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Posts tagged ‘Women’s Health’

Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Fibroids

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.

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)

Can Fibroids Cause Weight Gain?

In my case, it definitely did. I first noticed that my clothes weren’t fitting properly – they were snug. Also, when shopping, I could no longer fit into my usual size. Vanity sizing?

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.

Why is the Size of My Belly Fluctuating?

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.

From the Beginning

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.