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The Science of Fibroids – the Risks and Benefits of Alternative Treatments

Mortar and pestle shows natural fibroid remedies.

When you think of vaccinations, what comes to mind? If you’re in the camp of those who don’t trust vaccines, you’re not alone. Doubts over efficacy and safety continue to pervade discussions on public health, despite reassurance from the medical community. In fact, more and more, people are looking elsewhere for the facts on disease and medicine - a trend that isn’t intrinsically harmful but comes with its own set of health risks and concerns. 

Here are some of the “alternative” remedies and treatments for fibroids we’re putting under the microscope. 

Can fibroids be treated with herbal detoxes? 

There is growing interest in harvesting the healing properties of herbal remedies as a form of “natural” fibroid treatment. Those looking to self-treat are marketed to by various sources claiming to provide herbal remedies with numerous body cleansing benefits including detoxification of the lymphatic system, kidneys, and liver, as well as cellular regeneration and hormonal balance. 

So can fibroids be treated with herbal detoxes? To this we say: 

 

Question what you’re told. “Lymphatics have nothing to do with fibroids,” says Dr. James Gohar, OB/GYN and Fibroid Specialist at VIVA EVE. “The lymphatic system helps keep the body healthy by eliminating infections and diseases, and the kidneys are filtration organs which filter blood, take out waste products, and turn them into urine. To my knowledge, there has never been any scientific connection made between the lymphatics with fibroid growth. The cause of fibroids is unknown. We think there’s a gene but we’ve never found it.”

However, that doesn’t mean that herbal medicine doesn’t have medicinal benefits. In fact, it’s because they have powerful effects on the body that physicians caution taking herbal supplements without supervision. “All the suitable drugs originally started as plants,” says Dr. Gohar. “It’s not that we don’t think they can work - it’s because we DO think that they can work but with potentially unintended consequences. You can cause a lot of damage by taking non-regulated medication - no one knows what the quantity is, what the dosing is, what the effect is, there are no studies. So this idea that it’s healthier or safer than something that is studied and tested is just not true.”

Does living an alkaline lifestyle reverse fibroids?

The alkaline diet draws on early research that has shown that cancer cells flourish in an acidic environment. To discourage the growth of cancer and other conditions, many people are switching to a diet that is high in alkaline foods and low in acidic foods in an attempt to change their body’s acidity level, also called its pH level. Along the pH spectrum (0-14), something having a pH greater than 7 is considered “alkaline.”  (Water is 7 - neutral, and lower than 7 is “acidic.”)

So can living an alkaline lifestyle alter a person’s internal pH levels? And does this lifestyle help reverse fibroids and potentially cure conditions? To this we say: 

 

The potential of the alkaline diet to shrink or reverse fibroids is moot to none. “The alkaline diet calls for women to increase their intake of foods that are alkaline, like fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables,” says Dr. Nithya Gopal, OB/GYN and Fibroid Specialist at VIVA EVE. “However, a diet rich in tofu and soybeans actually accelerate fibroid growth because of the phytoestrogens in these foods. Also, the research suggesting that an acidic environment help cancer cells grow was evaluated using cancer cells in a petri dish, not a human body, which is far more complex.” 

What’s more, science experts say that there is no way that eating alkaline foods can actually shift the body’s pH levels. According to WebMD, “Nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood. Your body works to keep that level constant.” Since the body tightly regulates the blood, you may see changes in the pH of your saliva or urine, but these are waste products that are not indicative of any widespread physiological changes. 

Those who adhere to an alkaline diet may notice health benefits, because it coincides with long-standing dietary advice that suggests cutting back on sugar, alcohol, meat and processed foods, and increasing intake of veggies, fruit, and water. 

If the root cause of fibroids is estrogen dominance, is reducing my estrogen the answer to eliminating my fibroids? 

Many women are told they can use natural strategies to reduce their estrogen, which in turn will reduce or eliminate their fibroids. By altering their dietary choices, lifestyle choices, and certain environmental circumstances, they can reduce their estrogen levels and eliminate their fibroids. To this we say: 

 

Blaming estrogen dominance - a hormonal imbalance - is a simple answer to a complex question that researchers are still working on unlocking. What’s more, most women don’t have unbalanced hormones to start with. 

“The problem isn’t too much estrogen,” says Dr. Gohar. “The problem is the fibroids, which react to the estrogen.” Estrogen, along with progesterone, stimulate the development of the lining of the uterus each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. Evidence suggests that fibroids are stimulated by these hormones as well. For this reason, some physicians prescribe anti-hormone treatment to women with fibroids to reduce bleeding and decrease fibroid size temporarily.

“There is benefit to theoretically stopping the estrogen production,” reasons Dr. Gohar. “That’s why drugs like Lupron exist, where you can stop someone’s hormones and maybe it’ll improve their symptoms from fibroids. But there are a lot of issues that go on with that, and there are a lot of symptoms that happen. You’re essentially moving someone in the direction of menopause, and so, there are a lot of other side effects that occur when someone doesn’t have estrogen.”

Conclusion

 

In short, if a health "expert" claims they can teach you "how to remove fibroids without surgery," or "how to shrink fibroids naturally," do some research before taking their advice. At VIVA EVE, we regularly scan the scientific and medical literature for evidence regarding various treatments. If you have a source we've overlooked, send it and we're sure to evaluate it for the benefit of all.

In the meantime, if you want to avoid pharmaceuticals and take a minimalist approach to your health, wait for our next blog post on research-supported therapies that may help treat fibroids naturally. 

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