Note: Fibroids are not a cyclical hormone-related symptom, but they are associated with the menstrual cycle (and oestrogen-based hormonal medications) and worth considering if you are experiencing severe period pain, or heavy bleeding.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus). The growths are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and vary in size. They’re sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas .
Many people are unaware they have fibroids because they don’t have any symptoms. Those who do have symptoms (around one in three) may experience:
- heavy or painful periods
- tummy (abdominal) pain
- lower back pain
- bladder problems
- pain or discomfort during sex
The development of fibroids is associated with the metabolism and level of female sexual hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. A number of predisposing factors have also been identified, such as; ethnicity – especially if you are of African or Caribbean descent, early menarche (starting periods), nulliparity (never giving birth), high consumption of caffeine or alcohol, chronic inflammation, and obesity .
Note: Treatment may not be necessary if you have fibroids but don’t have any symptoms, or if you only have minor symptoms that aren’t significantly affecting your everyday activities.
TOP TIPS! If you think you may have fibroids, and are taking contraceptive or any other type of hormonal medication, ensure you consult a doctor as soon as possible. The synthetic hormones in these medications can ‘feed’ the fibroids, making them grow much bigger.
Fibroids often shrink after the menopause, and your symptoms will usually either ease or disappear completely.
If you have fibroids that need treatment, your GP may recommend medication to help relieve your symptoms. However, you may need to see a gynaecologist (specialist in the female reproductive system) for further medication, or surgery if these are ineffective. See your GP to discuss the best treatment plan for you.
The NHS has outlined the various medical treatments for fibroids. You can also read a summary of the pros and cons of the treatments for fibroids, allowing you to compare your treatment options.
Non-medical interventions to help prevent fibroids (or their further growth):
Try a hormone-balancing diet– As outlined in this blog, a vegetable-based ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet can significantly improve all hormone-related symptoms. We highlight a few of the key steps that are especially relevant for the prevention of fibroids, or their further growth, below;
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables– A plant-based diet has been found to decrease risk of UL by reducing levels of excess circulating oestrogen and progesterone hormones [3-4]. One study found that the risk of fibroids was reduced in people who ate more fruits and vegetables, and increased in those who ate more red meat and ham .
Avoid alcohol and caffeine– Research shows that the consumption of alcohol or caffeine can increase the likelihood of developing fibroids .
Reduce BMI – If your body has excess fat, circulating levels of oestrogen will be higher, making it more likely that you will develop fibroids . Apart from eating healthily, the best way to lose weight is to be more active and do more exercise. Read more about how to lose weight.
If you have tried the suggested tips and tricks for at least 3 months, and your symptoms do not improve, please consult your doctor.
If you have any suggestions, or tips, for managing fibroids- please let us know– we can share them with others!
- NHS information on fibroids: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibroids/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018
- NHS. (2015) Fibroids. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibroids/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Accessed 20 April 2017]
- Manta L, Suciu N, Toader O, Purcărea RM, Constantin A, Popa F. (2016) The etiopathogenesis of uterine fibromatosis. J Med Life Jan-Mar;9(1):39-45. Review. PubMed PMID: 27974911; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5152611
- Michnovicz JJ, Bradlow HL. Dietary and pharmacological control of estradiol metabolism in humans. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1990;595:291–299
- Longcope C. (1994) In: Diet and estrogen metabolism, in Steroid Contraceptives and Women’s Response. Snow R, Hall P, editors. New York: Plenum Press; pp. 143–152
- Chiaffarino F, et al. (1999) Diet and uterine myomas. Obstet Gynecol. 94(3):395–398