Fibroids are tumors that form in the uterus and affect one in five women. While the word "tumor" can seem scary, fibroids are benign, or noncancerous. They can cause bothersome symptoms, however, such as heavy or painful periods, uncomfortable fullness in your abdomen, frequent urination, pain during sexual intercourse and lower-back pain. By seeking any necessary treatment, you can prevent complications, such as reproductive problems and early labor. Foods aren't known to shrink fibroids, but certain foods in a healthy diet may help keep them from growing and minimize your symptoms.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide rich amounts of disease- and inflammation-fighting nutrients and fiber, which help promote appetite and weight control. These factors are important because inflammation and excess pounds can contribute to fibroids. In a study published in "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2013, researchers analyzed the diets of premenopausal women and found that eating rich amounts of fruits and vegetables lowered the women's risk of developing fibroids. A high body mass index, on the other hand, increased the risk.
Beans and Lentils
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are top fiber sources, making them prime choices for weight control. They also have a low glycemic index, or a mild impact on your blood sugar. High-glycemic carbohydrate sources, such as sweets, can cause inflammation and increase fibroid growth, according to Dr. Christiane Northrup, a physician and women's health expert. Replacing these foods with nutritious, low-glycemic carbohydrate sources, such as legumes, can help minimize your symptoms. As plant-based protein sources, beans and lentils also provide nutritious alternatives to fatty meats, which increase inflammation. Healthy legumes-based dishes include vegetarian chili, black bean and veggie burritos served in whole-grain tortillas and dal, an Indian lentil soup.
White foods, such as starchy white bread, increase insulin production in your body and influence the way estrogen is metabolized, says Northrup, increasing your risk for fibroid symptoms. Skip refined starches and stick to whole, unprocessed grains for improved uterine health and protection from fibroid growth. Whole grains are also also lower-glycemic and richer in antioxidants, fiber and protein than their processed counterparts. Nutritious examples include oats, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and barley.
Low-Fat Dairy Products
Uterine fibroids are up to three times more prevalent in black women than white women, according to a "Today's Dietitian" article by registered dietitian Megan Tempest, published in May 2012. Some evidence suggests this is likely because African-Americans consume significantly fewer dairy products than whites. The protective properties of dairy, according to researchers who've investigated this link, lie in the ability of calcium to inhibit cell growth that leads to the tumors. If you tolerate dairy products well, incorporate low-fat varieties, such as milk, yogurt and cottage cheese, into your diet. If not, choose lactose-free fortified milk or a nondairy equivalent, such as almond milk. Limit high-fat items, such as whole milk and fatty cheeses, which contribute to inflammation.
Soy and Flaxseeds
Soy and flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens -- natural substances with estrogenlike properties. Northrup says most women can benefit from phytoestrogens, which block the estrogen receptors on the cells in fibroids, potentially minimizing symptoms and lowering your risk for fibroid growth. Flaxseeds also provide fiber and omega-3 fats, which guard against inflammation and tumor growth and help rid your body of excess estrogen. For soy, which also offers a lean protein alternative to fatty meats, consume soy milk, tofu or edamame -- steamed, podded soybeans. Add ground flaxseeds to smoothies, yogurt and cereals.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Uterine Fibroids
- Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Associations Between Uterine Fibroids and Lifestyles Including Diet, Physical Activity and Stress: A Case-Control Study in China
- Today's Dietitian; Taking Control of Hunger -- Lessons on Calming Appetite and Managing Weight
- Harvard University Health Services; Fiber Content of Food in Common Portions
- ABC News: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- Dr. Christiane Northrup: Fibroids
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- Today's Dietitian; Uterine Fibroids and Nutrition -- Studies Suggest Healthful Dietary Modifications May Cut Risk and Ease Symptoms
- Linus Pauling Institute: The Two Faces of Inflammation