While uterine fibroids — which are abnormal growths that can develop in a woman's uterus — aren't something that I've personally had to deal with, because I am a doula, I've had several clients who've struggled with them when it comes to trying to conceive and/or when it comes to safely carrying their baby to term; that's why, I've done quite a bit of research on them over the years. Interestingly enough, reportedly 80 percent of women will develop them over some point in their lifetime and a quarter of us, between the ages of 18-30 will get them in comparison to six percent of white women.
As far as what causes these particular kinds of fibroids, they've been linked to the roller coaster ride of hormones, pregnancy (due to pretty much the same thing), obesity and DNA. As far as Black women go, it needs to also go on record that more and more studies are linking uterine fibroids to the use of hair relaxers as well. So, if when it comes to your period, you are experiencing heavy cramping (or increased cramping), a lot of clots or that your period is lasting longer than it typically does or, beyond that, you're having pain during intercourse, swelling in your abdominal area or that you've been having to pee more usual, make an appointment to see your doctor, just so they can be sure that fibroids aren't the cause.
No matter what the outcome of your visit, please be intentional about your diet because, believe it or not, there are foods that can help to prevent and heal fibroids and there are foods that can trigger the growth of them at every turn. Let's look at five of each.
Five Foods to Eat to Help Heal Fibroids
If you've ever said to yourself, "What the heck are legumes?", beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and peanuts are all considered to be a part of the legume family. If the next question is "What makes them different from beans?", the technical answer is they are the leaves, stems and pods of a plant while beans are just the seeds. With that out of the way, legumes are good for you because they are loaded with antioxidants; the kind that help to fight off cell damage and reduce signs of aging (inside and out).
Legumes also have a reputation for reducing the risk of heart disease and cholesterol. When it comes to helping to prevent or heal fibroids, what makes them really effective is legumes are high in fiber which makes it easier for your system to get rid of the kinds of toxins that could either help to create a uterine fibroid or "feed it" so that it gets bigger or lasts longer.
If you like to cook with fresh garlic, good for you, sis. Garlic has potent medicinal properties in it. Garlic can help to reduce your blood pressure. Garlic has a reputation for increasing athletic performance. Garlic even adds to longevity. Fibroids hate garlic because the antioxidants and sulfur in it fights off the kinds of free radicals that can lead to the development of uterine fibroids over time. Not only that but sulfur is a powerful healer and has been known to help heal scars caused by fibroids too.
Something that I sometimes take in supplement form are flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are good for you because they're a good source of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Not only that, flaxseeds can help to lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, plus they're great at helping you to feel fuller which can curb your appetite, so that you end up losing weight.
What makes them great for uterine fibroid health? I read a study that said some of the properties in them caused hens with uterine fibroids to end up with 40 percent less of them over time, just by adding 10 percent of flaxseeds to their diet. To me, that's a good enough reason to at least give flaxseeds a shot.
4. Non-Gluten Grains
When you get a chance, feel free to check out the article, "8 Reasons Whole Grains Are Good For You. 4 Reasons To Eat Them In Moderation." that I wrote for the site not too long ago. Since it covers a good amount of ground about why whole grains are good for you, what I'll just say, specifically, as it relates to uterine fibroid prevention and healing, is whole grains that don't have any gluten in them (which is a protein in wheat that doesn't really have much nutritional value although it's not all bad either; mindbodygreen did a good article on its benefits that you can check out here).
Some of those foods include brown rice, buckwheat and millet. All of these are beneficial because the antioxidants, protein and fiber in them can help to protect against uterine fibroid growth while improving the health of your uterus overall.
5. Organic Produce
Since fresh fruits and veggies are loaded with nutrients, including fiber which helps to keep us regular, it makes complete and total sense why they would be the kind of food that helps to prevent and also heal uterine fibroids. The key is to make sure that you go with the kind that are organic. Why? Well, that means they don't have any of the fertilizers and pesticides that are oftentimes used in order to make produce last longer.
I already know — organic produce at local grocery stores is like paying rent. This is just one more reason to support your local farmers market. Stuff is cheaper and typically so much fresher. Plus, you're supporting your local farmers when you decide to go that route.
Five Foods to Avoid in Order to Prevent Fibroid Growth
1. Refined Sugar
Remember how I said in the intro that obesity is connected to uterine fibroid growth? It's no secret that perhaps the leading cause of so many people being overweight in this country is refined sugar, so that's enough of a reason to cut back a bit. However, another reason why refined sugar isn't really a good look is because it can throw your hormone levels off. Imbalanced hormones can lead to inflammation and fibroid growth. When it comes to (refined) sugar, less is certainly best (check out "Ever Wonder If You've Got A Low-Key Sugar Addiction?").
The two hormones that can trigger the growth of uterine fibroids are estrogen and progesterone. That said, the reason why the consumption of soy can be a real problem when it comes to uterine fibroids is because it contains phytoestrogens which is a compound that mimics estrogen. So, if soy is totally your thing but you want to do all that you can to keep uterine fibroids at bay, you might want to consider eating a lot less of it.
Something that can put a lot of stress onto your liver is caffeine and when your liver isn't working at its best, that can play a role in your hormones not being as balanced as they would need to be in order to keep you from experiencing uterine fibroids. No one is saying you have to ditch your java altogether, but if you're drinking more than 2-3 cups a day, definitely cut back. (Speaking of your liver, do some research on milk thistle when you get a chance. It's an herb that helps to detoxify your liver. Whenever I take it, I can actually see a real difference.)
4. Fatty Processed Meat
Red meat is high in iron and Vitamin B12; since these are two nutrients that we, as Black women, are oftentimes low in, that's a good reason to not feel bad about having an occasional steak or burger. At the same time, it's always a good idea to remember that moderation is key when it comes to meat consumption and, if you want to avoid getting fibroids, you should definitely tiptoe around processed meats (meats that were made via the process of curing, salting, smoking, drying or canning).
Some examples of processed meats include cured bacon, hotdogs, ham, sausage and salami. The reason why these are problematic for uterine fibroids is because they have a lot of additives that can also throw your hormones off. Some even have more estrogen put into them and you definitely want to avoid that as much as you can.
5. “White Stuff”
White bread. White pasta. White rice. You get it. Something that all of these things have in common is they are refined carbs which means they've got very little nutritional value to them. This is a not-so-good thing overall but what makes them suck when it comes to uterine fibroids is they can throw your estrogen levels off and cause your fibroids to grow in size. In short, in this instance, "white ain't right", so definitely avoid it as much as possible. Your body, including your uterus, will be oh so grateful. Indeed.
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