So, you’ve just found out that you have fibroids – don’t panic! Here’s what you need to know right now:
1. Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow inside the uterus. According to research, approximately 1 in 5 women will develop fibroids during their childbearing years.
2. Fibroids take years to develop/grow but there are warning signs:
- Have you noticed that you’ve become lethargic lately?
- Are you out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs?
- Have you been bleeding a lot more than normal during your menstrual cycle?
- Is your menstrual cycle lasting longer than usual?
- Is there abdominal swelling?
- Do you have back pain?
- Is there unexplainable weight gain?
- Are you urinating frequently?
3. Anemia: Iron deficiency is common among women with fibroids and your doctor will insist that you begin taking supplements immediately.
4. Iron and vitamin C: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron so it’s important that you take these two together. To that end, why not have a glass of orange juice with your iron supplement? Or, why not make lemonade, but instead of using sugar use blackstrap molasses?
5. Distended abdomen: This is where things start to get ugly. It’s bad enough that you are now, probably anemic, having back pains, bleeding uncontrollably, etc. There’s one more surprise waiting for you. As the fibroids grow, your uterus will expand and your abdomen will become distended – that is, you will look like you’re pregnant. Say goodbye to your waistline.
6. Bloating: Another common symptom of fibroids. It’s important that you listen to your body to discover the pattern. In my case, it usually begins at least one week before my cycle commences and ends a few days after.
7. Fibroids are not life threatening.
8. Fibroids are more common than you think – mention it to a few of your friends and you’ll be surprised at how many have been suffering in silence.
9. No one knows for sure why fibroids develop.
10. Treatment options:
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): This is a minimally invasive procedure that blocks blood supply to the fibroids by inserting a catheter into the uterine arteries. The entire treatment typically lasts less than an hour and the patient is required to remain in the hospital for another 24 hours for observation. To learn more, see: http://www.ask4ufe.com/howUfeHelps/ufeProcedure.cfm
- Myomectomy: In this operation, the surgeon removes the fibroids leaving the uterus intact. Note that with this procedure, fibroid regrowth may occur.
- Hysterectomy: This is a surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed – an option for women who have no desire to become pregnant.
- MR Guided Focused Ultrasound: This is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure in which high doses of focused ultrasound waves are used to destroy uterine fibroids.
Eager to have the UFE done as quickly as possible, I scheduled an MRI. The result would eventually reveal that I had two large fibroids (9 cm and 8cm) plus others too numerous to count! As I listened to my doctor, I couldn’t help but notice that he did not seem very enthusiastic about me doing the procedure. When I questioned him about this, he chose his words very carefully. Based on the MRI, I was the perfect candidate for UFE.
I began to seriously doubt whether or not I was making the right decision, so once again I returned to Earthclinic (http://www.earthclinic.com/CURES/fibroids.html) to figure out what I had missed. I found nothing new. However, through additional research I learned that vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron. This made a lot of sense to me as I had stopped drinking juices (orange juice in particular) because I found them incredibly sweet. I also realized that I hadn’t been eating a lot oranges – I always ate apples, bananas, pineapples, etc. I needed foods with higher vitamin C content.
Further research led me to a discussion about the use of beets, aloe vera juice, and molasses to shrink fibroids. This seems to be a popular formula among Dominicans. Anyway, I went out and bought some lemons and a few beets – I already had fresh aloe vera juice in the fridge. I figured, why not? I then juiced and bottled the beets. Every morning and evening I would prepare the following drink:
- 1 cup beet juice
- 1/4 cup aloe vera juice
- 1-2 tablespoons unsulphered blackstrap molasses
- The juice of one lemon
- Enough water to fill the glass
After a few days, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my belly looked flatter. I dismissed it though – it had to be my imagination. Next day, same thing – my belly looked flatter than the day before. That’s when I started measuring. I measured below my waist, where the protrusion was greatest, and that day it was 38 inches. Two days later I measured again and it was 36 inches! I wasn’t imagining it.
