Fibroids are muscular non-cancerous tumors that grow mostly in the muscular wall of the uterus. Another medical term for fibroids is "myoma". Fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. Some lesions may spread towards the outside of the uterus or towards the internal abdominal cavity.
What causes fibroids?
No one knows for sure what causes fibroids. A diet rich in processed and fast foods, the birth control pill and high stress levels raise the body’s estrogen levels triggering the growth and development of fibroids. Fibroids grow rapidly during pregnancy, when hormone levels are high. They shrink when anti-hormone medication is used. They also stop growing or shrink once a woman reaches menopause but never completely disappear.
Compounds found in coffee that act as cardiac stimulants, diuretics, and smooth muscle relaxants, contribute to fibroid growth. Obesity and family history further increase the risk of fibroids.
Most fibroids, particularly when small, do not cause any symptoms but some women with fibroids can have:
- Heavy abdominal bleeding or painful periods
- Feeling of fullness in the pelvic area (lower stomach area)
- Enlargement of the lower abdomen
- Frequent & urgent urination or incontinence
- Bowel difficulties (particularly constipation)
- Pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- Severe menstrual pain and flooding
- Complications during pregnancy and labor, including a six-time greater risk of caesarean section, miscarriage, bleeding and premature labor.
Symptoms depend on the location of the lesion and its size. While fibroids are common, they are not normally a cause of infertility accounting for about 3% of reasons why a woman may not have a child.
Who gets fibroids?
Certain factors increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids.
- Age: Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink.
- Family history: Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman’s mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.
- Ethnic origin: African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is two to three times greater than average.
- Eating habits: Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.
Conventional Western Treatment
Medications given by injection or nasal spray create a pseudo-menopause to allow fibroid shrinkage. However, on stopping medication, the fibroid usually regrows to its original size.
Long-term treatment is not recommended as these drugs are known to cause severe menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
If uterine fibroids are surgically removed, there is a 10% chance they will grow back.
A hysterectomy is the definitive, last line solution for persistent and heavy uterine bleeding, or symptomatic fibroids that are too large or are in a location that compromises a woman’s health.
A woman cannot become pregnant after having a hysterectomy. If the ovaries are removed along with the uterus, hysterectomy causes immediate menopause. Some complications of hysterectomies can include hemorrhage, eventual ovarian failure, and loss of bladder function, urinary incontinence, depression, and infections.
Avoid red meat, chicken and dairy products which contain increased levels of estrogen.
To help to reduce the excess estrogen in the body it is important to support the liver in its function of ridding the body of excess estrogen. Eat liver cleansing foods such as artichokes, lemons, black cherries, pineapple, parsnips, dandelion greens, watercress, turmeric, celery and burdock root. Other foods good for the liver are kelp, dulse, milk thistle, Swiss chard, turnip greens, wheat germ, seeds and nuts.
Coffee contributes to the growth of fibroids and should be eliminated.
Since obesity increases the risk of fibroids, it is important to follow a healthy, whole foods diet, low in saturated fats, high in fiber with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
Natural progesterone cream applied directly on the skin will help shrink or prevent the further growth of fibroids.
TCM Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has treated Uterine Fibroids successfully for over 2,500 years. The condition is categorized in TCM as fixed masses in the uterus caused by uterine blood stagnating and congealing. As a result, the menstrual cycle becomes blocked, obstructing the normal reproductive cycle.
Treatment may include dietary recommendations, acupuncture and herbal medicine, and involves invigorating the Blood and eliminating Blood Stasis, moving the Qi, clearing heat, and softening the hardened masses.
The appropriate herbal combinations are normally administered after menstruation. Following treatment, most of the patients’ symptoms, like heavy blood flow, abnormal vaginal discharge, and backache, improve or are eliminated. Clinical studies indicate that the fibroids either diminish or disappear in 72% of patients.
It can take a minimum of three menstrual cycles to regulate the movement of blood. When uterine fibroids are the main issue, the treatment may take considerably longer.
- Avoid all hormone treated foods specifically all animal products, except fish.
- Consume soy and soy products; eat organic fruits and vegetables; avoid hydrogenated and refined oils.
- Eat walnuts, saffron, dark-greens, and cold-climate root vegetables such as squash.
