The Role of Nutrition in Uterine Fibroids.

Article published at: Agora London Jul 9, 2024
The Role of Nutrition in Uterine Fibroids.
All Hormone Health

Recently, we published a conversation titled "The Impact of Fibroids on Quality of Life", which has received very positive feedback. Many readers have expressed a desire to learn more about this topic. In response, today I decided to discuss the role of nutrition in the development of uterine fibroids. 

Understanding Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids (UF), or leiomyomas, are non-cancerous growths originating from the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus. The incidence of UF increases with age, peaking in the forties and fifties, influenced by factors such as ethnicity, family history, and hormonal exposure. These growths are oestrogen-dependent, uncommon before a woman’s first period, and often shrink after menopause. Due to the asymptomatic nature of many cases, the true prevalence is difficult to determine. 

Impact on Quality of Life

While some women remain asymptomatic, many others experience chronic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, anaemia, depression, and reproductive difficulties. These symptoms can significantly reduce quality of life, including emotional, physical, and social well-being. Therefore, understanding potential dietary impacts on fibroid growth is crucial.

Current Treatments and Emerging Options

Despite the growing number of women affected worldwide, current research and treatments are still insufficient. Beyond traditional treatments like hysterectomy, embolisation, and hormonal and non-hormonal options, emerging treatments such as vitamin D supplementation and green tea extracts are being explored. The best treatment choice depends on factors like age, symptoms, desire for children, and overall health.

The Role of Diet in Fibroid Development

Research increasingly focuses on the impact of diet on fibroid development. Although this area is still in its early stages, evidence suggests that certain foods may positively affect fibroids. For example, studies found no significant link between consuming vitamins C, E, folic acid, carotenoids, or fibre and uterine fibroids. However, a diet rich in fruits may lower the risk of fibroids, while consuming vegetables with fewer pesticide residues could also be beneficial. Studies in China found that eating broccoli, cabbage, tomato, Chinese cabbage, and apple was associated with a reduced prevalence of fibroids. Similar findings were observed in other studies regarding vegetable and fruit intake. Considering these findings and the overall health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, it's advisable to encourage patients at risk of or with uterine fibroids to increase their consumption of these nutrients.

Dairy Products and Fibroid Risk

Dairy products contain various minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, which may help inhibit tumour growth and inflammation. A study by L.A. Wise found that higher dairy intake reduces the risk of uterine fibroids in Black women. Similarly, Orta concluded that consuming yoghourt and having higher calcium intake reduced fibroid risk. In contrast, a study on the Chinese population by Gao found that higher consumption of milk and soybeans increased the risk of uterine fibroids, although this study did not differentiate between milk and soybean intake. Further research is necessary to understand the impact of dairy products on uterine fibroids.

The Controversial Role of Soy

Soybeans contain isoflavones, plant compounds that act like oestrogen due to their structural similarity to estradiol. A recent study involving women from the US discovered a positive link between the level of isoflavone metabolites in urine and uterine fibroids. Qin studied the impact of soy products on uterine fibroids in both infants and adult women, finding that infants fed soy formula had a 35% higher risk of fibroids, while adults consuming large amounts of soy products had a 92% higher risk. These studies suggest caution with soy intake, especially as soy products become increasingly popular.

Potential Benefits of Green Tea and Other Nutrients

Green tea, made from the Camellia sinensis plant, is rich in antioxidants such as EGCG, known for its health benefits. EGCG has been found to trigger cell death in lab and animal studies, leading to fewer and smaller fibroids. Switching to green tea may be beneficial.

Selenium and curcumin have shown anti-inflammatory effects, with some studies suggesting they inhibit fibroid growth, though further research is needed. Vitamin D is the most extensively studied vitamin concerning uterine fibroids. Produced in the body through sunlight exposure and obtained from diet and supplements, vitamin D appears to slow fibroid cell growth, while low levels may cause inflammation in the myometrium.

It's essential to conduct comparative studies to find the best ways to prevent uterine fibroids using nutrients or supplements. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that our diet significantly impacts our health. While emerging evidence suggests certain foods and nutrients may influence fibroid development and growth, further research is needed to draw definitive conclusions. Patients and healthcare providers should remain informed about dietary impacts and consider integrating beneficial foods into their diets. Unfortunately, the pesticides and chemicals used in modern food production likely have negative effects on our physiology, highlighting the importance of consuming organic and minimally processed foods when possible. By fostering a holistic approach that includes diet, we can better manage and potentially reduce the incidence of uterine fibroids, ultimately improving women's quality of life.



Sources:

Wise, L.A.; Radin, R.G.; Palmer, J.R.; Kumanyika, S.K.; Rosenberg, L. A Prospective Study of Dairy Intake and Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata. 

Roshdy, E.; Rajaratnam, V.; Maitra, S.; Sabry, M.; Ait Allah, A.S.; Al-Hendy, A. Treatment of Symptomatic Uterine Fibroids with Green Tea Extract: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Clinical Study. Int. J. Womens Health 2013, 5, 477–486. 

Ciebiera, M.; Szyma ´nska-Majchrzak, J.; Sentkowska, A.; Kilian, K.; Rogulski, Z.; Nowicka, G.; Jakiel, G.; Tomaszewski, P.; Włodarczyk, M. Alpha-Tocopherol Serum Levels Are Increased in Caucasian Women with Uterine Fibroids: A Pilot Study. Biomed. Res. Int. 2018, 2018, 6793726

Martin, C.L.; Huber, L.R.B.; Thompson, M.E.; Racine, E.F. Serum Micronutrient Concentrations and Risk of Uterine Fibroids. J. Womens Health 2011, 20, 915–922.

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