Uterine fibroids and inflammation of the vagina are common problems, especially among women of childbearing age. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors arising from muscle tissue in the uterus. Inflammation of the vagina, known as vaginitis, is most commonly caused by an infection -- such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a yeast infection. Dietary changes have not been proven to cure uterine fibroids or vaginitis. However, some research suggests that certain foods and nutrients might affect the development and growth of uterine fibroids and influence your risk for infectious vaginitis. Including certain fruits, vegetables and other ingredients in your juice drinks might prove beneficial for your vaginal health and potentially influence the growth of uterine fibroids. Consult your doctor to discuss your specific dietary needs as they pertain to your health.
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Green juices -- those made with green vegetables -- could potentially reduce your risk for fibroids. A study published in September 1999 in "Obstetrics and Gynecology" found a diet rich in green vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of uterine fibroids. A subsequent study published in December 2011 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" also reported a reduced risk of uterine fibroids associated with higher amounts of vegetables and fruits in the diet. Researchers speculate the combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other plant-based nutrients could influence the development and growth of fibroids.
Green vegetable options for juicing include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, lettuce, bok choy and collards. These veggies are not only rich in nutrients but are also low in calories and sugar. Maintaining a healthy weight is important as overweight and obesity increase the risk for uterine fibroids. The low sugar content in green juices might also be helpful for preventing infectious vaginitis, which has been associated with high sugar intake.
Squeeze Some Citrus
The December 2011 "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" study found a strong association between high levels of fruit in the diet and a reduced risk for uterine fibroids. The researchers found the strongest reduction in risk was observed among women with a high intake of citrus fruit. Adding some citrus fruit to a largely green juice can make the drink more palatable if you don't like a pure veggie juice. Since citrus fruits are tangy and flavorful -- especially if you include some of the peel -- you can make the drink more appetizing without adding a lot of sugar and calories. Any citrus fruit can be juiced, including oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, tangelos and grapefruit.
Punch It Up with Probiotic Dairy
Adding some probiotic dairy to your juice drink might prove useful for your vaginal and uterine health. A large study published in January 2010 in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" found that consumption of milk and other dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of developing fibroids. The researchers speculate that the calcium, phosphorus and a type of fat called butyric acid in milk products might be responsible for the reduced risk.
A March 2009 article published in the "Journal of Nutrition" reported that a diet rich in calcium is also associated with a reduced risk of BV, the most common cause of infectious vaginitis. Adding a probiotic diary product -- such as yogurt with active cultures or kefir -- to your juice drink can potentially provide added protection against infectious vaginitis by promoting a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina. If you're vegan, you might try adding nondairy yogurt with active cultures or stirring the contents of a vegan probiotic capsule into your juice drink.
Juicing can be a fun, creative way to meet your daily fruit and vegetable intake targets, but eating whole foods remains the preferred way to consume most of your fruits and veggies. Depending on the juicer you use, a variable portion of the fiber and nutrients from the fruits and veggies included in your drink are lost. Additionally, juice is a more concentrated source of calories than whole fruits and vegetables. So it's generally best to limit the amount of juice in your daily diet and round out your nutrition plan with whole foods.
When juicing, it's important to wash all fruits and vegetables to remove potential contaminants and bacteria. Thoroughly washing your juicer between uses, as well as your knives and cutting board also reduces the risk of potential bacterial contamination. Talk with your doctor about the safety of juicing if you are pregnant or your immune system is weakened by an illness such as HIV or cancer.
Although many women with uterine fibroids have no symptoms, see your doctor if you experience pelvic or abdominal pain, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, or bleeding between your periods. It's also important to see your healthcare provider if you experience vaginal pain, burning, itching, or increased or malodorous vaginal discharge. Because there are many causes of vaginitis, it's important to accurately identify the cause so that you receive appropriate treatment.
Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.