Soy and Flaxseed
Hormonal imbalances may account for a large number of fibroid cases. Consuming soy and flaxseed can provide the body with phytoestrogens which can block the oestrogen receptor in the cells to help adjust this balance and help prevent the development and growth of fibroids.
It is possible that white foods including starchy white breads may increase the risk of fibroids by increasing insulin production and thereby altering the way oestrogen is metabolised. In general, it’s a good idea to seek out more fibrous foods and complex carbs that will digest more slowly and avoid spiking the blood sugar to sharply.