Vitamin C! Who knew?
I called my doctor and explained that I wanted to delay the UFE. He sounded pleased.
April, 2009: the date of my appointment to discuss my candidacy for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). In preparation for the big day, I watched a video of the procedure. I watched it several times actually, until I was comfortable. You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/36jjhh8
A friend asked: “Why are you watching this? Are you going to get up in the middle of the procedure and declare ‘you’re doing it wrong!’ then do it yourself?” That made me laugh. But in all seriousness, watching the procedure made me less nervous and more confident about my decision. I really needed to know exactly what they were going to do to my body.
The big day finally arrived and I was greeted by a very warm and caring nurse in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, who, after showing me to the exam room, proceeded to get the required information from me. She was very thorough and actually made me feel quite comfortable. She confirmed that I looked like I was six months pregnant. Then it was the doctor’s turn.
After reading my chart, he explained the procedure and while I had done my homework and knew almost everything he was telling me, I must admit that I was not aware of the potential side effects. They include the possibility that your period could stop for a few months, chronic pain, pelvic pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Please note that serious complications are not very common.
What really surprised me however, was the knowledge that it could take approximately six months after the procedure for the fibroids to shrink. Also, the fibroids wouldn’t shrink completely – their size would be reduced by about 60 – 70%. You see, I naively thought that once I had the UFE done, my belly would return to its usual size and everything would be wonderful – no, the doctor said, you need surgery for that. And, the side effects of surgery are far worse.
He asked about my symptoms – I had none. “Then why do you want to do this?” Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I looked like I was six months pregnant! The first seed of doubt was planted though, and I then wondered if I was doing the right thing.
To determine whether or not I was a good candidate for UFE, I was asked to do an MRI and an endometrial biopsy.
The date: February, 2009. I have been managing my fibroids now for about a year and a half. Although the size of my belly kept fluctuating, I had figured out the pattern. There were no more back pains, menstrual cycle was normal, and my iron level was good. I sometimes had problems with frequent urination but it was manageable.
What I recall is that I had a visit from my Aunt who then asked me to make one of my skincare products. (I don’t usually keep stock in the house.) A trip to the hair salon had left her a bit bald and she was desperate for a product to fix it. Before preparing the formula, I sterilized all the containers and utensils, then disinfected the countertops with bleach. After about two hours, she had her product. Nothing unusual, I thought.
However, a few days later my belly literally doubled in size!
Pre-fibroids, I don’t think I truly understood how one’s self esteem can be intricately intertwined with body image. Most women are sensitive about their weight. Not me. But then I didn’t have to be, I was always skinny. My Achilles heel is my skin. I am obsessed with skincare and the idea of flawless skin.
Yet, in February 2009, as I stared in the mirror and saw my image, I was crushed. I had a distended abdomen and looked heavily pregnant. My self esteem plunged. From that point on, I stopped looking in the mirror – I hated what I saw, so what was the point? When I tried on one of my favorite J. Crew dresses and realized that it no longer fit, I got really angry.
Suddenly, the natural route wasn’t cutting it. I wanted an immediate solution to the problem – the fibroids had to come out. No more molasses, no more research, just get them out – now!
With that in mind, I made an appointment with one of the radiologists on the www.ask4ufe.com Web site. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) was the route I wanted to take. It’s less invasive than surgery and the process typically lasts less than an hour. For more information see http://tinyurl.com/35gjgqk.
In late 2008, the Star Tribune printed the following article about vitamin D: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/28701254.html. Here are the highlights:
- Vitamin D deficiency is now an epidemic
- Researchers have linked deficiencies to 17 kinds of cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, heart disease, depression and ADHD
- Vitamin D regulates hundreds of genes, especially those associated with cell growth
- It’s cheap and readily available via the sun
- Those who live in colder climates do not get enough of the vitamin as they tend to spend more time inside than out
Further research lead me to the following clinical trial: Vitamin D inhibits myometrial and leiomyoma cell proliferation in vitro (http://tinyurl.com/2d938yd).
