By the time they reach menopause, half of all women have had uterine fibroids, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop within the uterus and may range from very small to a size large enough to fill the uterus. Tori Hudson, a naturopathic doctor, reports on her website that alternative measures like diet rarely shrink fibroids but may help manage symptoms such as heavy or lengthy periods, cramping, painful intercourse and frequent urination. Talk to your doctor about measures to address your fibroids.
A poor diet that's low in beneficial nutrients and high in calories can lead to obesity, one of the risk factors for fibroids, according to registered dietitian Megan Tempest, writing for "Today's Dietitian." It can also slow the elimination of estrogen from your body, leading to fibroid formation. Hudson cites high-fat diets – especially those rich in saturated fats – as potentially problematic for women with fibroids. Two of the biggest suppliers of saturated fat in the American diet are full-fat cheese and pizza. In addition, Tempest notes research that pinpointed an association between fibroids and consumption of beef and ham.
High GI Foods
Foods high on the glycemic index may feed fibroid growth, reports Tempest. The GI measures how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods affect blood sugar, but a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010 indicated a high GI rating also boosts fibroid risk, at least in African-American women. Foods with a GI over 70 are considered "high." Baked russet potatoes have one of the highest GIs, coming in at 111. Many refined food products like white breads, pasta and sugary baked goods are also high on the index; they convert quickly to glucose in your bloodstream. French baguettes, corn flakes cereal and white rice all have GI scores over 89 and should be avoided by women with fibroids.
The chemicals in alcohol and caffeine may also be problematic for women with fibroids. The liver processes estrogen so the body can eliminate it, and excess alcohol and caffeine consumption can strain the organ and compromise its effectiveness. A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2009 found a positive correlation between high alcohol consumption and fibroid risk in a study of Japanese women. Registered dietitian Margaret Wertheim told "Today's Dietitian" that women with fibroids should avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages like coffee.
Hudson notes that, contrary to popular belief, soy foods do not seem to promote uterine fibroids and may, in fact, help prevent them. In addition, while women with fibroids are avoiding the worst foods, they should also incorporate more nutritious foods into their diets, including plenty of fresh vegetables. Wertheim told "Today's Dietitian" she especially recommends cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage, which contain a compound that may boost estrogen metabolism by the body. Instead of refined grains, Hudson advises women to choose whole grains such as brown rice, millet and oats, all of which are high in B vitamins that help process estrogen.
Is This an Emergency?
- MedlinePlus: Uterine Fibroids
- Dr. Tori L. Hudson, ND: Uterine Fibroids – Women’s Health Update
- Today’s Dietitian: Uterine Fibroids and Nutrition
- Harvard School of Public Health: Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dietary Glycemic Index and Load in Relation to Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata in the Black Women's Health Study
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- British Journal of Nutrition: Association of Intakes of Fat, Dietary Fibre, Soya Isoflavones and Alcohol With Uterine Fibroids in Japanese Women