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Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas or myomas) are the most common benign tumors in women, with estimated lifetime prevalence rates up to 70% and even 80%, depending on the reporting study’s population and diagnostic methods.1,2 As an example, studies indicate that uterine fibroid development risk is increased two to threefold for Black women compared to some other racial populations.1
Issues including heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, abnormal uterine bleeding, resultant anemia, pelvic pain, infertility, and/or recurrent pregnancy loss are generally associated with uterine fibroids.3 However, there are typically no obvious subjective symptoms in the early stages of uterine fibroids, and they are often not detected in physical examination.4 While some risk factors such as race, age, and family history may not be modifiable, the risk of developing fibroids may be influenced by lifestyle factors such as physical activity, stress, diet, and smoking status.5,6 Further, although surgical and radiologic therapies are often used to treat these tumors, some research suggests that lifestyle interventions to reduce the risk of obesity may be considered as first-line treatments.3
“Between gut health, improved detoxification, normalizing insulin, the right exercise, and the right diet, these are the foundational interventions for lifestyle ways to decrease fibroids,” says IFM Chief of Medical Affairs Joel Evans, MD, IFMCP. In the following video, Dr. Evans describes a functional medicine approach to fibroids and endometriosis.
Many nutrients and dietary habits are associated with myoma development risk.7 These factors include low intake of fruit, vegetables, and vitamin D as well as pollutants in food.7 A small, case-controlled study for premenopausal women found that vegetable and fruit intakes significantly decreased the risk of fibroids; conversely, a high BMI significantly increased the risk.8 The relationship between visceral fat and the development of uterine fibroids was further investigated in a 2019 case-control study, suggesting that increased body fat (especially abdominal visceral fat) may enhance the risk of uterine fibroids and may be used as an indicator for screening high-risk groups.4 At the same time, write the authors, providing nutrition guidance and changing diet and exercise habits are important measures to prevent the development of uterine fibroids.4
From a functional medicine perspective, interventions that prioritize an anti-inflammatory approach, improve modifiable lifestyle factors, and reduce exposure to environmental toxicants are treatment approaches to be considered for fibroids. For more information about fibroids and women’s hormones, please follow the links provided below.
- Stewart EA, Cookson CL, Gandolfo RA, Schulze-Rath R. Epidemiology of uterine fibroids: a systematic review. BJOG. 2017;124(10):1501-1512. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.14640
- Giuliani E, As-Sanie S, Marsh EE. Epidemiology and management of uterine fibroids. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2020;149(1):3-9. doi:10.1002/ijgo.13102
- Sohn GS, Cho S, Kim YM, et al. Current medical treatment of uterine fibroids. Obstet Gynecol Sci. 2018;61(2):192-201. doi:10.5468/ogs.2018.61.2.192
- Sun K, Xie Y, Zhao N, Li Z. A case-control study of the relationship between visceral fat and the development of uterine fibroids. Exp Ther Med. 2019;18(1):404-410. doi:10.3892/etm.2019.7575
- Pavone D, Clemenza S, Sorbi F, Fambrini M, Petraglia F. Epidemiology and risk factors of uterine fibroids. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2018;46:3-11. doi:10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2017.09.004
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are the risk factors for uterine fibroids? National Institutes of Health. Reviewed November 2, 2018. Accessed April 8, 2022. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/uterine/conditioninfo/people-affected
- Tinelli A, Vinciguerra M, Malvasi A, Andjic M, Babovic I, Sparic R. Uterine fibroids and diet. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(3):1066. doi:10.3390/ijerph18031066
- He Y, Zeng Q, Dong S, Qin L, Li G, Wang P. Associations between uterine fibroids and lifestyles including diet, physical activity and stress: a case-control study in China. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2013;22(1):109-117. doi:10.6133/apjcn.2013.22.1.07