Many women wonder how to shrink uterine fibroids without surgery after they're told by their doctor that they have the condition. Uterine fibroids — muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and are almost always benign — can cause no symptoms, thought some women do experience problems like heavy menstrual periods and prolonged bleeding, say the experts. Therefore many women look for a solution to shrink their fibroids, such as this reader:
I’m 47, and six months ago my doctor diagnosed me with uterine fibroids. She prescribed birth control pills, but they made me sluggish, so I stopped taking them. She said that because the growths are so large, my only other options are a hysterectomy or waiting for menopause. Are there any other alternatives I can try?
How to shrink uterine fibroids without surgery
You definitely have other options. Fibroids, benign growths that attach to the wall of the uterus, are extremely common during perimenopause, when high levels of estrogen can fuel abnormal tissue growth. But if you’re experiencing bothersome symptoms like heavy bleeding, abdominal pressure, or difficulty urinating, waiting for menopause may not be feasible, and there are less invasive treatments than a hysterectomy.
Fortunately, making a few dietary changes may help shrink uterine fibroids or at least keep them from growing. Eating the right foods can also ease your uterine fibroid symptoms — things like heavy or painful periods, uncomfortable fullness in your abdomen, frequent urination, pain during sexual intercourse and lower back pain.
How to treat uterine fibroids: What to eat
Avoid red meat:: Experts recommend avoiding red meat, because cholesterol fuels the growth of fibroids.
Avoid soy: Soy contains estrogen-like compounds that make fibroids grow.
Increase your intake of high fiber foods: Foods high in fiber — think berries, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, and brussels sprouts — help flush excess cholesterol and estrogen from the body. In addition, fruits and vegetables provide rich amounts of disease- and inflammation-fighting nutrients and help promote appetite and weight control.
Look for organic meat and dairy products: When possible, go organic with your meat and dairy, since the synthetic hormones in conventional foods can promote fibroid growth.
Choose beans and lentils: As plant-based protein sources, beans and lentils provide nutritious alternatives to fatty meats, which increase inflammation. Legumes are also top fiber sources, making them prime choices for weight control.
If these changes don’t help after three months, you may want to consider uterine artery embolization, a minimally invasive procedure that blocks blood flow to the fibroids, shrinking them and relieving symptoms. Another option: asking your doctor about taking a medication that releases gonadotropin, a hormone that shrinks fibroids. A 2003 study conducted in South Korea found that these drugs can reduce the size of fibroids by 36 percent.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.