Here are the highlights:
- The study was done in vitro (in a test tube)
- In both myometrial and leiomyoma cells, 0.1 nM physiologic level of 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibited growth by 12% when compared with controls
- Conclusion: Both myometrial and leiomyoma cell growth in vitro was effectively inhibited by 1,25(OH)2D3. Vitamin D may play a role in the growth of uterine leiomyomas.
- (Note: leiomyoma = fibroids)
Another study concluded that vitamin D inhibits proliferation of human uterine leiomyoma cells via catechol-O-methyltransferase (http://tinyurl.com/34lzc2l)
At this point, I decided to incorporate vitamin D into my diet. Here’s my regimen:
- Soak up the sun: Daily walks that last at least 30 minutes
- Cod liver oil (very good source)
- Vitamin D3 tablets (winter)
Now, I know this might sound strange but I’ve been the same size for years – actually, since college. In fact, I don’t gain weight easily. This is why I never thought it was me.
Then one day I got on the scale and looked down. It read 155 lbs! I’m 5ft. 9 and my usual weight, pre-fibroids, was 143-145 llbs. This couldn’t be right – I need a new scale. My eating habits hadn’t changed. I rarely drank sodas, fruit juices, or basically any drink that contained fructose corn syrup. I snacked (and still snack) on nuts, fruits, and the occasional ice cream. It just didn’t make sense.
What was even more shocking was the overnight weight gain. Once, I went to bed weighing 155 lbs and woke up weighing 165! I nearly went mad. That’s when I realized that it was the fibroids. No matter what I did (exercise, daily walks, cutting out sugar) I just seemed to be gaining weight at the drop of a hat. Bloating was beginning to be a bigger pain than I thought it would be.
It just seems to be going up and down. One minute I think the fibroids are shrinking and I get really excited, the next minute I’m back at square one. I now have a new issue to deal with – bloating. Pre-fibroids, I had no idea what this was. Now, it seems to be my nightmare.
One week before my cycle, my belly would swell. A few days after the cycle, it would shrink. (It would take two years for me to discover why, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) Then there was the frequent urination. Cranberry juice helped (and still helps) a lot though.
On the next trip to the doctor, I voiced my frustration. Why do some women report that after taking blackstrap molasses, they have been completely cured, yet I’ve been taking this thing for months now and though there have been tremendous improvements, the tumors are still there? “Because your body is different,” she said. “Something else is going on with you.” Hmm, I never thought of that. I need to do more research.
Here’s how unsulphered blackstrap molasses helped:
- Cured my anemia
- Helped to eliminate back pain (I also did targeted exercises)
- In the midst of “flooding,” I would take two tablespoons. This little trick would stop it immediately
- Instead of two heavy days, I was now down to one not so heavy day. In fact, bleeding reduced significantly overall.
- Energy level increased
I then started to notice the weight gain.
Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of the sugar manufacturing process. It is a type of molasses that is actually made from the third boiling of sugar syrup. This thick, viscous liquid is an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamin A, and potassium. Note that for our purposes, we are interested in unsulphered blackstrap molasses.
I picked up a bottle at my local health food store and quickly learned that, for this particular brand, one tablespoon contains 20% of the daily value for iron, vitamin A, and calcium. I decided to take one tablespoon per day along with the prescribed iron tablets. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing – I was just following a hunch.
After a few days, I noticed the following: I had a lot more energy and I was also sleeping better. Normally, a trip from Queens to New York City, and back, would leave me exhausted. I remember getting out of the subway once, and climbing the usual two flights of stairs to get to the street. This left me extremely tired, to the point where I had to stand there for a few minutes to catch my breath. This occurred the day before I went to the doctor.
