Fibroids are primarily related to hormonal changes, but lifestyle and diet are also influential factors. Once formed, these tumors typically require pharmacological or surgical treatments. However, a fibroids diet can help people who know they are at risk, reducing the likelihood of developing them.
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What Are Fibroids?
According to a July 2012 study in the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, uterine fibroids are the most common tumors that occur in women. Although they are benign, they are often accompanied by a variety of symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain and pressure
- Urinary problems
- Irregular bleeding
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual cramps
According to both this study and an August 2012 study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fibroids can also cause more severe issues like loss of pregnancy and infertility issues. Around 30 percent of women with fibroids experience fertility problems. Long-term health issues are also possible.
Given the range of issues that are possible, it's very important to treat fibroids. A range of different pharmacological and surgical treatments are possible. Further fibroid growth can be preventable, but women need to be aware of the various risk factors that contribute to their fibroids' development.
Risk Factors for Fibroid Development
The exact reason fibroids develop is not known. However, fibroid growth is typically associated with hormones — specifically, estrogen and progesterone levels.
According to the study in the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, there are many different genetic, environmental, lifestyle and dietary risk factors that are also related to fibroids. Some of these risk factors cannot be altered. For instance, women of African descent have an increased risk of developing fibroids.
Other risk factors can be much more variable. For instance, stress, which can affect hormone levels, is thought to increase the likelihood of fibroid growth. Similarly, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets may also influence the risk of these benign tumors forming.
There are no fibroid natural treatment regimens or natural remedies for fibroids. However, lifestyle and dietary changes may reduce the chances of developing fibroids. These changes may be particularly beneficial for people who have already had fibroids or know they are at risk.
Foods to Avoid With Fibroids
Diet has been studied extensively in relation to the occurrence of fibroids. There are foods to avoid with fibroids, as well as foods for people to avoid if they wish to prevent their risk of developing fibroids.
According to an October 2015 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, diet is considered to be a major risk factor, as certain foods can influence the body's estrogen hormone metabolism. This essentially means that certain foods can replicate or even increase estrogen's effects.
Food products that can influence hormone metabolism include soybean milk, preserved foods, sweeteners and food additives. Additionally, both the studies in the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research and the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that increased consumption of meat products — particularly red meat products — can increase the risk of developing fibroids.
Similarly, a September 2014 study in the Maturitas European Menopause Journal reported that increased intake of dairy products and omega-3 fatty acids may increase the likelihood of developing fibroids. However, the scientific literature doesn't always agree on the foods to avoid with fibroids.
Debated Dietary Products and Fibroids
Several different dietary products are debated as foods to avoid with fibroids. Soy and dairy products' effects on fibroid formation have had particularly conflicting results reported.
For instance, the article in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition discussed how soy products had been reported as foods that might help prevent fibroid formation. However, this article was not able to replicate these results. In fact, it found that the consumption of soy products had no effect on fibroid development.
In contrast, the article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research and the study from the Maturitas European Menopause Journal reported that soy milk (but not other soy products) could increase the likelihood of fibroid formation. A May 2017 article in the_ BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG_) reported that soy milk consumption can cause a 2.5-fold increased risk of developing fibroids.
Dairy also has mixed effects reported in the literature. For example, the study in the Maturitas European Menopause Journal reported that dairy products are likely to increase the risk of fibroids. However, the article in BJOG reported that consumption of dairy products may help reduce the risk of fibroids.
Fibroids, Diet and Health
Reducing meat intake and consuming more plant-based products are the most beneficial aspects of a functional fibroids diet. This is because, as discussed in the study published in BJOG, a vegetarian diet is particularly thought to prevent the risk of uterine fibroids. This study reported how the consumption of fruits and vegetables can help prevent fibroids by lowering estrogen metabolism.
The same study found that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, as well as fruits such as tomato and apple, was particularly helpful in reducing the risk of developing fibroids.
Similarly, both the studies in the Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research and the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that consumption of green vegetables are beneficial components of a fibroids diet. These plant-based foods are thought to be beneficial because of their various antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Various other healthy plant-based foods can also be integrated into a fibroids diet. Products like green tea, licorice, shallots, garlic, grapefruit, garlic, curcumin and most berries are all rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals as well.
Although these foods have beneficial bioactive compounds, you should be aware that their clinical benefits aren't fully understood. An August 2015 study in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research Journal stated that these beneficial compounds have a great amount of potential. However, they are mainly being considered as potential therapeutic isolates rather than important components of fibroid diets.
Specific nutrients have been found to play a major role in fibroid development though. A May 2013 article in the Journal of Epidemiology reported that sufficient vitamin D intake can help reduce the risk of developing fibroids. The USDA states that salmon, mushrooms, pork, eggs and fortified foods (like dairy-based milk products and plant-based milk products) are some of the richest foods in this essential nutrient.
- Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research: "Clinical Presentation of Uterine Fibroids in Nnewi, Nigeria: A 5-year Review"
- Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Associations Between Uterine Fibroids and Lifestyles Including Diet, Physical Activity and Stress: A Case-Control Study in China"
- Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research: "Vegetarian Diet and Reduced Uterine Fibroids Risk: A Case–Control Study in Nanjing, China"
- Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: "Use of Dietary Phytochemicals to Target Inflammation, Fibrosis, Proliferation, and Angiogenesis in Uterine Tissues: Promising Options for Prevention and Treatment of Uterine Fibroids?"
- USDA: "Top 10 High Vitamin D Foods"
- Epidemiology: "Vitamin D and Risk of Uterine Fibroids"
- Maturitas European Menopause Journal: "EMAS Position Statement: Management of Uterine Fibroids"
- BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology: "Epidemiology of Uterine Fibroids: A Systematic Review"