- For sources of essential fatty acids (EFA), use only unprocessed plant sources. Use oils rich in alphalinolenic and linoleic fatty acids such as flaxseed, pumpkinseed, and chia-seed oils. Make sure they are cold-pressed and refined.
- Include super antioxidants such as grape seed extract, pink bark extract, red wine extract, and bilberry extract. These super antioxidants have anti-inflammatory and anti-spastic effects.
- Include spirulina, evening primrose oil (which also contains omega-6), and oils from borage seed and black currants. Supplement diet with B vitamins and antioxidants like vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc.
- Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil and linseed oil benefit uterine fibroids. Fish oil prevents abnormal blood clotting (13).
- A natural option for shrinking fibroids is taking between one to two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses per day. This can be taken plain, by spoon, followed with a small glass of water. One could also mix the blackstrap molasses with a small amount of warm water in a glass and sip. Another alternative is to mix the blackstrap molasses with a teaspoon of warm water, and then fill the glass with milk. It tastes just like chocolate milk. The benefit of molasses is that it is high in potassium as well as iron. Iron is particularly beneficial for women with anemia due to excessive bleeding.
- Another alternative natural therapy for uterine fibroids is apple cider vinegar. Take a teaspoon or two daily, mix in water or juice. It tastes great with apple juice. Apple cider vinegar is also a great weight reducer.
- Nattokinase is commonly known as fermented soybeans. These can be purchased at a health food store. Eat this once a day and it may alleviate some of the symptoms. Nattokinase is also available in pill. Follow dosing instructions. Nattokinase often is enough to break down the fibroid, and dissolve it entirely.
- Massage acupressure points to help resolve Blood stasis - Sp 6, Sp 8, Sp 10, BL 17
- Massage acupressure points to increase blood circulation to the reproductive organs - Ki 3, Ki 7
- Massage acupressure points to help detoxify any excess hormones and resolve Qi stagnation and invigorate the Blood - Liv 2, Liv 3, Liv 8
- Daily, regular exercise will improve blood circulation and ease the symptoms of fibroids. Qi Gong, and Yoga are also very helpful. Inversion techniques should be avoided during menses, as the energetic flow should be downward and descending. Remember to breathe. Deep-breathing exercises and meditation are very useful.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen during and after menses; take warm baths often; rest, and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
Chinese Herbal Formulas and Acupuncture
Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture are often used as a natural alternative for the treatment of Uterine Fibroids. The exact treatment recommended depends on the presenting pattern of disharmony.
Each pattern is differentiated in terms of overall health history, specific qualities of the menstrual period, abdominal sensations, changes in breast tissue, appearance of the tongue, and qualities of the pulse.
Main patterns of uterine fibroids are differentiated as being either of an excess or a deficient type. Depending on the pattern, treatment may focus on strengthening the Qi, nourishing and vitalizing the blood, breaking up masses and clearing heat and dampness in the uterus.
Most women have a mixed condition of excess and deficient, in which case a TCM practitioner concentrates on treating the excess resulting from stagnation of Qi and Blood in the two weeks prior to menstruation, and the deficiency in the two weeks after menses.
It can take a minimum of three menstrual cycles to regulate Blood in the Directing (Ren Mai) and Penetrating (Chong Mai) Vessels. When uterine fibroids are the main issue, the treatment may take considerably longer.
If the diagnosis of uterine fibroids has definitely been verified, then the herbal formulae used should be modified to also include strong herbs that break Blood such as: E Zhu, Ze Lan and San Leng.
Qi Gong Therapy for Tumors
Enhancing the vital Qi and eliminating the pathogenic factors are the main treatment principle for treating tumors. Generally speaking, apply the principle of eliminating the pathogenic factors in the initial stage. Combine with enhancing the Qi in the middle stage, and emphasize reinforcing the vital Qi in the later stage.
Main Qi Gong Forms
These forms should be practiced twice a day for a minimum of 1 to 2 hours each time.
1. Internal Nourishing Qi Gong
Sitting on the edge of a chair, inhale through the nose raising the tongue against the palate, and expanding abdomen to the count of seven. Pause for a moment, then exhale, lowering the chest and retracting the abdomen to the count of ten. Repeat 30 times. Breath must be gentle, silent, slow, deep, and unbroken. The mind is gently placed in the center of the abdomen throughout the whole exercise. Practice for 30 breaths.
