My Experience, Symptoms, and Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are benign, non-cancerous tumors, or cysts, that can grow inside, outside, or near the walls of the uterus. If the fibroids are small, they can remain undetected for years.
However, if they become large enough, the carrier may experience these symptoms:
- Low energy (due to anemia)
- Severe cramping
- Low back pain
- Heavy menses
- Cycles that last longer than seven days
- Period clotting
- Frequent bladder infections
It is common for women with fibroids to have a strong craving for ice. Pagophagia, the craving or chewing of ice, is thought to stem from the blood loss from heavy menses. The body wants the oxygen in the ice, which is why people with anemia have a strong urge to eat ice. With my fibroids, I craved crushed ice—my mouth would water at just the thought of it.
Eating foods that are high in iron and taking iron supplements should reduce some of the cravings. Once a woman has surgery for fibroid removal, the craving for ice should also go away.
Do you find yourself having an unusual craving for ice?
Loss of Energy
Women with fibroids or endometriosis may suffer from fatigue and a lack of energy. The loss of iron after a heavy cycle can leave women feeling drained. While I researched the experiences of other women suffering from these conditions, the most common responses I found were:
- "I would make plans to do things with family or friends, but I just didn't have the energy after a cycle, so I would cancel. The most hurtful thing was disappointing people knowing they didn't understand."
- "I would have to call off work my first few days. I just bled too heavily and would have needed the bathroom often."
- "I would pray I didn't have to sneeze or cough. I knew the results could be devastating if I did."
It is common for women suffering from fibroids to be unusually moody, irritable. They may keep canceling plans, even at the last minute. Sometimes, this may cause guilt in the fibroid sufferer. It's hard for people not suffering from these conditions to understand the physical and emotional toll it takes on women.
Women with fibroids may experience clotting during their menstrual cycle. Clotting can range from small clots to clots the size of golf balls or larger. When fibroids are left untreated for a period of time, the body becomes deprived of nutrients and iron. The loss of iron will cause the blood to thin and appear watery. If the flow is particularly heavy the blood can clot.
Hemorrhaging is very scary. Over a period, of time you will begin to feel weak and lightheaded. It's best to avoid aspirin which will further thin the blood. Opt for Ibuprofen or Aleve instead. If you start to hemorrhage, call your doctor immediately. If you experience heavy blood loss, you may need a transfusion to build up your hemoglobin levels.
Many of the symptoms of uterine fibroids overlap with those of endometriosis, another painful condition in which the endometrium lining grows on nearby organs rather than being shed with the monthly menses. Both conditions are the leading causes of infertility in women during their reproductive years.
No two people are the same. For some, raw sugar, caffeine, and smoking can irritate the fibroids during menses. Cravings for ice, dirt, and even powdered starch are also common and can be an indication of low hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Low hemoglobin is the result of excessive blood loss from heavy menstruation. If left untreated, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke. You will likely also need a blood transfusion. It's important for women who experience heavy cycles to take iron supplements daily, exercise regularly, and eat foods that are rich in iron to support healthy hemoglobin levels.
What Causes Fibroids?
Although the causes of uterine fibroids are still unclear, one theory suggests that synthetic hormones in some meat products play an active role in promoting the growth of these tumors as well irritating them. Understanding your body and making sure you get enough key nutrients such as iron, calcium, and folic acid can help alleviate your symptoms.
Harsh chemicals found in today's cleaning products are not only harmful for children and pets, but they can mimic estrogen, which, in excess, can cause tumors to grow. Natural cleaning products are good for fibroid sufferers and the environment as well.
Ignoring my fibroids took away the opportunity to explore other options for managing them. It is a decision I will always regret.
My Personal Struggle With Fibroids
When I had first started having fibroids, I couldn't do anything for the first few days. Sometimes, my cycle would start out light but then grow so heavy that I had to double up on pads. I was miserable due to the bad cramping and heavy cycles that made me anemic. Things got much worse when, one day, I got the flu—at this point, I lost all of my energy. When I went to see my doctor and had my blood drawn, I was immediately rushed to the hospital. My hemoglobin level was at 2 g/dL, and the doctors could not understand how I had not had a stroke. I believe it was only by the grace of God. I had been ignoring my fibroids for years, and after receiving a blood transfusion, I scheduled surgery for fibroid removal.
After an examination by my gynecologist, I was diagnosed as having uterine fibroids. One fibroid in particular, which caused me so much pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, was the size of a grapefruit! I was scheduled for a hysteroscopy and myomectomy, two surgical procedures used to remove fibroids. I really had no choice because my fibroids had become too large. I had also lost a considerable amount of blood from my cycles during the few months I waited to have my operation—my hemoglobin, which I was able to get back up to around 10 g/dL, was now at a dangerous 6 g/dL!
I stayed in the hospital for three days and was off work for six weeks after having my surgery. Unfortunately, after a couple of years, the fibroids slowly began to come back. By watching my diet—eating lots of green, leafy vegetables and cutting out fried foods and red meat—I was able to manage my fibroids the second time around. So far, I haven't needed another surgery.
How I Managed My Uterine Fibroids
Eat Leafy, Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables, such as greens, broccoli, spinach, okra, peas, romaine lettuce, avocados, cabbage, Brussels sprouts. and kale are all rich in iron and good for the blood. Whole grains, seeds, nuts, peanut butter, fish, beets, and berries are all healthy for the immune system and can help with fibroids.
Choose Organic Foods
Since some tumors are dependent on estrogen and are affected by fluctuating hormones, keeping your hormones well-balanced is essential. The synthetic hormones that are used in some meats, as well as pesticides that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables, can be hazardous to everyone, especially women with tumorous growths. It would be best to eliminate processed meat altogether, but since this can be difficult, switch to organic foods; you'll pay more for groceries, but the relief you will feel during your menses is worth the price.
Herbal Teas Can Help With Excessive Bleeding and Cramping
Herbal and organic teas can be a lifesaver for fibroid and endometriosis sufferers. I found these herbs to be helpful with excessive bleeding as well as bad cramping. These items can be found at your local health food store.
- Raspberry leaf and ginger tea to reduce bleeding
- Burdock root, cramp bark & motherwort leaf to relieve cramps
Combine herbs in a pot of boiling water for twenty minutes, strain the tea, and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
Beet Juice Is a Great Way to Boost Your Energy
It is not uncommon for women who suffer from fibroids to experience chronic fatigue. Remembering what to eat and what not to eat, plus taking on iron supplements can be very daunting. I am one of those people who hate taking pills, so taking iron supplements was a chore for me.
Speaking with other fibroid sufferers, I learned that juicing would allow me to get all my daily nutrients. Over time, I was able to ditch my iron pills altogether. This is one of the tasty recipes that I use that provides me with lots of energy.
Blend the following ingredients together:
Beets are loaded with vitamins A, B, and C and are a good source of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and iron. Beets are great for building up the blood in people who suffer from anemia.
How You Can Help Someone With Fibroids
- Show compassion: Try to understand that she may be unusually moody, irritable, or depressed during this time. It can be both physically and emotionally draining.
- Be understanding: Know that if a woman cancels her plans, it's not because she doesn't want to go but because her heavy cycles can make it difficult and uncomfortable during this time of the month.
- Share information: Knowledge is power. If you know of any treatments or home remedies, share with someone you know who is suffering from this condition—or leave a comment below!
The information from this article is mostly from personal experience and conversations with doctors and other patients. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your condition. Please consult your healthcare professional for the best course of action for your specific situation.
If you have uterine fibroids, how are you dealing with them?
© 2011 Dana Tate