Fibroids, also called uterine fibroids, fibroids, and leiomyomas, are benign tumors that form in and around the walls of the uterus. They are made up of muscle cells and other tissues. They can be as small as a seed or larger than a lemon. You can have multiple fibroids or just one.
Fibroids can shrink or grow over time. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but in many cases a change in fibroid size appears to be related to the level of estrogen in your body. When you have high levels of estrogen, such as during pregnancy, fibroids can get bigger. When you reach menopause and have less estrogen, fibroids may shrink or go away.
Fibroids are not life threatening and many people who have them are not bothered by the symptoms. But large fibroids can lead to:
- Profuse bleeding
- Feeling of pressure in the stomach
Fortunately, treatments are available to shrink fibroids and relieve symptoms. Read on to find out more.
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Home remedies and lifestyle
While food cannot completely shrink or eliminate fibroids, your daily diet and lifestyle can play a role in reducing your risk. People who eat more red meat and drink alcohol are more likely to have fibroids. A diet low in fruits and vegetables has also been found to increase the risk of developing fibroids.
Studies suggest that the following diets can be helpful in slowing fibroid growth:
- Oily fish like salmon and mackerel
- Lean meats like chicken and turkey
- Green vegetables
- Legumes like lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts
- Citrus fruits
- Green tea
A review of the literature linking fibroids and diet concluded that low intake of fruits and green vegetables is linked to a higher risk of fibroid formation, but it is unclear exactly how or why this happens. Diet alone cannot treat fibroids. However, a balanced diet can help prevent fibroids from forming in the first place.
Diet and fibroids
Eating colorful fruits and vegetables is good for your overall health. Eating a variety of red, yellow, and orange foods will provide you with rich antioxidants. While bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, there is no evidence that they can shrink fibroids.
There are drugs that people take to treat the symptoms of fibroids that will not shrink the fibroids on their own.
Hormonal birth control can reduce bleeding, and medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce pain. Vitamins and iron supplements can help with energy supplies if you are bleeding heavily and as a result have anemia.
Fortunately, there are drugs that have been shown to shrink fibroids.
Recent research has shown that the hormone progesterone is essential for the maintenance and growth of uterine fibroids. Mifepristone (known as RU-486), an anti-progesterone drug, has been shown to be effective in treating fibroids, causing a reduction in fibroid size and symptoms.
A meta-analysis of studies in 780 people with a uterus with symptomatic uterine fibroids was performed. Mifepristone has been found to reduce fibroid volume and relieve symptoms, including prolonged periods, menstrual blood loss, pelvic pain, pelvic pressure, anemia, and menstrual cramps.
Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists are a type of medication that suppress ovulation by stopping the production of estrogen and progesterone. They are given as an injection every one to three months.
Taking GnRH agonists will put your body in a menopausal state for a short period of time, and you may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, and fatigue. Treatment is effective in the short term, with the median rate of fibroid volume reduction reportedly between 42% and 58.3%. After the treatment is stopped, the fibroids often grow back.
Side effect of loss of bone density
One of the side effects of GnRH agonists is loss of bone density. For this reason, the drug is only prescribed for a period of three to six months at a time.
Operations and specialist procedures
Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is the only way to get rid of fibroids completely. However, if you want to shrink fibroids while preserving your uterus, nonsurgical treatments are available.
MRI-guided focused ultrasound surgery (FUS)
Magnetic resonance focused ultrasound surgery is a non-invasive treatment option that is performed while you are in an MRI scanner equipped with a high-energy ultrasound transducer. Sound waves heat and destroy small areas of fibroid tissue until most or all of the fibroid is destroyed.
A review of the available literature on FUS found it to be a promising technique for reducing fibroid volume and symptoms. However, there was a discrepancy in the percentage reduction after FUS. The decrease in fibroid volume ranged from 9.3% to 90%. It was suggested that more studies are needed before FUS can be recommended as an alternative treatment for fibroids.
