5 Fibroid-Friendly Snack Ideas: Why Small Bites are a Good Thing
By Alicia Armeli

When I say the word “snacking,” what comes to mind? For many, snacking elicits visions of potato chips and candy bars parading over mountains of candy-coated milk chocolate. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. We’re human for goodness’ sake.

But maybe the reason why snacking has been given such a bad rap is because its place in a healthy diet is misunderstood and its value underestimated. A recent study showed when snacking or “eating frequently” is done healthfully and habitually; it can help to maintain a healthy body weight—and by extension, may reduce the risk of uterine fibroids.

The study published in the April 2015 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined the relationship between frequency of eating, types of foods eaten, and body mass index (BMI)—a common indicator for body fatness. Over a three-year period, the authors of the study analyzed BMI measurements and standardized diet reports of 2,696 men and women from the United States and the United Kingdom. The results indicated that when individuals ate four times or less in a 24-hour time frame they were more likely to have higher BMIs in comparison to those who ate six times or more. In addition to these findings, those who ate less often concentrated all their meals later in the day—meals that were higher in saturated fat, salt and sugar and lower in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.1

The study’s data suggests that small frequent meals may be associated with a healthy weight. And in terms of uterine fibroids, maintaining a healthy weight is something to keep in mind. Statistics show the risk of fibroids is two to three times greater in obese women.2 How obesity and fibroids are connected isn’t entirely understood, but some theories point the finger at hormones. Obesity has been linked to higher levels of circulating sex hormones, which can be a problem since research shows fibroids to be a hormone-driven condition.3,4

But it’s not only body weight contributing to higher hormone levels. Dietary habits do as well. Studies have found diets high in saturated fat to be associated with greater levels of circulating sex hormones like estrogen.5 Ironically, certain foods can also have the opposite effect. Nutrient-dense fibrous foods like whole grains are seen to support the body’s natural way of metabolizing and excreting sex hormones.5 Incorporating many of these same high-fiber foods can also help reach and maintain a healthy body weight.6

Provided below are snack-savvy tips and ideas to get you started:

Tips
Eat the Rainbow
Incorporate a fruit and/or vegetable with each snack. Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption will also up your fiber intake.

Maintain Balance
Think of snacks as tiny meals. Make sure they have a balance of healthy carbs, protein, and fat to provide your body with energy between meals and to keep you feeling full longer.

Don’t Wait Until You’re Starving
By all means, eat when you’re hungry but don’t wait until you’re ravenous. This can easily lead to overeating. Find your body’s natural hunger and satiety rhythm. Eat when you start to feel hungry and stop when you’re slightly full.

Take Your Time
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, it takes about 15-20 minutes for the full range of satiety hormonal signals and sensory responses to even reach our brain.7 These signals are significant in controlling how much we eat.

Snack Ideas
Sardine Salad Lettuce Wraps
Ranking high with wild-caught salmon, sardines contain 500-1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3-ounce cooked portion.8 Light on the mayo and veggie heavy, this snack is a great way to liven up that traditional tuna salad.

Peanut Butter & Fruit Stack
Using a brown rice cake as the base, this healthier version of a PB & J sandwich is a great source of protein, mono- and polyunsaturated fats—all with the natural sweetness of fresh fruit.

Fresh Veggies and Hummus
Boasting a hearty 1.5 grams of dietary fiber per tablespoon, legumes are a delicious way to experiment with fiber-rich protein sources.9

Yogurt with Mango Chunks and Hemp Seeds
Pairing plain reduced-fat yogurt with your favorite fruit is a balanced snack done right. Toss hemp seeds on top for more fiber and omega-3s.

Berry Piña Colada Smoothie
Whip up this simple smoothie recipe: ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, ¼ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup fresh pineapple, 5 frozen dark sweet cherries, and ¼ banana. Dairy serves as a hearty protein source in this recipe. Interestingly, consuming dairy has been linked to a reduced risk of fibroids—especially among African American women.10

Smoothie

255 calories, 25 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 14 g protein, 109 mg sodium, 18 g sugar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR   Alicia Armeli has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Whole Foods Dietetics (MSN/DPD) and is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified dietitian, and a holistic life coach. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering with her local animal shelter.

