No one knows exactly why women develop fibroids, but we all want to lower fibroid risk. And we do know that certain factors can affect your risk: family history, race and your hormone levels. One specific hormone that seems tied to fibroid growth? Estrogen.
For that reason, we’ve recently learned that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can increase your fibroid risk by altering how hormones work in your body. One such chemical, BPA (Bisphenol A, a chemical found in many plastics) specifically binds to and activates your estrogen receptor. In turn, your estrogen levels may rise, causing it to become the dominant hormone in your body.
Furthermore, a recent study revealed that BPA directly leads to fibroid growth. This seems to be why women with estrogen dominance are particularly at risk for fibroids. And it’s also why balancing your hormone levels may help prevent existing fibroids from getting bigger, or even keep new ones from developing.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
If your body has more estrogen than progesterone, you are estrogen dominant. Your body is supposed to have both hormones in order to function properly, but they should be balanced. When they aren’t, it can spell trouble for your body.
Some women’s bodies just produce more estrogen; others are exposed to the hormone from their environments. And, for many women, having extra estrogen isn’t a big deal, because their bodies break it down in order to balance out hormone levels. But for women whose bodies can’t do that, carrying around extra estrogen can take a major toll on their health.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
· Weight gain
· Dense breasts
· Heavy periods
· Reduced sex drive
· Fertility problems
Diagnosing Estrogen Dominance
Depending on your age and symptoms, your doctor will likely use one of three tests to determine your estrogen levels.
A blood test usually works for women who still menstruate. But, for menopausal women, a saliva test is usually more accurate. And a dried urine test is often the best choice for women who may be out of balance because their bodies can’t break down estrogen.
If your body is estrogen dominant, it’s likely a result of: genetics, environment or diet. And because two of the three most common causes are lifestyle based, easy lifestyle changes can often get your body back in balance!
How can I rebalance my hormones?
Before you even think about medication, let’s look at some everyday changes that can make a major difference in your hormone levels.
Many foods, especially meat and dairy products, contain added hormones. To help avoid these additional stressors, try switching to organic foods—especially when it comes to your meat products. You should also increase your fiber intake, and try adding broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, since all of those veggies can help your body flush out excess estrogen. Additionally, even non-organic fruits and vegetables can help reduce your fiber risk. While some worry that residues of pesticides could disrupt hormones and increase fibroid risk, this study in Science Direct proved that’s not a factor in fibroid development. In fact, study participants with the highest fruit and veggie intake were 10% less likely to develop fibroids than those who ate less than one serving per day of non-organic fruits and veggies.
Of course, your hormones can be impacted indirectly by diet, since levels can change if the good bacteria in your gut gets out of whack. So, for that reason, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurts can help balance your hormones and lower fibroid risk.
2. Clean house
Want to know a dirty secret? The containers in your home could be messing with your hormones. In fact, many women can improve their hormone balance just by banishing plastic food containers and water bottles from their lives. Bonus? It’s better for the environment, as well!
3. Chill out
Stress can be a major source of hormonal imbalance. But you can’t just talk about stress: you have to actively fight it. First, work on getting more sleep (at least seven hours a night.) Then, make sure to schedule in you-time every day, whether it’s a long bath at the end of the day, or a quiet tea in bed each morning. Yoga practice may also help manage stress and help you live in the moment—a great step towards beating back stress.
Other Ways to Lower Fibroid Risk
Regular exercise may help prevent fibroids from developing or growing. This works in two ways: exercise manages your stress. Plus, it helps you maintain a healthy weight. And carrying extra pounds can throw your hormones into imbalance.
Making sleep a priority works in similar ways. When you’re well rested, it’s easier to manage stress. Plus, getting adequate sleep is linked to lower weights. Meaning, once again, hormones are back in balance. And fibroid risk is lower.
Of course, not every case of hormone imbalance can be managed with lifestyle changes. And that’s where your doctor can help you explore medical options. But, since all of these changes are good for you anyway, they’re a great jumping-off point if you think your hormones are out of whack. Just remember, even with balanced hormones, you may end up with fibroids. And if you do, come see our Houston-area fibroid experts. We’ll be happy to help you out!