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 Women's Health: Healing Fibroids Naturally 
 

* Eat soy and flax. Nearly all women can benefit from taking phytoestrogens-plant-based hormones found in soy and flaxseed. Not only are phytoestrogens a safe alternative to synthetic hormones, these phytoestrogen-rich foods decrease the effects of estrogen levels naturally by blocking the estrogen receptors on the cells in fibroids and other estrogen-sensitive tissues. Studies have shown that eating soy and flax helps the body produce smaller amounts of unhealthy estrogens. Flaxseed is high in both fiber and omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation and tumor growth throughout the body and rid the body of toxins, including excess estrogen.

* Consider herbs. There's a wide variety of herbs that help balance estrogen levels naturally. These include chasteberry, dong quai, and black cohosh-all of which have been used for centuries for various gynecological conditions. Dr. Warshowsky's book contains a comprehensive list of the herbs that work best for fibroids and includes instructions for exactly how to take them. (I also address the subject of herbs for menopausal symptoms in my book The Wisdom of Menopause [Bantam, 2001].)

* Add a tincture of time. Perimenopause and menopause are nature's own treatment for fibroids. Falling estrogen levels that occur in late perimenopause often shrink fibroids considerably. And nothing further needs to be done! Watchful waiting is especially good for women who have no symptoms from their fibroids or don't even know they have them!

When Natural Methods Aren't Enough
There is a new ultrasound treatment for fibroids called ExAblate, which was approved in the fall of 2004 by the FDA. ExAblate is a new device that combines MRI imaging to map out uterine fibroids followed by high-intensity, focused ultrasound that heats up and destroys fibroid tissue. Fibroid tissue is very well suited to this treatment because the blood vessels in fibroids help the body dissipate the excess heat that's generated. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and is noninvasive, leaving the uterus and ovaries intact. It involves lying on your abdomen in an MRI tube for up to three hours while ultrasound waves heat up and destroy the uterine tissue. Side effects may include blisters on the abdominal skin, cramping, nausea, and some pain that can be managed with over-the-counter medication.
I had my fibroid surgically removed during perimenopause some years ago, but didn't undergo a hysterectomy. (Though I had no symptoms, I simply got tired of looking pregnant-mine was very large-and I didn't want to continue to "dress around my fibroid.") However, if ExAblate had been available at the time, I would have strongly considered this treatment.
Studies show that ExAblate successfully reduces fibroid symptoms in about 70 percent of women, but that 20 percent will require additional surgery within a year. The FDA reports that though the procedure successfully reduces symptoms in the majority of women, these symptoms will return in some women. And so will the fibroids. This is why I also recommend that all women suffering from fibroids do their best to adopt the kind of lifestyle changes mentioned above-you'll be able to reduce fibroid symptoms over the long term and improve how your hormones are metabolized. Still, I feel that ExAblate is a major step forward and a very exciting use of technology.
Please Note: ExAblate should not be used by those who want to get pregnant because not enough data is available to determine what happens to the uterine wall and lining following the procedure. For more information about ExAblate, you can call 866-392-2528 or check out the InSightec Website, the company that developed the technology, at www.uterine-fibroids.org.

(Excerpted from Dr. Christiane Northrup Newsletter)
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 About The Author
Christiane Northrup MDChristiane Northrup, M.D., a visionary pioneer in her field, is a board-certified OB/GYN physician who helps empower women to tune in to their inner wisdom and take charge of their health. She is the author of the......more
 
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