False Hope: The Fibroid Diet Myths
Large Fibroids Risk Damage to the Uterus If Not Removed
There are many conflicting studies about what to eat and what not to eat if you have fibroids. A fibroid diet may help control fibroids from growing in the first place, but once they are in the uterus and are showing signs of growing, the effects of changes to diet either do not work or are short-lived.
Fibroid growth is unpredictable, and they can get very large, very fast in some women. Many times doctors will tell a patient to “watch and wait“, rather than recommend fibroid removal surgery. Women who could have treated smaller fibroids early on now face distortion of the uterus causing problems with getting pregnant or carrying a child to term, or have an increased risk of requiring a hysterectomy.
The confusion and frustration is compounded by the fact that many women look to their peers for advice on diet for fibroids rather than working with a GYN specialist. These studies are so conflicting that recommendations from one woman to another about which diet to follow can often make a woman feel like a failure if changes to her diet end up not working. In reality, the hormonal levels of each woman is so different that the probability of changing your diet and affecting your fibroid growth is small.
When caught early, performing a minimally invasive myomectomy can be a good option for women who wish to maintain fertility rather than watching and waiting.
Contradictions From One Fibroid Diet Study to the Next
Three studies with three different findings: Animal products and Vitamin A
- Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Milan, Italy: Significant consumption of beef and other reds meats (1.7-fold) or ham (1.3-fold) is associated with an increased relative risk of fibroids and consumption of green vegetables (0.5-fold) and fruit (especially citrus fruit) with a decreased risk [41,42].
- Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University: Dietary vitamin A from animal sources may also be associated with decreased fibroid risk .
- Channing Laboratory, the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School: Dietary consumption of carotenoids is not associated with a change in risk for uterine leiomyoma .
Nutritional Background: The two forms of vitamin A that are available in the human diet are preformed vitamin A (retinol and its esterified form, retinyl ester) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in foods from animal sources, including dairy products, fish, and meat (especially liver). By far the most important provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene; other provitamin A carotenoids are alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. The body converts these plant pigments into vitamin A.
What Does This Mean?
Eat More vegetables. Avoid carrots. Eat liver. Don’t eat liver. Eat more vegetables…except carrots. Don’t forget to eat your carrots. What?
- NIH: With regards to caffeine, among women <35 years of age, the highest categories of caffeinated coffee (≥3 cups/day) and caffeine intake (≥500 mg/day) were both associated with increased fibroid risk.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Caffeine consumption is not related to risk.
Put down the cup of coffee! Drink up!
Estrogen and Large Fibroids
The ovaries are responsible for the largest production of estrogen in a woman’s body. Affecting the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries with diet is small.
When it comes to large fibroids, diet options to try to reduce them are non-existent. Once a fibroid, or fibroids grow to the point of changing the shape of the uterus so that it protruding from the abdomen, or causes severe bleeding and difficulty going to the bathroom, the amount of shrinkage that could occur with diet (or medication like Lupron) will not be significant enough to affect daily life or long term fertility. Any shrinking that occurs would be acceptable to help with preparing a patient for surgery, but it is not permanent.
Sparing the Uterus: LAAM Minimally Invasive Myomectomy
For women who are not done having children, minimally invasive fibroid removal surgery is the best option for maintaining fertility, and for ensuring a baby can grow safely in the womb for a full term pregnancy. Women have found that fibroids that grow while they are pregnant can affect the term of the pregnancy and the safety of the baby. Women with fibroids who have difficulty getting pregnant may improve their chances of conceiving naturally after the fibroids are removed, or improve their rate of success with in vitro fertilization.
Women who are close to menopause or who are done childbearing but who suffer with fibroids, large or small may decide it is better to have a hysterectomy. With a hysterectomy, there is no chance for fibroids to regrow. However, this is not the only option.
The minimally invasive GYN surgeons at The Center for Innovative GYN Care work with patients to discuss the best option for treating fibroids based on their personal goals for fertility or wishing to keep their uterus. The groundbreaking LAAM procedure is one of the most minimally invasive fibroid removal surgery that spares the uterus. The recovery is 14 days. Compared to open myomectomy procedures where recovery is up to 8 weeks, women who have a LAAM myomectomy return to their lives faster with less pain.
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GYN surgical specialists can often see women sooner because they are focused entirely on surgery. Each patient gets detailed, in depth attention from Dr. Natalya Danilyants and Dr. Paul J. MacKoul. This personalized care helps patients understand their condition and the recommended treatment so that they can have confidence from the very start. Our surgeons have performed over 20,000 GYN procedures and are constantly finding better ways to improve outcomes for patients.
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