In search of natural treatments

Archive for October, 2010

Fibroids, Begone!

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.

Dear Fibroids: I’m really beginning to hate you!

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.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibroids

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)