Black Women and Fibroids Part 2: Holistic Treatments and Preventative Health - Blood + Milk
black women and uterine fibroids

Black Women and Fibroids Part 2: Holistic Treatments and Preventative Health

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that form during the childbearing years of a woman’s life either as a single fibroid or many— with different locations within the uterus. While they are rarely a cause for concern, they can be if they become too big or there are many present. Black women also happen to be three times more likely than white women to develop them. To read more about my journey to learning about mine, check out Black Women and Fibroids Part 1: A Mother-Daughter Story About Resources.

The insufficient conversation I had with my doctor about treatment options for my uterine fibroids could have could have ended with her suggestion to “wait until” I want to have children to see if I miscarried a pregnancy. I am grateful that it didn’t. I asked my two holistic practitioners what they thought in terms of treating and shrinking fibroids. Below are their perspectives.

My number one trusted resource is Natasha Uspensky, CHHC who is a Holistic Nutrition Counselor & Wellness Expert with a specialty in Ayurveda. She is the founder of NU Health + Wellness and the author of The Organic Beauty Blog.

I have known her for over half of my life and I have been working with her for about 10 years. She works with women all over the world treating everything from hormone to fertility to lifestyle concerns. When I asked her about what I could do for my fibroids, here is what she recommended:

WHEN CLIENTS, LIKE MYSELF, COME TO YOU WITH FIBROIDS, WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND TO SHRINK THEM?

NU: As with the holistic treatment of most any health condition, treating uterine fibroids is always a three-pronged approach involving diet, supplementation, and lifestyle changes.  

Some of the most important supplements for treating fibroids are also geared towards reducing estrogen levels and creating hormonal balance.  They include DIM (a cruciferous vegetable complex), Vitex (chaste tree berry), vitamin D, fish oil, and liver cleansers such as milk thistle.  There’s also a great supplement called Fibro Defense that works quite well.

Lifestyle changes include a reduction (or elimination) of xenoestrogens, which means getting rid of plastics, switching to natural feminine care products, and using organic foods and beauty products and natural home cleaning products.  Regular exercise is also a very important component, as is using castor oil packs, which break up the excess tissue and remove toxins from the uterine area.

WHAT ARE NATURALS A GOOD WAY TO REDUCE PAIN?

NU: All the treatments above reduce pain from fibroids as the excess estrogen is cleansed from the body and fibroids begin to shrink. Fibro Defense, in particular, is helpful. Other pain relief options are warm castor oil packs do wonders for fibroid pain, essential oils like clary sage, thyme, and frankincense (a few drops of each combined with a bit of carrier oil massaged over the lower belly), sipping on teas like red raspberry leaf, nettle, and dandelion (I like a strong concoction of all three sipped throughout menses), yoga, and acupuncture are all very effective at managing painful symptoms.  But again, all of this must be combined with diet, supplementation and lifestyle changes to really work.

Both DIM and castor oil packs are used for treatment as well as prevention of fibroids and must be used until the fibroids shrink and symptoms subside. A typical dose of DIM is 100-200 mg a day (but always discuss your individual dose with your holistic practitioner). Castor Oil Packs can be performed daily or every other day for very painful cases, or 3 times a week for more mild cases. These should be continued for 30-60 days.

WHAT ABOUT CBD?

NU: Topical CBD oil hasn’t been shown to be very effective on a clinical level in treating fibroids, but some people do experience some relief from topical application. I, however, find that CBD suppositories are much more beneficial at treating the inflammation and pain. Foria Wellness makes a lovely one.

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FIBROIDS THAT THEY DO NOT KNOW?

NU: That uterine fibroids don’t just happen. More often than not, they are a result of lifelong exposure to xenoestrogens that have a toxic effect on the body. But the good news is that, more often than not, these effects can be reversed through the changes mentioned.

Reducing exposure to xenoestrogens and environmental and dietary toxins is crucial.

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OVARIAN AND UTERINE HEALTH?

NU: Every choice, from what we eat to what we put on our bodies, impacts our hormonal and uterine health (as well as all other aspects of our wellness).  When we make the right choices, health follows!

CAN YOU SHARE A BIT MORE ABOUT DIET?

NU: In terms of diet, for fibroid treatment, I recommend a whole foods, organic, mostly plant-based diet full of high fiber foods such as dark leafy greens, beans, whole grains, and seeds like chia, hemp and flax.  Elimination of processed sugar, meat, conventional dairy, refined carbs, caffeine, alcohol, additives, and preservatives is also really important to reducing estrogen levels in the body.