REFERENCES

  1. Aljuraiban, G. S.,Chan, Q., Oude Griep, L. M., Brown, I.J., Daviglus, M. L., Stamler, J., Van Horn, L., Elliott, P., Frost, G. S. (2015). The impact of eating frequency and time of intake on nutrient quality and body mass index: the INTERMAP Study, a population-based study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(4): 528-536. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.11.017.
  1. US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. (2015). Uterine Fibroids Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/uterine-fibroids.html?from=AtoZ
  1. Sarwer, D. B., Spitzer, J. C., Wadden, T. A., Rosen, R. C., Mitchell, J. E., Lancaster, K., Courcoulas, A., Gourash, W., & Christian, N. J. (2013). Sexual functioning and sex hormones in persons with extreme obesity and seeking surgical and non-surgical weight loss. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 9(6). doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2013.07.003
  1. Khan, A. T., Shehmar, M., & Gupta, J. K. (2014). Uterine fibroids: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health, 6: 95-114. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S51083
  1. Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2013). Textbook of natural medicine (4th). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
  1. American Heart Association. (2015). Whole Grains and Fiber. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp
  1. British Nutrition Foundation. (2013). Understanding Satiety: Feeling Full After a Meal. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/fuller/understanding-satiety-feeling-full-after-a-meal.html
  1. Seafood Health Facts. (2011). Omega-3 Content of Frequently Consumed Seafood Products. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_nutrition/practitioners/omega3_content.php
  1. United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). Basic Report: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, raw. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4770?fg=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=16056
  1. Wise, L. A., Radin, R. G., Palmer, J. R., Kumanyika, S. K., & Rosenberg, L. (2010). Aprospective study of dairy intake and risk of uterine leiomyomata. American Journal of Epidemiology, 171(2): 221-32. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp355
Uterine Fibroid Embolization: A Safe and Effective Alternative to Surgery
By Alicia Armeli

WomanWithDoctor

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, you’re not alone. The National Institutes of Health concluded that the majority of American women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives.1 With symptoms such as urinary incontinence, painful intercourse, and heavy periods that can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, fibroids take a toll both physically and mentally.

A hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus, was at one time the go-to treatment for fibroids. But now women have other less-invasive options to choose from—options like uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which can offer dramatic relief while still sparing the uterus.

“Uterine fibroid embolization is for those women who would like a definitive treatment for all their fibroids but would like to avoid an operation,” says Dr. James Spies MD MPH, Professor, Chairman and Chief of Service of the Department of Radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

With its launch dating back to 1995, UFE may be considered a relatively novel procedure. But previous to this, the basic technique of uterine artery embolization had been safely and successfully used to stop heavy bleeding after childbirth.2

During UFE, a catheter is routed through a small incision in the upper thigh. Using special imaging equipment, the catheter is guided through the femoral artery in the leg and into the uterine arteries. Small particles are then injected in the uterine arteries to block the blood flow that feeds the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.3

And the success rate for UFE is noteworthy. “It depends upon the symptoms but between 85 and 90 percent of women will have their menstrual bleeding substantially improved typically three months after the procedure.” Dr. Spies explains.  “The other symptoms may get better sooner. Pressure, pain, discomfort, bloating, urinary frequency—often within several weeks to a few months will have improved. About 90 percent of women overall by three to six months will have their symptoms improved significantly—meaning moderately improved to completely resolved.”

Although UFE was once thought to only be effective with small to medium fibroids, recent research has shown that it can provide relief for large fibroids as well. Earlier this year, a study published in Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology observed the results UFE had on two groups of women, those with small fibroids of less than 10 centimeters in diameter and those with large fibroids of greater than 10 centimeters in diameter. After the surgery, follow up reports showed both groups having similar improvement in quality of life scores. The authors of the study also found there weren’t significant differences in treatment effectiveness or post-op complications between the two groups.4

UFE success rates are high but there are times when it doesn’t work. In some instances UFE is unable to destroy the fibroids completely “due to anatomic variation or other issues,” Dr. Spies explains. “If you completely kill the fibroid it will not grow back. However, if you only kill 80, 90, or 95 percent of the fibroid, the portion that remains living or viable could grow back.” There are also fibroids too difficult to target. “Very small fibroids or ones on the outside of the uterus are a little more difficult to treat. In that case you might not kill the fibroid at all.” At times like these, subsequent treatments or other procedures may be warranted.5

As with any procedure, complications associated with UFE are possible but these are less in comparison to surgical procedures like myomectomy and hysterectomy. “It’s very unlikely to damage other structures, whereas with surgery that can happen,” says Dr. Spies. “Uterine fibroid embolization is for women who are looking for short-term recovery, would like to retain their uterus, and would like to have the symptoms go away. And it works very well in this circumstance.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR   Alicia Armeli has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Whole Foods Dietetics (MSN/DPD) and is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified dietitian, and a holistic life coach. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering with her local animal shelter.

ABOUT THE DOCTOR   James Spies is the Chairman, Chief of Service, and a Professor of the Department of Radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is an interventional radiologist whose primary clinical and research interest is in uterine embolization for fibroids. His specialty is in radiology and his special interests include uterine artery embolization and gynecologic intervention.

