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.
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.
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 and 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.
Read More From Patientslounge
My Personal Struggle With Fibroids
When I 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, and motherwort leaf to relieve cramps
Combine herbs in a pot of boiling water for 20 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 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!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: How many months of doing the home remedies will it take to shrink the uterine fibroids or get rid of them totally?
Answer: The time for the fibroids to shrink using home remedies may depend on the size of the fibroids. My fibroids never disappeared. I had surgery in which they grew back. However, they did begin to shrink once I began menopause.
Question: Is it possible to shrink uterine fibroids?
Answer: From my understanding and research, the fibroids need to be cut off from the source that feeds them and causes them to grow, which is blood. Menopause is another way they will begin to shrink. Your doctor may also try putting you on a low dose of birth control in order to control the estrogen your body is receiving.
You can try cutting out processed food and develop a healthy diet of more fruits and vegetables to stop them from growing. There are other remedies out there where fellow fibroid sufferers insisted work for them but I haven't tried them. If your fibroid's are small and not bothering you or, not situated in a place that's stopping you from conceiving I would leave them alone.
However, if you are suffering from anemia, an unusual heavy flow, find yourself unable to conceive and are trying to, my advice would be to see your doctor and let him/her advise you on the many options available.
Question: My fibroids are still small. what can I do to prevent them for growing bigger?
Answer: My advice is to watch your eating habits. Eat healthy. Organic fruits and vegetables and eliminate processed meat that may be injected with hormones. Also keep monitoring them under a doctors care.
Question: What kind of surgery removes fibiroids?
Answer: There are different types of surgery. The best one for your situation depends on how your fibroids affect your quality of life. Surgery is not always the answer and, in my opinion, should be the last resort. Check with your doctor in order to determine which action you should take.
Question: I have been diagnosed with multiple Fibroids for 5 years now. My biggest one is 23cm. Luckily for me I am not suffering with any symptoms. My periods are normal and regular. I believe that any sickness can be healed. There must be a natural way that we can cut off the blood supply to the Fibroids. Do you know of any way?
Answer: I've done lots of research on Fibroids and my belief is that poor dietary habits plays a role in the growth of tumors. I don't know of any natural cure although I have read of home remedies and herbs but I never tried them. I chose to have surgery and they grew back. If they
are not bothering you and most importantly not stopping you from becoming pregnant, I would leave them alone and have regular check- ups to see how fast they are growing.
© 2011 Dana Tate
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on August 01, 2019:
During my continued research, I found peri-menopause can also mimic many of the same symptoms that were once associated with fibroids only. All I can say is knowledge is power.
I'm pleased that I was able to shed some light on the pain women feel when they suffer from fibroids. The emotional toll it takes on women are indescribable.
Blessings to you and yours.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 01, 2019:
My daughter had some severe first days and my mother always chewed ice but I have never had this problem. I should be more understanding. Thanks for the information.
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on December 02, 2018:
Manatita my dear friend...
Thank you for your kind words and continued support.
manatita44 from london on November 30, 2018:
Tough one, my Sweet. I often wonder about you. I feel that you should write, that you have a lot to offer in a spiritual and educational sense.
Fibroids can be extremely painful. Where I am, we do Uterine Artery Embolisation for women. (I'm a nurse, not a doctor) Very painful for some but seems to work well. Happy about your diet.
You have had Grace, some have strokes with Hb's better than yours were. So happy that you are writing and sharing. Much Love, my Sweet. Continue to treat your Temple well.
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on November 06, 2018:
I'm so happy everything worked out for you. Having a doctor in the family definitely helps. Unfortunately I waited so long to have my fibroids checked out they grew very large and I had to have two major surgeries. Myomectomy and Hoposcopsy. The surgery left me in a lot of pain and what's more frustrating is the fact they grew back.
Determined not to have any more surgery I changed my diet. They are not a problem although I still had heavy periods until I started going the early stages of menopause then, they begin to shrink. Let me ask you. Did the fibroids effect your childbearing?
Shaloo Walia from India on November 06, 2018:
I suffered for more than a year due to fibroids and was recommended a surgery. The size of fibroid was not much but it was touching the endometrial wall and hence was causing much problem. My aunt who's a doctor asked me to try a new medication for 3 months before going to surgery. The medicine was expensive but proved to be effective. The fibroid size was reduced to half. It's been a year now and I am doing fine.
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on September 08, 2018:
I never even noticed the typo's. Hopefully you don't have fibroids at all. Usually if a woman has a heavy flow, that is the first thing Doctor's look for. Please keep me updated.
Shannon Henry from Texas on September 03, 2018:
So far, I've never been told my iron levels are an issue. But who knows? Not sure they tell me half of what is going on when they stick me with needles for all the blood work. I just know they can't regulate my cycle with birth control (which I'm told could help with the heaviness) because I have high blood pressure. Yay for womanhood. LOL. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
P.S. Sorry for all the typos in that first comment. Bugs the crap out of me that I can read something and it is fine and then auto-correct changes it somehow without me noticing.
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on September 03, 2018:
Shannon, one of the things that irked me so was trying to explain why I couldn't go out or why I was so tired and have people keep asking me to go out, getting upset because I didn't feel like going out. Or, my personal favorite just thinking I was lazy.
It's one of thoes situations where people don't really get it unless they are going through it. I can't stress enough about taking iron pills. If your flow is heavy you're losing a lot of iron every month. This is causing your fatigue. Left untreated this could lead to blood transfusions because eventually your hemoglobin will become low.
Not only do I take iron (with slow release) I also, inclued leafy green vegetables in my meals every day. For lunch, I will have a huge romaine salad with beets, which is also good for the blood, avacado, tomatoes sometimes I will mix my salad with romaine lettuce, leafy spinach, and kale, all high in iron. You can also, make yourself smoothies in the morning, the one I listed on this hub is a good one. Or, you can read up on fruits and choose vegetables that are high in iron and drink one every morning. I would advise using stevia (sugar substitue) or choosing sweet fruit to take the bitterness out. The main thing is to take thoes iron pills everyday even through your cycle to keep your iron up.
Many doctors have compassion for women with fibroids especially during thoes child-bearing years. You may qualify for clinical trials in which you pay nothing. Doctors try not to give you surgery unless you're passed childbearing age. In the mean time take your iron pills. Eat leafy dark green vegetables, avoid caffiene, and if you smoke cigaretts, and alcohol during that time of the month, they have the ability to irritate your fibroids.
Shannon Henry from Texas on September 03, 2018:
Just the article I needed. I can very much relate to much of it. I'm more of a homebody so cancelling plans isn't much of an issue. However, I can most definitely relate to the more embarrassing problems, the fatigue, and being extra irritable on top of all the other emotions that tend to come along with stress and anxiety that time of the month. I haven't been officially diagnosed, though a doctor mentioned it a time or two. That or cysts. Unfortunately, the type of insurance I had wouldn't pay for the rest if the tests to discover the exact problem and I couldn't afford it. So I just deal with it.
I just have one question. How did you battle the fatigue? Origins me a few days before and lasts a few days into my cycle at its worst. And that's part of the reason for my mood swings during the time. I'm a super grump and snappy when I am tired. Not bad good combination. And no one ever wants to discuss such matters to begin with, so try explaining it to someone who doesn't get it.
Dana Tate (author) from LOS ANGELES on July 19, 2018:
Thank you Frank, for reading and commenting on my article.
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on July 19, 2018:
oh my goodness.. yet this was very informative...:)