2. Mind Activation Qi Gong
In this exercise we use the power of the mind to help reduce the lesions. During the process of imagery keep the mind-intent subtle since genuine Qi is difficult to activate with over-concentration.
Breathing naturally, place the mind in the Lower Dantien. On inhalation direct the Qi to the lesions (tumors) visualizing one of the following: cutting the masses with a knife; consuming the masses with fire; or washing the masses away with pure water. Then on exhalation eliminate the masses through the pores of the skin far into the distance.
Practice for 20 minutes.
3. Natural Walking Qi Gong with Moderate Wind Breathing
Stand relaxed and calm with feet parallel to each other, shoulder-width apart. Bend knees slightly. Let the arms hang naturally to the side. Drop the tailbone down; suspend the crown of the head from above. Keep eyes open or half closed. Maintain natural breathing with the tip of the tongue lightly pressed against the palate for 10 minutes.
Increasing Pressure and Emitting Qi in a Burst
Inhale through the nose, retracting the abdomen, focusing mind in the lower abdomen. Hold the breath while moving the diaphragm upward and downward a few times in a moderate to high speed to increase pressure in the abdominal cavity.
Exhale through the mouth letting the abdomen extend outward to concentrate and emit Qi in a burst to destroy the tumors and expel the toxic Qi via the breath and pores of the skin. Relax after each burst and elimination to help clear the Qi and blood and resolve the tumor.
Repeat holding the breath and releasing bursts of Qi. Adjust the duration of holding of the breath to your individual condition. Repeat 6 to 9 times. Increase repetitions as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
Fa Qi to Major Energy Centers
Inhale opening up chest. Gather Qi with palms to front of body. Exhale, arching the back and extending Qi to the major energy centers one at a time. Visualize sending the Qi through body to energy centers at back of body.
Fa Qi to 1. Root Center, 2. Just Below Navel (Lower Dantien), 3. Solar Plexus, 4. Center of Chest (Middle Dantien), 5. Throat Area (To back of head), 6. Mouth, 7. Mid Eyebrow Point (Upper Dantien).
Arch back slightly and open palms to sky, embracing the universe. Straighten back and Fa Qi to the Crown Point. Drop hands own front of body bringing Qi to the abdomen. When hands pass in front of the forehead adopt prayer position. In front of abdomen adopt diamond shape hand position and hold in front of navel. Rest the mind in the center of the abdomen. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
Natural Walking Qi Gong
From a natural standing position step with left foot first, placing the heel on the ground naturally elevating the sole of the front foot. Move the body weight forward naturally laying the sole of the front foot on the ground and raising the back heel. Repeat the movement as you continue to step forward.
When the left heel touches the ground let the right hand swing forward until it is facing the middle Dan Tian one fist length away. Let the left hand move naturally back to the left hip. Repeat on opposite side. As you alternate stepping forward with left and right heel, the arms swing back and forth naturally.
Eliminate random thoughts by looking without seeing and listening without hearing.
Inhalation comes first, during which a slight breathing or “wind” sound can be heard, but not loud enough for others to hear. Inhalation is shorter and heavier than exhalation. Wind breathing consists of two inhalations and one exhalation through the mouth. The inhale-inhale-exhale is coordinated with the stepping.
When the left heel touches the ground, inhale twice. When the right heel touches the ground, exhale once. Patients with hypertension or heart problems are advised to breathe naturally. After 15 minutes return to the natural standing posture.
Repeat the Fa Qi to Major Energy Centers exercise. Rest for 5 to 10 minutes and repeat the sequence.
Fixed Step Qi Gong
Standing feet shoulder width apart. Bend knees as if you were sitting on a chair, and scoop up Qi from the front of the body with the palms facing upward. Bring the Qi to the chest area. When the hands reach the mid chest area, rotate the forearms outward so the backs of the hands are facing each other. Extend the hands forward to the front of the body and then in a continuous movement out to a T-Stance. Bring the hands down to the sides of the body and start again. Repeat 6 to 9 times.
- Tumor patients should be treated by both Western and TCM methods to avoid the limitation of a single therapy.
- Tumor patients should demonstrate confidence and a positive attitude.
- Practice Qi Gong twice a day for a total of a minimum of 3 hours.
acatcm.com (Alberta College of Acupuncture & TCM)
Chinese Medical Qi Gong by Tianjun Liu, O.M.D.
Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Siegfried Gursche, MH