REFERENCES

  1. National Institutes of Health. (2013). Uterine Fibroids. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=50/
  1. Society of Interventional Radiology. (2015). Highly Effective, Widely Available, Interventional Radiology Treatment Often Replaces Need For Hysterectomy. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.sirweb.org/patients/uterine-fibroids/
  1. King, R., & Overton, C. (2011). Management of fibroids should be tailored to the patient. The Practitioner, 255(1738): 19-23, 2-3.
  1. Bérczi, V., Valcseva,, Kozics,D., Kalina, I., Kaposi, P., Sziller, P.,  Várbíró, S., Botos, E. M. (2015). Safety and effectiveness of UFE in fibroids larger than 10 cm. CardioVascular and Interventional Radiology. doi:10.1007/s00270-014-1045-4
  1. Gupta, J. K., Sinha, A., Lumsden, M. A., & Hickey, M. (2014). Uterine artery embolization for symptomatic uterine fibroids. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005073.pub4.

 

Turmeric: An Ancient Spice Offering Hope For Fibroid Relief
By Alicia Armeli

Commonly used in traditional Asian and Indian cuisine, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been a staple in kitchens all over the globe for hundreds of years.1 And though it’s most known for the earthy warm flavor it gives to curry or the deep marigold color it adds to your plate, turmeric is more than just a spice.

Cultivated from the roots of the turmeric plant, this antioxidant-rich seasoning has been used medicinally to alleviate arthritis, gastrointestinal discomfort, and skin irritations.1 It’s believed curcumin, the same component giving turmeric its vibrant color, is also the active element responsible for its therapeutic potential. Rich in antioxidants and capable of inhibiting abnormal cell growth, curcumin may be a promising option in tumor therapy and thus, uterine fibroid relief.

Curcumin: Suppressing Tumor Growth

Tumors form when intricate cell cycles are disrupted and abnormal cells replicate and grow. This is true whether the abnormal cells originate in the liver, for example, or the uterus. Uterine fibroids are the most common benign tumor among women and although their exact etiology is unknown, novel discoveries are being made in hopes of understanding the mechanism behind their growth. The more we understand, the more doors we open for effective treatment options.

A study published in Gynecological Endocrinology showed curcumin suppressing fibroid cell replication by interacting with Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-Gamma (PPARg). PPARg is a cell receptor that plays a role in controlling the cell cycle and cell division. It also has been found to suppress inflammation.2 3

In order for PPARg to be active, it needs to bind to other molecules. Once this happens, it can then influence cell behavior.3 In laboratory trials, the authors of the study found curcumin activated PPARg by binding to it. Doing so inhibited replication and growth of uterine fibroid cells. Curcumin and PPARg interaction also induced apoptosis, or programmed cell death, of fibroid cells.2

Although this area of research is in its infancy and is limited to in vitro trials, it shows promise in the field of natural alternatives for treating uterine fibroids.

Turmeric In the Kitchen

Feeding your body nutrient-rich foods is a safe and proactive way to treat and prevent disease—especially when there’s research to support it.

Turmeric Chickpeas - Photo by Alicia Armeli

Turmeric Chickpeas – Photo by Alicia Armeli

Spicy Mumbai Chickpea Crisps

Turmeric, curry, ginger, and garlic flavor this fiber-packed vibrant snack. Perfect for a quick nibble or to entertain company, this recipe will satisfy your crunchy cravings—Mumbai style.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

2  15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (if you cook your own beans, this equates to 3 cups)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch of ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon sea salt

Optional: fresh cilantro, minced (for garnish)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. For even baking, make sure the oven wrack is positioned in the center.

Spread the chickpeas on a clean kitchen linen. Gently dry the chickpeas and transfer them to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ground ginger, garlic granules, onion powder, turmeric, curry, cayenne pepper, coriander, and cinnamon.

Drizzle the spice and oil mixture over the chickpeas and thoroughly coat (hands work best!). Spread the chickpeas evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour, gently shaking the chickpeas every 15-20 minutes to avoid sticking.

When chickpeas have been baking for 30 minutes, remove them from the oven and drizzle with coconut oil. Toss to coat. Bake for the remaining 30 minutes or until done.

Chickpeas will be crunchy and a gorgeous golden brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before enjoying. Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with fresh cilantro. Bon appétit!

Kitchen Tip: Chickpeas will be crunchier if you allow them to cool completely.

Nutrition Facts (per 1/4 cup serving): 197 calories, 23g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 7g protein, 318mg sodium, 4g sugar

Recipe by Alecia Armeli

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Alicia Armeli has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Whole Foods Dietetics (MSN/DPD) and is a registered dietitian nutritionist, a certified dietitian, and a holistic life coach. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering with her local animal shelter.

REFERENCES:

  1. Natural Medicines. (2014). Turmeric (Professional Monograph). Retrieved April 22, 2015, from https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.proxy.heal-wa.org/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=662
  1. Tsuiji, K.,Takeda, T., Li, B., Wakabayashi, A., Kondo, A., Kimura, T., & Yaegashi, N. (2011). Inhibitory effect of curcumin on uterine leiomyoma cell proliferation. Gynecological Endocrinology, 27(7): 512-517. doi:10.3109/09513590.2010.507287
  1. UniProt Consortium. (2015). Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma. Retrieved April 22, 2015, from http://www.uniprot.org/uniprot/P37231