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Nutritional Support for Uterine Fibroids

by Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD


            Uterine fibroids are a fairly common benign tumor composed primarily of smooth muscle tissue. Fibroids are associated with excessive estrogen levels and may grow rapidly with the use of oral estrogen (i.e. birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy). It is not uncommon for fibroids to appear in women that have had disturbed menstrual function for several years, which indicates hormonal imbalance.

            The first step in addressing uterine fibroids is identifying the precise cause. Levels ß-estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone should be measured over the 28-day menstrual cycle. More in-depth tests of estrogen metabolism would include measurements of the estrogen metabolites 16-alpha-hydroxy-estrone and 2-hydroxy-estrone. The former is strongly active and stimulates tissue growth, whereas the latter is a weaker metabolite and may slow cell proliferation.

            Recent news has focused on the adverse health effects of Premarin, which contains estradiol derived from pregnant horses. There are actually three types of estrogen: Estrone, Estradiol, and Estriol. A normal ratio of estrogens would be 80% estriol, 10% estrone and 10% estradiol, (which is the ratio used in TriEst products). Estriol (the weakest estrogen) is normally the most abundant. Both estrone and estradiol have been associated with increased risk of cancer. A comprehensive approach to hormonal problems would measure all three estrogens and design a customized program to balance them.

            Phytoestrogens are the primary nutritional supplements used for balancing women’s hormones. These are plant-derived estrogens that, although they are not identical to human estrogens, weakly stimulate estrogen receptors. The most well-known phytoestrogens are black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) and soy isoflavones. Interestingly, phytoestrogens can help with both low estrogen (by acting as a weak estrogen) and high estrogen (by competing with stronger estrogens for the limited receptor sites). Black cohosh has a long history of use for hot flashes, the most difficult symptom of estrogen-deficient menopause.

            An interesting situation, however, arises when there are excess amounts of hormones, particularly progesterone. How does one remove excess hormones? The answer lies in the cytochrome P450 enzyme system which helps remove toxins from the body. The P450 system is the first phase of detoxification. The second phase involves attaching the toxin to a carrier molecule for elimination. Phase II molecules include glutathione, glycine, sulfur and glucuronidate. Hormones are usually conjugated with glucuronidate, available in the supplement Calcium-D-Glucarate.

            The naturopathic approach to uterine fibroids begins with tests of the hormone and detoxification systems described above, and includes several other powerful therapies, such as classical homeopathy. Perhaps the most effective technique, however, comes from the mystic healer Edgar Cayce.

            Edgar Cayce’s Castor Oil Packs involves placing a flannel cloth soaked in castor oil over the abdomen for one hour a day, typically for three days each week. Although the scientific explanation for how this works may not be known, many women report that this is indeed a very powerful therapy and recommend care when using it.


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