Many women who are prone to hormonal imbalance need to maintain a version of the fibroid diet for the rest of their lives to keep fibroids from coming back. That said, an initial cleanse period of 3-6 months is very effective at shrinking fibroids and eliminating symptoms. After that, the occasional glass of wine or sweet treat won’t derail everything. But the good news is, this type of whole-foods plant-based diet isn’t just good for treating fibroids, it is vital for fertility, cancer and other disease prevention, healthy weight, and lifelong health!

WHAT CAN WE LOOK OUT FOR IN TERMS OF SYMPTOMS OR THINGS DOCTORS MIGHT SAY THAT GO AGAINST HOLISTIC TREATMENT OPTIONS?

NU: Symptoms of uterine fibroids can go far beyond heavy menstrual periods and painful cramps. They can include fertility issues and gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain as well. Western medicine sadly follows a path of treating the symptoms, not the cause, and most doctors will recommend surgical treatments rather than treating the underlying hormonal imbalance. I always recommend a solid 6 month commitment to the holistic approach before considering surgery, if possible.

Another trusted resource I have is Karinn Casey, a California Licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and massage therapist. She is the founder of Acupop and I have been working with her for about a year to treat various health issues with acupuncture.

WHEN CLIENTS, LIKE MYSELF, COME TO YOU WITH FIBROIDS, WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND TO SHRINK THEM?

KC: When patients come to me with a fibroid diagnosis, they’re often in a lot of pain, worried, and full of questions. Am I infertile? Nope, but there are complications to consider. Do I have cancer? No still, but I can see why you might think that—tumors are scary! Is there anything I can do? Yes, let’s talk about it.

I first like to educate. Fibroids are very common— up to 80%-of-women-around-the world common, so you’re definitely not alone. But please don’t confuse common with normal—this isn’t a feature of the female experience, this is pathological and women are suffering.

HOW DO YOU APPROACH TREATMENT?

KC: In my clinic, I have a very clear treatment plan when approaching fibroids. Most commonly I’ll use acupuncture points in the lower abdomen attached to electric stimulation. The combination of acupuncture plus electricity employs a local and gentle Qi flow to the affected area for increased red and white blood cell circulation. As a Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage therapist, I also work directly with the fibroids through bodywork, this can be extremely effective in reducing their size and breaking up stagnation.

CAN YOU SHARE A BIT MORE ABOUT DIET?

KC: Our food consumption is very important here and complicated because so many of us have little control over our nutrition sources. Staying away from diets rich in dairy, red meat, food additives, and processed oils is a good start. I could write an entire book on BPA and phthalates, but please be cognizant of using too many plastics and synthetic scents, they are affecting us in the scariest way.

HOW DOES BIRTH CONTROL FACTOR IN?

KC: When I was 18, I was diagnosed with fibroids, and went on birth control. It helped immediately, I didn’t bleed as much during my cycle which meant more energy, fewer tampons and less laundry, a pain-free sex life and the ability to focus on my education. I am so grateful to low dose estrogen birth control for that, I probably would not have graduated and perhaps made so many poor social decisions otherwise.

But what about 10-15 years later when that 18-year-old is ready to have children, freeze eggs, or start family planning? When the birth control is taken away, most commonly, symptoms come back again, because the root causes have not been addressed for all these years. Clinically speaking, I urge you to have these conversations with your MDs and holistic practitioners to see where you can take the time to address these health concerns and review your health history to help reduce future complications.

Fibroids are often regulated with a birth control pill—which can help with the heavy bleeding—but it’s not a solution.

WHAT CAN WE LOOK OUT FOR IN TERMS OF SYMPTOMS OR THINGS DOCTORS MIGHT SAY THAT GO AGAINST CHINESE MEDICINE TREATMENT OPTIONS?

KC: Birth control is not the answer, but it can make a woman’s life far more comfortable—livable—which is very important. Surgery is an option in elevated cases, but consulting a practitioner like an acupuncturist or ND first would be my recommendation as the body is strong and able to change drastically on its own.

ANY LAST THOUGHTS?

KC: The youth are strong! Please know that if you’re given a fibroid diagnosis at a young age, consider dietary and lifestyle changes as they can reduce inflammation in the lower abdomen and lead to healthier choices in the future.

SUMMARY

For me, holistic approaches as well as non-Western options matter. I am grateful that I have access to other wellness options outside of the doctor’s office and it feels important to share this information. As long as holistic treatments and preventative wellness are not things that Western Medicine offers, the majority of people seeking treatment are not receiving all the information in a standard doctor visit with the OB-GYN. My mother didn’t. And I certainly didn’t either.

I am inspired by what I’ve learned in my own journey and feel it is important to share other methods to support our reproductive, hormonal and uterine health—especially for women who look like me since we are at a higher risk. I am encouraged to know that there is something that we can do to elevate these conversations and our health.

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