Uterine artery embolization
In uterine artery embolization (UAE) – also called uterine fibroid embolization – a health care provider uses a flexible tube (catheter) to inject small particles into the uterine arteries that supply blood to your fibroids and uterus. The goal is to block the fibroid’s blood vessels, starve the fibroids, and cause them to shrink and die.
A review of the UAE literature found that fibroid volume was reduced by 40% to 75% in the first six months following the UAE. In studies with longer follow-up, this has been shown to persist in most people.
Pregnancy and United Arab Emirates
Research on pregnancy after uterine artery embolization is inconclusive. So, if you are planning to conceive, this procedure may not be right for you.
Laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation
In laparoscopic radio frequency ablation (RFA), healthcare providers use a laparoscopic or “keyhole” technique, which involves making small incisions in the abdomen, heating the fibroids individually with targeted energy, and protecting healthy uterine tissue around each growth.
Radiofrequency ablation is a “volume-reducing” procedure with the aim of shrinking fibroids. A systemic review of the studies found that fibroid volume decreased by an average of 66% after 12 months after RFA.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
These natural treatments may or may not help shrink fibroids, as the result will depend on how severe your symptoms are and how quickly your fibroids are growing. You should speak to your doctor before trying any of these options.
For people in the United States who use natural remedies to treat fibroids, about 16% try acupuncture for symptoms.
While studies show it can help with menstrual cramps and bleeding, there is still no evidence of its effects on shrinking fibroids. Clinical studies are currently underway to assess whether acupuncture can affect the size of fibroids.
Herbal remedies are used in traditional Chinese medicine to slow fibroid growth and treat symptoms. One herbal formula is called Guizhi Fuling or Gui Zhi Fu Ling Tang. This formula contains several herbs that claim to shrink uterine fibroids, balance hormone levels, and keep your uterus healthy. These include:
- Ramulus cinnamon rolls
- Sperm Persicae
- Paeonia red or white root of Paeonia
- Cortex Moutan
A systemic review found that the combination of Gui Zhi Fu Ling Tang with the drug mifepristone was more effective than mifepristone alone. However, researchers recommend conducting further clinical trials with large samples.
Warning about herbal remedies
Herbal remedies have the potential to interact with other drugs. They are also not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicine.
Fibroids and hormonal changes
The growth of fibroids depends on the presence of estrogen and progesterone. Hormonal birth control, hormone therapy, and pregnancy hormones can all cause fibroids to grow faster.
Most fibroids don’t get any bigger during pregnancy, but a third can grow in the first trimester. The enlargement of the fibroids can be influenced by estrogen, and estrogen levels rise during pregnancy.
However, fibroids often shrink after pregnancy. In one study, researchers found that 70% of pregnant women with live births had their fibroids shrunk by more than 50% three to six months after giving birth.
The reasons why uterine fibroids may shrink or disappear in the postpartum period are not clearly understood, but it is believed that the mechanical and cellular changes that take place during childbirth may play a crucial role.
During menopause, your body produces less estrogen and progesterone. This will reduce your risk of developing new fibroids. The drop in hormone levels can also help pre-existing fibroids shrink.
As you near menopause, your doctor may recommend “watchful wait” rather than radical surgery or treatment that may disrupt your daily life that does not involve treatment, just regular pelvic exams to monitor fibroid growth.
frequently asked Questions
Do fibroids bleed when they shrink?
It is normal to have some bleeding or spotting after non-surgical and fibroid shrinking procedures. In some cases, remains of fibroids are carried through the vagina with the blood.
How long does it take for fibroids to shrink after embolization?
It may take two to three months for your fibroids to shrink enough for symptoms to subside and for your menstrual cycle to return to normal after embolization.
How does blackstrap molasses shrink fibroids?
There is no scientific evidence that blackstrap molasses can shrink fibroids.
A word from Verywell
Talk to your doctor or gynecologist about the best plan to shrink your fibroids. Watching wait can be an option as you near menopause, and while the effects of dieting on fibroids are not fully understood, eating a healthy, balanced diet can only benefit your overall health.
There are many ways to shrink fibroids if they affect your quality of life. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any type of herbal remedies or supplements.