Up to 70 percent of women under 50 years old have fibroids. Some never present an issue. But for many women, fibroids can be painful and sometimes debilitating. Symptoms may include irregular or heavy periods, low back and pelvic pain, pressure on the bladder or rectum, and difficulty with urination and defecation./
Science has not definitively found the cause of fibroids, which are benign tumors composed of dense smooth muscle fibers located in the uterus. Studies point to genetics, hormones, and other growth factors as the mostly likely culprits. As a practicing OB-GYN with 40 years of experience, it is my opinion that environmental factors also play a role in the development of fibroids.
There are countless studies that show environmental pollutants can cause hormonal imbalances. Growth-promoting hormones used in meat and dairy production are especially burdensome for women’s bodies.
I recommend that patients, especially those with a family history of fibroids, need to be especially mindful of what they eat and eliminate non-organic or genetically modified products. Look for organic certification and be aware of criteria for the certifying agency. It is surprising what is permissible for some organizations to call an ingredient “organic” or “natural.” Fibroid patients should be aware of where food comes from as well as other factors. There is overwhelming evidence that estrogen mimics, such as bisphenol A (BPA) found in many rigid plastic products, can also disrupt hormone cycles. Likewise, some inks, cosmetics, and metal packaging include what is known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Read labels vigilantly on all products— from food to personal care products to house cleaning products. The website for the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is a useful resource for recommendations on healthier products. Environmental factors can change hormone levels and increase toxicity. Toxic load can consist of the pesticides vegetables are sprayed with, the heavy metals in the soil that food is grown in, and the non-stick cookware used in cooking a meal. Toxicity disturbs the body’s normal functioning. Reducing toxic load leads to less inflammation and a stronger overall bodily system.
The Case of Inflammation
A toxic load that is not well managed can cause a chronic state of inflammation. Integrative, holistic doctors have been aware for decades of the connection between inflammation and autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases. A 2012 study by the European Molecular Biology Organization found that since chronic inflammation underlies so many illnesses, it would make sense to recognize it as a condition that should be treated in its own right as a preventative therapy. I could not agree more.
Another environmental issue many do not think about in connection to their health is electromagnetic fields (EMFs). The World Health Organization (WHO) does not dispute that EMFs above certain levels can trigger biological effects. The issue is at what level and for how long EMFs might be harmful to human health. There are studies to indicate that even low-frequency EMFs can have some impact on health with long-term exposure. I recommend to patients to take a good look at factors in their life affecting their well-being including EMFs. When using mobile devices and other electronics, add equipment to reduce or block EMF exposure. These are inexpensive and not difficult to find in stores.
It is unfortunate that so many women suffer with fibroids and do not have all the information about alternative treatments.
I feel that minimally invasive surgeries have been both a help and a hindrance to fibroid treatment. Since laparoscopic surgery has fewer risks, it is often seen as an easy fix. In some cases, surgery is the right choice.
However, if the underlying issues of toxic load and inflammation are not dealt with, the fibroids come back. In my practice, each patient’s protocol is individualized. First, we determine if a patient is a candidate for nonsurgical treatment. We ask many questions and run tests, including the proper diagnosis of fibroids and taking measurements of them through vaginal ultrasound. For healing to occur, it is imperative we have a clear picture of a patient’s exposure to environmental pollutants, their toxic load, and their state of inflammation.
We do not have a “one size fits all” treatment plan. Diet and lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, deep breathing exercises, balancing hormones, journaling, and meditation are just a few modalities we suggest to treat fibroids. Our patients come from all over the country and internationally, all seeking a solution to their fibroids, and we give them that.