Fibroids are abnormal growths that appear on or in the uterus. There are many different types of fibroids depending on the location of the growth. Depending on the size and number, they can cause many issues. Small fibroids usually do not cause any problems, and most women do not know they have it because they have no symptoms. For those with larger and more numerous fibroids, they can experience severe abdominal pain and heavy periods. Other symptoms can include heavy bleeding between or during your period, lower back pain, increased cramping, increased urination, constipation, or an enlarged abdomen.
Up to 80% of women have fibroids by the age of 50, and African American women are more likely to get fibroids than any other racial group.1 Statistically speaking, they are 3-4 times more likely to develop fibroids. Not only that, but African American women also develop fibroids at a younger age, and growths are more likely to be large, causing more of those severe symptoms.1
While it is still unknown what causes fibroids, there are a few nutrition and lifestyle tips that you can do to manage it.
Reduce Environmental Chemicals. Estrogen plays a role in the development and growth of fibroids. Certain everyday products including skin and body care and household products may contain harmful chemicals that are toxic and can promote estrogen activity in the body. These harmful chemicals are called endocrine disrupters and we shared more about them here. It’s important to be conscious of the products you use daily.
Enjoy Cruciferous Vegetables. While all vegetables have health benefits, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale specifically have nutrients that may act against uterine fibroid growth. Add them to your salads, soups, and stews too!
Soak up some Vitamin D. Many women are vitamin D deficient, especially African American women. Research suggests that vitamin D may prevent the occurrence and volume of fibroids in women, particularly African American women.2 Vitamin D is found in foods like cheese, fatty fish, fortified milk, and orange juices. A supplement may be needed, so be sure to talk to your doctor about getting your vitamin D levels checked.
Don’t Deny Dairy. The US Black Women’s Health Study indicated that dairy consumption has a protective role against fibroids due to the calcium and Vitamin D content.3 Bring on the charcuterie boards!
Add more Fiber. Eating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide bulk to your stool and help ease symptoms such as bloating and constipation which are often associated with fibroids. It also supports the excretion of excess estrogen from the body.
Assess Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake. Caffeine and alcohol have been linked to uterine fibroids. Women who drink alcohol are at a higher risk than those who don’t and those who drink three or more cups of caffeinated coffee are at an increased risk. Switch it up! Try a mocktail and go for options such as decaf beverages.
Manage Stress. Stress can affect your emotional and physical health, especially when it comes to fibroid development. Find stress-relievers most suitable for you like taking daily walks, meditation, or yoga poses.
If you suffer from uterine fibroids or believe you are at risk, work with your doctor and a Registered Dietitian to create a treatment and nutrition plan that’s right for you.
Written by former Dietetics Intern, Charissa Lim