Fibroids and Functional Medicine
How fibroids are best understood and treated (when not surgically removed)
Fibroids occur in 40 percent of women and 50 percent of African-American women. They can arise in any tissue in the body that contains smooth muscle cells. They might be microscopic or very large. Sometimes they occur singly but most often they are multiple. Uterine fibroids are the most common pelvic tumor and can be asymptomatic. On the other hand, they can cause excessive bleeding, urinary frequency, fatigue due to anemia, painful intercourse, and infertility. Estrogen, progesterone, and growth factors are all likely involved in tumor growth although the mechanisms are unclear.
From a natural medicine perspective, the treatment strategy focuses on optimizing hormone metabolism, reducing inflammation, normalizing blood sugar and achieving ideal body weight. Individualizing treatment is based on biochemical individuality. Functional medicine looks at a person as a whole; various tests should be done to determine the individual’s unique situation.
Testing includes laboratory tests to determine levels of important hormones such as testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, and cortisol. This test, performed by collecting saliva samples over one month, is important for all hormone sensitive disorders, such as adrenal stress/fatigue, decreased libido, menstrual irregularities, PMS, infertility, endometriosis, breast cancer, fibroids, menopause, and prostatitis and prostate cancer. Saliva can be tested because studies have shown a correlation between hormones in the saliva and in the blood.
The ability of the body to eliminate estrogens is also very important. Testing the liver’s ability to detoxify and eliminate estrogen, as well as environmental toxins in an efficient manner, is an important part of treating and preventing illness. If the liver does not eliminate toxins effectively, the rest of the body doesn’t work properly. Then, fatigue, systemic inflammation, and other conditions can occur.
The bowel is the largest organ of the immune system, having more lymphoid tissue than any other organ. The health of the bowel is an important factor in healthy female (and male) function. An unhealthy bowel can cause recirculation of estrogens that were supposed to be eliminated though the bowels.
The presence of too much estrogen or too much of the wrong type of estrogen is associated with uterine fibroids, cervical dysplasia, head and neck cancer, and breast cancer. Testing to make sure that the estrogens in your body are in the right percentages is another component in creating a rational and comprehensive plan to lower risk factors for cancer.
Genetic testing for particular genes that blueprint for certain functions, such as liver detoxification and creation of B12, is helpful to show what tendencies exist for your body to function at a low level. There are often natural ways to overcome these deficiencies due to hereditary factors. Thus you can lead a more healthy life.
The functional approach to fibroids includes accurately assessing how the body is functioning with respect to hormones, optimizing the body’s pathways for estrogen elimination through nutrition, exercise, herbs, and supplements, and achieving emotional and spiritual well-being.