Uterine fibroids are benign growths within the uterine wall. This common condition affects many women – between 20-50% of women of child bearing age will suffer from fibroids. They can vary in size from tiny to very large and are influenced by the two major female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Fibroids can affect the menstrual cycle and fertility in the reproductive and peri-menopausal years. Some women experience severe pain, and flooding which can lead to dangerously low iron levels.
Usual medical treatments are focused on stopping the bleeding and reducing pain, and include the Pill, insertion of a Mirena IUD or surgical options. Sometimes the hormonal regulating drugs are ineffective and hysterectomy is the only option.
Many women suffering from uterine fibroids come to me seeking an alternative treatment or adjunct to their prescription medication or surgery.
The use of acupuncture as an adjunct to traditional treatments for fibroids is the subject of ongoing research. Although the mechanism of acupuncture and its role treating fibroids is uncertain, it has been suggested that it can play a part through stimulating, balancing and regulating our body’s systems such as the immune, neurohormonal and other hormonal systems.
One author, Moffet, suggests acupuncture results in the release of certain neurochemicals like beta-endorphins, or serotonin. Whereas Kaptchuk, a well-respected American TCM practitioner and academic, suggests acupuncture may stimulate gene expression of neuropeptides. Another theory is that puncturing the connective tissue with the needle may deliver a mechanical signal into the tissue, producing a therapeutic response.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
There are several Traditional Chinese Medicines that have been used as a complementary medicine for fibroids.
Traditional Chinese Medicines that have been used for fibroids include:
- Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan (Cinnamon and Hoelen) – this is the most commonly recommended herbal formula. It is used for similar conditions like dysmenorrhea (period pain) and has been used in conjunction with prescription medication to shrink the size of small fibroids. It is often taken alongside other Chinese Herbs such as Mu Dan Pi, Chi Shao and Tao Ren.
- Dan Shen and Ge Gen – these 2 herbs are still being studied, but research so far shows that they may be helpful in decreasing fatty deposits. These herbs contain tanshinones and have a number of beneficial properties and may act to decrease internal thickening in smooth muscle cells.
- Green tea – A recent small trial found that the flavonoids found in green tea helped to reduce the size of uterine fibroids.
- Citrus Three citrus Chinese herbs are commonly used in fibroids of a ‘Phlegm Damp’ type: Chen Pi, Qing Pi and Zhi Ke.
Remember, TCMS should only be used as directed by a qualified health professional, and they will advise you whether these products are suitable for your condition. While there are many studies that explore the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicines in treating fibroids, more research is needed before a definitive answer on their efficacy can be provided.
Diets that are high in refined processed foods, alcohol, ham and beef have been linked to fibroids and therefore should be avoided. Some foods that are advised to include your diet if you have fibroids are oily fish, whole foods, high fibre foods such as avocado and beans, citrus fruits and green vegetables. It’s also important to drink lots of water to flush out impurities.
In the treatment of uterine fibroids, anecdotal evidence suggests that an integrated approach using both conventional and alternative medicine such as acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, dietary and lifestyle modification helps to provide more holistic solutions.
We are happy to work with your medical practitioner to develop an integrated treatment plan for your uterine fibroids. As with all medical issues, if symptoms persist see your doctor.