Anyway, after a few weeks on this miracle syrup, trips to the city had no effect on me. I was brimming with energy! What I noticed next was even more shocking. During my cycle, I was bleeding far less than previous months. That’s when I decided to increase the dosage to two tablespoons per day – one in the morning and one before bed. After two months I stopped taking the iron tablets and began to rely on blackstrap molasses to meet my daily iron requirements.
Four months later and I was extremely happy with my decision. Back pain – gone! Energy level – up, way up! Hair and nails were now growing like mad. Fibroids felt softer and my belly looked flatter. I should tell you that the main reason why I went to the doctor in the first place was because I had felt a small lump in my lower abdomen. After months of convincing myself that it was a tumor, and that I really didn’t want to know for sure, I noticed that my once flat belly was starting to look round. The doctor confirmed that I looked like I was about three months pregnant.
Upon hearing that, I went home, looked in the mirror and gave myself a pep talk. So what have we learned here, I asked myself? That you have fibroids; that it’s not life threatening; and that you may need surgery. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad. Some people go to the doctor and learn that they have some incurable disease, or that they have a few months to live. You learned that you have fibroids. That’s the card that was dealt. Not a bad card when you really think about it. Okay, so you are losing your figure – don’t be vain, it could be worse.
Pep talk out of the way, I resumed my research. If I can control it, prevent it from getting bigger, I could live with this thing.
After two trips to the doctor and hearing the dreaded word surgery, I was not looking forward to my next appointment. At the meeting, I casually mentioned that I was no longer taking the prescribed iron tablets and that I’d replaced them with blackstrap molasses. In response to the look of incredulity I saw on her face, I quickly mentioned that it’s an excellent source of iron and pointed out all the benefits it had on my body. I also mentioned my diet. I no longer ate dairy products – this was easy to give up since I was never a fan to begin with. What prompted me to drop it altogether however, was that I noticed that after drinking a glass of milk, my belly would swell.
Red meat was also out – again, not too difficult to give up as it was something I rarely ate. I was always health conscious – never understood the lure of junk food and don’t particularly like fried foods. Although I never had a problem with chicken, I was beginning to eye it suspiciously.
The doctor recorded everything I said and looked, dare I say, somewhat impressed. She was concerned however, about my molasses intake. By this time, I was taking three tablespoons per day so she was worried about the minerals in my body. A blood test was ordered. One week later, I had the results – everything was normal. Hemoglobin was now 12.5!
About two and a half years ago, I found out I had fibroids. The largest was approximately 5 cm, but my doctor’s immediate concern was my anemia. My hemoglobin level was 3 or 4 and as I sat there trying to take it all in, I noticed that she was desperately trying to relay the seriousness of it all and how important it was for me to get my numbers up. I remember taking the prescription for iron tablets that she handed me, and hearing her say I needed surgery immediately, but to be honest with you, I was still reeling from shock. I had been healthy my whole life and had (and maybe still do have) a weird aversion to medication. What’s more, I didn’t even know what fibroids were!
Two days later however, I could write short paper. Fibroid tumors are benign (non-cancerous) growths that appear on the muscular wall of the uterus. The most important piece of information I gleaned from my research was that fibroids are not life threatening. Whew! With that out of the way, I could buy time to think. I learned that my mother and all her sisters (except one) had fibroids and were treated successfully. Great! And why wasn’t I told about this, I wondered. It’s a generation thing I guess.
First step, tackle my anemia. After two weeks of taking iron tablets, the side effects were beginning to annoy me. I was always hungry. I mean, I felt like I was starving two to three hours after a meal. I am not a big eater to begin with, so this was quite frustrating.
One night, while doing some research online, I discovered the Web site www.earthclinic.com. Here, women were talking about natural cures for fibroids – a new concept for me at the time. What intrigued me was the discussion about blackstrap molasses. It was mentioned repeatedly that it has the ability to cure anemia and some even suggested that it had shrunk their fibroids.
Off I went, in search of this miracle syrup.