Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with uterine fibroids and are wondering what the next step should be? Chinese medicine can be a very effective way of addressing and reducing fibroids as well as the symptoms they may cause. At Five Seasons, we have years of experience helping to reduce the size and symptoms of fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. They can range from small and virtually undetectable to large, bulky masses that can enlarge and change the shape of the uterus. Fibroids can present as just one or there can be many, and may be within the uterine wall itself, bulging into the uterine cavity, or bulging out of the uterus. It is thought that fibroids are caused due to hormonal and genetic changes, and they are the most common benign tumor in people with uteruses. Approximately 20-30% of people with uteruses between the age of 35 and 50 suffer from fibroids, and they are the leading cause of hysterectomy in the US.
Oftentimes there may be no noticeable effects, but depending on location, size, and number they can lead to a variety of difficult symptoms. In some cases, fibroids can cause infertility, heavy menstrual bleeding, periods lasting over a week, pelvic pain and pressure, frequent urination and difficulty emptying the bladder, constipation, back and leg pain, and more. Acute pain can be felt when fibroids begin to die due to outgrowing their blood supply. Typical medical treatments vary from hormonal therapies to surgical interventions. Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and diet and lifestyle recommendations may offer a more holistic and safe alternative.
In Chinese medicine, fibroids, or Zheng Jia, are considered an accumulation or concentration made of qi, blood, or phlegm. They are typically excess in nature, and can combine with heat, cold, or acidic environments in the uterus. Chinese medicine believes fibroids can result from a number of reasons and usually some combination of them. Below are examples of common Chinese medicine diagnoses that may lead to fibroids.
-Qi stagnation: When our qi isn’t flowing smoothly, this can result in “stuckness”, which can sometimes manifest as accumulations and concretions such as fibroids. Emotional stress and trauma are two examples of ways stagnated qi can present in the abdominal region.
-Cold accumulation: This can be due to a particular body type with a propensity towards coldness, caused by a diet consisting of lots of cold and raw foods, regular exposure to cold temperatures, reduced circulation following a trauma etc., to name a few possible reasons.
-Blood stasis: Similar to qi stagnation, blood stasis means that there is a lack of smooth blood flow and circulation, which can in turn lead to obstructions and blockages. Fibroids are a physical presentation of blood stasis and can result from all the other reasons given, as well as from external factors such as trauma or surgery. Many make the mistake of trying to treat only blood stasis, but the most effective treatment is getting to the root of the disharmony that caused the fibroid to form in the first place.
-Dampness and phlegm: Think of dampness and phlegm like a thick, sticky swamp that has to be trudged through. When fluid metabolism is impaired due to poor digestion, damp and phlegm can result.
-Qi deficiency: If our systems are run down, depleted or not functioning to full capacity, we may present with insufficient qi to keep things running smoothly and metabolizing properly. This, in turn, can lead to accumulations like fibroids.
-Blood deficiency: While it may seem antithetical to think that an accumulation of blood can be caused by a deficiency of blood, sometimes fibroids can result from the lack of a critical mass of blood needed to get things circulating.
Here at Five Seasons, we have a long track record of helping to resolve fibroids. Treatment usually involves regular acupuncture appointments, custom herbal formulations, as well as dietary and lifestyle modifications. As previously mentioned, many believe that simply using herbal formulas and supplements that break up blood stasis will resolve fibroids but, in fact, the most effective treatments are those that take into account the patient’s constitution and overall presentation so as to get to the root of the disharmony.
Together, patient and practitioner also discuss options including in some cases how to best collaborate with other medical interventions or preparing the body for a more successful surgical procedure should that be the decided treatment path. We adjust treatment to the needs of the different phases of a menstrual cycle, and we strategize the best course of action with patients who are trying to conceive. Sometimes we choose to take a few months to target the fibroids exclusively, and other times we adjust treatments so we can focus on reducing the fibroids for half the cycle while also trying to conceive during the other half. We often incorporate additional supplements, castor oil packs, and exercise recommendations.
A 2013 clinical study showed that green tea can help to reduce the size and number of fibroids. Green tea contains antioxidants called flavanols and exhibits many useful effects such as anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative. Over the course of four months, participants received 800 mg of green tea extract orally each day, and the mean total fibroid volume decreased dramatically in comparison to the placebo group. Green tea may be another useful tool to add to our list of holistic remedies that can be used to diminish fibroids but must be monitored by a healthcare provider to regulate any potential side effects.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your healthcare provider, and you should always speak with your clinician before taking any medication or supplement as treatment. We are here to help. Call or email us today to book a virtual herbal consultation or in-person acupuncture treatment and start on the path to healing your fibroids.