Long before prescription drugs, food was one of the foremost methods of healing. Millennia ago, it was Hippocrates who stated “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”1
This approach is finally coming full circle as more research emerges within the field of nutrition. Proper nutrition has been linked to reducing the risk of chronic disease and uterine fibroids are no exception.
To understand this association, let’s rewind approximately 15 years. In 1999, a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that women with fibroids reported frequently eating red meat and ham as well as consuming less fruits and vegetables.2 Why these particular dietary trends may have influenced fibroid development remains unclear but supported theories do exist.
Let Food Be Thy Medicine
Although a cure for fibroids doesn’t yet exist, there’s much to be said as to how diet can improve the severity of current symptoms and reduce the risk of developing this condition along with associated diseases.
Hold the meat, please.
Fibroids are believed to be a hormone-related disease.3 Therefore, consuming foods that impact hormone levels are thought to pose a risk. A diet high in meat, especially red meat, is naturally higher in saturated fat than a diet limiting these foods. Diets higher in saturated fat have been linked to higher estrogen levels, which could worsen existing fibroids.4
Diets high in meat were also seen to be low in fruits, vegetables, and thus fiber. Although commonly associated only with healthy digestion, fiber aids in regulating hormone levels by carrying excess estrogen out of the body through bowel movements.4
This 1999 study provided a pivotal jumping off point. Building awareness of which foods to limit is important, but discerning which foods to eat more of is also key. Since its publication, more information has surfaced helping to pinpoint which foods and nutrients are most beneficial.
Ditch the Junk Food.
A balanced whole foods diet can help regulate hormones by providing your body the nutrients it needs to metabolize estrogen. Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins—a class of nutrients the liver needs to convert estrogen to its weaker form, estriol.4 Once converted, estriol has little affect on the uterus, which may help reduce the risk of fibroid development.4
Up Your Fiber Intake.
Eating fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide bulk to your stool and may help ease menstrual-related bloating and constipation. It also supports the excretion of excess estrogen from the body.4
Vary Your Protein Sources.
According to a small 2014 study published in Public Health Nutrition, premenopausal women who reported eating a semi-vegetarian diet had lower levels of circulating estrogen than those who reported eating more meat.5
When limiting meat, it’s essential to eat protein from other sources. Dairy is rich in protein and has been seen to reduce the risk of fibroids, primarily among African American women.6 Beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, and seeds are also foods rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Adding fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines is helpful, as they offer protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.7,8 Omega-3s and vitamin D have been shown to ease dysmenorrhea and reduce the risk of uterine fibroids, respectively.9,10
Decrease Caffeine and Alcohol.
A women’s health study showed that women who drink alcohol are at a higher risk of uterine fibroids than those who don’t.3 Moreover, women who drink three or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were also at an increased risk.3
Instead, start your morning routine with a soothing alternative, such as warm water with lemon or decaffeinated green tea. During cocktail hour, reach for a mocktail instead or rotate alcoholic beverages with sparkling water.
Uterine Fibroid Relief
If you suffer from uterine fibroids or believe you are at risk, work with your doctor and a registered dietitian to create a treatment and nutrition plan that’s right for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a freelance writer and editor, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified holistic life coach. She has master’s degrees in English education and nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and well-being. She is a paid consultant of Merit Medical.
1. GoodReads, Inc. (2015). Hippocrates. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/248774.Hippocrates
2. Chiaffarino, F., Parazzini, F. La Vecchia, C., et al. (1999). Diet and uterine myomas. Obstet Gynecol, Sep;94(3):395–398.
3. Khan, A. T., Shehmar, M., & Gupta, J. K. (2014). Uterine fibroids: Current perspectives. Int J Womens Health, Jan 29;6:95–114.
4. Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2013). Textbook of natural medicine (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
5. Harmon, B. E., Morimoto, Y., Beckford, F., et al. (2014). Oestrogen levels in serum and urine of premenopausal women eating low and high amounts of meat. Public Health Nutr, Sep;17(9):2087–2093.
6. Wise, L. A., Radin, R. G., Palmer, J. R., et al. (2010). A prospective study of dairy intake and risk of uterine leiomyomata. Am J Epidemiol, Jan 15;171(2):221–232.
7. American Heart Association. (2017, Mar. 23). Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids
8. National Institutes of Health. (2018, Nov. 9). Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
9. Hunt, W., & McManus, A. (2014). Women’s health care: The potential of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Women’s Health Care. 3:142.