Can diet help shrink your fibroids? – Cleveland Clinic

If you have uterine fibroids and experience severe pain or bleeding, you are not alone. Up to 80% of all women and people designated female at birth (AFAB) develop fibroids before they reach menopause.

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But do you have to accept uterine fibroids as a condition that is completely out of your control? Maybe not.

Some research shows that certain foods can reduce the risk of fibroids or help control symptoms such as pain and heavy bleeding. Minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon Megan Billow, DO, explains what your diet can—and can’t—do for uterine fibroids.

Foods to help prevent or shrink fibroids

“There is no single diet that will magically work to prevent or treat fibroids,” says Dr. Billow. “But some studies suggest that certain foods may lower the risk of fibroids. Dietary changes can minimize symptoms by decreasing the amount of hormones that fuel fibroids.”

If you’re hoping to prevent fibroids or improve your symptoms, eat more of these potentially fibroid-fighting foods.

Fruits and vegetables

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of many health problems, including heart disease and certain cancers. And it turns out they may also help lower your risk of getting uterine fibroids.

“A large review found that people who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of getting fibroids,” says Dr. Billow. “Research suggests that patients who ate four servings a day had a lower risk of fibroids compared to patients who ate one serving a day.”

All fruits and vegetables have great health benefits, but these types seem to be particularly helpful in fighting fibroids:

  • Apples.
  • Broccoli.
  • Cabbage.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits.
  • Tomatoes.

Why do fruits and vegetables help prevent fibroids? Some research on fibroids and diet suggests some possible reasons:

  • Fiber content: Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which helps your body get rid of excess estrogen through your stool. Estrogen fuels fibroids, so getting rid of any excess can lower your fibroid risk.
  • lower BMI: Fruits and vegetables are generally low in calories. Therefore, eating more of these foods in place of high-calorie, less nutritious options can help you achieve a lower body mass index (BMI). Having a higher BMI increases estrogen levels, which increases the risk of fibroids.
  • Nutrition: These foods have nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can discourage the growth of fibroids.

Low-fat dairy

Some research suggests that calcium-rich dairy products may lower the risk of fibroids. “Aim to get three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products a day,” advises Dr. Billow. Focus on yogurt that contains probiotics – beneficial bacteria that keep your gut healthy.

Eating the right amount of dairy is no guarantee that you will be fibroid free. But it might be useful for some people. “More research is needed to prove that dairy can help with fibroids,” notes Dr. Billow. “But your body benefits from the calcium and probiotics, so it’s worth considering.”

If you are lactose intolerant, look for plant-based milk, yogurt or cheese. Many of them contain added probiotics and calcium. Check the nutrition label for calcium content and look for “live and active cultures” on yogurt labels.

Foods That Contain Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone, immune and nerve health. And some research suggests that getting enough vitamin D reduces the risk of fibroids.

Food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fortified dairy products such as milk and yogurt.
  • Fortified dairy alternatives such as soy, almond, coconut or oat milk or yogurt.
  • Light tuna.
  • Rainbow trout.
  • Salmon.

“Vitamin D deficiency is often seen in women with fibroids,” says Dr. Billow. “Increasing vitamin D levels can help prevent this condition.”

How do you know if you are vitamin D deficient? You can’t be sure without a blood test, but vitamin D deficiency is common.

“It’s difficult to correct vitamin D deficiency with diet alone,” adds Dr. Billow. “The main way people get vitamin D is through unprotected sun exposure. But venturing out without sunscreen carries the risk of sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer.”

And if you live in a northern climate, you can go months without enough sunlight to keep your D levels high. People with darker skin tones are also at greater risk of deficiency because their skin doesn’t produce as much vitamin D.

A vitamin D supplement can help prevent uterine fibroids, but ask your doctor first. “If you already have good levels of vitamin D, a supplement is probably not necessary and could be harmful,” cautions Dr. Billow. “Always tell your doctor about any vitamins or herbal supplements you take.”

Foods that May Contribute to Fibroids

While some foods can help lower your risk of fibroids, others can have the opposite effect. Some research suggests limiting or avoiding these foods:

Red meat and ham

A diet high in red meat, such as ground beef, steak, veal, or ham, has some possible health risks, such as heart disease and cancer. And red meat may also play a role in the formation of uterine fibroids, although more research is needed to confirm this link.

“In some studies, people with uterine fibroids reported eating more red meat and ham than people who didn’t have fibroids,” says Dr. Billow. “We still don’t know if it’s due to unhealthy saturated fats, pollutants or some combination of these factors.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean burgers are off the table. Try saving these meats for special occasions. Aim to eat no more than 6 ounces of red meat a week, or 3 ounces if you have heart disease. To get less saturated fat from eating these meats, you can:

  • Choose leaner cuts of steak, such as sirloin or skirt steak.
  • Trim off any visible fat.
  • Swap high-fat ground beef for 90% fat ground beef.
  • Use ground turkey in place of ground beef.

Alcohol

Drinking alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits can affect your overall health and possibly your risk of fibroids. Some research shows that drinking alcohol, especially in larger amounts, alters the hormones in your body. These hormonal changes can lead to the formation of fibroids.

“If you want to improve your health and lower your risk of fibroids, avoid alcohol,” advises Dr. Billow. “If you drink, limit yourself to moderate amounts.” This means:

  • No more than two drinks per day for men and persons designated male at birth (AMAB).
  • No more than one drink a day for women and AFAB people.

Beware of Miracle Supplements and ‘Cures’

The symptoms of fibroids can be difficult to live with. Understandably, many people turn to online advice and supplements for possible solutions. But be careful – these “miracle cures” are often ineffective and, at best, a waste of money. At worst, they can be dangerous.

“Don’t use a supplement or take someone’s advice on social media instead of getting recommended medical care,” states Dr. Billow. “There is no evidence that any natural supplements cure or shrink fibroids. And if you don’t see your doctor regularly, you could miss important health checks.”

Combine dietary changes with more movement

While you’re working to eat more fibroid-friendly foods, consider more physical activity as well. Don’t worry: you don’t have to join a gym or sweat it out in grueling spin classes to reap some benefits.

“Daily movement such as walking can minimize fibroid symptoms if you combine it with dietary changes,” says Dr. Billow. “Regular exercise can increase endorphins, which are natural pain fighters. And more physical activity also benefits your mental health.”

And like a healthy diet, exercise can help you shed those excess pounds and lower your estrogen levels. “Fighting fibroids is really about adopting a healthy lifestyle,” she adds. “Together, dietary changes and exercise are a powerful way to balance your hormones naturally.”

Focus on small, doable changes

Adjusting your diet is a step in the right direction if you want to lower your fibroid risk. And a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fatty meats can improve your overall health.

“There’s no guarantee that certain foods will prevent or shrink fibroids in everyone,” notes Dr. Billow. “But a healthy diet offers many health benefits that will help you feel better. It can help boost your energy levels and help you reach a healthy weight. You will also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Even though we know it’s good for us, it can be difficult to change your diet. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle – and don’t try to make big, sweeping changes all at once. Slowly replace red meat and less nutritious processed foods with fruits and vegetables to help build healthier habits.

“You may find that eating healthy foods gets easier over time because you feel better,” says Dr. Billow. “Do not see dietary changes as a miracle cure, but as an investment in yourself and your overall health.”

Can diet help shrink your fibroids? – Cleveland Clinic

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